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.
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.
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?
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.
One can pray with every limb in one’s body.
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.”
If one mistakenly began the weekday Shemoneh Esrei on Shabbos, one should complete the blessing and then continue with the Shabbos Amidah.