Kings and Presidents, Bowing and Standing

Three thoughts on the American presidential transition.

(a) One of my favorite passages from the Talmud (Berakhot 34a) describes how one is supposed to bow when saying the Amidah (most important Jewish prayer, recited while standing). Regular people are supposed to bow a total of four┬átimes in the Amidah. A High Priest, however, should bow 18 (or 19) times in the Amidah. And a King of Israel should bow at the beginning of the Amidah and remain bowed for the whole prayer and not stand straight until the Amidah is over. In other words, the more power and authority and prestige you have been given, the more bowing to God you’re going to need to do.

(b) The pictured quote is by Franklin Delano Roosevelt (photo from the FDR Memorial in Washington DC) — reminding us that the President is hired by the American people and lives in a house that is owned by ‘all’ the American people.

(c) My fervent prayer is that the next occupant of the White House will develop the wisdom and emotional maturity to take the messages of these two teachings to heart each day and be able to bow with humility before God and to stand with humility before the American people. (In Jewish tradition it is permissible to pray for miracles — it is just not permissible to expect them.)

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About the Author
Rabbi Robert Scheinberg is the rabbi of the United Synagogue of Hoboken, a teacher and musician, and an adjunct faculty member at the Jewish Theological Seminary.
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