I've heard from people that it says in Kabbalah that one shouldn't walk with one's hands behind one's back. Does anyone know the source?

  • Is it not simply because it may upset your balance? Or if you trip, your hands won't be available to break your fall? – AviD Jul 12 '11 at 7:24
  • @AviD - that doesn't sound very kabbalistic to me! – Dave Jul 12 '11 at 19:27
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    Where is @mekubal when we need him...? – Dave Jul 13 '11 at 13:41
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    Btw, there is a kabalistic concept not to ever 'cross' your limbs. Front or back, legs or arms. Has to do with preventing brachot. – avi Aug 7 '11 at 13:14

The Lubavitcher Rebbe (here - 3rd par.) quoting the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe )(here - 2nd col., 2nd par.), tells a story of the Alter Rebbe (the Baal Hatanya) in which he (the Previous Rebbe) mentions that the Alter Rebbe didn't hold his hands behind his back al pi kabbalah. This wasn't even referring to folding one's hands, let alone walking.
The Alter Rebbe was warming his hands by the stove in the back of the room while looking and listening to a conversation in the front. Nevertheless, the Rebbe says, he was careful not to put his hands behind his back, but at his sides. Since the Alter Rebbe lived 1745 - 1812, this story took place before the Ben Ish Chai was born (1833).

An anonymous comment here says that in another one of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's seforim (perhaps here, can't find an online copy) there is a footnote by the place where the Rebbe mentions that not putting one's hands behind one's back is kabalistic: " (ראה שער רוה"ק דרוש א' הב' (קרוב לסופו". Despite spending some time looking through that sefer, I was unable to find the source, although I didn't fully understand the above footnote, so perhaps I was looking in all the wrong places.

Significantly, this predates the Ben Ish Chai, is an example of a prominent personality being careful about this, and would also seem to debunk R. Aviner's assertion that it is superstitious.

  • Perhaps that's it. But what on earth does קשרי הזרועות mean? – Hod - Monica's Army Oct 23 '11 at 6:41
  • Hmm. The rest of that piece still confuses me, though. – Hod - Monica's Army Oct 23 '11 at 7:28
  • the ben ish hai was mentioned since it is a easier access book than rabenu ari writings, which people don't have at home so easily as the ben ish hai, in any case this is not his hidush he brings sources to ari. – Avraham Oct 23 '11 at 8:11
  • @Avraham I was merely pointing out that the Ben Ish Chai wasn't the original source, and that this was a good indication of such. – Hod - Monica's Army Oct 23 '11 at 17:47
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    @HodofHod For the same price that the primary source quoted (Ben Ish Chai) is later than the Ba'al HaTanya, the primary source you quoted (Lubavitcher Rebbe) is not earlier than the Ben Ish Chai. So mima nafshach... – Y     e     z Feb 23 '14 at 20:00

http://www.dailyhalacha.com/displayRead.asp?readID=2188&txtSearch=arizal It is brought down in Ben Ish Hai, but other Aharonim discuss it at length.


I've heard in the name of the Bostoner Rebbe zt'l that that posture indicates arrogance.

  • I'd say it's more Hassidic than Kabbalistic per se, as far as I know. – Shalom Aug 5 '11 at 18:10
  • I remember seeing this (that kabbalistically, one should not put his hands behind his back) in a sefer many years ago, but I can no longer remember where. It wasn't just a "mussar" thing. – Dave Aug 5 '11 at 18:51

This article records the concept in the name of Ben Ish Chai. He's probably not the earliest source, though.

  • Significantly, that article classifies the [anti-]practice as "well-documented" and possessing a "clear basis in sources", as opposed to "folklore" or "superstition". – WAF Aug 16 '11 at 17:07

R. Aviner says that such an idea is pure superstition. (in one of his text teshuvot which I get in emails, so I can't link to it)

  • This one? – msh210 Aug 7 '11 at 4:58
  • Yes. Also, his name is pronounce 'avi-nair' not 'avinr' It's a mistake I used to make. – avi Aug 7 '11 at 11:50
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    @avi: can you quote the relevant parts here? – Menachem Aug 11 '11 at 2:11
  • Perhaps for Ashkenazim, but Sephardim the Ben Ish Hai brings it down. – Hacham Gabriel Nov 27 '11 at 1:02

I heard in the name of maran ahida, after I asked to a cabalistic rav he confirmed and explaned me why.

I believe you may ask any sepharadic cabalist rabbi.

see also ben ish hai second year parashat pinehas, last saif. I believe he brings others sources there too

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    nu, what did he say? – avi Aug 7 '11 at 13:13

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