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September 17, 2014 / 22 Elul, 5774
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A Very Athletic Religion

muslims praying

Photo Credit: Sliman Khader/Flash90

I’m looking at this picture of Muslim worshipers on their hands and knees in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ma’ale ha-Zeitim (Ras al Amud) last Friday. In order to prevent riots on Temple Mount, police limited entry to Muslim men over 50, so everyone you see here must be younger. But still, I find the notion of falling down on my hands and knees five times a day both physically demanding and socially awkward.

I can’t stand it when the guy sitting next to me in shul leans too close to my area during davening. In fact, our tradition requires maintaining a bit of open space in front of each person during the Amida—STANDING prayer. I can’t imagine being down on the floor, tight with the guy and the whole shul – what is this Swedish gymnastics?

We do it a few times on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur every year, and it’s very special and inspiring, and I get that this is the way they used to do it in the Temple—once a year, when the High Priest called out the full name of God. But every day? Not happening.

When we do the holy bending on the Days of Awe, I get the submission thing. And I know that Mohammed or someone like him borrowed the falling on the knees thing from the Jews. Nevertheless, if this ever becomes the way we daven all the time, I’ll be davening at home.

Sliman Khader/Flash90

Sliman Khader/Flash90

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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7 Responses to “A Very Athletic Religion”

  1. Clo Clo says:

    Just the picture inself on a road- Oy vey!

  2. Kumar Thomas says:

    All this praying, I would think peace and joy would be everywhere.

  3. EVERYONE NEEDS TO BOW ON THERE KNEES AND PRAY AND SEEK GOD AND HIS PRESENCE AMEN……

  4. Jean Perles says:

    Palestinian State? Forget It………………………………

  5. Jean Perles says:

    we cannot occupy our own Land! JUDEE,SAMARIA,
    PART INDIVISIBLE OF ISRAEL
    JUDEE,SAMARIA,
    PART INDIVISIBLE OF ISRAEL
    THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PALESTINIAN PEOPLE! THEY HAVE NO RIGHTS TO THE HOMELAND OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE »
    JERUSALEM, CAPITAL INDIVISIBLE DE L’ETAT JUIF D’ISRAEL

  6. As uncomfortable as it looks, it's probably much worse on "Taco Tuesdays" especially when done in a confined space, Yori. And how can you really pray and meditate in such an environment? You have to be a Zen master to ignore all your other senses and thoughts to get to the point where your prayers are meaningful when packed in a crowd like sardines (evangelicals do a weird prayer thing in their churches too, which makes me wonder why giving up your personal space when praying is so important to so many faiths).

    What I don't get is why they have to pray towards Mecca if they worship a universal (omnipresent) god. It seems to me that when you limit the way you pray, from the direction you pray to the times you pray, you're putting limits on something that is limitless. And for a people that believe in a Creator that demands ultimate respect and praise, this seems like a very backwards practice that places G-d into a very finite space, which no man has the ability or the right to try. Regardless of who or what they're really praying towards, I'm sure most use the time to think about other things in their lives and some are probably trying to figure out if the guy in front of them lives on a diet of cabbage and beans or eggs and broccoli.

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