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Q: Jews and prayer ( Answered,   2 Comments )
Subject: Jews and prayer
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: serenity222-ga
List Price: $12.00
Posted: 01 Jan 2004 22:14 PST
Expires: 31 Jan 2004 22:14 PST
Question ID: 292263
Why don't the Jewish people pray on their knees?
Subject: Re: Jews and prayer
Answered By: mother911-ga on 02 Jan 2004 03:37 PST
Hi Serenity222-ga,

I found several explanations for the jewish people not kneeling during
prayer. As a basic answer, it is against their faith to prostate
themselves on a stone floor as was the practice of ancient idol
worshippers. It is further discussed in their teachings that prayer
should be a practice of standing, sitting, and laying face down on the
ground. I have included quotes from Jewish religious teachings and a
response from a Rabbi to a question about kneeling during Al Anon

A quote from:

"The Torah forbids prostrating yourself flat out on a stone floor, as
was the way of the ancient idol worshippers. Our Sages extended this
prohibition to include kneeling.

The Shulchan Aruch says that if you put an intervening substance
between your knees and the stone floor, then it's permitted to kneel."

a direct quote from a usenet post

From: Alan J. Broder (
Subject: Hamaayan / The Torah Spring: Parashat Shoftim 
View: Complete Thread (7 articles)  
Original Format 
Newsgroups: soc.culture.jewish
Date: 1993-08-19 18:21:27 PST 

This is not to say that the Torah disdains all bowing or
kneeling in prayer.  Kneeling was part of the Yom Kippur service in
the Bet HaMikdash (and, hence, in our Yom Kippur Mussaf), and
bowing is part of every Shemoneh Esreh recitation.  However, there
are Halachic restrictions dictating when and where one may not bow
or kneel.  For example, kneeling on any stone floor is forbidden.

   The efficacy of kneeling during prayer is learned from Moshe's
response to Korach.  The Torah (Bimidbar 16:22) says that, upon
hearing Korach's accusations, Moshe "fell on his face."  Several
commentators state that he was praying.  (Ibn Ezra; R' Bachya).

   In Parashat Eikev, as Moshe tells of the three 40-day periods
that he spent on Har Sinai, he describes them as follows:

   "When I ascended the mountain to take the tablets of stone....I
sat on the mountain for forty days and forty nights..."  (Devarim

   [The second time:] "I fell on my face for forty days and forty
nights..." (9:18).

   [The third time:] "And I stood on the mountain as for the first
days, forty days and forty nights..." (10:10).

   On these verses, Rabbenu Bachya comments:  From here Chazal
derived a strategy for prayer.  One should pray sitting, he should
pray standing, and he should pray bowed down.  The Halachic Code,
Tur, notes that this is, in fact, our practice with regard to the
prayer known as Tachanun.  First we bow our heads on our arms, then
we sit up straight, and finally, when we reach the verse, "And we
do not know what to do, so our eyes are towards You," we stand. 
This expresses our plea to G-d that we have prayed in every way
that we know how, and we now place ourselves in His hands.

   (Siddur Commentators emphasize the potential power of the
Tachanun prayer, coming, as it does, immediately after the Shemoneh
Esrei which is the spiritual "high" of the whole Shacharit service. 
This explains the Halacha that talking is forbidden between
Shemoneh Esrei and Tachanun, for such an interruption would sever
the latter prayer from whatever spiritual level was attained during
the former prayer.
                         (Chayei Adam quoting Shitah Mekubetzet)

Subject: Re: Jews and prayer
From: tlspiegel-ga on 02 Jan 2004 09:18 PST
Hi serenity222,

From The Jewish Book of Why by Rabbi Alfred J. Kolatch
Chapter 7 Posture and Prayer, page 153

"Why is kneeling rarely seen at Jewish religous services?

Bowing and kneeling were an integral part of the ceremonies and
rituals of the Temples in Jerusalem."


"When Christianity adopted kneeling and prostration as postures of
prayer, the Rabbis prohibited them in Jewish worship.  The only
exception was on Yom Kippur: when an account of the ancient Temple
service is read, the cantor and members of the congregation kneel and
prostrate themselves, as did the High Priest when he officiated."


Yom Kippur: "A Chance of Further Life, Gift-Wrapped With the String of Forgiveness"
By Joe Bobker

"Yom Kippur is also unique in two other ways: Unlike most other Jewish
festivals, there are two full Torah services. The morning service
describes the High Priest's special Yom Kippur sacrifices, followed by
the haftora reciting Isaiah?s confrontation and challenge to examine
the inner meaning of the day.xlviii And this is the only time of the
year (musaf on Rosh Hashana and alenu on Yom Kippur) when Jews kneel
as a dramatic re-enactment of a time, both Biblical and in the Temple,
when Priests and common folk prostrated themselves on hearing the name
of God. In our shul we place a newspaper (some place sand) on the
floor to kneel on so as to emphasize the Leviticus 26:1 order that
Jews not bow down to stone."


"Isn't kneeling a "Christian" activity?" No. The practice of kneeling
was common in Biblical times, a defiant spiritual battlecry that,
"No-one will prevent us from acclaiming the true God". This was
especially true on Yom Kippur when it represented the dramatic
response by the Priests and the people at the sound of God's Name. Our
contemporary kneeling and prostrating (during the Musaf's aleynu on
Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur) is a re-enactment of that Temple ritual.
It was customary to place sand (or some paper) on the floor to kneel
upon in order to avert any suspicion that we are bowing down to
stone." (Leviticus 26:1).


A Question and Answers from the JACS On-Line Discussion List.

Should Jews kneel in prayer as part of recovery?

=============================================================================== - Do You Kneel?

When Solomon had finished all these prayers and supplications to the
LORD, he rose from before the altar of the LORD, where he had been
kneeling with his hands spread out toward heaven (1 Kings 8:54).

"Have you ever knelt before God? My mother taught me not to. She told
me that her father told her that Jews knelt before no one, not even
God. I have learned since then that isn't really true. Besides
references to this practice in the Tanach (Old Testament) (Psalms
95:6, 2 Chronicles 6:13), there is a..."


Best regards,
Subject: Re: Jews and prayer
From: ravuri-ga on 11 Jan 2004 08:38 PST
Thanks, Tlspiegel-ga, for the comment.

Just two caveats. 

1) As we see from the other sources above, there already was a
prohibition on prostrating oneself flat out on a stone floor. The
source is Leviticus 26:1. The rabbis extended it to prostrating on any
floor (except on Yom Kippur). I think the burden of proof is on
someone who thinks this was a reaction to the Christians.

2) is a Hebrew Christian website, and not reliable for
presentations of Judaism.

All The Best,

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