Pray This Way

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For reasons beyond my control, I’ve lived in exile my whole life and in Flatbush for the past eighteen years. While the Brooklyn community has grown on this out-of-town boy in some ways, I am still puzzled by certain practices. One that continues to astound me is the direction in which people pray. Shlomo promised that people who pray toward the Temple is Jerusalem will find their prayers answered (1 Kings 8:35,44,48). Based on these verses, Jews from antiquity have prayed toward Jerusalem (Berakhos 30a). In New York, that means toward the east.

This rule is codified in Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chaim 94:1) without dissent. Even many non-religious Jews recognize that we pray toward the east. Yet in Flatbush, which I pick on only because I am familiar with the neighborhood, many of the finest synagogues and yeshivas pray to the south or north. This includes the popular minyan factory, built relatively recently, and the prominent yeshiva nearby. It also includes synagogues across the spectrum from Agudah to Jewish Centers. Even when the ark is in the north or south, perhaps to avoid placing it on a wall with a door, the proper direction for prayer is the east (Magen Avraham 94:3). This is, to my knowledge, undisputed (see Mishnah Berurah ad loc., 9; Arukh Ha-Shulchan ad loc., 12).

[Elsewhere (Bi’ur Halakhah 150 sv. she-hu), the Mishnah Berurah leaves open the question of whether the congregation should pray toward the ark or east. R. Chaim Kanievsky (Shoneh Halakhos 150:14) writes that the Mishnah Berurah answers this question in 94:9-10, as above. Similarly, the Shevet Ha-Levi (10:20), quoted in Piskei Teshuvos (94:1 n. 9) also rules like the earlier Mishnah Berurah.]

The question halakhic authorities address is what an individual should do when attending a synagogue in which everyone prays in the wrong direction. The Mishnah Berurah says to turn only your face east. Similarly, the Arukh Ha-Shulchan (ibid., 13) writes that an individual is prohibited from praying in a different direction than the rest of the congregation. However, R. Asher Bush (Sho’el Bi-Shlomo, no. 3) points out that the Machatzis Ha-Shekel (ad loc., 3) and Ba’er Heitev (ad loc., 3) say that, in such a situation, you may pray to the east at your discretion. This is how I saw my teachers act, both in yeshiva and in local synagogues.

R. Bush points out that the halakhic problem of deviating from communal practice does not apply to a community behaving improperly. When the congregation prays in the wrong direction, you need not do the wrong thing simply because everyone else is. Surely your parents have confronted you with the rhetorical question about what to do when everyone else is jumping off a bridge. The congregation is violating an uncontested rule. You are not blameworthy for failing to follow their rule-breaking.

With all that said, I assume that some thought went into the design and practice of these synagogues and yeshivas. Does anyone know why they built their sanctuaries facing north or south and why they pray toward their arks and not east? The Netziv (Meishiv Davar 1:10) explains very simply (I am omitting his cynical answer): people are used to praying toward the ark and this incorrect practice was established in a synagogue without thought. Bedi’eved, it should not be disrupted to avoid confusing the masses. Is that really the case in these fine synagogues and yeshivas?

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.


  1. We don’t face east, rather we face Yerushalayim. Thus, it would seem to me that we should try to find the most accurate direction possible.

    In Brooklyn that would be 96* East or 54*NE (following the Rhumb Line). Perhaps davening in the direction that you are might just be placing you in Mecca rather than Yerushalayim.

  2. No one says it has to be exact, especially since there is more than one of determining direction. East is sufficient.

  3. 54* NE is actually the Great Circle route, 96* is the Rhumb Line. The GC route could justify facing north, but south is much harder to justify.

  4. In the old YU Beis Medresh it was not facing East and yet in the old days all the roshe yeshiva faced the direction of the aron kodesh.

    I don’t understand your conclusion. Obviously minhag yisrael is like the Aruch Hashulchan who poskins that it is assur to diverge from what the community does in this matter. I don’t understand Rabbi Bush’s point. He quotes the Machazis hashekel and Baer Heitev, but so what? The Aruch Hashulchan disagrees and minhag yisrael is like the Aruch Hashulchan that you should face the aron kodesh even if it is not east.

  5. I have been asked questions on this topic several times, usually by people who are either looking for me to validate their misconception about the proper direction for prayer or whose question is based on what they believe to be the self-evident premise that “toward the Aron Qodesh” is the proper direction…The Kaf Hahayim does, I believe, mention some dissenting views, but what is shocking to me is that the clear halakhic consensus is not only overlooked but contradicted by the prevailing belief, to the point that even in learned circles, as you point out, this myth exerts influence. Thanks for the post.

  6. IIRC, Arukh Hashulhan explicitly says that one need not be absolutely precise in the direction; in other words, as long as one is facing East it can be due northeast or southeast.

  7. AN: In the old YU Beis Medresh it was not facing East and yet in the old days all the roshe yeshiva faced the direction of the aron kodesh.

    I don’t know what the old days were but I remember R. Dovid Lifshitz turning his shtender to face east.

  8. Zach, thanks, that’s what I get for typing too fast.

    Did the poskim in Europe say east was sufficient when they knew which was the correct direction? Or is their psak based on their inability to know the correct direction?

  9. Gil,
    When you say that Rav Lifshitz faced east do you mean that he faced East or that he faced Amsterdam along the same direction of 186th? The grid of Manhattan actually is closer to South East than East.

  10. He faced approximately 45 degree angle, which is pretty close to east.

  11. The Shul in Tahiti (a lovely Kehilla) recently underwent shiputzim and reversed the Aron and Bima to face west and sunset rather than traditional French Shula facing east, in recognition tht they are closer to Yerushalayim in that direction. Many kehillot in Asia face west and sunset, which is a lovely way to daven Michael and Kabbalat Shabbat.

    Worldwide, the French Rabbanut takes direction to Yerushalayim very seriously in Shul construction.

  12. My recollection is that rav Lifshitz zl angled somewhat to the east, let’s say northeast, since the Aron faced north (towards 187th St, to be midayek, not 186th), but not completely east, to his right

  13. Which I see is exactly what Gil said

  14. Many kehillot in Asia face west and sunset, which is a lovely way to daven Michael and Kabbalat Shabbat.

    But in Lecha Dodi they great Shabbat by bowing to the east, which makes no sense.

    When I was last in Tzefat, for Lecha Dodi everyone turned towards the sunset (west), not towards the back of shul (north). Which makes the most sense, seeing as the kabbalists who invented Lecha Dodi did not say it in a shul at all. Of course, where most Jews live there is no difference between west and the back of shul.

  15. “But in Lecha Dodi they great Shabbat by bowing to the east, which makes no sense.”

    It makes no sense if you hold that you HAVE to turn around to greet Shabbat and you HAVE to face west when greeting Shabbat. It makes sense if you greet Shabbat by facing the door of the synagogue, if it happens to be on the east side of the synagogue, as you would an entering guest, or you do not turn around when greeting Shabbat, just rise up.

    Note that Lecha Dodi, and the kabbalat Shabbat service as it is today, is relatively late addition. I’ve been to synagogues (Yemenite) that omit it entirely. Due to its lack of halachic requirements (Mizmor Shir l’Yom HaShabbat, being the exception), there is a lot of flexibility in its conduct, so much so that there are Orthodox congregations that have it led by women (issue of kol isha is a topic to be addressed elsewhere)or pre-bar-miztva boys.

    Also, the the ark and seats in the main synagogue in Alon Shvut do not face Jerusalem. During the Amida, many people turn slightly to the right in order to face Jerusalem. Also, in Lecha Dodi, the congregation there rises and faces the back of the synagogue (south) to greet shabbat.

  16. For reasons beyond my control, I’ve lived in exile my whole life and in Flatbush for the past eighteen years.
    I know this wasn’t the thrust of the post, and if anything it’s directed at me, but it reminded me of:

    Caught unawares, Sacks tried to squirm his way out of the challenge and as any good Englishman would. “The English can construct more complex excuses for doing nothing than anyone else on earth,” he admitted, garnering laughter.

    “In the situation in which I find myself . . .” he began to say. The Rebbe interrupted him midsentence:

    “No one finds themselves in a situation. You put yourself in a situation, and if you put yourself in that situation, you can put yourself in another situation.”

    The Rebbe’s challenge, not to accept the situation, but to change it, “was a moment,” the Chief Rabbi said, “that changed my life.” It was his lesson number 1 in Jewish leadership.


  17. In Joburg they face due north, but still manage to sing Lecha Dodi quite nicely, thank you.
    Some of you lads need get out of NYC once a year….

  18. In Sephardi style synagogues, the seats face the bima. When people prayed, they turn towards Jerusalem, regardless of which way the seat is facing. This style is more in accordance with the ancient layout of synagogues, such as the 2nd Temple period synagogue on Masada. In those synagogues, the scrolls (Torah, prophets) may not have even been kept in an ark facing Jerusalem, but somewhere on the side. Their placement was not a factor in determining which direction to pray.

  19. There’s actually a wall in the YU Beit Midrash (the old one) that faces exactly east. (Response to Sammy.) It’s where R’ David used to sit, and is at an angle to the other walls. (Question: What did the other Roshei Yeshiva do?)

    Of course, you can’t face *that* if you’re anywhere but right in front of it. You’d have to face an imaginary line extending from both sides into infinity.

    Also in YU: The Schottenstein shul, built well before YU took over the building, faces “Manhattan-south.” Etc. etc.

    So here are two easy answers to Gil’s questions:

    1. They were built that way because it was easier to fit the sanctuary into the plot allotted with the Aron facing in another direction. No huge mystery. We live with what we have or we build shuls with awkward dimensions and/or awkward door placements.

    2. People face the aron because it’s natural for them to do so. We’re only human. Most people don’t agonize over halakhic details the way more learned people do.

    People face the Kotel when they daven all the time, by the way, even though the Makom HaMikdash is well to the north.

    By the way, let me point out the obvious that on a round planet, anyway you face is “towards Yerushalyim.” (Or, to be even more accurate, anyway you face is out into space.) Wasn’t this whole issue solved millennia ago with the instruction to be “Mechavein Libo” to Yerushalayim?

    To Ron: 1. Not even Mizmor Shir is required halakhically. 2. People pray when sitting as well. I sit along a side wall in shul (my shul is modeled on a Sephardi one from Italy) and face east only when standing for Shemonah Esrei, Kedusha, etc.

    Tahiti, I see, is east of the Date Line, but perhaps still closer to Jerusalem going west.

  20. By the way, YU originally had a separate synagogue and beit midrash; the two were only merged after decades, I think. I think they both faced the same (incorrect) way.

  21. Gil, Soon after starting YU, I was able to ask R’ Lichtenstein about this. He was rather firm about the need to face forward, even when I mentioned some of the acharonim you mentioned and other srouces. I don’t recall if he provided counter sources (it’s been too long and my memory too poor) but he was rather firm in his conviction. (Note that I went to YU after you so by my time, it was already the norm to davven at the 45 degree angle, which RAL acknowledged in his answer, but that didn’t affect his opinion.)

  22. Rav EB Shulman has an article in Beis Yitzchak 29 on this topic, I don’t have it on hand but if I remember correctly, he might suggest justification for not facing east. (Interestingly, the aron in YI of Midwood actually faces west I believe.)

  23. I think that there are two potential issues regarding davening with an orientation that significantly and noticeably deviates from the rest of the congregation. (are people real talking about turning 180 degrees when the shul faces west?)

    First is MEchzi keyuhara. When a person publicly does something in the name of superior practice, the issue of yuhara is raised. I dont understand why people embrace chumrot (I am not saying this is a chumra) thinking “it cant hurt” when the gemara is so concerned with issues of yuhara when adopting a stricter opinion.

    Second is tefilla bettzibur. IT seem to me that if a person is praying with a tzibbur and seeks to get the halakhic and metaphysical benefits of doing so, it makes no sense for him to then turn away from the tzibur so to speak and publicly reject one of their prayer practices.

  24. I believe the JEC in Elizabeth NJ faces south due to a church located right across the street on the east facing side (i.e. to prevent the congregation from davening facing a church). Can anyone confirm?

  25. There are a number of questions being asked here:
    1-why do they put the ark on the wrong wall?
    2-why do they daven to the ark and not east?
    3-why would anyone knowledgeable follow the masses and not face the correct direction?

    Question 1 has already been addressed. It’s done for practical reasons, since the Flatbush grid is the way it is, and they want the front of the shul to be on the wide wall or the narrow wall, etc… or because of the door… (Actually, the avenue wall may in fact be the correct wall, as explained below.)

    Question 2 – besides the biur halacha in 150, there is also a stira in mishna berura 94 from s’k 9 to s’k 11, where he brings the Lechem Chamudos who is concerned with turning your back on the ark (hipuch oref). One answer I heard (and it seems to be popular) is that in s’k 9 the ark is on a completely wrong wall so we are more concerned that he face EY and not be concerned with hipuch oref, whereas in s’k 11 the ark is just off slightly (namely it is facing due east as opposed to southeast as required by the prevalent view of Levush). Therefore, since he is basically facing the correct direction, the concern over here is only regarding the hipuch oref. This I heard from R Yisrael Falk of Bais Medresh Elyon in Monsey as well as from R Shmuel Felder of Lakewood, if I remember correctly. If this answer is correct, it will shed light on the practice of at least some shuls, considering that there is a machlokes between Levush and Emunas Chachomim as whether to face SE or NE(i.e., rhumb line vs. great circle route). And as we know, the prevalent minhag follows the Levush, which is slightly SE. Therefore in Flatbush, even though the SE wall (which faces the avenues to the south) is heavily SE at about 172 deg. east of north (like Torah Vadaas and Chaim Berlin), and the NE wall at 82 deg. (like Yeshiva Torah Temimah) is really the closer wall even to the Levush direction of 95-96 deg. east of north, It seems that the SE wall takes precedence since it is the SE wall and we want to face the general direction which is associated with facing EY. (This is also like Yeshiva Staten Island, which is about 160 deg SE. However, that may have been done for practical reasons, as I seem to recall from speaking to R Ruevain Feinstein.) Now since when one is davening in such a shul he is basically facing the correct direction, we are concerned with hipuch oref as the M’B brings from Lechem Chamudos. This is in contrast with a case where the ark is clearly on the incorrect wall, where we are not concerned with hipuch oref, but that is not the case here.

    The shuls that face the avenues to the NW, I have no answer for. The shuls that face the streets to the NE(at about 82 deg.) are either going with Emunas Chachomim or better yet could go with Levush also, since they are really closer to the Levush direction of 96 than the 172 south and they are not following the previous reasoning.

    The only question that one may pose is that it really depends on which side of the ark one stands, as mentioned in Lechem Chamudos, since you can have both advantages by standing on the side that when tilting gives you both the ability to face the ark as well as to face the correct direction to EY.

    Question 3 – even without all of the above, the ‘velt’ follows the psak of Mishna berura, who was machria not to be different from the masses in any given shul, as mentioned in the original post. If I remember correctly, I saw a source that said that the problem is that if people are facing different directions, there is an issue with ‘nireh kishtai reshuyos’. So the argument of doing the wrong thing does not apply here.

  26. “We don’t face east, rather we face Yerushalayim.”

    you face the Har Habayit and the Makom Hamikdash. Depending on where you are in Jerusalem you may be facing away from Jerusalem (or parts of it).

    “Yet in Flatbush, which I pick on only because I am familiar with the neighborhood,”

    I think that the real problem with Flatbush is that it has become so ingrained that one prays to the East that one often encounters some spiritual cognitive dissonance when they arrive from Flatbush to visit the Holy Land. For example a sibling of mine was visiting recently and we were standing in a neighborhood in which the direction of the temple mount is not only not to the east, but is actually visible from the location in question with the naked eye. THis sibling then mentioned that s/he has to daven mincha and asked me “which way is east so that s/he could say the amida.” I responded that “we don’t face east in this neighborhood rather we face ____, in the direction of the har habayit which you can see just over there in that direction.” the cognitive dissonance meter just went way through the top of the dial at that point…

  27. AS: > I believe the JEC in Elizabeth NJ faces south due to a church located right across the street on the east facing side (i.e. to prevent the congregation from davening facing a church). Can anyone confirm? <
    Yes, the Main Shul on Elmora (as well as the batei medrash in the JEC's Elmora campus) is built such that congregants face south when facing the aron; and the "church" in question is still active across the street.

  28. Moshe Shohsan correctly points out that the appearance of yuhara is a potential problem with facing a different direction than the rest of the tzibut. It is also worth mentioning that ACTUAL yuhara is an even bigger problem! (“I can’t believe these people davening in the direction such and such book says is incorrect, why don’t they know as much as me and do things the right way like me?”)

  29. If the shul is facing north and you stand in the back south corner you can usually be facing the aron kodesh with enough of an angle and yet not be noticeably different from the crowd so that when you bow you towards your right (which you might do in a shul facing east so you bow towards south for wisdom – a separate issue not mentioned in post) you are almost bowing to the great circle route to Jerusalem?

  30. I realize normative halacha doesn’t accord with this but to be melamed zechut doesn’t the gemarah say ‘kol harotzeh lachkim, yadrim’ because the menorah was in the darom (and the mizbeach was in the tzafon so you face that for wealth)? I believe the source is bava basra 25b.

  31. Sass: Re YIM, what you say is correct re the upstairs Shul. In the downstairs Beis Midrash, however, it is the opposite way, 180 degrees different.

  32. It’s really very simple. Only lip service is given towards Jerusalem or Israel these days 😛

  33. Maybe people are afraid they’ll be accused of being Zionists. 😉

  34. If a church is an issue, what about the Dome of the Rock? 🙂 (Short answer: The Dome of the Rock isn’t a mosque.)

    A side point: A rav I know- and I’ve met other people who do this- insists that when saying “Bo’i Kallah” one turn to the *door*, not the west (or 180 degrees from the Aron, if different).

  35. We daven towards the Ark because the Torah is our idol. We pray to it, we kiss it, we read it, we fast if it is dishonored. The physical object. The Torah is the purest expression of God’s will, why should we not pray to[wards] it?

  36. R’ Jon Baker,
    You are a tzaddik gammur. Surely, surely, what you mean to write is that – as Jews – we have zero-tolerance for idolatry. The only reason we give respect to the Sefer Torah is because HKB”H commands us (in Leviticus 19:32 to stand for a talmid chakham, and the Talmud (Kiddushin 33b) extrapolates from this that we should therefore stand for the Sefer Torah itself (—“kal va-chomer: mi-penei lom’deha omdin, mi-paneha lo kol sheken”). Thus, when we show respect to a Sefer Torah, we are only doing so in order to show respect to HKB”H (-since He has commanded us – by way of talmudic exegesis – to do so), but – indeed – as you correctly emphasize, it is imperative that one not conflate the scroll with (le-havdil) its ultimate Author. Maybe this should be clarified by the synagogue clergy in their sermons.

  37. If there’s nothing wrong with it, then why is it something to be emphasized by clergy? Come on: The hamon am are doing something a bit off, as they often do. As to a talmid chacham…well, it’s been a while since I kissed one.

  38. Reb Moshe in Igres Moshe says that if it’s more convenient (ie. you can fit more people into the shul) then it’s permitted to set up the shul facing north or south.

  39. daniel roselaar

    Actually, very few people daven towards the Aron Hakodesh. People tend to face the front of the shul and depending on where they are standing and the lenght and breadth of the shul the AK might be 80+ degrees to their right or left. Consequently, they are often facing neither Yerushalayim nor the AK but are davening in the same (a parallel?) direction to the rest of the congregation.

  40. Yehudah Mirsky

    A friend of mine who was in Kurdistan some years ago, and speaks Kurdish, says that he saw at least one synagogue that was built facing southwest because that was the direction of Jerusalem.

  41. picky picky picky yidden…walking around with their compasses,microscopes and digital watches, quoting this rav and that rebbe and this source, and that perkek, always with their nose to the talmudic grindstone— but never looking UP, at the sky the trees, the fields, the sun. put your damn holy books DOWN, notice where the sun SETS, do a total about-face, you’re now facing EAST, now close your eyes and PRAY to the ADON OLAM.

  42. Yehudah, what’s so new? Shuls in Maale Adummim face due west.

  43. The Rav understood from the Rambam (beginning of hilchos tefilla) that facing the direction of the mikdash is a kiyum deoraysa in tefilla. Hence, the Rav would likely disagree with the aforementioned psak from Rav Moshe.

    In fact, Rabbi Genack reports (I believe in Gan Shoshanim and in the new Shiurei Harav volume on tefilla) that when they were building Shomrei Emunah in Englewood, the original plan was for the aron to be situated in the north, and the plan was changed per the Rav’s directions, based on his understanding of the Rambam.

  44. Upon closer look, it seems that the Rav actually was quoting from Reb Chaim, who understood for the Rambam that facing the direction of mikdash is a din deoraysa.

  45. Even in Jerusalem there are many prominent shuls which do not face the Mikdash including Ohel Rivka (where at least three Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem davened regularly).

  46. There is an additional issue with facing a different direction than the congregation that is not often quoted. I am not sure why, perhaps I am misunderstanding something.
    The gemarah in Brachos (6b) says that someone who faces a different direction than the tzibur (“achorei bes hakneses”) is a rasha because he creates the perception that we are praying to two different reshuyos. Rashi and Tosfos (6a d.h. achorei) have two different understandings of the exact scenario, but one of them actually believes that it is better to daven towards the aron kodesh in order to be consistent with the tzibur even if it means that your back is to Yerushalayim. Shulchan Aruch says to be choshesh for both views (90:7). It seems that this is why the Mishna Berura (94:10) says that if everyone in the shul is facing south that you should join them.
    So a shul should face Yerushalayim and if it does not then people should probably turn towards Yerushalayim. However, if the shul faces a different direction and everyone else is facing the front of the shul, then it seems that one should not face a different direction. Perhaps one can subtly turn one’s face and accomplish both goals.
    I wonder if the Roshei Yeshiva who face Yerushalayim did/do so because of their position of leadership and because of the assumption that others would/should follow their lead. Or perhaps they are not concerned with the issues that I raised.

  47. Kenny: There was a Purim issue of a YU newspaper which “quoted” a non-Jewish security guard as saying: “Now I know why they face two different directions. Some worship Torah, some worship Madda.” 🙂

    MS: Ohel Rivka sorta faces east.

  48. The question is moot if we accept R’ Y Emden’s shita that facing eretz yisrael is an expression of our desire to be able to perform the mitzva of yeshuv haAretz – and that when we are unable to perform this commandment, then this desire as counted as the maaseh itself. Of course in our time, wrote R’ Emden in the 1750s when anyone who wants can travel and live in EY, there is no such requirement since it makes a mockery of the supposed desire to perform this mitzva of Hashem.

  49. Chardal,

    What you’re saying from R Yaakov Emden is certainly questionable, as the Rambam (Tefilla 1:3) says clearly that the requirement is to face the Makom Hamikdash, not to face Eretz yisrael, so it would seem to have nothing to do with yishuv haaretz. Do you have the source where he says that there is no longer a requirement to face that direction? (I see in his siddur hakdama that he says lo yeshubach velo toeel, but I don’t see that he says that it’s not required.)

  50. I have prayed in every possible direction, and while you might not realize this, in Jerusalem we pretty much pray in any direction we want, although most shuls probably pray towards the Temple Mount. I was in a Bukharan shul near Meah Sha’arim a few years ago and we all sat and stood in different directions which I suppose could be a local minhag, but I have davened in other Sephardi shuls and they don’t seem to follow any strict pattern. There does seem to be as much variation in this regard as there are kehillot.

  51. As to a talmid chacham…well, it’s been a while since I kissed one.

    I take it you’re Ashkenazi

  52. You betcha!

  53. >as the Rambam (Tefilla 1:3) says clearly that the requirement is to face the Makom Hamikdash

    That may be, but that is not the simple reading of the Gemara (B’rachot 30a):

    ת”ר סומא ומי שאינו יכול לכוין את הרוחות יכוין לבו כנגד אביו שבשמים שנא’ (מלכים א ח) והתפללו אל ה’ היה עומד בח”ל יכוין את לבו כנגד ארץ ישראל שנא’ (מלכים א ח) והתפללו אליך דרך ארצם היה עומד בארץ ישראל יכוין את לבו כנגד ירושלים שנאמר (מלכים א ח) והתפללו אל ה’ דרך העיר אשר בחרת היה עומד בירושלים יכוין את לבו כנגד בית המקדש

    In chu”l, the kavana is regarding Eretz Yisrael.

    >Do you have the source where he says that there is no longer a requirement to face that direction? (I see in his siddur hakdama that he says lo yeshubach velo toeel, but I don’t see that he says that it’s not required.

    Since R’ Emden was not a Brisker, I don’t see any real difference between “lo yeshubach velo toeel” and “not required”.

  54. The shul I serve (built in 1881) points ‘backwards.’ This brings up the issue of ‘turning your back on the ark’ if you want to daven in the direction of Jerusalem.

    Also, in which direction should one first shake lulav? Do you turn your back on the ark to shake in the ‘correct’ way first? Minhag of R. Louis Jacobs z’tl was to face the ark at all times.

  55. Chardal,
    I think there’s a big difference between saying in a halachic context that it is no longer required, versus saying (in the context of a long drush on the maalos of Eretz Yisrael) that facing E”Y lo yeshubach velo toeel for those who can make aliya.

    In other words, it seems to me that R Yaakov Emden’s statement is homiletical in nature rather than halachic.

  56. Lawrence Kaplan

    Jeremy Gordon: Not everyone will view the minhag of R. Louis Jacobs as Maaseh Rav!

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