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Prayer Skills-Hachodesh-Positioning Our Body

The Amidah is recited with the feet together, emulating the stance of the Angels. We find other physical positions described in classic sources, such as sitting and meditating (Rabbi Avraham Abulafia; Chayei Olam haBah, page 18a). A position found in the Bible involves kneeling with the hands outstretched. “He kneeled on his knees, and spread his hands toward heaven (II Chronicles 6:13).” Ezra likewise said, “I fell on my knees and spread my hands toward God, my Lord (Ezra 9:5).” Rabbi Moshe Cordevero explains that’s spreading the hands alludes to the fact that one is receiving spiritual sustenance from on high (Pardes Rominim 15:3).


There is also the “prophetic position,” which involves placing the head between the knees. “ Elijah went up to the top of the Carmel, and he placed himself on the earth, and placed his face between his knees (I Kings 18:42).”

It is important to note that the origin of this position may be found in the Pesach Offering, which had to be roasted, as taught in Parshat Hachodesh, “with its head on its knees (Exodus 12:9).” Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev explains that the two knees represent the Sefirot of Victory and Splendor, and that placing the knees with the head, releases the spiritual energy of these Sefirot to the mind (Kedushat Levi, Parshat Bo).

Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa once went to study Torah as a disciple of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai. Rabbi Yochanan’s son became ill, and the teacher said, “Chanina my son, pray for him and that he may live.” Rabbi Chanina placed his head between his knees and prayed, and the sun became well (Berachot 34b).

It is told that Elazar ben Dordaya did not leave a single harlot whom he did not visit. He once heard of a certain harlot on a distant island, whose price was a purse of gold coins. He took a purse of gold coins, crossing seven rivers to meet her. During the act, she passed some air, and jokingly said, “Just as this air cannot return to its place, so Elazar ben Dordaya will not be accepted if he tries to repent.”

He went and sat between the mountains and hills. He said, “mountains and hills, seek mercy for me!” They replied, “Before we seek mercy for you, let us seek it for ourselves, since it is written, ‘ The mountains will depart, and the hills will be removed’ (Isaiah 54:10).”

He then said, “It depends on no one but me alone.” He placed his head between his knees and moaned with weeping until his soul left him.

A Heavenly Voice proclaimed, “Rabbi Elazar ben Dordaya is prepared for life in the World to Come.”

Rebbi commented, “Not only are those who repent accepted by God, they are even called Rabbi!” (Avodah Zarah 17a)

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