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Facing West


Rabbi David Sperling

Kislev 19, 5779
I asked the Rav in a basement auditorium minyan why facing west, and was answered that he is aware and it is due to "spacing considerations". but I said could move the Aaron to face another direction, eg the north wall, or even with temporary backing. I will check the Halachot, but doesn't this border on Chillul Hashem? as the Gemera explains when Reshayim went into Bait Hamikadah exposed back and defecated. agreed this is not defection (sp), but, to daven with one’s rear to the Mekom Bait Hamikdosh is disrespectful. The Rav there said, if not, the minyan will go elsewhere. I normally would, but this is where my son and grandson daven at 9:15 am. by accident our chairs (just 2 short rows) faced north, and when I realized this I faced north for Musaf.
Shalom, Thank you for your question. Unfortunately I am not certain that I understood it completely – perhaps if I misunderstood it you could try writing to us again with a clearer explanation of the situation. As far as I can gather you pray in a shule where the Aron HaKodesh faces the wrong direction – west rather than north. I assume that you are south of Israel and Jeruslaem, and that all the other shules in your city face north. If this is not the case – and most of the shules also face west – then there is a major halachic question of following the local custom. But assuming that it is only this one shule that faces the wrong direction, the issue become what to do in such a case. There are three possible answers – firstly, one could (as you suggest) move the Aron HaKodesh. Secondly, the Aron could stay where it is and the congregation could turn away from the Aron to the north during the Amidah. Thirdly, perhaps the congregation should continue (as they are doing now it seems) to pray in the direction of the Aron, that is to the west. This is issue is addressed in the halacha, as many shules were built with this problem, because of space considerations, as your Rabbi said. Let me point out that the only time this becomes a question is during the recital of the Amidah, when the halacha requires one to face Jerusalem. Even then, if one cannot do so, or failed to do so, their prayer is acceptable, and they do not need to repeat it. All the other prayers said during the service may be towards any direction. As to your question itself – you will excuse me for not answering you directly. You mention in your question that you discussed the issue with the Rabbi of the shule. This being the case the correct thing to do is to follow his ruling on the issue. Whilst praying in the correct direction is important – respecting and listening to the local Rabbi of the shule is of upmost importance. I cannot stress enough the mitzvah involved in following the rulings of the Rav of the shule. On the other hand, trying to rule halacha in his place is certainly forbidden. With this in mind, I leave you to (re)turn to the shule Rav. Perhaps you could show him this response and ask him (politely) if he could learn the halacha with you – I'm sure he would be more than glad to learn this subject inside with you, and show you the basis for his ruling. May we all merit to increase the honor of our houses of prayer – turning our hearts towards Jerusalem, and may our prayers be answered in the merit of the respect we show towards our Rabbis and Teachers. Blessings.
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