There's a(n) Halachah (Berachos 27a, Shulchan Aruch 102:4) 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.?


4 Answers 4


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, 2012 at 0:46
  • Sounds familiar. The Taz is a lone opinion as well, but used beshaas hadechak.
    – YDK
    Sep 10, 2012 at 1:42
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    I don't see any Taz cited in MB 102:18. He does cite an Elya Rabba who is lenient when walking to the side of the person. Feb 9, 2016 at 2:36
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    Once you say יהי לרצון אמרי פי לפנך והגיון לבי לפנך וגו it's like you finished the עמידה and you can daven normally further.
    – Nachmen
    Feb 10, 2016 at 9:11

Regarding part A of the question, the Beis Yosef in Orech Chaim 102 s.v. כתב cites the Mahari Abuhav as saying that one needs to wait even if the person behind them started after them.

As far as the people in front of you (the person waiting), R' Shlomo Zalman Aurbach (Halichos Shlomo Hilchos Tefillah ch. 8 os 47) writes that the shechina is still "present" even after you finish until you take your steps back, which would imply that the person in front is also "stuck." In os 34 he writes that if the person behind you is finished, you could go back for mitzvah purposes. One example of mitzvah that he gives is tachanun, so that would mean that the person in front would not be stuck once the congregation is moving on to tachanun.

R' Chaim Kanievsky, in Siach HaSadeh vol. 3 berachos 10a writes that it is OK to go back if the person behind you is finished as long as you avoid the 4 amos of the person behind him who is not finished.

(Seemingly, this should depend on if the reason one cannot pass someone praying is due to interrupting their concentration (Magen Avraham O.C. 102:6) or interrupting between them and the shechina (Chayei Adam Klal 26, #3). If it is a concentration issue, once they are done there is no more issue. If it is a shechina issue, then the problem persists as long as the shechina is still present.)

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. R' Mintz (the posek in Ner Israel) told me that this would include putting one's head down on one's arm, but not sitting.

  • Thanks for the clarification. Any thoughts on the impact on those in front of you (you being the person stuck in front of someone still Davening)?
    – Seth J
    Feb 9, 2016 at 2:33
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    @DoubleAA Yes, teshuvas maharsham. Feb 10, 2016 at 4:20
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    @DoubleAA not in teshuvos. It's in Da'as Torah 102:4, second paragraph. Ends off with צריך עיון. Feb 11, 2016 at 0:53
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    hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=41144&st=&pgnum=172 also part of the third paragraph @yEz Thanks muchly!
    – Double AA
    Feb 11, 2016 at 4:46
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    This is about as thorough an answer as I could have asked for. Thank you. I have nagging questions about R' S"Z Auerbach's position (basically, the who and the when), but I feel like I'm beating a dead horse. Great answer.
    – Seth J
    Feb 11, 2016 at 16:54

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'.

  • 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, 2012 at 0:18
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    @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, 2012 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, 2012 at 14:44

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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