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In nearly every shul I've been in the Rav of the shul sits up near the aron kodesh and faces towards the congregation instead of facing east. I assume this is in keeping with halacha (as mentioned in an answer) but I would like to understand what purpose (if any) this serves conceptually?

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  • re edit: see this and I note that the last paragraph here applies
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 19:11
  • @DoubleAA are you saying the question is now vague? Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 19:41
  • I'm saying it was vague and your clarification invalidated an existing answer.
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 20:12
  • Opposite question: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/95197/170
    – msh210
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 22:04
  • 1
    Abraham Ben haRambam Actually banned this practice Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 7:49

3 Answers 3

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Tosefta Megila 3:14 says that the elders would sit facing the congregation. As per DoubleAA's comment this is codified in Orach Chaim 150:5. The question is really on the Rabbis that do not do so.

Kav Chaim 1 says the reason the front row faces the congregation is since the Bima is in the center of the Synagogue and that is where the Torah is read, that way there is a remembrance of Har Sinai, where all were facing the mountain.

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  • @GershonGold, מפני כבוד הציבור tshuvos.com/…
    – Yishai
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 19:35
  • Just asked a related question
    – Shaul Behr
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 17:53
  • What's interesting is that they focus on the shulchan rather than the teiva which is usually in the front, but it can be in the middle. Point is that the majority of the time in shul is tefillah rather than Torah reading so most of the activity tends to be in the front. Perhaps, taht should be considered the main focus.
    – DanF
    Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 21:47
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I heard once from Rabbi Yisroel Miller that the reason for this is to instill fear in the tzibur during davening.

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Natan the Bavli describes the Yarchei Kallah in the Geonic period, there he describes the various religious leaders (head of the yeshiva, second tier heads of study groups etc.) who would sit opposite the students on the wall that the aron kodesh was placed. This seems to be part of the pomp and circumstance that was modeled after the staged processes and seating arrangements of the king's court.

Source: Mordechai Breuer, Ohalei Torah (The Yeshiva, Its Structure and History)

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  • Where does Yehuda the Bavli describe this? Please include a source. The Yarchei Kallah are months of communal learning — does your source specify times of prayer?
    – magicker72
    Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 2:06

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