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Why do we take three steps back when we say "Oseh Shalom..." to conclude the kaddish?

  

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Rabbi Gurary: Welcome. I'll be with you in a moment...

Debra: Why do we step back and turn our body to both sides when we say Oseh Shalom during the Kaddish?

Rabbi Gurary: There is a whole set of movements -- different bows and head movements -- ideally done during Kaddish, all based on mystical concepts. but the last one, during Oseh Shalom is actually quite simple, and is also done at the end of the Amidah. It's a way of officially 'taking leave' of the presence of G-d.

Rabbi Gurary: it is respectful to take leave of a king while backing up, so as not to disrespectfully turn one's back to the king. we then bow to each side and say good bye!

Debra: I once heard a different explanation. That we step back to figuratively see shalom being spread on the people/Eretz Yisrael. Does this sound at all accurate?

Rabbi Gurary: Haven't heard this before. But that does not mean it isn't true

Debra: I like yours better. Thanks for your help.

Rabbi Gurary: You're welcome .... let there be peace for all!

[Ed. note: see also Why do we bow left, right, forward after the Amidah?]

All names, places, and identifying information have been changed or deleted in order to protect the privacy of the questioners. In order to preserve authenticity, the chat sessions have been posted with a minimum of editing. Please excuse typographical errors, missing punctuation, and/or grammatical mistakes which naturally occur in the course of informal chat sessions.

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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.
Kaddish
A prayer sanctifying G-d's name which is sprinkled throughout the daily prayers and is recited by the leader of the services. This prayer is also recited by mourners during the first year of mourning, and on the anniversary of the death.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.