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We bow in the Amidah as it says in Sh O, O Ch 113 (1)

These are the blessings at which we bow: In the Shemoneh Esrei at the prayer of Avot and at the end, In Modim in the beginning and at the end.

I was told in a shiur that the purpose of bowing is to give homage. If so, the obvious questions are: why only these two blessings and why at the beginning and the end.

So my questions are:

(a) what is the purpose of the bowing in the Amida

(b) how does this reason explain why bowing is only for Avos and Modim

(c) why at the beginning and the end of these blessings?

  • I think bowing emanates from the concept of Moshe bowing before G-d when he prayed for forgiveness for the Golden Calf. There are various forms of tefilla including bowing, prostrating, falling on the face, etc. It seems that just bowing is the "least" level of the others. Moshe, of course, was not the only one to bow / kneel, etc. when praying. – DanF Aug 14 '17 at 17:59
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Wonderful question.

(a) many reasons have been proposed for bowing

  • "Physically lowering oneself before Hashem shows humility, and is an integral part of prayer [...] our Sages were very specific about how we should bow down in order to express appropriate humility, since excessive displays can in fact be a sign of arrogance" (see torah.org)
  • "One reason is to show subservience, such as when we bow to a king, or when the kohen would bow in the Beis Hamikdash." (see bilvavi)
  • "The Gemara says that when a person bows, he has to bend until his head is positioned opposite his heart. The depth behind this is that we have to integrate our “head” — our mind’s knowledge — with our heart; we must extend our mind’s knowledge into our heart. Thus, when we bow in Shemoneh Esrei, we are trying to impress upon ourselves two things: we want to nullify ourselves to the Creator in subservience, and we want to extend our mind’s knowledge into our heart." (see bilvavi)
  • "Like a servant departing from his master" in the fifth bow before "Oseh shalom bimromav" (see OU)

(b) on why Avot and Modim

  • R Eliezer Melamed explains "[our Sages] specifically chose those two berachot for they are the most important, and while reciting them one must try hard to concentrate properly" (I think he says physical movement helps "wake us up" - something I regularly experience)
  • re Avot, Tos. R Yehuda HeChasid and Tos. HaRosh explain this blessing marks our approach to the King at which time proper etiquette demands that we bow
  • re Modim, Maharal the theme of this blessing is our servitude to God, to Whom we are indebted and Whom we must thank for everything we have. Because this blessing expresses our servitude to God, it should be accompanied by bowing (references for this bullet and last from artscroll's notes to Brachot 34a)

Re (c) bowing at beginning and end of the blessing, I don't know yet and need to reflect more. Maybe it is the Jewish form of bowing in prayer.

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