Friday, September 16, 2011

Be Still

I remember as a kid in elementary school how everyone would try to "out-shuckle" the other. The simple frontwards rock? Amateur stuff. To prove true devoutness, the side to side method is preferred, twirling the toes of the front foot from side to side on the lean back, while rotating the rear ankle on the lean forward.

Of course, the concentration into getting these moves right rendered prayer pretty much worthless.
A valid alternative to shuckling is to stand completely still, like a soldier standing at attention in front of the king.
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, zatzal, one of the foremost halachic authorities of our generation, was known to stand stock still during the silent prayer. He explained that, while living in Russia, he was once arrested for teaching Torah. One form of torture he experienced during his imprisonment was being forced to stand completely still facing a wall. The threat was that if he were to move he would be shot. It was on one of these occasions that Rabbi Feinstein was struck with the realization that if he could stand with such intense concentration for the sake of his captors, then he should afford at least the same respect when standing in front of Hashem.
Deciding whether to 'shuckle' or stand still depends on which one helps you concentrate better. In any case, a person shouldn't move his body or contort his face in any way that will make him look weird. ohr.edu, "Shakesprayer"
http://images.travelpod.com/users/rustyd/1.1244606400.beefeater-guarding-the-crown-jewels.jpg
The beefeaters manage to do it, and in that hat too.
"How is he to say it? R. Hisda said: Standing still"Talmud Bavli, Brachos 30a (in reference to Tefilas HaDerech)
 
A certain Rav (name cannot be recalled) visited my shul for a Shabbos. My father came home in awe, that throughout the entire davening, this man stood perfectly still, ramrod straight. 

I've tried to take that behavior to heart.  It took concentration the first few times, but I've halted my shuckeling. I only do so during chazaras hashatz, when I am not davening. 

I practice standing perfectly still while waiting for the train or a light at a crosswalk. Still = Disciplined. That is an image I want to convey.

I am loath to quote Oprah, but this one is a keeper: 
Stand still and listen to the whispers.  
I think her point was that when one is still, one is focused, one is thinking clearly, and then the answers just come.  

Although I end up shuckling like mad on Yomim Noraim. Standing all that time is murder on my feet, and shuckling redistributes the weight. 

6 comments:

The Professor said...

A chassidic reason for shuckling during davening is because a persons neshama is like a fire. A fire always jumps around trying to go higher, back to its source )which is somewhere 'under the moon' dont ask me why). Same too when davening, a person is trying to connect to Hashem and therefore shuckles back and forth.

Yedid Nefesh said...

soo interesting, if i heard someone chuckling during prayer i would think it it to be disrespectful, didnt know there was such a concept

Princess Lea said...

Yedid: Shuckeling, not chuckling. Shuckeling is silent.

Princess Lea said...

Prof: Yes, that is a chassidishe concept, but my background is not chassidish. So we should each do what works for us - and until this rabbi came to town I didn't know standing still was an option.

The Professor said...

CV Im not to not follow ur customs. All I meant to say was that although shuckling may seem sort of strange based on the reason you listed, there is a reason and this is what it is.

Princess Lea said...

I knew there was a background to shuckeling - I don't think I said anywhere that it was baseless. Just sometimes, it seems as though more emphasis seemed to be placed on shuckeling than on the actual tefillah (girls are competitive like that).