The Time and Place to Take a Knee

Saturday, 4 September, 2021 - 11:49 pm



One of the highlights of the High Holiday prayers is when we bow down to the floor. It's the only time in the year that we do this. While we often bow our heads in prayer, only on the High Holidays do we fall to our knees, face down. If you walked into shul just at that moment, you would think everyone had left. But really they are all flat on the ground, bowing to G-d.

This was done regularly in the Temple in Jerusalem. The Divine presence was so palpable there, the holiness so overwhelming, a visitor to the Temple found themselves bowing to the floor almost involuntarily, overcome by the awesomeness of G-d. 

But since the destruction of the Temple, such revelations don't happen every day. So we don't bow to the floor in our prayers. Except on the High Holidays. 

On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, a hint of holiness from the Temple comes to us in our shuls, wherever in the world we may be. The Divine presence is felt on those days, called the Days of Awe for this very reason. So we bow to the floor. 

But what happens if you can't be in shul? What if for personal reasons, or due to government restrictions, you cannot congregate, and need to pray at home? Do you miss out on this awesome moment?

No you don't miss out. You bow to the ground in your own home. The awe comes to you, wherever you are. Your house is the Temple. You are the High Priest. And the presence of G-d surrounds you. 

We would rather be in shul. Better yet, we'd rather be in the Holy Temple. But until then, we can make a home for G-d, in our own home.

So get ready to transform your home into a Temple. When you say the prayers and bow to the ground, you are inviting holy energy into your home, a holiness that will stay with you forever. Be prepared. Make sure you have a prayer book with instructions. Make sure you set aside time and space conducive for contemplation. And make sure you clean the floor. 

Good Shabbos and Good Yomtov, may you be written and sealed for a good, sweet, happy and healthy year!
Rabbi Moss

Taz Orach Chaim 113:3
Likkutei Torah Mizmor Shir Chanukas Habayis (Vezos Habracha 98b). Interestingly, it is customary to recite this maamar upon moving into a new home.

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