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Immediately before the "על חטא" prayer on יום כפור, we say a paragraph that says God knows everything. It includes this passage:

אתה חפש כל חדרי בטן ובחן כליות ולב

In my own translation:

You search all the abdomen's [or: uterus's] rooms and check kidneys and heart.

I know the kidneys are considered the seat of counsel and the heart the seat of feelings and sometimes of thoughts. (See almost any chapter of Mishle, for example.) But what does the abdomen/uterus (בטן) represent, or why do we say God searches it?

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I've removed the parenthetical about Ashkenazim, since Sephardim say a paragraph containing that phrase too. (In fact, Sephardim say that paragraph during Tachanun every Monday and Thursday.) –  Chanoch Sep 15 '13 at 10:33
@Chanoch many thanks. –  msh210 Sep 15 '13 at 15:04

2 Answers 2

The phrase, "חפש כל חדרי בטן" comes from Proverbs 20:27:

נר ה' נשמת אדם חפש כל חדרי בטן

"The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD, searching all the inward parts." (JPS 1917)

The word, בטן, is often used simply to mean "belly" (and is therefore associated with pregnancy), but in this context it means the innermost aspects of the human being. Thus, ibn EZra understands it to refer to the heart, writing "והוא רמז ללב שהוא חדר המחשבות" - "and this alludes to the heart, which is the chamber of thoughts".

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there are various idioms in Hebrew that represent a persons hidden thoughts.
תחושת בטן - is a hunch
מוסר כליות - is the act of giving someone an admonishment.
anything to do with the heart is basically inner thoughts.

if God is בוחן כליות ולב, it means he can examin our inner thoughts

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