As we have learned, l’chatchilah it is proper to be stringent like the opinion of the Magen Avraham, and refrain from taking three steps within the four amot in front of a person reciting the Amidah, even if the one praying is not directly behind him.
However, there are times when a person prolonging his prayer becomes distracted from the thought that he is preventing the person in front of him from taking three steps backwards. When the person who is waiting senses that, it is best that he follow the opinion of the Eliyah Rabbah, who states that if the person praying is not directly behind him he may take three steps back.
Similarly, one who usually prolongs his Amidah is permitted to request of the people praying in front of him not to wait for him until he finishes. Then they will be permitted to step backwards immediately upon the conclusion of their prayer. One who prays directly in front of him should walk back diagonally, so as not to step directly in front of him.
When someone reciting the Amidah is standing behind the chazan and the time for Chazarat HaShatz arrives, the chazan should practice according to the Eliyah Rabbah, who maintains that as long as he is not directly in front of him, he may step backwards. If he is directly in front of him, he should step back diagonally and then return to his place to repeat the Amidah.
In general, when a person knows that he tends to prolong his prayer, it is proper for him not to stand behind another and cause him anguish. Likewise, he should take care not to pray behind the chazan or the rabbi, and trouble them to wait for him (see earlier in this book 3:7 concerning the prohibition against praying behind one’s rabbi).
Just as it is forbidden to pass in front of the person reciting the Amidah, one must also refrain from passing in front of the chazan during Chazarat HaShatz, and before someone who is reciting Kaddish (Kaf HaChaim 55:9).
The Acharonim disagree as to whether or not the law regarding an adult, namely, that it is forbidden to step before him and sit within his four amot, also applies to a minor (see the book Four Amot of Prayer, pp. 254-257). Since this is a rabbinic ruling, the halachah follows the lenient opinions, yet those who are stringent enhance the mitzvah.
. According to the Eshel Avraham’s approach, the entire prohibition is because of disturbance. Based on this, if the person praying knows that the delay he causes to the person praying before him bothers him more, he can ask him to please step back after he is finished praying and not wait for him to finish his prayer. If he steps at an angle in such a way that he does not come close to the person praying behind him, according to the Chazon Ish in his explanation of the Eliyah Rabbah, it is permissible. If possible, it is best that a partition be erected there, so that he can step backwards, in accordance with the opinion of most poskim. Nevertheless, if no arrangement was made ahead of time between the two people praying, and if the person who is extending his prayer finds it difficult to have kavanah since he is causing the person who is praying in front of him to wait, although he is in the middle of reciting the Amidah, he is permitted to hint to him that he may step backwards (based on the Mishnah Berurah 104:1).