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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Doing The Shuckle - To Sway Or Not To Sway

We’ve already discussed the bowing and bouncing parts of Prayer. Now let us take a look at the Shuckle.

The Gemara in Berachos 31a asserts that many Halachos of Prayer, and specifically Shemonah Esrei, are learnt from the prayer of Chana in the Mishkan, as depicted in the beginning of Shmuel 1.
Among these are to daven in an undertone, to enunciate the words, that a drunk can’t pray and more.

The Rema Mipano (Eim Kol Chai, 1:33) posits that additional Halachos can be deduced which the Gemara doesn’t include. He therefore deduces from the words רק שפתיה נעות, only her lips were moving,
that the rest of one’s body should be at rest during the Shemonah Esrei prayer.

He reiterates this in his responsa (113) as well. He goes on to say that although there is a concept, found in Tehillim, of כל עצמותי תאמרנה ה’ מי כמוך ‘all of my limbs will declare – Hashem whom is like
You’ that is limited to praise of Hashem, however during the Amidah prayer no movement is to occur, other than the required bowing.

However, the Mateh Moshe (1:118) quotes sources in the Rishonim that one should sway during prayer, and this is the opinion of the Avudraham as well (Siman 44). They understand that the above quoted verse, that one should use all their limbs in prayer, refers specifically to the Shemonah Esrei prayer.

The Rema (OC 48) quotes the Avudraham noted above, that due to the verse of ‘all my limbs will declare’ one should sway during prayer. The Magen Avraham notes that this is not clearly applicable to Shemonah Esrei, and he personally feels that the halachah is that one should not sway. However he concludes that either way is acceptable and it depends on the person. This is quoted by the Mishna Berura, and the Aruch Hashulchan similarly notes that one should do whatever allows him to better concentrate.

It’s interesting to note that the Mishna Berura elsewhere (95:7) quotes only the authorities that one should sway during the Shemonah Esrei. One can argue that this would indicate his opinion was that one should sway.

Although it would seem that almost everybody sways in practice, Rav Avraham Gurwicz writes that his personal observation of his Rebbeim, the Brisker Rav, Rav Shach and the Stiepler Gaon did not sway during Shemonah Esrei. I recall hearing the same of Rav Dessler, Rav Moshe Feinstein and the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

There are certain things the poskim caution to be aware of and not do:

One should not stand straight and move his head side to side as that appears to be haughty. The Rambam says the same of putting ones hands on their hips.

Although in Biblical times they prayed with their hands outstretched to the heavens, this has been adopted by other religions, and therefore the Beer Sheva writes that it should not be done. This is quoted by Rav Akiva Eiger.

One should avoid anything that disturbs those around him, and should avoid making grotesque motions. Rav Gurwicz writes that he is appalled at the faces and gestures people make whilst standing in front of the King of Kings!

There is a Zohar (vol. 3 pg. 218b) that is referenced by the Biur Hagra, that tells us a fascinating fact.

שאילנא ליה מאי האי דכל עמין דעלמא לא עבדין נענועא אלא ישראל בלחודייהו דכד לעאן באורייתא מתנענען הכא והכא בלא למודא דבר נש בעלמא ולא יכלין למיקם בקיומייהו אמר לי אדכרתן מלתא עלאה ובני עלמא לא ידעין ולא משגיחין. יתיב שעתא ובכה. אמר ווי לבני נשא דאזלין כבעירי חקלא בלא סוכלתנו. במלה דא בלחודוי אשתמודען נשמתהון קדישין דישראל בין נשמתהון דעמין עעכו"ם. נשמתהון דישראל אתגזרו מגו בוצינא קדישא דדליק דכתיב נר יי’ נשמת אדם והאי נר בשעתא דאתאחד (נ"א דאתדליק) מגו אורייתא דלעילא לא שכיך נהורא עליה אפילו רגעא. ורזא דא אלקים אל דמי לך כגוונא דא כתיב המזכירים את יי’ אל דמי לכם. לא שכיכו לכון. נהורא דשרגא כיון דאתאחדא גו פתילה ההוא נהורא לא שכיך לעלמין אלא מתנענעא נהורא לכאן ולכאן ולא משתכיך לעלמין. כגוונא דא ישראל דנשמתייהו מגו ההוא נהורא דשרגא כיון דאמר מלה חדא דאורייתא הא נהורא דליק ולא יכלון אינון לאשתככא ומתנענען לכאן ולכאן ולכל סטרין כנהורא דשרגא דהא נר יי’ נשמת אדם כתיב. וכתיב אדם אתם אתם קרויין אדם ולא אומין עכו"ם. נשמתין דעמין עכו"ם מדעיכו דקש בלא נהורא דשרי עלייהו וע"ד משתככין ולא מתנענען דהא לית לון אורייתא ולא דלקין בה ולאו נהורא שרייא בהון אינון קיימין כעצים בגו נורא דדליק בלא נהורא דשריא עלייהו וע"ד משתככין בלא נהורא כלל.

My loose translation:

The question was posed: why is it that Jews sway when they are learning Torah, and non-Jews do not?

The answer was given: there is a fundamental difference between the soul of a non-Jew and the soul of a Jew. The sould of the Jew is carved from the holy fire of God, and therefore once it is alight, the flame, as small as it may get throughout one’s life, is always there. The nature of a flame is to sway, to always move and jump, and so is the soul of a Jew. However the soul of a non-Jew is static, there is no flame, and it doesn’t sway.

Rav Gurwicz points out that this refers specifically to Torah study and not prayer, however the idea is fascinating. Our fires are lit – we just have to act on it!

Posted on 05/30 at 05:48 AM • Permalink
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Meet Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber

Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch HaberRabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber is sought after by all who know him for his Halachic and practical advice. His keen ability to put complicated matters into a digestible perspective coupled with his ability to get the facts, make him the perfect blogger to help us all “Do It Right”.

A native of Buffalo, NY, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber spent his childhood globetrotting with his family. His pioneering spirit first surfaced in Melbourne, Australia, where he was excited to be a member of the opening class of Mesivta Bnei Torah. From Australia the Haber family settled down in Monsey, NY. Ever the maverick, Tzvi promptly left home to study in Yeshiva Ohr Hameir in Peekskill, where he became a mainstay of the Yeshiva, and inspired his younger brothers as well as several friends from the Mesivta in Melbourne to follow him. He then joined his chaburah in Jerusalem, first at the Mir Yeshiva and then at the Bais Medrash of Rav Dovid Soloveitchik, a senior scion of the famed Brisk dynasty. As his globetrotting family returned to Jerusalem, Tzvi returned to the US, to freeze in the famed, yet comparatively chilled Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood.

 In 2004 he met his wife, Suzanne Schor, a native of the warmer Los Angeles climate, and the couple settled in Lakewood, where he focused his pioneering and independent strengths on the study of Halacha, or Jewish law. His innovative spirit and innate ability to help others seeking to clarify the finer points of Judaism and integrate them into their daily lives inspired his decision to commute daily from Lakewood to the Lower East Side of Manhattan in order to bask in the day to day exposure to the world renowned Posek, HaRav David Feinstein. The daily commute was more than compensated for when he received Semicha from Rav Feinstien and the Kollel L’Torah U’lhorah (a division of Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem) in Tamuz 5768, June 2008.

In August 2009, the Habers moved west, heading toward Los Angeles where Rabbi Haber joined the LINK-LA Kollel. After being an active member of the Kollel for several years, he joined the business world, however he is still actively involved in teaching and learning in LA.

Actively involved in all aspects of TorahLab, Tzvi has taken upon himself a quasi-role as administrator of quality control and has effectively improved and upgraded many of the smaller yet vital details involved in our site. His advice is eagerly sought and gracefully given.

Rabbi Haber is now living in the La Brea section of Los Angeles with his wonderful family. He can be contacted at tzvi@torahlab.org