12. How Long Must One Stand at a Distance

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After taking three steps backwards, one must remain standing in that place. She may not immediately return to where she prayed the Amida, for if she does, she resembles a dog that returns to its vomit (Yoma 53b), since if she returns to stand before the King without any good reason, having just taken leave from Him, she shows that she did not understand that she was standing before the King and departed His presence. Her behavior is thus considered disgraceful. Some people compound this error by returning to their initial stance and then lifting their heels slightly, as one does when reciting Kedusha. There is no reason at all to do so.

The proper practice is as follows: If one wishes to return to the place where she stood in prayer, she should wait in place for about half a minute to a minute and then do so. When necessary for her to return to the original place immediately, such as when she is blocking passage, she should wait a few seconds – the amount of time it takes to walk four amot – and then return (MB 123:11; Kaf Ha-ĥayim 20).  If she does not wish to return to her original place, she may go on her way immediately after reciting “Yehi ratzon.”

A woman who is praying in a minyan must wait in place after taking three steps back until the ĥazan begins his repetition of the Amida (SA 123:2). According to most poskim, there is no need to remain standing with one’s feet together after reciting “Oseh shalom” (MB 123:6, BHL, and SHT ad loc.).  However, there are those who recommend remaining with one’s legs together until she returns to her place (Kitzur SA 18:13).

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