Hands Up

Parshas Beshalach

Whilst Yehoshua battled Amalek, Moshe climbed with Aharon and Chur to a nearby hilltop. Moshe raised his hands and began to pray. When Moshe’s hands were uplifted, the Jews had the upper hand. When his hands dropped, the Amalekites would prevail. As the day wore on, Moshe wearied and his hands became heavy, Moshe sat on a stone and Aharon and Chur each held a hand aloft.

Question One

It seems that is was more effective for Moshe to raise his hands than to stand in prayer. This is borne out by the fact that when his hands were raised, the tide of battle favored the Jewish people. Further, when he became tired, he preferred to sit and retain his poise rather than stand erect and drop his hands. Generally, the contrary is true – when davening important prayers such us the Shemoneh Esrei the correct pose is to stand before Hashem. Nowhere else do we see lifted hands as a required part of private prayer.

Question Two

The Plague of Hail became unbearable to the point that Pharaoh asked Moshe to entreat Hashem to withhold the thunder and hail. Moshe responded: “When I leave the city I will spread out my hands to Hashem.” Moshe did so, and the thunder and hail stopped. We do not see that Moshe prayed – only that he spread his hands. Why?

Answer

The essence of prayer is recognizing our dependence on Hashem. This is usually, but not exclusively, done through verbalization. Moshe was using the action of reaching up with his palms to express his reliance on Hashem. Moshe’s actions expressed his dependence in Mitzrayim, to the effect that the hail ceased. Likewise they expressed his dependence in the Desert securing victory for the Jews.

Lesson
One can pray with every limb in one’s body.

Story

A Chossid once asked R’ Pinchos of Koretz (1726 – 1790) “Why does the Rebbe pray without making a sound and without moving his body, whereas the davening of other Rebbes is often done in a loud voice accompanied by enthusiastic gestures.”

R’ Pinchas replied: “When a Tzaddik prays, he cleaves to G-d, and loses all sense of corporeality, as if his very soul had departed from his body. Now, the Talmud tells us that the experience of death is not equal in all people. For some people the soul leaves the body only after great agonies and convulsions, whereas in others it departs as quietly as one draws a hair out of milk. Therefore you will find some Tzaddikim praying with convulsions while others daven calmly and are as composed as one drawing a hair out of milk.”

Weekly Halachah

If one mistakenly began the weekday Shemoneh Esrei on Shabbos, one should complete the blessing and then continue with the Shabbos Amidah.

2 Comments

  1. Tehillim 35:10 All my bones shall say: ‘L-rd, who is like unto You, who delivers the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoils him?’

    Loved the dvar torah, the holistic approach, (not sure i enjoyed the story this time!)

    keep ’em coming…

    • The point of the story was that not to concentrate too much on the swaying, I have seen people who the mainstay of their Shmeoneh Esrei is the Shuckling. A friend of mine once said Kiddush Levanah in High School with much enthusiasm. When he concluded Reb Shmuel Kametsky asked so why do we say Kiddush Lavanah while standing, and the boy was clueless. The answer is part of the text of Kiddush Lavanah, but the boy focused on swaying rather than the words.

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