We often call Pip, our dog, ‘The Yogi’. He is a master bower, especially when he wants a cookie. Even after a few years of Yoga, I still cannot bow as well as Pip.
His students watched as Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin practiced the Amidah bowing for hours. They would not dare disturb their great master. When they finally had an opportunity they asked: “Why were you practicing so much and for so long?”
The great sage answered: “Everyone from the lowest servants to the highest nobles practice how to bow before a king or queen. Shall I not perfect my motion before bowing to God?”
I love bowing on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Some bows led me to reflect on God’s Infinite Greatness. Other bows led me to consider my act of submission. I experience the High Holyday bows in a much more powerful way than my twelve daily, lesser, bows. The physical action is so complete that I cannot help but think about what I am doing. I never considered bowing as a skill until I read the above story.
“But because of our sins we have ben exiled from our land,” (Festival Mussaf) The Vilna Gaon (Commentary to Song of Songs 6:4, and Isaiah 1:7) explains that ‘our land’ refers to the Beit Hamikdash – the Temple in Jerusalem.
“From one month to the next and from one Sabbath to the next, all people will come to bow before me,” says God. (Isaiah 66:23) We miss bowing in the Temple.
I decided to practice bowing according to the precise instructions of Halacha and to take those Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur bows with me each time I bow during prayer in order to imagine that I am bowing in the Beit Hamikdash.
If only it was not limited to my imagination…
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