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Years ago, I attended Lincoln Square Synagogue when Rabbi Riskin was Rav. It is the only shul that I know of that is built like a stadium, with the ark in the front of the shul (I.e. if one drew a diameter with one end being the shul entrance, then the other end had the ark.)

Seats were arranged in concentric rows with the shulchan (Torah readers platform) in the middle, and each row (circle) higher than the one inside of it. Like so:

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What allows this shul arrangement? (I assume if Rabbi Riskin allowed it, it's OK.) Isn't there a rule that one must not daven from a "high place"? Here, some people are higher than others? Secondly, isn't the entire congregation supposed to face in the same direction, i.e .towards the ark, but also in the same compass direction? In a circular shul, to face the ark, everyone must face in a different direction, so some people are facing each other.

  • Do you have a reason that this should not be permitted? In halacha there is no need to assume something isn't permitted without a reason to say this thing isn't muter. – Laser123 Apr 27 '17 at 22:14
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    In context it's clear that the prohibition from davening from a high place applies to somewhere where you'd be afraid of falling off and therefore unable to focus properly. In response to your point about facing the proper direction while davening, having benches not all facing the same direction is a very common design in synagogues. In my experience, people just turn the correct way when davening shmoneh esrei. – Daniel Apr 27 '17 at 22:21
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    Is your concern where the ark and the shulchan were positioned or that congregants were seated above the shulchan? Lincoln Square Synagogue moved into a new facility in 2013 with a modern interpretation of the original stadium/ampitheatre seating design. The only halakhic concern that was voiced concerning the seating arrangement in either building was/is the appropriateness of the mekhitza. The new building includes sections that accommodates those who are more strict. Depending on where you are seated at LSS, people simply turn towards the ark while standing. – JJLL Apr 27 '17 at 22:34
  • IIRC the Young Israel of Scarsdale had that. – rosends Apr 28 '17 at 0:32
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    I've been in several Orthodox shuls where the women's section was a balcony. If height were a problem, wouldn't that pose a problem for balconies? – Monica Cellio Apr 28 '17 at 14:22

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