Turning to the Right and Left

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Turning to the Right and Left


  1. Kaddish: Regarding bowing during oseh shalom, Peninei Halacha (Tefillah 23:11 p. 350) and Tikkun Derech Hachayim 28:10 hold that the shaliach tzibbur should first bow to his left and then to his right, just like the practice is after Shemona Esrei. Mordechai (Brachot 4:111) and Trumat Hadeshen 13 imply this as well. Sefer Haminhagim (Minhagei Chabad p. 6) writes that the Chabad minhag is to bow to the right first. Piskei Teshuvot (56 fnt. 122) supports that practice because the bows at the end of kaddish aren't similar to the bows at the end of Shemona Esrei. Only at the end of Shemona Esrei he is taking leave of Hashem he first bows his left, the right side of Hashem, but for Kaddish this isn't necessary. Siddur Avoteynu (Nusach Morocco, p. 127) also writes that the Moroccan minhag is to bow to the right first.

Shemona Esrei

  1. Bows after Shemona Esrei: The Gemara Yoma 53b states that after a person takes three steps back he bows to his left, then to his right, and then to the center. The reason we bow to the left first is because that is considered Hashem’s right so to speak. That is the ruling of the Rambam Tefillah 5:10 and Shulchan Aruch 123:1. However, Yalkut Yosef Tefillah 123 fnt. 1 quotes the Zohar 3:229a which says that a person should first bow to their right and then the left at the end of Shemona Esrei. Meor Yisrael of Rav Ovadia Yoma 53b writes that the Zohar debates it and concludes like our gemara that one should first bow to the left.
  2. Kara Zeh El Zeh: Hatefilah Vhilchoteha 2:314 quotes Rav Ovadia Yosef and Rav Chaim Kanievsky that there's no basis for the minhag to bow during vkara zeh el zeh v'amar. Az Nidbaru 13:32:3 agrees. He says for those who do it can bow either to the right first or left first but what is important is to pay attention to the words. Shivat Tzion Shabbat 7:106 v. 2 p. 117 writes based on the zohar that the angels when praising Hashem turn to the right first and then to their left and in kedusha we're mimicking the angels. He explains that it isn't similar to Yoma 53b where we're leaving Hashem's presence.[1] Rivevot Efraim 5:103:2 writes that one should turn to the right first and the left. Hatefilah Vehilchoteha quotes the Mayim Chaim 2:7 who writes that one should first turn to the right since one isn't taking leave of Hashem.

Birkat Cohanim

  1. Birkat Kohanim of Shaliach Tzibur: The Magen Avraham 127:3 cites a Zohar that when a person turns their face in the birkat kohanim of elokenu velokay avoteynu they should turn to the right for the word "vyishmerecha", to the left for "panav eylecha vyichunecha." Mishna Brurah 127:8 agrees.
  2. Birkat Kohanim for Kohanim: The Roke’ach 323 explains that during Birkat Kohanim the kohanim turn to the left and then to the right during the words Yivarecha, Vyishmarecha, Eylecha, Veyichunecha, Eylecha, Lecha, and Shalom. Peulat Tzadik 3:16 is bothered why we do this and don’t turn to the right first. Fnt. 2 points out that this is different than Gemara Yoma 53b, the bows after Shemona Esrei, since he isn’t taking leave of Hashem here.
  3. Birkat Kohanim: Bet Yosef 128:17 and Magen Avraham hold that the cohanim should turn around by turning to their right. That is, a turn clockwise (east, south, west, north). Bach 128:10 agrees and proves that this is the view of Maharil and Trumat Hadeshen. Shulchan Aruch Harav 128:26 agrees. However, Levush 128:17 disagrees. He holds that a person rotating should turn counterclockwise. Even though he's going to his left, that's called right since he started by going right (moving his right foot). Rama Mpano (Yamin Hashem Romema) agrees with Levush.

Kriyat Hatorah

  1. Opening the Aron: Prisha 128 writes that it doesn’t matter whether the parochet is pulled from right to left or vice versa, since the person isn't turning. Bear Moshe 1:8 agrees but adds that it is best to establish the practice to open from left to right in a place that doesn't have a pratice.
  2. Taking out the Torah: Bet Yosef 128:17 writes that if you standing with your back to heichal facing west, then the sefer torah should be carried to the north (counterclockwise).
  3. Getting an Aliya: Shulchan Aruch O.C. 141:7 rules that if there are two paths of equal length to get to the bimah to get an aliya you should take the one that is on the right. Levush 141:7 agrees.
  4. Birchot Hatorah: Rama OC 139:4 writes that when a person gets an aliyah they should turn their face to the left when saying the brachot hatorah. The Mishna Brurah 139:19 explains that the reason we first turn to the left is because of the Gemara Yoma 53b. Regarding Sephardim, Rav Mordechai Eliyahu (Maamar Mordechai 2:13) writes that a person should turn to the right when saying brachot hatorah for an aliya.
  5. Hagbah: Mishna Brurah 134:9 writes that a person standing on the east side of bimah should turn from east to south. The entire setup of Mishna Brurah is extremely difficult to understand because why would a person be doing hagbah from the east side of the bimah? Also, why would he be turning from east to south if he's on the east side of the bimah facing west? He should be turning from facing west to facing north? However, in light of the fact that he is quoting Pri Chadash 134:2 it is clear what he meant. He is describing a shul that's on the east side of Yerushalayim, where Pri Chadash lived. There, the Aron kodesh faces the west. When he's doing hagbah he is on the east side of the bimah facing west. He is supposed to turn in the counterclockwise direction. That is, if he were facing east he would turn to the south. In that same direction he should turn from facing west to face north. That is exactly what he and Mishna Brurah write regarding birkat cohanim that they reference here.


  1. Shabbat Candles: Rav Zilberstein (Chashukei Chemed Nedarim 38b) writes that there's no need to light the Shabbat candles left to right since the primary mitzvah is the first candle. However, he quotes Rav Chaim Kanievsky who told him that possibly there is a reason to light from left to right.
  2. Lecha Dodi: Piksei Teshuvot (267 fnt. 47) cites the Shaare Kavanot that during bo'ey kallah of Lecha Dodi a person should bow to the right for the first boyi kallah, to the left for the next one, and to the center for the last one. Kaf Hachaim 261:28 explains that the bowing to the right first is because we want to have kavana for the sefira of chachma, to the left for binah, and daat in the center. Siddur Yavetz argues that one should bow to the left first and then to the right like the Gemara Yoma 53b states for after Shemona Esrei.
  3. Bo'ey Kallah: The minhag is to turn around for bo'ey kallah. Nitai Gavriel (Nesuin v. 1 p. 128) quotes Darkei Chayim Vshalom, minhagim of Minchas Elazar, who writes that the Munkatch minhag is to turn east, north, west, south during bo’ey kallah and Kabbalat Shabbat. However, Nitai Gavriel implies that really this minhag should follow the general minhag of going right, which according to Shulchan Aruch, is clockwise.


  1. Bedikat Chametz: Rav Yechezkel Roth (Emek Teshuva 1:63) writes that possibly you should go from closest room to closest room, but if there is a choice to go left or right you should go right.


  1. Hoshanot: Bet Yosef 128:17 writes that the circles around the bimah should be counterclockwise (east, north, west, south). Since when a person faces the bimah in the middle of the circle his right is in the counterclockwise direction. Levush (128:17 and 660:2) and Rama Mpano (Yamin Hashem Romema) agree.
  2. Shaking the Lulav: Shulchan Aruch O.C. 651:10 holds that a person should turn clockwise when turning around to shake the lulav. He also holds that the lulav should be shaken in the directions of east, south, west, and north. Arizal holds the order is south, north, east, up, down, and west. However, Levush 651:11 argues that the order is east, north, west, and south because he holds that going right is objectively defined as a person turning counterclockwise.


  1. Chanuka Candles: Shulchan Aruch O.C. 676:5 holds that the candles are light from left to right. Or Letzion 4:46:8 writes that the order of lighting the candles doesn't change how it appears to others. It depends entirely on the one lighting. Levush 676:5 argues that the candles should be lit the way Hebrew is written, from right to left. Tzemech Tzedek OC 67 agrees with Levush.


  1. Mezuzot: Zichron Meshulam pp. 17-8 writes that there's no need to turn to the right when walking through one's house to put up mezuzot in each room since the principle of going to the right is only within the process of a mitzvah, but not when confronted with multiple mitzvot.


  1. Walking down the Aisle: Nitai Gavriel (Nesuin v. 1 17:1 p. 123) quotes Segulot Yisrael who writes that you should take the first step to walk to the chupa with your right foot. The reason is because we want the chesed (kindness) to be triumphant over din (judgement).
  2. Kallah Encircling Chattan at Wedding: Nitai Gavriel (Nesuin v. 1 p. 128) writes that the kallah should circle around the chattan under the chuppah by going right, which is counterclockwise. He writes that this is the minhag of Vishnitz.