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Why do we bow left, right, forward after the Amidah?

by Rabbi Simcha Bart

  

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Question:

Why do we bow left, right, forward at the conclusion of the Amidah? Rivkie

Answer:

At the end of the Amidah, as we depart from the presence of the Shechinah by taking three steps backward1 , we say "He makes peace amongst [the angels] upon high". G-d's right (we bow left, since we are facing the Shechinah) represents kindness, as symbolized by the angel Michael, and His left (our right) is the Divine attribute of judgment, symbolized by the angel Gabriel - we bow to both sides then to the center - to indicate that G-d resolves the conflicts between the two2 . After this we take three steps forward.

Footnotes

  • 1. The Bet Yosef in Orach Chayim 123, brings several reasons for these three steps: 1. On Sinai, Moses passed through to G-d via three partitions and then left through these same three (darkness, clouds, and mist). 2. The kohen placed the daily sacrifice on the Temple altar and then retreated passing over three rows of stones before decending the altar's ramp. 3. We are leaving the presence of the Shechinah and re-entering the worldly domain, which we demonstrate by greeting (bowing) to those around us in that mundane sphere.
  • 2. See laws of the Amidah, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, 123:1.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Mitzvot » Prayer
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.
Shechinah
Divine Presence.
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.