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I was told that shuckeling (sp?) is an indication of the love-fear relationship that we have with God. You move forward showing that you want to be close to God and then backward out of fear of his awesomeness.

But then I was also told that for the amidah you should stand perfectly still.

Not sure how to resolve these two. Furthermore I find shuckeling to be distracting, but swaying side to side seems to help me concentrate.

What is the optimal thing to do?

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Whatever helps you concentrate the best. –  Double AA Jul 2 '12 at 20:04
    
Swaying from side to side probably fills the halachic opinions requring להתנועע just as well as swaying forwards and backwards does. I don't think the word implies any particular direction. –  Chanoch Jul 4 '12 at 0:48
    
The explanation you heard for shukling is post facto. –  avi Jul 5 '12 at 10:46
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4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Sources that support Shukeling: Mishna Berura (95:7), Magen Giborim, Zohar (Pinhas), Baal HaTurim, Kuzari, Rama (Orach Chaim 48), Keneset HaGedola (Siman 95), Menorat HaMaor (3:3:12), Sefer Hasidim (Siman 57), Peri Hadash (Siman 95).

Sources that don't support/against Shukeling: Teshuvot HaRama' (Siman 113), Hida, Rabbi Yisrael Seruk, Derech Haim (115b), Kaf HaHaim (48:7), Shaloh Amud Hatefilah (2:203a), personal story of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein

Rav Yitzchak Yosef Shelita and Rav Mordechai Eliyahu write that if it helps one be Mechawen then they may Shuckle.

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I'm pretty sure the Rama said it before the Mishna Berura. –  Double AA Jul 3 '12 at 0:38
    
@DoubleAA the Mishna Berura doesn't necessarily agree with the Rama. It happens to be that in a preceding Siman the Mishna Berura says not to Shukel, but then later retracts based on the Magen Giborim. –  Hacham Gabriel Jul 3 '12 at 1:01
    
I didn't say he did. I do think that you are neglecting to bring redemption to the world. –  Double AA Jul 3 '12 at 1:52
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Oh, here it is. Google FTW. –  jake Jul 3 '12 at 3:51
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<Off-topic conversation deleted. Feel free to take it up in chat.> –  Isaac Moses Jul 3 '12 at 21:49
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http://ohr.edu/ask_db/ask_main.php/142/Q1/

Each person should do whatever would make him concentrate better. Both Shuckling and standing still, are legitimate ways of prayer.

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The Vilna Gaon writes critically about shuckling (don’t have the source now). –  Avrohom Yitzchok Jul 2 '12 at 21:54
    
So do many of the Chabad Rebbeim. See Kuntres HaTefillah by the Rebbe Rashab. –  user1292 Jul 3 '12 at 3:57
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Rama, introduction to OC siman 48 seems to say that it's a good thing to shuckle, but that it's not required.

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Rav Chaim of Volozhin (#23, quoting the Shel"ah) says that the only reason to purposefully 'shuckle' while praying is to avoid sleeping.

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Though he does continue that it is certainly good for someone who does it naturally –  b a Dec 30 '12 at 5:25
    
@ba I think he means if someone sways out of organic extreme kavana then it is not the bad kind of swaying, ie he rejects all the other reasons for swaying (like trees, כל עצמותי etc.). –  Double AA Dec 30 '12 at 5:30
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