I seem to remember hearing an idea that the significance of bowing/prostrating oneself is that a human being differs from all other elements of creation in that a human being stands erect and walks on two feet, while no other animal does that. According to this understanding, when a person bows or prostrates himself, he is showing that his very humanity and existence is owed to something higher (hopefully, to God), and he breaks his "human posture" to show that without that he is like an animal.

What is the source for this idea or something similar to it?

  • What about penguins' walking stance?
    – Gary
    Sep 22 '18 at 23:08
  • @Gary I wasn't asking about the accuracy of this explanation, I was asking for the source. Sep 23 '18 at 6:18
  • Well, your question started out mentioning the significance of the stance as being unique to humans, and it's not...I was just figuring if Chazal mentions creatures with their umbilical cords still attached to the earth, maybe there's something mentioned about a penguin-like animal that was similar to humans in just that "unique" way you wrote in the question. Also, penguins do get on their bellies but not to pray(obviously), but to slide around.
    – Gary
    Sep 23 '18 at 14:34

"Kabbalicly"-wise (this idea is frequent in Ariz"l and his followers' books) the pose denotes an aspect of influence (משפיע - מקבל). Standing means משפיע while laying or leaning means מקבל.

This is pronounced in the Teffila - Krishm"A is read while sitting or laying and it signifies קבלת עול מלכות שמים, while Amida is recited while standing as Hashem is called then "ואתה קדוש יושב...", like we're influencing Hashem back.

This is also the way of teaching when the teacher stands and משפיע on the students that sit, and when one is called he stands and the teacher sits.

  • This doesn’t answer the question. He asked for a source, not the significance of the explanation. I don’t see a single Sefer quoted here. Oh, and a Rebbe is supposed to be sitting if his Talmidim are sitting (Megillah 21a, paskened by SA YD 246:9 and Rambam Hil. Talmud Torah 4:2).
    – DonielF
    Sep 23 '18 at 18:53
  • @DonielF I added a direction, I can't pinpoint a special Kabbalic book as this idea is all over all of Ariz"l's books. Your second comment is a much deeper about different views on Rav-Talmid interactions. The common one nowadays is one that I've mentioned. However from the Talmudic times there were many iterations based on different views, like כיבוד רב - Talmidim are standing and Rav sitting, all sitting (as בחי' חברים and not משפיע מקבל) and more. I would really like you to focus on the general idea of the answer instead of stinging at details.
    – Al Berko
    Sep 24 '18 at 18:35
  • @DonielF I disagree with your definition of "sources" - it can be a specific book and it can be a specific direction, like Talmud in general, Kabbalah, contemporary American Rabbis and more.
    – Al Berko
    Sep 24 '18 at 18:36
  • But if you don’t give me a source how am I supposed to look it up? “Talmud” doesn’t help anyone; “third Perek of Megillah” is at least something I can work with.
    – DonielF
    Sep 26 '18 at 2:17
  • @DonielF This concept is very widely known. If you really like it, you can try to speak to Rabbis that are familiar with Ari's works.
    – Al Berko
    Sep 26 '18 at 22:45

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