The Choreography Of A Service: Why Do We?
Why do we take 3 steps back, bow and turn our bodies left, then right, and center, then take 3 steps forward when we recite the last verse of Kaddish beginning with Oseh Shalom?
It’s a way of officially ‘taking leave’ of the presence of G-d. When the reader recites this last sentence, the custom is that he takes three steps backwards, bows turning to the left, bows turning to the right and then bows a third and final time to the center. Conclude by taking three steps forward. This is also done at the end of the Amidah. It is respectful to take leave of a king while backing up, so as not to disrespectfully turn one’s back to the king. We then bow and take leave.
For comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, please contact Manny Sperling, Chairman of TEE’s Worship and Practices Committee.