Why do we take steps before the Shemona Esrei?

  • 1
    Your title asks one thing, and your question body asks another. Which do you mean to ask? Can you bring them into alignment, please?
    – msh210
    Commented Oct 28, 2011 at 6:53
  • At times when they are in alignment, they do not allow the question to be asked, and say the quality is no good! Commented Oct 28, 2011 at 16:08
  • 2
    @GershonGold, you can do something like (title) "How to take steps for sh'mone esre" and (body) "I see people taking some steps before starting sh'mone esre. What are the laws and customs of this practice?", or (title) "Why steps for sh'mone esre" and (body) "I see people taking some steps before starting sh'mone esre. Why do they do this: is this obligatory/customary? If so, what's the reason for the law/custom?".
    – msh210
    Commented Oct 28, 2011 at 16:26
  • Are you asking why (as addressed by the answers below) or are you asking the method?
    – Seth J
    Commented Nov 1, 2011 at 13:39
  • 1
    All righty. Now that the "how" has been asked separately and the "why" is what's addressed by the answers given below (and the "how" has not), I'm editing this question so it's asking "why" not "how".
    – msh210
    Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 18:08

3 Answers 3


You step forward to meet with the King of Kings.

You first step backwards in case where you are, you can't just step forwards.

  • Then why more than one step?
    – wizlog
    Commented Oct 28, 2011 at 19:37
  • 3
    One step doesn't really signal approaching... two step is Zugim and we avoid Zugim. Three makes its a solid thing.
    – avi
    Commented Oct 29, 2011 at 18:11
  • see here (and sources cited): en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amidah#Three_steps
    – Menachem
    Commented Nov 27, 2011 at 3:16

If you watch the movie "The Queen" with Helen Mirren, there is a scene that is awesome and quite relevant. The Tony Blair character is about to meet the Queen after becoming Prime Minister, and the page about to let him into the chamber to meet her, explains to him that you do this three step thing before approaching the Queen.

That really caught my eye! I know why! (Also I love about 5 minutes later, trying to break the ice, she informs Blair that her first Prime Minister that she did this meet and greet with was Winston Churchill).

So as Avi notes, this is what we do for a mortal ruler, Kaviyachol, even more so for the King of Kings.

  • 1
    Why did two people down vote this without giving a reason?
    – avi
    Commented Nov 1, 2011 at 8:13
  • Maybe if I add Kaviyachol? Would that make it better. I had wondered as well why the downvotes.
    – geoffc
    Commented Nov 1, 2011 at 12:48

Mechilta, Yisro: The three steps correspond to the three layers of darkness (Choshech, anan, and arafel) that Moshe went through in speaking to Hashem on Har Sinai.

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