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Path of Abraham

Prayer Of Our Fathers

"Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he went into his house; Now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem; and he continued kneeling on his knees three times every day, making requests and giving thanks before his G-d, AS HE HAD BEEN DOING BEFORE..." Daniel 6:11-14 [10-13]
 
"As for me, I shall call unto the All-powerful Authority, and the ALL-TRANSCENDENT One will save me.  Evening, morning, and noon, I shall make supplication and moan; and He has heard my voice."  Psalm 55:17-18

[Mode of Prayer]  [Week-Day (full version)]    [Week-Day (short version)]    [Prayer in Unsafe Situation]    [Prayers for Shabbath]    [Prayers for Special Days]    [Tahhanun/"Supplications"]    [Voluntary Prayer]  [Sources on Bowing & Prostration] [Local Prayer Times]

THE BASIS AND HISTORY OF JEWISH PRAYER:

Every Israelite is obligated from the Torah to pray at least one time each day.  This is the 5th of the positive commandments among the 613.  There are decrees from the Sanhedrin concerning men praying three times a day, as implied in the above passages.  Each of these three daily prayer times was a practice established by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and later made binding by 'Rabbinic decree.'  Jewish women and "Cah'na'anee" Servants are obligated to pray only once a day.

In the generation of Azra the Scribe, the vast majority of Israelites had been scattered among the nations.  As a result, huge portions of them were no longer fluent in Hebrew, and in fact were not fluent in any particular language.  Rather, most of them spoke a mixture of many languages.  Consequently, many of them found it difficult to express themselves elequently to others, and especially in prayer.  Therefore, the Sages of the Great Court established a basic text for prayer.  With this well-ordered format of prayer, the average person can elequently lay out his praises, requests, and thanksgivings to the All-mighty.

Do not think that this formal form of prayer banished prayer in one's own words.  To the contrary, this format of prayer is intended to serve as an aid around which one can structure his own personal prayers, in his own words, in the most elequent of ways.  It was not at all intended as a cold replacement for the personal outpourings of the individual's soul.  Instead, the words of the established prayer are to be used as tools by which to stur up our souls to long for and cry out to the Living ONE, He Who transcends all our limitations, culminating in the "Supplication."

During the part of prayer called "Supplication" [Tahhanun], one 'falls' to the floor with his face on the ground in utter surrender, awe, and submission to the Lordship of the Hearer of our crys.  In Talmudic literature the the Sages of Israel call the act of prayer 'the service of the heart.'  He alone are we commanded to serve with all our hearts.

[Mode of Prayer]  [Week-Day (full version)]    [Week-Day (short version)]    [Prayer in Unsafe Situation]    [Prayers for Shabbath]    [Prayers for Special Days]    [Tahhanun/"Supplications"]    [Voluntary Prayer]   [Sources on Bowing & Prostration]

Related pages on this site:  House of PrayerThe Peace of Jerusalem , Crying Out with Truth;

 

jewish_prostration.jpg

"Come!  Let's prostrate; and bending-down, let's kneel before the TRANSCENDENT ONE our Maker." (Psalm 95:6)
 
{~ Bo'ew Neesh'ta'hha'wah - w'neekhra'ah, neevra'kha leefneh HASHEM Oh'seh'new ! ~}
 
 
In our days there are not many Jews who still kneel and bow during regular daily prayer.  A noticable number of Orthodox Ashkenazi Jews do bow to the ground during Yom haKipurim and Rosh haShana.  Most Jews are not even aware that such is the historical practice of the Jewish people to kneel and prostrate during regular daily prayer.  Therefore, be prepared that if you kneel or prostrate in most synagogues, you are sure to get reactions of surprise.  They may or may not be encouraging reactions.  Nonetheless, so long as you are still able to concentrate properly while praying and are willing to endure the possible consequences of bowing and prostrating in public, I only encourage you to do so.  It is a shame to fear men more than the Most High.  How can bowing or prostrating be a sign of arrogance, especially when you know people may look upon you negatively for doing so?  Rather, it is an expression of humility and submission to the Almighty.  The following text of formal Jewish prayer and instruction on how it is done is according to Talmudic law as codified in the Mishneh Torah of Rambam (Maimonides).  References to halakha are given in abbreviated form.  For example, HT5:4 means "Hilkhoth Tefilah" chapter 5, the fourth halakha.  Hilkhoth Tefilah is found in Sefer Ahavah in the Mishneh Torah:
 
"The mention of bending-down {k'reya} in every place is on the knees.." (HT5:13) 
 
There are 5 places where one "bends-down" during this prayer (HT5:10).  Each time one "bends-down," he should arch his back bending over until his backbone pokes out slightly (HT5:12).  One need not bow in this manner if he is unable because it causes him pain (HT5:12).  There are some additional reasons why a person may not need to fully bow, usually either because of stress of the situation or stress of the body (HT5:1).  I will elaborate upon these later.  The 5 places where one "bends-down" are highlighted in the text of prayer found in the link below.  In the text of prayer found on that link, upon reading a word highlighted in bold letters, "bend-down" and make your body like an arch (qeshet).  Afterwards, straighten back up into a standing position upon reading a word that is underlined
 
The content of this prayer were established by the Court established under Moses, at the time at which it was headed by Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Zechariah, etc... with the exception of a few small portions that were added by a later generation of that same Great Court.  This prayer is called the Amidah (standing) because the majority of it is prayed in standing position (HT5:2); It's also called the Shemoneh Esreh (eight-teen) because, though now it consists of 19 blessings, it originally consisted of 18 blessings to the Almighty
 
When beginning any of the 3 daily prayers, start from a standing position facing toward the Temple in Israel, with feet side by side, eyes lowered, and ones right hand clasped over his left hand over his heart, with his heart turned to "Above" in fear, awe, and dread, as a servant before his master, (HT5:4).  The text for the regular weekday prayer can be found HERE; 
 
Upon completing the last blessing of the Central Daily Prayer, one bows saying Omen.  At this point his says:
 
"May the words of my mouth and the contemplations of my heart be favorable before you L-RD my Rock and my Redeemer."
 
He then take 3 steps back with the head remaining bowed. Turn to the left then the right, then lift your head.
 
After lifting one's head from the bow the next step is called prostration (nafilath apa'yim).  This is elaborated upon in the next section titled "Tahhanun."
 
See also: "Prayers and Blessings" - summery information on daily Jewish prayers and blessings.
 
 
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TAHHANUN [Supplication / Tachanun]:
See also:  "Falling on Your Face" - concerning Tahhanun.
 
"Exhalt ye the TRANSCENDENT ONE, our Powerful Authority, and prostrate toward His Holy Mountain, for Holy is the TRANSCENDENT ONE our Powerful Authority."  (Psalm 99:9)
 
After completing the central prayer one should sit on the ground.  Then he should 'fall' with his face to the ground making supplications from his heart.  Afterwards, he lifts his head from the ground and crys out further supplications.  Supplications consist of words of confession and repentance toward the Creator, as well as pouring out our concerns and worries to Him.  There is no set text which one is obligated to read during this part of daily prayer.  There are, however, a few traditional texts and / or Psalms read during the supplication.  One can either do all of Tahhanun in his own words or using the traditional texts completely.  The important thing is that whatever words of supplication he makes, they should be from his heart, and should not elaborate too much on the Almighty's expressions ['attributes'] of mercy, grace, justice, etc... for no amount of words do justice even to His greatness expressed in the world.  Rather, in his personal supplications he should limit himself to what Mosha Rabeinu (Moses) said. (HT9:8)
 
The issue of the words of supplication and the form of prostration, placing ones face to the ground, are the two most important factors of Tahhanun.  A common synonym for daily Tahhanun [Supplication] said after the central prayer [the Amida / Shemoneh Esreh] is 'nafilath apayim.'  This refers to the act of 'falling' to one's face in prostration before the All-powerful.  Whatever form of prostration one does, it is CRITICAL that one be certain that he does not prostrate with his face onto a stone floor during Tahhanun.  It is prohibited from the Torah to prostrate on stone anywhere, except for on the Temple Mount.  If there is stone floor, or in any other situation, one can move to a different location other than where he prayed the central prayer in order to do Tahhanun.  This should be a place where one would not be prostrating onto stone.  Additionally, he can prostrate in a leaning position onto the stone floor while turning his face to the side, so that his face is not pressed to the stone.  The Torah-definition of prostration [hishtah'hhawaya] is when one is stretched out flat on the ground with his face to the ground and his arms and leggs stretched outward.  There is a Rabbinic prohibition against pressing ones face to stone while NOT in a stretched out position.  There is no prohibition to kneel on stone.
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The special middle blessing which takes the place of all the middle blessings of the Weekday Prayer which is to be said in an ideal situation appears in blue on the page linked.
 
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SUMMERY OF LAWS FOR PRAYER IN UNSAFE SITUATIONS
 
Someone who was going about in a dangerous place, such as a place of wild animals or bandits, and the time for prayer arrived, he is to pray one blessing.  The text for this brief prayer can be found HERE;
 
And he prays this as he is on [his] way, while walking; and if he is able to stand, [he should] stand.  And when he arrives to a settlement and his mind is relieved, he returns to prayer, praying the [entire] Prayer (the Amidah) according to the edict - [all] 19 blessings.
 
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SOURCES OF PROSTRATION AS JEWISH PRACTICE
 
That Jews historically prostrated (not on stone of course) in regular Jewish prayer even outside of the Temple Mount is attested to by several sources.  My intention is to form here a list of documentation.  This is only the beginning:
 
1) Numerous psuqim (verses) in Tanakh (Jewish Bible).
 
2) Statements in the Talmudic texts.
 
   Masekhet Suka page Nun Gimal vav-heh-kha-alaf (D'RaSHB''G)
 
   Masekhet Megillah page Kaf-Bet, side bet.
 
   Masekhet Ta'anith Tet, bet.
 
   Masekhet Berakhoth page Lamed-Dalet, bet.
 
   Masekhet Shavuoth page Tet-Zayin, bet.
 
 
3) Statements from the Gaonic Era.
   Rav Sa'adyah Gaon's instruction on Tachanun in his version of the prayer book known as 'Siddur haRaSaG' is on page Kaf-Dalet;  His nusahh for Tahhanun is on page Resh Kaf Dalet.
 
   The Chisdai Letters: Rabbi Chisdai ibn Shaprut (c. 915-c.990) http://isfsp.org/sages/letter-hasdai.html  "I... a servant of my Lord the King, bow to the earth before Him, even prostrate myself towards the abode of Your Majesty from a distant land." "..Thereupon I bowed down and adored the 'G-d' of heaven."
 
 
4) Statements of the Rishonim.
   Rav Bahhyah ibn Paquda's statements in "Duties of the Heart:"  Chapter 5, p. 300-301; p. 875-877 and page 897 in Feldheim translation, among other places.
  
   Various statements by Rambam, many already listed on this site.
  
   Around 100 pages on the significance and importance of prostration by Rav Avraham son of Rambam in his book "HaMaspik l'Ovdei HaShem"
 
Hoter ben Shlomo (Mansur bin Sulayman alGhamari) YEMEN - 1400s
 
 
5) Testimony of Ahharonim.
 
 
6) Modern Attestment to the Practice.
Yemenite Jews as a whole prostrated in the daily part of Jewish prayer called Tachanun until fairly recent times.  Some members of the Yemenite Jewish community still practice prostration as inherited from their recent ancestors.   This is attested to in writings of Mori Yosef Qafehh, such as his commentary on chapter 5 halakha 14 of Hilkhoth Tefilah - Sefer Ahavah in the Mishneh Torah, page Quf Samakh Dalet, note Mem Alef; The commentary of Rav Shlomo Tzadoq to the Mishneh Torah also testifies to the Yemenite understanding, as well as in the 'Shulhhan Arukh haMiqutzar,' and in English commentary to section in Gemara on Nafilat Apayim.  In the book ''Even Sepir'' (page 68) you will find the testimony of a European born Jewish traveller who visited Yemen in the year of 1859.  Writes that the practice of the Yemenite Jews he visited was full body-length prostration... "they fall on their faces, after the Prayer (Amida), stretching out their arms and leggs, like the custom of Ashkenazim on Yom haKippurim," (translation mine).
 

On page 34 side bet of Tractate Berakhoth p. 705 in the translation of the Talmud known as "THE TALMUD" WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION AND COMMENTARY commentary to this chapter by Rabbi Dr. A. Carlebach, Editor: Rabbi Dr. A. Zvi Ehrman of Fellow Jews' College, London; Member of the ISRAEL BAR, and published by EL-'AM-HOZA'A LEOR ISRAEL Jerusalem - Tel Aviv 5742 - 1982 Peli Printing Works LTD, Ramat Gan - Givatayim, it states:

"The third [type of bow mentioned in this part of the Gemara is] (hishtahawa'a),...total bodily prostration;... (Tahhanunim; cf. Meg., ibid, B.M. 59B; El-Am Hazzahav, p. 184). YEMENITE JEWS STILL PRESERVE THE CUSTOM."

 
 
 
 
Ethiopian Jews are known to prostrate at times, especially during their holiday known as 'Sigd,' which itself means prostration in Amharic, Aramaic, and Arabic.  See for example: http://www.pbase.com/yalop/image/23648350
 
Ashkenazi Jews prostrate during Rosh haShana and Yom haKippurim.  Referred to in Ashkenazi High Holiday Prayer books (Makhzorim) as well as in many books such as 'Rite and Reason' (page 528 &529 with references to Rema siman Tav-Resh-Caf-Alaf sayid Dalet, etc..) and in the popular book 'To Pray as a Jew.'
 
Karaites are known to prostrate at times as well.
 
 
 
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Aren't we not supposed to prostrate ourselves outside of the Holy Temple?
 
It's good that you asked the question :) That law only concerns full prostration on stone outside of the Beith haMikdash.  The prohibition from the Torah is only against fully prostrating -- face pressed to stone with arms and leggs spread out. The only "fence" that Ha'zal established concerning this prohibition was that one can not press his face onto stone outside of the Temple.  All this you can find in Mishneh Torah - Hilkhoth Avoda Zarah 6:13 [8]
 
 
In other words, if one merely presses his face to stone without stretching out flat, he is only violating a Rabbinic decree.  Apart from this, any other "prohibition" is the opinion(s) or strictures of individuals outside of the authority which the Almighty granted the members of the Great Sanhedrin who were established on the place [Temple Mount] HaShem choose (Deuteronomy 17:8-17, and see Rambam's Intro. to Mishneh Torah).
 
If someone wants to say "This is only Rambam's opinion.  We don't go by Mishneh Torah, etc.."  I would say:
 
1) "Is there a disagreement over a commandment from the Torah?" 
 
2) "So, on the holiest of the High Holidays we violate a Torah prohibition?" [Ashkenazim traditionally prostrate on Rosh HaShana and Yom haKipurim.]

3) "Where do you find an opinion to the contrary in the Talmudic texts?"
and...
 
4)  "Do you see conflict between what Rambam says on this topic and the opinion of most other Rishonim and among the Geonim?" [Infact, you find much the same ;-)]
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Mishneh Torah - Hilkhoth Tefilah 9:8
"..and likewise [when making personal supplications], one should not escalate in terms referring to the TRANSCENDENT ONE, [for example] saying "the Venerable Authority, the Immense, the Powerful, and the Revered (Deuteronomy 10:17; Nehemiah 9:32), the Strong, and the Courageous, and the Vigorous....," for it is not within man's ability to arrive at an end to His praises (**Indeed, He is exhalted above all the greatest praises. -- My comment;**)  Rather, one should [merely] say what Mosha Rabeinu said [in one's personal supplications]."

Modern Opinions among "Mainstream" Orthodox
Rabbi Eli'ezer Melamed
 
"Falling Nose-ward [..one your face] (Nafilath Apaiyim)"
["falling nose-ward" / nafilath apaiyim - was originally a reference to the act placing one's nose to the ground while bowing.], published in the weekly pamphlet "Ma'at min haOhr" for the Torah section of Qorahh, 29 in the month of Siwan in the year 5767 / 2007.
 
 
"And Moses heard and he fell upon his face" (Numbers 16:4)
 
From the beginning they were accustomed to say the prayer of "falling nose-ward" (t'filath nafilath apaiyim) in prostration (histahhawaya) or in qida.  In prostration the one praying falls upon the ground with his entire body, with his hands and feet spread-out on the ground.
 
In qida the one praying lowers onto his knees and lowers (markhin) his head , and places it against the ground (Barakhoth 34, bet; Rambam - Tefila 5:13-14).
 
Eventhough as of today, due to a number of halakhic concerns, and most essentially due to concerns over the words of the Zohar - which greatly enlarged {ahum... exaggerated??}  the [spiritual]-level / importance of the "falling nose-ward" prayer, and added that whosoever does not pray the prayer with a whole heart endangers his soul - [consequently, on the whole,] there is no prostrating or doing qida [as of today].
 
And as for the practice among numerous Sepharadim, there is no expression of "falling nose-ward;" rather, they say supplications in a regular seated position. (Bet-Alef " Chet ~ Ki tesa Yud-Gimal).
 
And as for the Ashkenazi practice, and a portion of Sepharadim, the prayer of supplications is said amidst a lowering (harkhanat_ of the head, leaning on the fore-arm, for there is in this a test / simblence of "falling nose-ward," eventhough it is far from prostration or qida.
 
And since multitudes of Sepharadim, in essence those who came out of North Africa, do not know that in truth this [prostration / qida] is the practice / custom of their fathers - I shall point out - that this is the ruling in the Shulhan Arukh (Orah Hayim Quf-Lamed-Alef, Alaf), and Kaf " Kaf HHYD " A, and also in Kaf haHayim (qof lamed alaf, lamed alaf), wrote that anyone who does not have intentio nto lower his soul to the husks (qalipot) in order to sift / clarify them - but rather only has intention in the "falling nose-ward" prayer to give-over his soul for the upholding of Torah and commandments, does not endanger his osul.  And Kaf "Kaf in the prayer-book "Our Fathers Yet Live" (according to Rabbi Reqahh) that the practice / custom of all North Africa (those that left Spain) is to "fall nose-ward."  As for the implimentation [of the jewish law] - every man shall practice according to the practice of his fathers.
 
And on which arm does one fall?  According to the opinion of the Shulhan Arukh, one always falls on the left arm; and according to the opinion of the Rema - in the morning when they put tefillin on the left hand - they fall on the right hand, and at the afternoon-prayer they fall on the left arm; and thus is the Ashkenazi practice / custom ( Shulhan Arukh & Rema qof-lamed-alef, alef, mem-bet waw).
 
They are accustomed to cover the face with a garment, as a man hides his face out of fear and shame before HaShem, blessed be He.  And if he does not have long sleeves, he shall not make do with hiding his head on his forearm, since the forearm and the face are one body, and the body can not cover itself (mem " bet qof-lamed-alaf, gimal).  And if there is a scarf in his hand, he shall place [it] on his forearm and hide (yilit) his face in it.  And if he does not have a scarf, he shall fall upon his bare forearm; and if there is a table there, he shall lean his head and his forearm upon it - thus the table will be considered as the essential covering for his face.
 
And for one who has long sleeves, it is best that he place his forearm and his face on the table, and if he needs the help of a prayer-book, he shall draw the prayer-book near to his face, and thus the prayer-book shall also hide his face (Y'eueen Pnini halakha - Prayer / Tefila Kaf-Alef, Dalet, 4).
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Rabbi Mordikhai Eliyahu
From Shabbat b'Shabbato, edition 1173, parashat Shlah-lekha, Kaf-Gimal in Siwan, 9.6.07... on page 10; From the halakhic rulings of Heh-Resh-Alaf-Shin"Lamed  Shlit"a:
 
..........................BETH - From the verse "and the decorated stone do not let be prostrated upon in your land" we learn that it is forbidden to prostrate with hands and feet spread out on a stone floor, even to the Name of Heaven.  And Rabbinically - also on asphalt or dust (bet"yud). 
 
GIMAL - The prohibition is [specifically] the prostration with hands and feet outspread (while his face touches the ground).  However bending-down (k'ree'ah) (as in the prayer of the Shemoneh Esreh) is not forbidden.
 
DALETH - Prostration which is not on stone is permitted when a person tilts a little on his side. (Rama quf lamed alaf, hheth).
 
HEH - The sages, when they would kiss the stones of the land and roll on its dust, were not prostrating with hands and feet outspread; rather, they were kissing the boulders of the land (Rashi, Ketuboth) and rolling on the dust, and not on stones (Rambam, Melakhim).
 
WAW - Therefore, it is forbidden to those who are coming from out of the country to kiss the earth with hands and feet outspread - unless they tilt on their sides, or they separate between themselves and the earth with mats or grasses.  [It] is not [allowed] to prostrate, to bend-down and kiss the floor of a beit-ha'netivoth (airport arrival place) which is made of stones tiled.

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