4

I've noticed many people walking backwards when taking leave of the Kosel.

Is there any halachic source for this custom?

5

This PDF file attributed to the teachings of R' Shlomo Aviner lists a couple of gedolim who practiced this, but doesn't give sources:

Q: Is it permissible to turn one's back to the Kotel?

A: It is permissible just as in a shul it is permissible to turn one's back to the Torah ark. When one leaves the Kotel, the custom is to walk backwards with his face towards the Kotel until he reaches the Plaza. This was the custom of the Steipler [Gaon] (Orchot Rabbenu vol. 1 p. 320 and vol.2 pp. 150-151) and also Ha-Rav Neventzal.

Although Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach was not particular to do so. Ha-Kotel Ha-Ma'aravi – Halachot U-Minhagim p. 40).

Perhaps we can suggest the source for this practice is application of what the Magen Avraham OC 132:6 writes in terms of leaving shul:

כשיצא מבה"כ לא יצא ואחוריו להיכל אלא יצדד וכן בירידתו מהתיבה

When one leaves shul they shouldn't leave with their back facing the Heichal rather they should walk to the side [ie backwards].

  • 1
    I thought the Magen Avrohom might be the source. I find this interesting, because the vast majority of people are not makpid on this yet are makpid by the kosel. – chortkov2 May 15 at 20:36
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    Does this halacha apply to an open-air shul with no entrance/walls? – chortkov2 May 15 at 20:37
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    @chortkov2 The Kotel plaza was designed to have the status of a Beis Knesses, and includes a "Tzuras Hapesach" over the entrance way to the men's section, which completes the 4th wall. – IsraelReader May 16 at 0:01
  • "rather they should walk to the side [ie backwards]"? How do you get "backwards" from "יצדד"? I'd think it means exactly what it says: don't turn your back completely (rude) but don't walk backwards (dangerous): walk sideways. – msh210 May 16 at 11:00

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