After reading some questions posted on here I found my self reviewing Hilkhoth Tefilah, mainly the halakha of the amidah. While reading i noticed something that I have read countless times yet never popped out at me. After one prays the amidah we are instructed to preform hishtahhawayah (full body prostration) while saying tehhinoth (private supplications). In this part the halakha states that ones face must be flat on the ground and only turned to the side if one “is as righteous as Joshua”:

“ וְאֵין אָדָם חָשׁוּב רַשָּׁאי לִפֹּל עַל פָּנָיו, אֵלָא אִם כֵּן הוּא יוֹדֵעַ בְּעַצְמוֹ שְׁהוּא צַדִּיק כִּיהוֹשׁוּעַ; אֲבָל מַטֶּה הוּא פָּנָיו מְעַט, וְאֵינוּ כּוֹבֵשׁ אוֹתוֹ בַּקַּרְקָע." M"T Hilkoth Tefilah 5:14

“An important person is not permitted to fall on his face unless he is certain that he is as righteous as Yehoshua. Rather, he should tilt his face slightly, but not press it to the ground.” M"T Hilkoth Tefilah 5:14

So what exactly does this mean? Why Yehoshua Ben-Nun and why is his righteousness used for this particular halakha as a bench mark? Is there something in our mesora that links these two concepts?

EDIT: It was brought to my attention that most contributing members to Mi Yodeya hold by the S”A (of various editions) and most likely do not perform our more ancient practices of tefilah. So here are some pictures to help clarify my question.

Face flat on the ground (as the majority of yehudhim are supposed to do) picture of a man in talis and tefillin, laying flat on the ground, with his arms stretched out in front of him

Face off to the side ( I couldn’t find an exact picture of this, since no one does this now a days, but you can see how the mans head is tilted in compared to the boys. Just imagine his body fully stretched out)

A man and a boy laying on the floor next to each other, wearing talleisim. The boy is lying as the man in the last picture is, while the man in this picture is lying down with his head resting, tilted to the left, on his right arm.

** They are on ceramic tiles NOT stone **

  • 1
    Your quote and your summary of the Halachah state the opposite to one another. One of them is incorrect.
    – Seth J
    Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 1:06
  • related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/9285/759
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 1:27
  • @SethJ What do you mean?
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 1:31
  • I can't explain on mobile. If I get a chance when I'm at a real computer tomorrow, I'll explain, unless it's fixed by then. Read it and it should be evident.
    – Seth J
    Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 3:26
  • @SethJ Sorry could you clarify your first statemented?
    – Qoheleth
    Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 19:49

2 Answers 2


The source of the Rambam's ruling is Taanis 14b:

אמר ר' אלעזר אין אדם חשוב רשאי ליפול על פניו אלא אם כן נענה כיהושע בן נון שנאמר (יהושע ז, י) ויאמר ה' אל יהושע קום לך למה זה אתה נופל על פניך

R. Elazar said: A important person should not fall upon his face unless he is confident that he will be answered like Yehoshua, as it is written, And the Lord said unto Joshua. ‘Get up; why do you fall on your face?’

Since the law is expounded from a narative regarding Yehoshua, the Rambam brings him as an example.

  • 2
    :-) Guess you beat me by four minutes
    – Michoel
    Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 1:28
  • PERFECT! exactly what i was looking for. Thank you Michoel
    – Qoheleth
    Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 19:49

The Rambam is referencing a Gemara (Megillah 22b) which says:

אמר רבי אלעזר, אין אדם חשוב רשאי ליפול על פניו אלא אם כן נענה כיהושע בן נון, דכתיב +יהושע ז:י+ ויאמר ה' אל יהושע קם לך [למה זה אתה נפל על פניך]‏

Rabbi Elazar said: An important person is not allowed to fall on his face unless he is [sure to be] answered like Yehoshua bin Nun, as it says (Joshua 7:10): And the LORD said unto Joshua: 'Get thee up; wherefore, now, art thou fallen upon thy face?

  • This reminds me of a joke.
    – Seth J
    Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 3:27
  • 1
    But this doesn't really explain the reason. It just puts the question on the Gemara. Michoel explains the reason, though. Except it kind of raises more questions, for me, at least.
    – Seth J
    Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 3:30
  • @SethJ I don't see what explanation you are referring to. (And what joke?)
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 3:32

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .