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I know that my children are told in school that halakhah requires that they stand for the Shemoneh Esrei with their legs perfectly straight and their feet together with heels and toes touching, but I am wondering where this actually comes from. Thus question arose when one of my children asked if they could stand with their feet slightly apart because it is easier for them.

Is it a custom? Is it required by the halakhah or a dictate of kabbalistic practices? What is the origin of this practice?

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Berachos 10b

א״ר יוסי בר׳ חנינא משום ראב״י המתפלל צריך שיכוין את רגליו שנאמר ורגליהם רגל ישרה

This is brought in the Rambam Tefila 5:4 (part of תיקון הגוף for תפילה along with how to hold ones hands and where ones eyes should be, which may be understood as how to stand in front of the King) and the Smag Asei 19 (good way to remember it is that we have 19 berachos in our "shmonah esrei") and Shulchan Aruch OC 95:1, and see MB 1 that one fulfills his obligation post facto if his legs were not aligned.

As far as the exact alignment of one's feet: see Tur OC 95 who brings a dispute in the Yerushalmi (Berachos 1:1) whether they should be aligned like the מלאכים or staggered a little like the Kohanim ascending the מזבח, and see Beis Yosef who discusses the opinion of the Bavli in this matter based on Rabeinu Yonah. In the ספר הקצר (aka the Shulchan Aruch) he paskens like the opinion that we are to stand like the מלאכים.

  • Lechatchila if one finds it much more comfortable to keep one's feet slightly separate may he or she do so? – El Shteiger Feb 15 '15 at 2:28
  • I would imagine that if ones ankles are rubbing against each other and that becomes the main focus of one's davening there is room to be lenient. – y.lub Feb 15 '15 at 2:34
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    That wasn't part of the question, @ElShteiger, even though it was part of the the question's inspiration. You might want to check out the related question for more on that. – Shokhet Feb 15 '15 at 2:44
  • @Shokhet who sees what I wrote in the edit about what I changed from – y.lub Feb 15 '15 at 3:28
  • @Shokhet ... From my original post – y.lub Feb 15 '15 at 3:29

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