Would it be right if I say that the direction of Tefila (temple) is always in the direction of sunrise?

  • Do you mean that if one wants to pray in the direction of the Temple Mount one should face East (the direction from which the sun rises)? Wouldn’t this depend on your position relative to the Temple Mount?
    – Joel K
    Apr 9 '21 at 5:18
  • Yes, this is exactly what I mean. Apr 9 '21 at 5:36
  • 1
    Not Jewish, but the position of the sunrise changes each day because of the seasons and the 26,000-year axial precession cycle. Are you suggesting that the Temple would move to follow the Sun?
    – nick012000
    Apr 9 '21 at 15:23
  • @nick012000 You showed a good point, thank you. Apr 9 '21 at 16:46

No it is incorrect. The direction of prayer is in the direction of the site of the Beit Hamidkash (the Temple) in Jerusalem. The Gemara (Brakhot 30a) writes (commentary R Adin Steinsaltz)

One who was standing in prayer in the Diaspora, should focus his heart toward Eretz Yisrael [...] One who was standing in Eretz Yisrael, should focus his heart toward Jerusalem [...] One who was standing in Jerusalem, should focus his heart toward the Temple [...]

This is picked up in the halachic codes, see e.g., SA OC 94:1

As such, those directly West of Jerusalem pray in direction of the East (sunrise), but for most Jews, the direction of prayer does not correspond straight to the East. In Europe for instance, the right direction will be somewhat to the South East.

HalachaYomit notes it is a common mistake

Some people always look to pray eastward based on the direction where the sun rises and this mistake is based on the saying Ashkenazim have coined of praying facing “Mizrach”. However, in truth, one must always face the Land of Israel, Jerusalem, and the Bet Hamikdash.

For more details see Peninei Halacha here and remember his conclusion

One who does not know the direction of Jerusalem may pray to whichever direction he desires while directing his heart towards his Father in Heaven (Shulchan Aruch 94:3). Even if he subsequently discovers that he was mistaken, it is not necessary to repeat his prayer while facing Jerusalem

And for many more details see R Broyde at TorahMusings

  • 2
    Which is why someone in Jordan or the Far East (ex. China) would pray in the direction of the WEST. Apr 9 '21 at 13:38
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    "In Europe and North America for instance, the right direction will be somewhat to the South East." Is it? Does this go by a straight line on a Mercator projection or by the actual shortest-path direction? If the latter, then it would be Northeast from almost all of North America. The initial heading toward Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv from JFK Airport in New York on the shortest path is 54 degrees East of North, for example. From Los Angeles, it's only 24 degrees East of North. From Anchorage, it's actually a few degrees West of North.
    – reirab
    Apr 9 '21 at 23:50
  • @reirab yes you have a very good point
    – mbloch
    Apr 12 '21 at 17:50
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    @reirab judaism.stackexchange.com/q/80827/759
    – Double AA
    Apr 12 '21 at 17:59
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    Excellent answer. Worth noting Rav S.D. Pinkus zatza"l writes in Tiferes Torah al shas (I think it's siman 3) that facing the general direction is enough; it doesn't need to be directly lined up. One of his points is that sometimes Bavel is called "north" of israel, and sometimes west; because it's northwest, both general directions are good enough.
    – Binyomin
    Apr 13 '21 at 21:44

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