Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Three Steps Back at the End of Shemona Esrei

At the beginning of the Shemona Esrei or Silent Prayer during the three designated tefillahs during the day, you take three steps back followed by three steps forward, and then at the end you take three steps back. The Halacha states that one should look behind them before taking three steps back to make sure there is no one behind them that they might disturb. There are more Halachas regarding what happens if there is a line of people going back waiting to take the three steps but I will not get into that.

My first question is why do some people at the end take the exaggerated three steps back that end up being a good 5 or 6 feet back? Isn't that a little much? What if you fall? Isn't it better to take the casual three steps back? Do these people want to emphasize to the whole world that they are finished so they should take these giant steps backward? I am not sure why people do this but I would love to know.

My next question is why most people don't follow this Halacha of looking in back of them before taking three steps back. Even if you don't know the halacha, to me it is common sense to look behind you if you are going to walk backwards. Do you know how many times that this has happened to me that someone took there three steps back and almost knocked me down? There have been some times where someone has knocked the siddur out of my hands? If the person says sorry which is usually not the case, you can't even answer them because you are still davening Shemona Esrei. Is the sorry even worth it anyway? These people obviously have done this before and are going to do it again. Is a sorry enough for ruining someone's tefillah by knocking them or there siddur down? These people to me appear to be very self centered and do not care. Once again its hard not to judge these people when it is a recurring thing. You cannot avoid these people either because you never know who its going to be.

8 comments:

Tzvee said...

You are correct. These are mannerisms, not central to any form of religious observance. Those who carry out mannerisms without proper attention to common courtesy are worthy of disdain.

Litvak said...

It is brought down that to take large stepes back is gaavah. Perhaps though, some do that to make sure they have a nice-sized shiur, as some people want to be machmir with shiurim in general.;-)

The lack of courtesy of some people is lamentable. We could use another R. Yisroel Salanter to help with such things.

yitz said...

Perhaps FWQ will be the R. Salanter of our generation!
I would just like to add that I have found almost the opposite - that almost everyone I daven with looks behind them before they step back; and they are very careful NOT to step back if the person behind them is still in Shmoneh Esre. What I do in that case is take the 3 steps diagonally so that I can finish without waiting for them, especially if there's a good possibility of a long wait :))

Anonymous said...

you might want to know that the Teshuvot HaRashba (have to look up where-but i am accurate)in response to a ? if there is a Shiur needed to walk back says "NO" even just a little bit is fine" He supports this by saying "look what we do in a shul that is packed -no room to move back" "so we see there is no problemo

avi b

FrumWithQuestions said...

Avi- Obviously people don't follow this if they don't act in this manner.

Anonymous said...

If you were there when they took three steps back to start, then they would know you are there & if you get bumped so it would be their fault.

But if you came in late & snuck up behind them while they are saying shmoneh esre as many people have done to me then its YOUR FAULT if you get stepped on! I do NOT take large steps: I am lucky if most places I daven in have room for half steps or baby steps & often I stack 2 empty chairs just to make room for 3 half steps. If you come in behind me AFTER I took the time to move chairs, I am sorry but you are going to get stepped on & rightfully so.

FrumWithQuestions said...

I have to say that I disagree. Its a halacha that you have to look behind you before you take your three steps back. Even if someone did sneak behind you that does not give you an excuse to bump into them.

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