Turning to the Right and Left

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Turning to the Right and Left

  1. Bows after Shemona Esrei: The Gemara Yoma 53b states that after a person takes three steps back he bows to his left, then to his right, and then to the center. The reason we bow to the left first is because that is considered Hashem’s right so to speak. That is the ruling of the Rambam Tefillah 5:10 and Shulchan Aruch 123:1. However, Yalkut Yosef Tefillah 123 fnt. 1 quotes the Zohar 3:229a which says that a person should first bow to their right and then the left at the end of Shemona Esrei. Meor Yisrael of Rav Ovadia Yoma 53b writes that the Zohar debates it and concludes like our gemara that one should first bow to the left.
  2. Kara Zeh El Zeh: Hatefilah Vhilchoteha 2:314 quotes Rav Ovadia Yosef and Rav Chaim Kanievsky that there's no basis for the minhag to bow during vkara zeh el zeh v'amar. Az Nidbaru 13:32:3 agrees. He says for those who do it can bow either to the right first or left first but what is important is to pay attention to the words. Shivat Tzion Shabbat 7:106 v. 2 p. 117 writes based on the zohar that the angels when praising Hashem turn to the right first and then to their left and in kedusha we're mimicking the angels. He explains that it isn't similar to Yoma 53b where we're leaving Hashem's presence.[1] Rivevot Efraim 5:103:2 writes that one should turn to the right first and the left. Hatefilah Vehilchoteha ask quotes the Mayim Chaim 2:7 who writes that one should first turn to the right since one isn't taking leave of Hashem.
  3. Birkat Kohanim of Shaliach Tzibur: The Magen Avraham 127:3 cites a Zohar that when a person turns their face in the birkat kohanim of elokenu velokay avoteynu they should turn to the right for the word "vyishmerecha", to the left for "panav eylecha vyichunecha." Mishna Brurah 127:8 agrees.
  4. Birkat Kohanim for Kohanim: The Roke’ach 323 explains that during Birkat Kohanim the kohanim turn to the left and then to the right during the words Yivarecha, Vyishmarecha, Eylecha, Veyichunecha, Eylecha, Lecha, and Shalom. Peulat Tzadik 3:16 is bothered why we do this and don’t turn to the right first. Fnt. 2 points out that this is different than Gemara Yoma 53b, the bows after Shemona Esrei, since he isn’t taking leave of Hashem here.
  5. Birchat Hatorah: Rama OC 139:4 writes that when a person gets an aliyah they should turn their face to the left when saying the brachot hatorah. The Mishna Brurah 139:19 explains that the reason we first turn to the left is because of the Gemara Yoma 53b.
  6. Lecha Dodi: Piksei Teshuvot 267 fnt 47 cites the Shaare Kavanot that during Boyi Kallah of Lecha Dodi a person should bow to the right for the first boyi kallah, to the left for the next one, and to the center for the last one. Kaf Hachaim 261:28 explains that the bowing to the right first is because we want to have kavana for the sefira of chachma, to the left for binah, and daat in the center. Siddur Yavetz argues that one should bow to the left first and then to the right like the Gemara Yoma 53b states for after Shemona Esrei.

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