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There's a(n) Halachah (citation help, anyone?) that you are not supposed to pass in front of someone in prayer. As a result, many people are strict and won't take their three steps back when finishing prayer if there is someone praying behind them who hasn't finished yet.

A) How strict should you be in this situation? If someone immediately behind you began Shemoneh 'Esreh late and therefore is still near the beginning when you finish, do you really just have to stand there until he finishes? Do the people in front of you have to also (because you haven't completely finished)?

B) If the congregation continues forward with Tefillah are you allowed to continue with them even though you haven't taken your steps back and said 'Oseh Shalom, etc.?

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4 Answers 4

For question A, Rav Eliyashiv is quoted in sefer Vayismah Moshe pg 55 saying if you started with the tzibbur, and the guy behind also did, then you have to check to see if he finished. However, if you know that he started after you (the tzibbur), then you do not have an obligation to check to see if he finished, and you can step back.

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Your second question is easier to answer: The MB 122:4 quotes the Maamar Mordechai that one who is finished with his tefila, but cannot step back because someone behind him is still in the middle of tefilla, "he may say then even baruch hu uvaruch shemo". It sounds to me like you may go on with other prayers as well, but I cannot say that with 100% certainty. He may certainly say tachanun, since one may make supplications even before yihyu l'ratzon...

Regarding stepping back, although I have heard an opinion that is lenient nowadays (because we have siddurim and nobody has great kavana anyways), I do not know its source. However, the MB 102:18 allows at pressing times to rely on the Taz who allows someone to walk within 4 amos in front of one who is in the middle of tefilla and stand there, so long as he does not "pass by" within that distance.

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By the way, the Chayei Adam (if I remember correctly) holds that the reason why we don't step back is because the shechinah is in front of someone praying — that would apply in any circumstance (though he is a lone opinion) –  b a Sep 10 '12 at 0:46
    
Sounds familiar. The Taz is a lone opinion as well, but used beshaas hadechak. –  YDK Sep 10 '12 at 1:42

Regarding part A of the question, the Kesser Rosh of R' Chaim Volozhoner in Hilchos tefillah number 33 says that it is אסור to take the three steps and there isn't an issue of יוהרא (looking haughty) in waiting.

Regarding part B, the same source says that while you are waiting you should say techinos and bakashos, and learning is also allowed. I would assume techinos extends to the continuation of davening in most situations. Certainly tachanun.

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Just saying Tahanun? What about Nefilath Appayim? –  Seth J Jan 17 at 4:31
    
@SethJ Is your question about moving to do nefillas apayim or about saying the words? If the former, you cannot move your legs until you take the three steps back, but you can put your arm over your forehead while standing (I don't have a source, but R' Mintz, the posek in Ner Israel, told me this). If the latter, I'm not sure why the words of nefillas apayim are not techinos ubakashos. –  YEZ Jan 17 at 18:01
    
@yez the motion/sitting. –  Seth J Jan 17 at 20:44

According part B of the question. When I CYLORed the question, I got the answer that I should continue with the congregation as usually, and say 'Oshe Shalom' when the person behind me finishes his 'Shmone Esrei'.

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That makes sense for two out of three Tefilloth. What about Ma'ariv? Can you say 'Aleinu? LeDavid in Elul and Tishrei? ViYhi No'am on Motzei Shabbath? Can you count Sefirah during the appropriate season? And (not in Ma'ariv) what if the person behind you is late and slow? Can you do Nefillath Apaim/Tahanun? –  Seth J Sep 10 '12 at 0:18
    
@SethJ The answer I got from Rav, is that I should continue "as usually", so I understood that I say Aleinu,ViYhi No'am and so on. What is the difference between maariv and other prayers. More then once, it occurred to me be stucked on minha, till after congregation finished hazarat hashats. –  jutky Sep 12 '12 at 11:34
    
OK, I was just trying to clarify whether your Rav was saying, "Go ahead and answer Kedushah," or if he was saying, "No matter what they get up to, you can say everything, just remain in place." –  Seth J Sep 12 '12 at 14:44

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