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Is it proper to daven with one leg crossed over the other,
or in any other casual way?



There are two matters here. The first being proper behavior in Hashem’s sanctuary and the second is proper behavior while engaged in tefillah.

When Yaakov Avinu was on his way to Charan (Bereishis 28:10-17), he stopped at the place – meaning the place of the Mikdash that was unbeknownst to him. His reason for stopping was that as evening approached, he sought to pray (Maariv) and then to be able to rest for the night.

Yaakov places stones about his head to protect himself from wild animals and then lays down to sleep. He then begins to dream of being in the presence of sanctity, of Hashem speaking to him. This causes him to awaken as he says: “Achen yesh Hashem bamakom hazeh v’anochi lo yadati – Therefore Hashem’s presence is in this place and I was totally unaware.”

From here we see the reverence one is to have in Hashem’s sanctuary merely by being present even when not engaged in prayer.

King David in his beautiful Tehillim (5:8) says “V’ani b’rov chasdecha avo beisecha eshtacha’ve el Heichal kodshecha b’yir’asecha – And it is due to your abundant kindness that allows me to enter Your House and prostrate myself toward your holy sanctuary with great awe of You.”

From here we see that that one is to be reverent in the course of one’s prayers.

I have followed videos of the late Queen Elizabeth and the late Prince Philip when they would come to the Palace at Westminster, the home of the UK parliament. The camera shows the monarch and her consort upon their thrones as well as the members of Parliament all sitting properly as the Queen would deliver the throne speech. The Parliament is not a holy place, in fact it is the people’s house, yet there is an understanding of the reverential behavior expected at that occasion. Our Sages teach us that one learns from the mortal kings of the nations as a means of how we behave before the kings of Israel. And much more so, how we are to behave before the King of all kings. I would be remiss if I didn’t state my distaste for the misbehavior of Nancy Pelosi as then President Donald Trump delivered his State of the Union message, in Congress, while she stood behind him making a spectacle of herself, cutting her copy of his speech. This is behavior that our Sages would surely not sanction.

Crossed legs denotes one who is relaxed as surely as is sitting slouched and other unseemly behavior. Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Hilchos Tefillah 93:2, citing the Mishna Berachos 30b) rules: “One is not to rise to engage in prayer [the Amidah] but in a manner of reverence.” Surely this same rule applies not only to the Amidah but throughout one’s prayer as well. None of such behavior would be possible if all would take the words of King David to heart. The synagogue that we enter is Hashem’s house, and He graciously lets us enter.

– Rabbi Yaakov Klass is chairman of the Presidium of the Rabbinical Alliance of America; rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn; and Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at and


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Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier

One of the most difficult parts of davening properly is the key-core recognition that I am having a conversation with the creator of the Heavens and the Earth. Mesilas Yesharim describes tefillah as talking to Hashem literally, as if I am speaking to my friend, who is right here. My friend may respond, may not respond, but I’m having a conversation directly here. I’m speaking to Hashem directly, right here.

With that comes a tremendous obligation of reverence, respect and awe, and because it’s so difficult, Chazal helps us to gain that perspective through a particular manor of conduct. For instance, we wear specific clothing to daven, we act in a specific way to daven, we wash our hands and prepare for davening. There are many things a person is supposed to do, both before and during davening so that they fully comprehend and recognize that they are actually speaking to hashem.

With that in mind I would imagine that one’s posture should reflect that reverence, that respect. While there may not be anything halachically forbidden from having one leg crossed on the other, it is the sort of casual posture that one would be comfortable with in front of friends or relatives. If I understood fully that I was speaking to the creator of the heavens and the earth, surely, I would sit in a different manner.

– Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier is founder of The Shmuz and author of 10 Really Dumb Mistakes That Very Smart Couples Make (available at


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We are required to recite Shemoneh Esrei with a posture that projects reverence, fear and awe. This is why we recite this prayer standing with our feet together. Additionally, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayyim 95:2) writes that when we recite Shemoneh Esrei, we should lower our heads slightly so that our eyes face downward, we should imagine as if we are standing in the Beit HaMikdash, and our heart should be directed to the Heavens. There is no similar requirement when we recite other parts of the davening. The reason is that when we recite Shemoneh Esrei, we speak to Hashem and this requires a more formal posture. When we recite other parts of davening, we only speak about and not to Hashem, so these parts do not require the same formality.

From a purely halachic perspective there doesn’t seem to be a requirement to sit a specific way during any other part of davening. That being said, it seems to me that it is proper to have a more respectful posture during the other parts of davening as well. The purpose of Pesukei D’zimra is to praise Hashem before praying to Him. The purpose of Shema and its accompanying berachot is to express our commitment to accept Hashem as our King and to observe His mitzvot. Numerous studies demonstrate that posture affects our mood and focus. As such, a more formal posture is proper during these sections of davening because it likely will create greater focus that will help us concentrate on the underlying goals of these sections.

Rabbi Jonathan Muskat is the rabbi of the Young Israel of Oceanside, a rebbe at Shulamith High School, and a pastoral health care liaison at Mount Sinai South Nassau.


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