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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 (28)
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
July 8, 2011
Talmud study Brachot 10b.4-11a.1
This is a issue between Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel which where sages of the court system back in (3581-3801)-(180 bce-40ce).This is classic disagreement in respects to positioning of standing or sitting during shema,nothing about kneeling. The positive Mitzvot #10 states "Reading the Shema twice daily".Deut 6.7 also states"You shall teach them thoroughly to your children and you shall speak of them while you sit in your home,while you walk on the way,when you retire and when you rise".The negative Mitzvot #5 states "Not to bow to an idol",Ex20.5"You shall not prostrate yourself to them nor worship them,for I am Hashem,your G-d-a zealous G-d,Who visits the sin of fathers upon children,upon the third (gen)and upon the fourth for those who hate Me".So this interruption in Talmud law brachot 10b.4-11a.1 beis Shammai argues more respect with standing and Beis Hillel states that it goes beyond normal practice.Just a fact the two academies have 316 disagreements and still have good fellows
Richard Raff
July 6, 2011
It doesn’t take a genius to
manufacture such story using in vain famous people's names
Kneeling in church is not wrong if you are not Jewish. But it is wrong for a Jew to do so in a church. Doing certain things are very particular to each religion and kneeling is one of them for the Muslims and the Christians. Therefore, as Jew, we do not follow/copy any other religion we abide by the Torah. Each religion does as it fits. The difference between us and them and why they kneel is that they have an icon we do not have a physical representation of G-d. We stand as G-d intended for us to do. However, today I’m sure kosher food could be revised, thanks to better and healthy methods of raising animals, but traditions are traditions and we are still going by the book on that one. Yes, kneeling, I’m sure is cited in some biblical books on certain circumstances. In all my years, I have never ever seen Jewish people kneeling while praying. We do bend forward, left and right, yes, to acknowledge our respect to G-d.
Feigele
Boca Raton, FL
July 1, 2011
Kneeling Non-Jewish Practice?
Felgele,
Kneeling in churches is wrong, NOT because kneeling is non-Jewish, but because kneeling in worship of Jesus is not Jewish. Non-Jews also stand in prayer. Should we therefore abstain from standing during prayer? Muslims abstain from pork -- should we therefore eat pork?

Kneeling and bowing are mentioned explicitly as a valid Jewish practice in prayer throughout Tanakh (Jewish Bible), throughout the Talmudic sources, as well as throughout the writings the geonim and rishonim. The son of the Rambam (Maimonidies) wrote in his book Ha-Maspik l-Ovdei HaShem that only an unlearned individual could say that kneeling and prostrating in prayer is a uniquely non-Jewish practice or a new innovation.
Anonymous
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