If you are davenning shmoneh esrai and you must stop (for example there is filth, something untznius, pictures, a dangerous animal, etc), should you take 3 steps back?

I'm asking both about taking 3 steps when stopping (pausing) the davening, and when resuming in a new location. (I am assuming the interruption is short enough that you don't have to start over.)

I have seen people "hop" to a new location sometimes (if they are in the way, or facing the wrong way), but I am assuming you need to walk a short distance in this case. (And I'm not sure hopping vs walking has any value anyway, but that's a different question.)

(Inspired by this.)

2 Answers 2


The Shulchan Aruch (103:2) states:

בקש לצאת ממנו רוח מלמטה ונצטער הרבה ואינו יכול להעמיד עצמו הולך אחוריו ארבע אמות ומוציא הרוח וממתין עד שיכלה הריח...וחוזר למקומו וחוזר למקום שפסק

If a person has to pass gas and he is unable to hold it in, he should walk backward four amot, release the gas and wait until the smell subsides...and he should then return to his place and to the point in the tefillah where he left off

From this it seems that one would not be required to take three steps when one pauses and subsequently resumes his shmoneh esrai.

As well, the Shulchan Aruch later states (123) the halacha that one should take these three steps at the end of the shmoneh esrai in "דינים הכריעות בסיום שמונה עשרה ברכות - The Laws of the Bows at the Conclusion of Shmoneh Esrai" which seems to indicate that these steps would only be required at the conclusion of shmoneh esrai and not merely for a pause. This also seems to be the intention of the source for this rule (Yoma 53a) which draws the rule from a servant taking leave of his master. Again, this would only apply if one was taking leave and not merely pausing.

Regarding the three steps forward (at the commencement or re-commencement of shmoneh esrai) these steps do not appear in the Talmud (as far as I have found) like their end of Amidah counterparts. They make their first appearance in the Halachic works of Rabbi Moshe Isserlis (the REMA), both in the Darkei Moshe and his gloss on the Shulchan Aruch in Siman 95. He brings this as a “yesh omrim” from the Rokeach and only mentions the three steps forward. He explains that the reason for the three steps forward is because there are three places in the Tanach which the word “vayigash – to approach” is used regarding prayer, Avraham, Yehuda and Eliyahu.

Restarting shmoneh esrai would, seemingly, not be considered “vayigash – to approach” being that the "approach" already took place and being that these steps do not have their roots in the Talmud it seems that they would be unnecessary in this situation.


The answer can perhaps be derived from this din. MB 105:3 That if a person at the end of shmonai esrai realises he has made a mistake he does not have to go 3 steps back but starts again after waiting the 'four amos time'.In the middle he doesnt have to wait at all. Although its not so explicit there that is how others understand him. It seems this din of 3 step back only applies at the end of a proper shmonai esrai without mistakes. In your case you are moving to a new place. I would say it is no different. I like the question.

  • 2
    "I would say it is no different." Actually, it sounds to me like you are saying it is different. Unless you are referring to the case in the MB and not to the most recent case (of no mistakes). In short, it's unclear what you are comparing. This is an example of the unclear writing we are talking about. It's not that I don't get the MB. It's not even that I cannot fully figure out what you are trying to say. It's that you've presented it in a way that is unclear, so that I'm not sure if you mean what I think you mean.
    – Seth J
    Commented May 3, 2013 at 11:47
  • Also, "It seems this din of 3 step back only applies at the end of a proper shmonai esrai without mistakes." gives me the impression that you are saying that if you made a mistake and have since gone back and corrected it, you should not take 3 steps back at the end. Is that what you mean? Because I've never heard that before.
    – Seth J
    Commented May 3, 2013 at 11:52

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