Why is it that according to Judaism one should face east when praying? I saw a sign in a friend’s home that said “East” in Hebrew, and when I asked what it’s for, my friend told me it was a reminder of the direction for prayer. Thank you. Thanks for this service.
Praying while facing east is a type of misconception. I also know many people who have such decorative signs saying “Mizrach” (east) in their homes, which is usually put on an eastern-facing wall of the house. However, the actual correct direction for prayer may also be south, north or west — depending where one is located.
One who prays outside of Israel should face in the direction of Israel, and one who prays within Israel faces in the direction of Jerusalem. A person inside Jerusalem should face the holy place where the Temples once stood. This is the ruling according the Talmud and Jewish law. Of course, this may mean south-east if one is in Toronto, or north-east if one is in Argentina. You get the idea.
The direction for prayer is deduced from the inauguration prayer of King Solomon when he dedicated the First Temple. In his prayer, King Solomon appealed to God to accept the prayers of His people in all places and all circumstances.
Prayed King Solomon’s: Should they be taken away from their land into foreign captivity because of their sins, he asked that their repenting “prayers directed to God through their land (i.e. Israel)” be accepted (Kings I 8:48). Should they be engaged in war in their own land, he asked that their prayer for Heavenly help “directed to God through the city that You have chosen (i.e. Jerusalem)” be accepted (Kings I 8:44). And within Jerusalem the person should prayer towards the place where the Temple(s) once stood, as the verse states in Kings I 8:42: “And they will pray toward this House (the Temple).
King Solomon taught the direction of the gateway for our prayers, whether we are in Jerusalem or in other locations around the world. He set the guidelines for how we, in all cases and times, should direct our prayers to Heaven — through the holy land and the holy city where the holy house of God stood.
And King Solomon prayed that God would always accept our prayer: “You shall hear in Heaven, Your dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calls upon You for, that all peoples of the earth may know Your Name, to fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that Your Name is called upon this House that I have built.” (Kings I 8:43)