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When I lived in South Africa, every shul I ever went to had the Rabbi's seat facing the congregation. From what I've seen in other shuls in the USA, UK and Australia, the practice seems universal; the reason is already given by this answer.

So it was a surprise to me when I made aliya to find that many shuls in Israel have the Rabbi facing forward. Curiously, from my empirical observations, it appears that the split is along political lines; the Dati Leumi shuls have the Rabbi facing forward, while the Haredi shuls have him facing the congregation.

Is there a particular reason why this should be so? Like maybe a teshuva by Rav Kook or some other DL posek?

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    My speculation is that there may be a question of having the rabbi sit with his back to the Aron. I know that the main concern is praying towards the Aron, and those that sit facing the cong. turn around to face the aron while praying. But, perhaps, there's some that are machmir and state that one should not even sit with the back to the aron. – DanF Sep 4 '18 at 18:04
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    I remember hearing a source in a shuir quoting the Abarbanel on pirkei avos that he was surprised to see rabbis facing the congregation. I was never successful in finding that Abarbanel, so if somone knows of it please direct me to it. – sam Sep 4 '18 at 18:15
  • Opposite question: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/35824/170 – msh210 Sep 4 '18 at 22:03
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I just approached the Rav of one of these shuls and asked him the reason why he faces forward. His answer was that it isn't anything particularly lomdish; he just feels that his relationship with the kehilla is that of a "Rav Chaver", and he personally feels uncomfortable with the idea of setting himself up as The Big Rabbi sitting in the Mizrach.

I may survey some other Rabbis for their position, too...

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