Arnold Answers

Why do Orthodox Jews rock their heads and upper bodies when praying?

The nodding of the head and rocking of the upper body while praying is called davening, from the Yiddish word daven, meaning “to pray.” Jewish people pray through prayer books, and at certain points in their prayers, they begin to daven. This is based on Psalm 35:10, which states, “With all my bones I will praise you.” By moving in this way, Orthodox Jews believe all their bones are moving while they are praising the Lord. Biblically, however, praise does not come in the movement of the body, but from what we believe in our hearts. What we do in the external world is motivated by what is in our hearts.


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