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MAY A NOAHIDE PROSTRATE AND KNEEL TO G-D?

בס”ד

People who become Noahide and are accustomed to bending or kneeling in worship from their former religion notice that Jews do not do so. One can wonder why. In general, Jews pray standing or sitting, with a slight knee bend in some parts of the prayer from the Siddur – Jewish Prayerbook. The next question is whether it is appropriate for a Noahide to bow down or kneel. We will look at bowing to a Pillar and kneeling on a stone floor. Let us start with the first question: why don’t Jews kneel down?

Why Jews don’t prostrate themselves in everyday prayer?

Except for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, when Jews kneel on the floor to pray to God [they always kneel on a towel, taking care not to kneel or prostrate themselves on a stone floor], they do not kneel or prostrate themselves every day in prayer.  This is directly related to Leviticus 26:1, which states:

לֹֽא־תַעֲשׂ֨וּ לָכֶ֜ם אֱלִילִ֗ם וּפֶ֤סֶל וּמַצֵּבָה֙ לֹֽא־תָקִ֣ימוּ לָכֶ֔ם וְאֶ֣בֶן מַשְׂכִּ֗ית לֹ֤א תִתְּנוּ֙ בְּאַרְצְכֶ֔ם לְהִֽשְׁתַּחֲוֺ֖ת עָלֶ֑יהָ כִּ֛י אֲנִ֥י ד’ אֱלֹקיכֶֽם׃

You shall not make idols for yourself, and you shall not erect for yourselves a statue or a pillar, and in your land you shall not emplace a flooring stone upon which to prostrate oneself – for I Hashem am your G-d.[1]

The verse above forbids the construction of statues or pillars. This is noteworthy since Jacob did it while worshiping G-d, as Genesis 28:18 states:

Early in the morning, Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on the top of it.[2]

When G-d noticed that the non-Jewish peoples were approaching idolatry in this manner, He forbade it from the Jewish people, because G-d detested it. (Deuteronomy 16:22)

The above verse also forbids prostrating yourself flat-out on a stone floor, even if you are worshiping the One G‑d.* Our Sages extended this prohibition to [the Jewish people] including kneeling.[3]

*  Rashi on Leviticus 26:1:3

להשתחות עליה TO PROSTRATE YOURSELVES UPON IT, not even to the L-rd, since prostration involves stretching forth of hands and feet (the highest form of adoration) and Scripture forbids doing so outside the Temple (Megillah 22b)

Are Noahides allowed to prostrate or kneel before G-d?

The answer is: ‘yes’…’ but’…, as we can read in “The Divine Code”[4]: “It is permissible for a non-Jew to prostrate to G-d, whether his doing so in prayer or not. If he prostrates to G-d when he is not praying, he should do it in a manner of honor and awe. And when he bows down to G-d, he should not include in this prostration any words other than prayer, thanks, or praise to G-d

Non-Jews were not warned for: “you shall not emplace a flooring stone upon which to prostrate oneself”. So a non-Jew may bow down and prostrate to G-d in any decent place…, and on any floor [including a stone floor], but it is forbidden to designate a ‘specific’ stone, floor tile, or other fixed object to be bowed down up.[5]

Jewish people are prohibited from both things ( to set up a pillar and to prostrate oneself on a stone) because: “The pagans would customarily place a stone before a false deity so that they could prostrate themselves upon it. Therefore, this practice is not followed in the worship of God.”[6]

We read in “Sefer HaMitzvot” the negative Commandments 11 and 12, which state:

That He [G-d] prohibited us [the Jewish people] from making a pillar to which we attach ourselves and honor, even if it positioned to serve G-d upon it. And this is because it appears like idolatry, since this is what they would do – build a pillar and place an idol on it.

That He [G-d] prohibited us [ the Jewish people] from making a stone that is designed to bowing upon, even if this was for [bowing to] G-d, may He be blessed. And this too is because it resembles idolatry, since they would thus make a craftily decorated rock in front of the image, and bow down upon it to that image.

Because it looks to be idolatry, the temptation for those who [possibly] witness it is enormous to grant sanctity to the pillar or the stone floor and then worship it in a form of idolatry themselves.

Conclusion

Noahides may prostrate and kneel before G-d. However, if the preceding warnings are heeded, one may wonder if it is prudent.

By Angelique Sijbolts

Sources:

[1] ArtScroll
[2] ArtScroll
[3] Chabad Article: Do Jews Kneel in Prayer? by Baruch S. Davidson
[4] The Divine Code by Rabbi Moshe Weiner 4th edition p. 81
[5] The Divine Code by Rabbi Moshe Weiner 4th edition p. 147
[6] Avodat Kochavim – Chapter 6:6


Texts: Sefaria.org

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