# From the Rav’s Desk: Should the Chazan take three steps back and forwards before starting Chazaras Hashatz?

1. Question: [Monday, 2nd Teves, 5783]

Is it necessary for the Chazan take three steps back and forwards before Chazaras Hashatz as we all do prior to starting our private Shemoneh Esrei? I heard that it is not neccessary, but always see all the Chazzanim doing it.

In the event that the Chazan walked around between his completion of his private Shemoneh Esrei and his start of Chazaras Hashatz, [such as if after he took three steps back at the end of his private Shemoneh Esrei he then took three steps forwards and walked around or sat down waiting to begin Chazaras Hashatz] then he is to take three steps back and forwards again prior to beginning Chazaras Hashatz. However, in the event that the Chazan did not walk around between his completion of his private Shemoneh Esrei and his start of Chazaras Hashatz, then he does not need to take three steps back and forwards again prior to beginning Chazaras Hashatz, and rather he can suffice with simply taking three steps back up after he finishes his private Shemoneh Esrei and then right away begin Chazaras Hashatz. So was indeed the custom of the Rebbe when he was Chazan, to take three steps back when he finished his private Shemoneh Esrei and remain standing there until he was ready to begin Chazaras Hashatz, by when he would then take three steps forward and begin Chazaras Hashatz. Alternatively, one can take three steps back up and simply remain waiting in that position until he is ready to start Chazaras Hashatz.

Explanation: There are four sets of three steps that are taken by Shemoneh Esrei; three steps backwards and forwards prior to starting Shemoneh Esrei and three steps backwards and forwards when completing Shemoneh Esrei for a total of four sets of three steps, two sets forward and two sets backwards. Now, of these four sets of three steps, only one is actually obligatory according to all opinions, which is the three steps that are taken at the end of Shemoneh Esrei to show that one is taken leave of the king, and a person who does not do so is considered as if he did not pray. The taking of three steps forward prior to starting Shemoneh Esrei and the taking of three steps forward after finishing going back the three steps after Shemoneh Esrei, is required only according to some opinions, and so is the custom to be stringent. The taking of three steps backwards prior to taking three steps forwards before starting Shemoneh Esrei, is not recorded in the Shulchan Aruch, although it is a custom of Jewry recorded in other Sefarim. Now, the question is raised as to which if any of these three steps must be followed when performing Chazaras Hashatz. So, regarding the three steps taken after Shemoneh Esrei, we have a clear ruling in the Poskim that at the end of Chazaras Hashatz the Chazan is not required to take three steps backwards, even though he must do so after his private Shemoneh Esrei. Now, although some Chazzanim are stringent in this matter, the Chabad custom is not to take the three steps back, and so indeed instructed the Rebbe Raytaz to the Rebbe that we do not take three steps back after Chazaras Hashatz. However, regarding whether the Chazan should take three steps forward prior to him beginning Chazaras Hashatz, we find no record either way in the Poskim. Seemingly, however, we can compare the recital of Chazaras Hashatz to one who needs to Daven two sets of Shemoneh Esrei one right after the other [i.e. Tashlumin; Shacharis and Musaf] by which the ruling is that he is not required to take three steps back up prior to beginning his second Shemoneh Esrei, and hence so too here, prior to beginning the repetition, we should not require the Chazan to repeat the three steps back and forth, and so indeed instructed the Rebbe Raytaz to the Rebbe that we do not take three steps before Chazaras Hashatz. However, seemingly all this only applies if one did not make an interval between the two sets of Shemoneh Esrei, if, however, one walked around in-between, then seemingly he would be required to repeat the taking of three steps back and forwards prior to starting Chazaras Hashatz.

Sources: Sicha of Rebbe Rayatz 5704 p. 147 [Lashon Hakodesh] “One who stands before the Teiva is not accustomed to perform the three steps before and after Shemoneh Esrei of Chazaras Hashatz.”; See regarding an individual taking three steps back at the end of Shemoneh Esrei: Admur 123:1; Michaber 123; Yuma 53b; See regarding a Chazan taking three steps back at the end of Shemoneh Esrei: Admur 123:7; Michaber 123:5; Abudarham; Teurmas Hadeshen 13; Rav Haiy Gaon; Chabad custom: Sicha of Rebbe Rayatz 5704 p. 147 [Lashon Hakodesh]; See regarding an individual taking three steps forward after taking the three steps back after Shemoneh Esrei: Admur 123:4; M”A 123:6; See regarding taking three steps forward prior to starting Shemoneh Esrei: Admur 95:2; Rama 95:1; Rokeiach 322; Machzor Vitri 21; Siddur Rashi; Elya Raba 95:3; Kitzur Shelah Dinei Tefilas Yud Ches; Chut Hashani; Siddur Yaavetz 19; Chesed Lealafim 93:6; Kaf Hachaim [Falagai] 15:2; Kitzur SHU”A 18:2; Ben Ish Chaiy Beshalach 3; Aruch Hashulchan 95:3; Kaf Hachaim 95:6; Piskeiy Teshuvos 95:2; Omitted from Levush 95 See regarding the tradition of taking three steps back before Shemoneh Esrei: Admur 95:2; Kitzur Shelah Dinei Tefilas Yud Ches in interpretation of Rokeiach ibid [brought in Kaf Hachaim ibid]; Chut Hashani 54 that just like it is an obligation to take three steps forward, so too he must take three steps backward; Siddur Yaavetz 19; Chesed Lealafim 93:6; Kaf Hachaim [Falagai] 15:2; Kitzur SHU”A 18:2;  Ben Ish Chaiy Beshalach 3; Kaf Hachaim 95:6; Piskeiy Teshuvos 95:2; See regarding an individual not needing to take three steps forward prior to beginning his second Shemoneh Esrei: Admur 105:1; M”A 105:2