July 15, 2024
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לעילוי נשמת
יואל אפרים בן אברהם עוזיאל זלצמן ז”ל

Question: I have started a year of aveilut and hope to recite many Kaddishim. I was wondering: After taking three steps back and finishing Kaddish, must I wait before returning to my place?

Answer: It is, indeed, worthwhile for people with hundreds of Kaddishim in front of them to learn more about different facets of Kaddish, but we will actually start with Shemoneh Esrei.

The Gemara (Yoma 53b) says that the correct way to show respect to Hashem before Whom one was praying is to take three steps back at the end of Shemoneh Esrei, give Shalom while turning to the sides and not return to one’s place right away. While it is unclear what text was used in the Gemara’s time to “give Shalom,” by the time of the Rishonim (see Mordechai, Brachot 111), it was clear that we employ some version of “Oseh shalom bimromav hu … ” This is a request that Hashem bring peace to Israel as He brings peace between the different components of His heavenly abode. (The opening words come from the description of Hashem in Iyov 25:2).

We recite “Oseh shalom bimromav … ” at or near the end of three important texts we recite: Shemoneh Esrei, Kaddish and Birkat Hamazon. Peace is such an important value that we want to acknowledge Hashem’s part in it and request more of it at the end of these “interactions” with Him (see Tzitz Eliezer XIV:14). This is done at Shemoneh Esrei after taking three steps back. At Birkat Hamazon, we do not take any steps at any point, including when saying “Oseh shalom bimromav.” There is a major machloket among poskim and in Sephardi practice as to whether we take steps back after all Kaddishim that end with “Oseh shalom bimromav” or only in Kaddish Titkabel (see opinions in Yabia Omer V, Orach Chayim 9).

The reason that Kaddish Titkabel may be different is that this Kaddish has a special kinship to Shemoneh Esrei. First, in content, the line that is unique to this Kaddish is the request that Hashem accept our prayers, and this usually refers to the Shemoneh Esrei and/or chazarat hashatz that the tzibbur recently recited. The connection finds expression in various halachot. For one, if Shemoneh Esrei/ chazarat hashatz began with a minyan that later dissipated, since they can finish up the units they began, they can recite the Kaddish Titkabel because it is the conclusion of chazarat hashatz (Rama, Orach Chayim 55:3). Also, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 123:5, based on Terumat Hadeshen I:13) rules that a chazan does not need to take three steps back at the end of chazarat hashatz, because the steps at the end of Kaddish Titkabel count as the steps after chazarat hashatz (see Mishna Berura 123:18).

Now to your question … Rav Chaim Naeh (Shenot Chaim 9:(47)) says that since Kaddish Titkabel is connected to chazarat hashatz, one should wait the amount of time it takes to walk four amot (2 to 3 seconds) before returning to his place (based on the model of the Rama, Orach Chayim 123:2). Since there is apparently no one who explicitly disagrees, it is not surprising that contemporary sources, such as Ishei Yisrael (24:(152)) and Dirshu (124:21), cite and seem to accept him. However, he limits this requirement to Kaddish Titkabel (as opposed to Kaddish Yatom and D’Rabbanan, despite ending with “Oseh shalom bimromav” and even for those who take steps back). He also excludes Kaddish Titkabel of Maariv (Mekor Chayim (Bachrach) to Rama, Orach Chayim 123:2 disagrees) apparently because there is no chazarat hashatz to connect to and everyone took steps back after Shemoneh Esrei.

My strong impression is that few chazanim think about how long to wait before moving forward. (Kaddish reciters who are not chazanim may not even return to the place they started Kaddish). Possibly, many naturally wait close to the “required” time, but we still contend that the minhag is not to wait after any Kaddish. On the other hand, if you want to be machmir, this is not a problem, because presumably the tefilla would not be delayed by it. (We would not find it appropriate to follow the opinion (cited in Ishei Yisrael ibid.) that a Kaddish sayer should not say the ending Barchu until returning).


Rabbi Mann is a dayan for Eretz Hemdah and a staff member of Yeshiva University’s Gruss Kollel in Israel. He is a senior member of the Eretz Hemdah responder staff, editor of Hemdat Yamim and the author of “Living the Halachic Process, Volumes 1 and 2” and “A Glimpse of Greatness.”

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