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While performing parts of the Passover seder ritual, we're supposed to recline on our left side.

Given that we do not eat sitting on the floor, reclining on our left side on pillows (so our right hand is free to deal with the food), is there an ideal way to recline while sitting on a chair? The chair may have arms or may not. It might be large or a narrow dining room chair.

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    The advice I've heard is to turn your chair so the back is to your left side and lean .. – R. Mo Mar 16 '15 at 13:50
  • Seemingly any way that fulfills the requirement is ideal. Are you looking for chumras, perhaps? Like ways of reclining which fulfill extra opinions of how one must recline? – Double AA Mar 16 '15 at 17:17
  • Some hold that pillows are necessary – sam Mar 16 '15 at 18:59
  • @DoubleAA isn't what fulfills the requirement what he is asking? – Y     e     z Mar 16 '15 at 20:08
  • @yEz Not sure. 'ideal' would be a funny way to say that IMO. – Double AA Mar 16 '15 at 20:10
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Rav Yisroel Belsky (zt"l) said that one should lean slightly to the left, with one's elbow on the table, in a very comfortable manner. See the YouTube video for more detail.

Here's a screenshot from the full clip:

Rav Yisroel Belsky sitting at a table, leaning slightly to his left with his left elbow on the table, and holding a styrofoam cup in his right hand.

(Click the image for a higher resolution copy)

  • I'm...confused about your edit, @unforgettable. Do you really think it adds all that much to my answer? I see that your edit was approved by two others, but I don't really think it was at all necessary. Edits are really for more important improvements; IMO this should have been rejected as "too minor." – MTL Apr 16 '17 at 15:22
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    The answer was a bit confusing, because it had a still-image frame grab which linked not to a YouTube video, but to a second copy of the image. My edit was indeed pretty minor, but I still think it helps make the answer be a bit less confusing. ❧ I anyway don't see why it's so important that Stack Exchange edits need be substantial. On Wikipedia, edits often just add or delete one character. – unforgettableid Apr 19 '17 at 21:36
  • Okay, now I see what was confusing. I won't roll it back, but I might change it a little to make it sound more like me :-) Thanks for explaining. – MTL Apr 19 '17 at 21:42
  • @unforgettableid: "Tiny, trivial edits are discouraged - try to make the post significantly better when you edit, correcting all problems that you observe.." (Anyway, maybe you should have explained the purpose of your edit a little more descriptively than "Adding text." -- then we wouldn't have had to have this discussion. But that's all water under the bridge.) – MTL Apr 19 '17 at 21:44
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Today I received an email from dailyhalacha.com that has a sefardic take on this question:

Haham Ben-Sion defines haseva as leaning forty-five degrees to the left, and one must be leaning on something such as the back of the chair or the table, and not simply leaning to the side in mid air with no support. Leave enough room for this when preparing the seating.

The full section by Rabbi Eli J Mansour reads:

When and How to Recline

The Raavayah determines that since people no longer eat as was once common practice, namely close to the floor on a couch or supported by cushions, it is therefore no longer obligatory to recline, causing us discomfort instead of feeling like kings. Maran rejects this opinion and considers reclining mandatory even today when we are used to eating sitting up straight in chairs. We recline while drinking the arbah kosot and while eating the massa. If one does not recline as he drinks one of the arbah kosot, he hasn't fulfilled his obligation and must drink another kos. So, before making Kiddush, the baal habayit should make an announcement, reminding everyone to recline while drinking. Keep in mind that reclining, haseva, is always to the left. Each person should concentrate on reclining to his own left and not be confused by the people sitting opposite him who look like they're reclining to their right. The Sages offer two reasons for reclining to the left. One is for safety purposes, to avoid the sakana of our food or drink being ingested by the windpipe which might happen if we lean to the right. The other reason is practical. Since most people are righties and need their right hands to eat, reclining to the left makes their right hands available for holding the kos or the massa. The Rabbis decided that even a lefty should recline to the left, despite the inconvenience, in order to avoid the aforementioned sakana. Haham Ben-Sion defines haseva as leaning forty-five degrees to the left, and one must be leaning on something such as the back of the chair or the table, and not simply leaning to the side in mid air with no support. Leave enough room for this when preparing the seating. It is debatable whether or not women should recline, some opinions maintain that a woman shouldn't do haseva unless she is considered an isha hashuva, an important woman. Shulhan Aruch says that all women are hashuvot, important and significant, and therefore they should also recline."

I did not find a copy of this whole document posted on the web, so I quoted the relevant section above. The file is named "Pesah Seder Guide.pdf". Perhaps it will show up on the web at a later date.

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    Consider editing the lengthy second citation to the relevant parts, or delete the whole thing, add a link, and summarise them. – mevaqesh Apr 13 '17 at 15:25
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I tend to use a second chair since I'm not clear how leaning slightly to the left qualifies as heseibah/derech cheirus which I assume looked more like this: enter image description hereenter image description hereenter image description hereenter image description here

  • (It's easiest if you get to sit at a corner.) – Loewian Mar 16 '15 at 16:25
  • I reeeally want to upvote this answer, especially for the final photo, but I don't think it answers the question, which is asking for the ideal way (which I assume would involve some sourcing of Jewish texts), and not how you do it. – Y     e     z Mar 16 '15 at 20:07
  • @Y e z: A lot of Jewish texts aren't illustrated. So it would have been somewhat difficult for them to explain how to recline. It's sometimes easiest to learn how to do things by noticing what learned Jews do rather than by looking in a book. – unforgettableid Dec 2 '18 at 22:23

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