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Do Jews Kneel in Prayer?

Do Jews Kneel in Prayer?

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Question:

I was given no formal education of my Jewish heritage, but I’m told that Jews are instructed not to kneel when we worship. Is this correct? If so, what is this instruction about?

Answer:

Throughout the Bible, we find bowing and kneeling as part of prayer, and this was indeed the practice in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. There are several reasons, however, why we do not kneel when we worship today.

The Bible states, in Leviticus 26:1, “Nor shall you install a kneeling-stone in your land, to bow down upon it.” Idol-worshipers often placed a special stone before their idol and then used it to kneel upon while they prayed to their idols. The above verse forbids prostrating yourself flat-out on a stone floor, even if you are worshiping the One G‑d. Our Sages extended this prohibition to include kneeling.1

However, the Code of Jewish Law states that if you put an intervening substance between your knees and the stone floor, then it is permitted to kneel.2 Therefore, on Yom Kippur, when we do kneel and bow down with our faces to the floor, people bring towels to kneel on, since many synagogues (especially in Israel) have stone or tile floors.

When it comes to daily prayers, however, we are concerned about transgressing this prohibition and therefore do not kneel in prayer.

Additionally, according to the Talmud, a person of holiness and stature is discouraged from kneeling in his prayers unless he is sure that his prayers will be answered. If such a person were to kneel in his prayers, and his prayers were not accepted, it would seem, in the eyes of the masses, as if G‑d were unfair and unjust, while truly it is just we who cannot understand His ways.3

Please let me know if this helps.

Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson

Ask the Rabbi @ The Judaism Website Chabad.org

FOOTNOTES
1.

The only exception to this was kneeling on the floor in the Holy Temple.

2.

Shulchan Aruch Harav 131:1 (vol. 1, p. 383, in the Kehot edition of 2001).

3.

Talmud, Megillah 22b.

Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson is a member of the Chabad.org Ask the Rabbi team.
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Discussion (31)
September 12, 2014
Different generation different meanings!
We are talking about people kneeling thousand years ago! Maybe because people were spiritually closer to G-d in those times! Today people might kneel in certain occasions like in despair situations, but not in every normal days or holidays. People kneel in churches not in synagogues. I didn't chose the subject line myself, it was offered and I found it very appropriate.
Feigele
Boca Raton FL
September 12, 2014
What about Daniel the prophet who kneeled to pray three times a day raging jerusalem
Paul carley
Iteland
July 18, 2014
Do Jews Kneel to Pray?
Prayer is a personal dialog between man and G-d. The intent and focus should therefore be on that dialog rather than do I stand, prostrate, kneel, etc? I have personally tried different "methods" while praying...shuckling (while standing), standing still (except for bowing and bending of knees at appropriate times), kneeling, and full prostration. For me, shuckling while standing helps with concentration (otherwise my mind will wonder) and I'm comfortable. I'm focused on that dialog rather than the pain I feel in my knees while kneeling or full prostration.
Michelle Weizmann
Alabama
February 13, 2014
Daniel
כָּל-קֳבֵל, דְּנָה--מַלְכָּא, דָּרְיָוֶשׁ, רְשַׁם כְּתָבָא, וֶאֱסָרָא. 10 Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the interdict.
יא וְדָנִיֵּאל כְּדִי יְדַע דִּי-רְשִׁים כְּתָבָא, עַל לְבַיְתֵהּ, וְכַוִּין פְּתִיחָן לֵהּ בְּעִלִּיתֵהּ, נֶגֶד יְרוּשְׁלֶם; וְזִמְנִין תְּלָתָה בְיוֹמָא הוּא בָּרֵךְ עַל-בִּרְכוֹהִי, וּמְצַלֵּא וּמוֹדֵא קֳדָם אֱלָהֵהּ, כָּל-קֳבֵל דִּי-הֲוָא עָבֵד, מִן-קַדְמַת דְּנָה. {ס} 11 And when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house--now his windows were open in his upper chamber toward Jerusalem--and he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. {S}
יב אֱדַיִן גֻּבְרַיָּא אִלֵּךְ, הַרְגִּשׁוּ, וְהַשְׁכַּחוּ, לְדָנִיֵּאל--בָּעֵה וּמִתְחַנַּן, קֳדָם אֱלָהֵהּ. 12 Then these men came tumultuously, and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God.
Moshe
Hermosa Beach
January 29, 2014
some rabbi
Thank you for your clarification, however, I am a little confused still. Moses, the most humble of all, would he have kneeled to pray if he was in solomon's position? Or would he say that he couldnt be sure his prayers would be answered? That is to say, how could anyone KNOW their prayers could be answered, a mortal cannot know what the Almighty is going to do. I look forward to hearing your reply. Many thanks.
Anonymous
January 28, 2014
Re: Anonymous and Joe
Anon: I'd argue that King Solomon had good reason to be certain that his prayers would be answered. He was, after all, a wise and righteous man, and leader of the entire nation!
Joe: While prostrating may have been common even among Jews at one point in time, today it is limited for the most part only to certain point in the Rosh Hashana Yom Kippur prayers. Why some Jews say they have never seen this is merely a question about their attendance at an observant synagogue on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.
Some Rabbi
Thereafter
January 24, 2014
King Solomon
It says in the book of King's that King Solomon went down on his knees when praying before G-d, was this because he knew his prayers would be answered? Should we not be trying to emulate the wise King Solomon?
Anonymous
January 14, 2014
Prostrating as Jews use to do.
I think that by Mohamed's time, Jews used to prostrate, but for some extreme thoughts by some Rabbis, made the Jews stop prostrating.
That's one of the reasons the Koran is prohibited from any translation.
Prostrating to G-d, should be normal practice for all humanity that believes in the Thereafter.
Whats make me wonder is how come some Jews say they do prostrate some times, while other Jews say they have never seen any Jew prostrating.
Joe Serhan
San Diego
January 18, 2013
Re: So is it a prohibition to kneel?
As explained in the response, it is not essentially forbidden to kneel in prayer before G-d, provided that it is not on a stone floor, and there are indeed times when we do kneel even today. Typically, however, is not done today, for the reasons outlined.
B. Davidson
Brooklyn
January 18, 2013
So is it a prohabition or not?
So according to this answer (which wasn't an answer at all), it is ok to bow or kneel in prayer as long as you have a prayer rug and you aren't bowing to an idol? I think I'm more confused now than before.
D. Davidson
NY
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