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If I am east of Jerusalem, do I face west when praying?

by Rabbi Simcha Bart

  

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We always pray the Amidah facing Jerusalem, as it says,1 “And they shall… pray to You toward their land, which You gave to their fathers, the city that You have chosen, and the house which I have built for Your Name.”

The popular notion that one must always face east while praying came about because many, if not most, Jews lived in countries to the west of Israel.

“Thus all Jews direct their prayers to one place, Jerusalem and the Holy of Holies...”
Jews living in many Arab countries would pray facing west, since they were to the east of Israel.

The abridged Code of Jewish Law says,2 “Those who live to the north of Israel should face south; those to the east, west; and those to south, north. Thus all Jews direct their prayers to one place, Jerusalem and the Holy of Holies...”

Footnotes

  • 1. I Kings 8:48.
  • 2. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 18:10.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Mitzvot » Prayer » Laws and Customs

Amidah
Highlight of every prayer, recited silently while standing. Weekday Amidah consists of nineteen blessings, Sabbath and holiday Amidah contains seven blessings.
Jerusalem
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.