How Do Jews Pray?

June 6, 2007 § 35 Comments

Let me tell you a little secret… I have been waiting nearly 6 minutes to make a post like this, after looking over a popular post that I wrote a while back entitled, How Do Muslims Pray? I was going to hold onto it since I published something earlier on Muslims and health-care reform. But I thought this was an interesting topic and very different from the health-care reform issue and perhaps a bit more entertaining. So where do we start?

Well, lets start with the basics. Muslims believe that Ibrahim/Abraham (a.s.) is a prophet of Islam. The Lord of the Worlds says to the believers,

“O ye who believe! bow down, prostrate yourselves, and adore your Lord; and do good; that ye may prosper.” (22:077)

He also commands,

“And strive hard in (the way of) Allah, (such) a striving a is due to Him; He has chosen you and has not laid upon you an hardship in religion; the faith of your father Abraham; He named you Muslims before and in this, that the Messenger may be a bearer of witness to you, and you may be bearers of witness to the people; therefore keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate and hold fast by Allah; He is your Guardian; how excellent the Guardian and how excellent the Helper!” (22:078)

This is how Muslims find their origins in the monotheistic tradition and why Islam is one of the three Abrahamic faiths. However, we believe that Islam of todays Muslims was reestablished by the prophet Muhammad (a.s.) after a succession of warnings by prophets whom were guided by God and warned their communities against wrong-doing,

“So We have taught thee the inspired (Message), ‘Follow the ways of Abraham the True in Faith, and he joined not gods with Allah.'” (16:123)

It is in the likeness of Ibrahim/Abraham and the following prophets (a.s.) that Muhammad (a.s.) reestablished the ritual prayer for Muslims. As we are told in the Qur’an,

“Those were some of the prophets on whom Allah did bestow His Grace,- of the posterity of Adam, and of those who We carried (in the Ark) with Noah, and of the posterity of Abraham and Israel of those whom We guided and chose. Whenever the Signs of (Allah) Most Gracious were rehearsed to them, they would fall down in prostrate adoration and in tears.” (19:058)

Muslims believe that this practice of prostration was eventually lost due to vain pursuits of those generations after those earlier prophets,

“Now there hath succeeded them a later generation whom have ruined worship and have followed lusts. But they will meet deception.” (19:59)

However, perhaps among those whom have lost their original practice of prostration we can find remnants of this ancient prophetic tradition with the People of the Book (Jews and Christians). There is a book entitled, To Pray as a Jew by Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin which is a guide of various Jewish ritual prayers. Which surprisingly shows a ritual prayer that is very familiar!

jews-2.jpg jews-1.jpg

Unfortunately, this ritual prayer, the author explains was done by the ancient Jews and has been removed from contemporary practice. Although, the author suggests that this tradition of falling prostrate is still practiced on rare occasion,

“In most contemporary congregations very few people keep to the tradition of falling prostrate. Sometimes it is only the Prayer leader and the rabbi who does so. In more traditional congregations, however, some worshipers, men and women, will join the Prayer Leader and rabbi in the act of prostrating themselves. In Israeli synagogues, the practice is more widespread than in synagogues elsewhere. Since this is a position that we are unaccustomed to, one who has never done this before might very well demur. But once accomplished, the experience provides such a spiritual uplift that one looks forward to repeating it. Those willing to try this ancient ritual form on the rare occasions that call for it might welcome the following diagrams of the correct procedure”

In conclusion, I must say that it is interesting to read this jewish prayer guide and find that the ancient Jews like Muslims also performed an ablution/wash and also a call for the ritual Prayer. Perhaps, In a later installment of the, How Do ___ Pray? series we can find some interesting facts about the origins of Christian ritual prayers and ancient practices.

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§ 35 Responses to How Do Jews Pray?

  • rbarenblat says:

    Baraka pointed me to this post, and I thought I’d weigh in, if you don’t mind.🙂 Many Jews do still prostrate during prayer; we do it during a prayer we call the Great Aleinu (“Aleinu” means “it is incumbent upon us,” and the prayer continues “…to praise the God of all…”) The Aleinu is recited three times daily, in our daily prayer; the Great Aleinu, which adds passages about God’s sovereignty, is recited only on Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement.)

    I’ve only been doing this prostration for the last, oh, maybe five years — before that I was unaware of the custom. It is one of the most spiritually powerful moments of my year, especially because I’m aware that it mirrors the way our Muslim cousins pray daily.

  • SEYFETTİN says:

    rbarenblat,

    Thank you for reading and commenting on this post. And of course I do not mind🙂 . I am so glad you gave us an anecdote from your personal experience it’s one thing to read a book, but its something else to speak/write to someone who is directly related to a given item. So thanks again… oh and thank you as well Baraka, you are a class act!

    baraka’allah feekum

  • soccer dad says:

    In the absence of the Holy Temple (Beit Hamikdash), Jews no longer prostrate themselves on a regular basis. They do prostrate themselves on the High Holidays during the Aleinu prayer, as Rachel recounts, and during the prayers that tell of the service in the Temple.

    (Orthodox) Jews still wash before prayers and before the Priestly Blessing (Birkat Cohanim).

  • Baraka says:

    Salaam,

    This was such an incredible insight into shared customs and origins – thank you for posting it!

    Warmly,
    Baraka

  • […] Hakim Abdullah @ Wasalaam – How do Jews Pray […]

  • Abdur Rahman says:

    Salaams Hakim,

    Ma sha Allah. Nice post (as ever).

    Abdur Rahman

  • Hakim says:

    wa alaikum as-salaam,

    Abdur Rahman, thank you for the comment and the support, I will be reading your article shortly.

    maa’ salamah

  • Rabbi Brian says:

    Once before I delivered a sermon on Jewish thoughts of the afterlife, I asked the congregation to take part of an informal poll.. I asked those who believed in life after death to raise their hands, then those who didn’t believe in life after death to raise their hands, finally, those who didn’t know what they believed to raise their hands… When I started the sermon I commented, “this is why when any of you ask me, ‘what do Jews believe’ about a certain subject, I can’t give you an easy answer.

    The same is true about prayer as risaperson pointed out.

    There is no ONE answer.

    What I can add though is that Jew, by and large, aren’t great at spontaneous prayer like our Christian brothers and sisters do. Jews (again, by and large) are reticent to pray a prayer aloud that is not a rote one…

    Me, I’m of the opinion that God doesn’t want to hear the rote prayers from me as much as God wants to see me create artwork or do something else godly like that…

    With love,

    Rabbi Brian

    Religion-Outside-The-Box

  • Hakim says:

    Rabbi Brian,

    You said,

    “I asked those who believed in life after death to raise their hands, then those who didn’t believe in life after death to raise their hands, finally, those who didn’t know what they believed to raise their hands… “

    Which is very surprising to me, not that you would ask the question, but that the question was not rhetorical. It seems odd – to me – that one would believe everything necessary to get one to the prescribed place (beit knesset), during the prescribed period (shabbat) and not believe in the reason behind the prescription (gehenna).

    Could you explain a little bit more about this?

  • 2jay says:

    As-Salamu’alaikum Hakim,
    Thank You very much for the Trackback in my blog. I read this post with much enthusiasm. Yet to read more of the others. You have a nice blog with interesting articles.

  • suki says:

    Salam to you
    Good post!

  • gess says:

    As’Salamu Aleikum Dear Brother.

    Nice to see you back!

  • Oceanguy says:

    Hakim,

    I’m not a Rabbi but I’ll take a chance and try to explain a Jewish view of an afterlife.

    We Jews believe the soul is immortal. But we also believe that the greatness of G-d is beyond our earthly understanding. Our task as Jews is to honor G-d and do our best to make the most of our lives here on Earth and to do whta we can to make life better for the generation that follows us. It really doesn’t matter what we believe about the world to come, the reality will take care of itself.

    G-d has only given us hints of what the state of our souls is after or between lives here on Earth. It is better for us to concentrate on preparing the world for Moshiac, than on speculating on what our souls will be experiencing when we leave this life.

    Our meaning is in living this life as best we can. We are tasked with making the best out of the gifts G-d has given us while here. We recognize that the nature of G-d is completely incomprehensible to us, so how can we possibly imagine what awaits us when we die? G-d is greater than our earthly understanding, and he has only given us vague hints of what will come.

    Just as a small child cannot understand the rules or the lessons a parent tries to teach, we cannot fully understand G-d’s instructions… but we try. We have been given some specific instructions, but there is no way we can really understand why. All we can do is be the best person we can be, the afterlife will take care of itself.

  • therapydoc says:

    I appreciate this post. I’ve heard Muslims referred to as “cousins” to the Jews. It drives me crazy, as a family therapist, that there’s so much enmity between us.

  • Hakim says:

    wa ‘alaikum as-salaam

    “Nice to see you back!”

    Thanks sis… by the way you still have all of the same privileges to the site… feel free… ok.

  • Hakim says:

    wa ‘alaikum as-salaam to suki and 2Jay. OceanGuy and Therapydoc I appreciate your comments thank you very much.

  • […] Here. Powered by Gregarious (21) […]

  • Assalamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah
    I pray that you are in the best of health & imaan.
    This is a short message to notify you that this entry has been selected
    for publishing on I J T E M A; a
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  • […] Abdullah presents How Do Jews Pray? posted at Hakim […]

  • Vlad (Yosef Shalom) says:

    Shalom aleichem, as-salaamu aleikum friends,
    I hope it is OK to add my thoughts and another note on the topic as well. One other very nice parallelism between Jewish and Muslim prayer is a part of the ending prayer which goes at the end of the Amidah, or standing prayer. This small prayer is called the “Oseh Shalom” (Make, or send, peace; the same root words as my hebrew name, Yosef Shalom), where we ask G-d to make peace for all of us, our whole religious community, and the whole world. As we say the words of the prayer, we look to our right and to our left, then bow forward. This strikes me as very similar to the closing of salat, where the as-salaamu aleikum is given to the right and to the left. Additionally, the Amidah, being standing prayer, reminds me that salat also has a considerable standing component.
    I really enjoy praying with my local Muslim community, since I have in the last few years (re)discovered for myself the Jewish custom of tahanun (prostration) during prayer. It’s interesting to note that the Yemenite Jews seem to conserve this custom, calling it hishTahawayya (see http://www.chayas.com/qidah.htm for description and photos), and in accordance to 4-5 biblical passages dealing with kneeling and lifting the hands in prayer, also seem to parallel the Muslim position of holding the hands before the face.
    Sorry for such a long post–but the topic fascinates me. Rachel B, great to see your post up top–funny to notice again another circle in which we have crossed! l’shalom, ma’as-salaam to all—–Vlad

  • Rachel says:

    I wanted to thank you for this site. As a Christian joining my Muslim Brothers and Sisters in fasting for Ramadan for my second year, I try to study my bible as well as all three monotheistic religions. It is wonderful spirit here that we can share and learn from each other as our wonderful heavenly father molds and teaches each of us as we search for truth. As a Christian it has been my practice to pray when ever, how ever, but this site plus my reading has encouraged me to try some prayers in prostrate. I thank you and hope to enjoy future reading as well.

  • […] prayer.  Not unusual as I have read somewhere that Muslim prayer is very similar to what ancient Jewish and Christian ritual prayer (Mk1:35; Mt26:39; Lk6:12;Heb5:7)was […]

  • mikha'el says:

    I do prostration for naphillath ‘appayyim at almost every prayer. It is halakhicly required to do so. Thos who don’t are trangressing.

  • Ahmad Firdaus says:

    Masha’Allah! This is a very insightful post. How inspiring to note the parallels between the religion of Judaism and Islam and how encouraging to read the positive spirit with which everyone speaks on this blog.

    Truly, God is great. I hope and pray that we will all continue to enjoy our similarities and share our faith.

  • WhatsAbd says:

    Dude!!!
    I jus came across your post here… And damn its awesome…
    I’ve done research on Jews before years back but never had access to that many information because the jew community here in Singapore is very small and I am unable to get access into synagogues openly

  • […] sich eingehend mit der Theorie dahinter befassen. In den Kommentaren wies ich schon darauf hin: Saifuddin hat das Thema ähnliches Beten aus islamischer Sicht beleuchtet und auch Bilder des Jom Kippur […]

  • Ali says:

    selamün aleyküm

    cok guzel bir site tesekkurler

  • Omer says:

    Salam o Aliakum, Be in Peace all of you

    Mr. Saiffudiin you have made a mistake which i want to point out with due respect. Islam was not founded by Abraham or Muhammad or any other prophet or person. It was founded by God himself. It is a divine religion. It has been along man since Adam. The basics are the same of all sharias of Islam. For instance the kalima of Adam was. Allah is one and Adam is his prophet. Jesus , Allah is one and Jesus is his prophet, Noah, Allah is one and Jesus is his prophet, etc etc. Oneness of Allah, The day of Judgement and Satin is man’s enemy. All of these three things were the same in all the sharias of all Prophets. Those sharias were for limited time and nation. While Muhammad’s shariah was for all mankind because He is the last prophet and no more Prophet is to come. So founder of Islam is Allah.

  • Saifuddin says:

    Bismillahirahmanirahim

    wa alaykum selam. Thank you for correcting that grave mistake Omer.

    -Saifuddin

  • Raseena says:

    Assalamu alaikum

    I’m doing research on five major religions in India for a project I have to do as a requirement for an Islamic course.. I’m working on Judaism right now, and that’s how I came across this site. I was just wondering why Oceanguy used ‘G-d’ to refer to God, coz I saw it on another Jewish website as well.

  • Tayyaba says:

    As-Salaam Alaikum, and Shalom to my fellow brothers and sisters. I had goosebumps reading this blog and am soo very happy to see harmony and respectful discourse. I am shiite Muslim, but grew up with many Jewish friends. I even had the honor of going to Bar Mitzvahs and Bat Mitzvahs when younger. I have stayed in touch with my friends for almost 27 yrs!!!! I believe that media and others with horrible self-played agendas are creating so much hatred and animosity, that very few places exist where we can escape. I thank you for this blog!! May Allah(God) bless everyone with a true heart and those that understand that we are all from same family.

    Tayyaba

  • ryanww says:

    craaaaap sit dont tell u how jews pray

  • Sarah says:

    Raseena,
    Salam alaikum,
    According to Jewish beliefs, any document that contains God’s name becomes holy and cannot be destroyed. To avoid accidentally destroying a document with any of these names, Jews modify the spellings.

  • Ali Zulfiquar says:

    Both Jews and Muslims follow the same all mighty, God. I personally believe anybody who believes in one god is a Muslim . La ilaha ill a la. I still cannot figure out why Muslims and Jews fight . I think it is the satanic force that is making this animosity between the two basic same religion.

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