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    Praying & swaying – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Why do people sway whilst they pray and learn?

    Israeli soldier prayingA. Religious activity often goes with physical movement. When the Torah was given, “The people saw it… and they shook” (Ex. 19:15). The Psalmist says, “All my bones declare, ‘O Lord, who is like You?'” (Psalm 35:10). He also says, “Rejoice with trembling” (Psalm 2:11).

    Passages such as these illustrate the notion of bringing bodily rhythm into prayer.

    Yehudah HaLevi adds a pragmatic consideration: when people studied from large folio books they leant over to see the words and developed the habit of swaying during Torah learning.

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