In Ezra 9.5, there is a reference to Ezra 'spreading his hands unto G-d'. Similarly, Solomon 'spreads forth his hands towards heaven' (2 Chronicles 6.13) and subsequently addresses G-d.

In line with the non-corporeality of G-d, these gestures couldn't be pointing to a direction or physical orientation where G-d resides. In that case, what is the meaning of these quotes which might seem to imply a gesture 'toward' G-d?


This "action" is part of the "kavanah" process. We create a "Dwelling place for the Holy One, blessed be He in the lower realms". This is accomplished through the mitzvot being fulfilled on the level of thought, speech and action. This idea of raising the hands is also repeated in connection with the blessing of the Kohanim, who also raise their hands. It is also performed when you wash before making the blessing of HaMotzi over bread.

Each of the joints of the fingers corresponds to a particular sephirah. Right hand to the side of Chesed. Left hand to the side of Gevurah. When the hands are raised, according to most opinions, they don't get raised above the head. This has an implication that the action is at the point of interface between what is "below" the level of intellect and what is "above" the level of intellect. In particular with the blessing of the Kohanim it is drawing from what is above the level of intellect and drawing this into the world, what is "below intellect".

  • It sounds like you agree that there is no point in pointing upward as a reference to Hashem. In that case there's more to answer. Abaye and Rava pointed up to show to whom we are Bentching, and this was praised by Rabbah. We also find the term Avinu Shebashamayim. What about Yoshev Baseiser Elyon? – HaLeiVi Sep 22 '15 at 1:37
  • Thank you both for this discussion. I'd be interested to see any links/sources to the Abaye and Rava, and any other opposing views on this matter. – Rem Dav Nan Sep 24 '15 at 20:39
  • @HaLeiVi I didn't say anything like you are suggesting. Rather, there is a system, an order to the universe, to all of creation. What is often called in Torah, "מערכת אלקות". What relates to the fingers and raising them up to a specific height has particular meaning according to Torah. – Yaacov Deane Sep 27 '15 at 0:26
  • sources? [char] – mevaqesh Dec 27 '16 at 22:01
  • How about Sefer Ma'arechet Elokut for starters. Regarding concepts behind Birkat Kohanim, try Sefer V'Ani Avarachem which deals exclusively with that subject. Concerning the finger discussion, try Sefer Chayei Olam HaBa by Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, Siddur Tefillah mi'Kol HaShanah by Rabbi Shabtai of Rashkov, Even Shoham by Rabbi Yosef Tzayach and the many sections of Zohar which discuss hands. – Yaacov Deane Dec 27 '16 at 22:15

The Rambam explains that the less physical your perception the closer it is to understanding Hashem. He explains that the darkness said to surround Hashem is our own darkness because of our physicality.

The higher you go the more you are relating to the pure and non-physical. Above us are the stars, who are more constant and less composite. This is an existence which is less physical than us. Beyond that and further from the world, it gets less and less physical. This leaves it as purely and only spiritual. This is what the Gemara in Chagiga is describing when it discusses the heavenly levels. The Maharal explains that this is why we jump by 'Kadosh', as a sign of rising from this world which is the definition of holiness.

  • Not exactly sure what "the less physical your perception the closer it is to understanding Hashem. The higher you go the more you are relating to the pure and non-physical" means. Perhaps edit in which Rambam you are referring to. – mevaqesh Sep 20 '15 at 23:41
  • "The Maharal explains that this is why we jump by 'Kadosh', because away and above from this world is holy." Why is the space immediately above the ground less "physical"? – mevaqesh Sep 20 '15 at 23:41

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