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I have two siddurim, both of which have an indication referring to the beginning of a bow, but neither of which reference when to end this bow. At present I just end it whenever the translated sentence ends.

Is there an exact ruling on when to finish this bow?

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According to the Art Scroll Siddur bend the knees at kor'im (bend the knee), bend at the waist at mishtachavim (bow) and straighten up after modim (acknowledge) before lifnei melelech.

I do not know where Rabbi Nosson Scherman got the original psak that this is the method. It is also the way that I was taught to daven in cheder (lo those many years ago) but I do not remember any particular source. I think that when something is learned in kindergarten or first grade, it becomes automatic to continue.

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    While I haven't found a halachic source, I surmise that the bowing itself corresponds to the actual Hebrew wording. The last phrase is "modim" whic means "acknowledge" or "give thanks". Bowing as an acknowledgement makes sense, in the same manner that we bow for the word "modim" in Shemoneh Esrah.The wording :lifnei melech malche hamlachim hakadosh baruch hu" is another (long) reference to G-d's name. For that, we straighten in the same manner that we straighten for the name "Adon-ai" in Shemoneh Esreh. – DanF Apr 25 '14 at 19:29
  • Basically, we bend the knees during the words "ואנחנו כורעים" and bow during the word "ומשתחוים" (Shulchan Shlomo: Siman 132, Sif 2) See my answer below for more. – Toras EMES 613 Apr 25 '14 at 19:56
  • On what page in the Art Scroll siddur do you see the instruction to bow at the knees in Alenu? – Yehuda W Feb 13 at 15:33
  • @YehudaW Look on the side in the English Art Scroll next to the phrase in the Aleinu – sabbahillel Feb 13 at 16:28
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    @sabbahillel Page number please. My 2nd edition of the RCA edition says "Bow while reciting 'But we bend the knees' ". Does the edition you have say something else? – Yehuda W Feb 13 at 17:00
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We bend the knees during the words "ואנחנו כורעים" and bow during the word "ומשתחוים" (Shulchan Shlomo: Siman 132, Sif 2 - as cited in sefer "Ishei Yisrael").

Furthermore, it is important to note that the Rema (in Siman 132, Sif 2) teaches that after reciting the phrase "שהם משתחוים להבל וריק ומתפללים אל אל לא יושיע" (which notes how others pray to their powerless deity/deities), one should pause prior to reciting "ואנחנו כורעים" (where the pause clearly denotes a distinction between those who worship HaShem referred to in "ואנחנו כורעים" to those who engage in avodah zarah).

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