Wednesday, June 19, 2019 -
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Don’t take this sitting down

Dear Tzviling,

I went to a synagogue for the first time last Shabbat and I could not figure these people out. They couldn’t make up their minds if they wanted to sit or stand during the prayers. I mean I walk in while they are seated, then they stand up then back down, not just once but quite a few times. Standing or sitting: just make up your mind!

Also, is this why I should come to synagogue, just to go up and down?

Your column is the best!

— David Gold, online reader from The Bronx

Dear Dovid,

You make a good point. We do not go to a synagogue to go “up and down.” For that you go on a Stairmaster (not on Shabbos).

We go to a synagogue to daven (pray) with other Jews to Hashem. The prayers are more effective when praying with a minyan.

At certain times during the prayers, we are asked to stand due to the lofty nature of the prayer — the Amidah prayer is a good example. When we have a private audience with the king, we stand. Certainly, when we are talking to G-d, there is nothing wrong with standing during the entire prayer, but it is not necessary. Most people sit during the “non-standing” parts and stand during the “standing” parts.

Consider the following story which took place at the turn of the 20th century in the city of Chelm — the geographical center of all Jewish stories:

The Shteeble Shul was in a quandary. Every Friday night the same thing repeated itself. When the cantor would begin L’cho Dodi, a beautiful prayer welcoming the Shabbos queen, half of the congregation stood up, while the other half remained sitting. Week after week.

Half the shul is standing.

Half the shul is sitting.

Finally, Getzel, the president of the shul, said, “This is ridiculous. What is the custom? We either sit or we stand.” We have to get to the bottom of this. What is the shul’s custom?

Getzel came up with an ingenious plan.

“Let’s ask Melvin.”

Melvin was 98-years-old and was present when the shul was founded.

Surely, he would know the answer.

A delegation with a representative from both sides ceremoniously arrived at Mendel’s house and explained their question.

“Tell me,” shouts one of the sitters. “Is it not true that the custom was always to sit?”


With a smile, the stander says triumphantly, “Aha, you see, the custom is to stand, right?”


“No?’ they both shout, “Do you know every single Friday night, half the people sit, half the people stand, and everyone is shouting at each other?”

“That was always the custom,” chimes in Melvin.

SEND your questions to to be answered with wit, wisdom and humor by identical twins Rabbis Yisroel Engel (Denver) and Shloime Engel (Montreal) who share their combined 100 years of experience.

Copyright © 2011 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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