Taking Three Steps Back

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Before Shmoneh Esrei

  1. It’s proper to take three steps forward before Shmoneh Esrei to show that one is going to do an obligatory mitzvah. The halacha doesn’t require taking three steps back, but there is a widespread minhag to take three steps back in order to take three steps forward.[1]
  2. If a person is taking his 3 steps back in order to take 3 steps forward and someone is davening within 4 amot, he should not take these steps back at all and just start Shmoneh Esrei.[2] See the Walking in Front of Someone Davening topic.
  3. Some have the custom of saying "ki shem Hashem ekra havu godel lelokeinu" before the Shmoneh Esrei of Mincha or Mussaf. If one forgot it and already began "Hashem sfatai tiftach" he does not go back to say that pasuk.[3]

After Shmoneh Esrei

  1. After Shemonei Esrei, one should make take three steps backwards while bowing like a servant parting from his master. If one didn't do so, it is as if one didn't pray.[4]
  2. There’s an absolute obligation to take 3 steps back after Shmoneh Esrei and wait there until the Sheliach Tzibbur gets up to Kedusha or at least starts Chazarat HaShas.[5] An individual who finishes Shmoneh Esrei should take take three steps back and wait there the time it takes for the Sheliach Tzibbur to reach Kedusha or in extenuating circumstances at least the time it takes to walk 4 amot (3 seconds or so). If one doesn’t wait after taking the 3 steps back it appears that one didn’t take the 3 steps back really in order to depart from Hashem respectfully.[6]
  3. One should start stepping backwards with left foot, stepping exactly behind the right foot, and then the same with right leg. By the third step one should align both feet.[7]

Sources

  1. Rama 95:1, Mishna Brurah 95:3, Piskei Teshuvot 95:3
  2. Halichot Shlomo 8:33, Piskei Teshuvot 95:5
  3. Sefer Meorer Yeshainim 24, Piskei Tshuvos 111:2
  4. Gemara Yoma 53b, Tur 123:1, Kaf HaChaim 123:1
  5. Shulchan Aruch O.C. 123:2. Mishna Brurah 123:8 writes that one should not rush taking these the steps forward because in doing so one will lose the mitzvah of waiting in the place one took three steps back.
  6. Mishna Brurah 123:11
  7. Shulchan Aruch O.C. 123:3
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Morning prayers
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