Thursday, September 15, 2011

Word of the Day: Shuckle

If you don't know the word shuckle, you probably still know what it is! In fact, if you have been davening with an orthodox congregation for at least a few months, you probably already do it.

Shuckling is a swaying and/or rocking movement Jews tend to do while praying. It apparently comes from the Yiddish word that means "to shake." And despite how it's written, a lot of people pronounce shuckling with an extra syllable: "shuckle-ling." Both men and women shuckle, though women tend to shuckle more slowly than men and are more likely than men to shuckle side-to-side. For your convenience, Frum Satire has compiled a Guide to Shuckling Styles. (If you are easily offended, you should probably avoid his site.)

To me, shuckling seems like a form of movement meditation. I don't know much about meditation, but I do know that repetitive movements can help induce a meditative state. Using a different example, you probably know that children suffering from extreme stress can begin rocking back and forth. It's comforting, decreases anxiety, and gives an outlet for anxious energy. And over time, shuckling becomes a habit that you don't even realize you're doing. (While shuckling does exist in liberal congregations, it tends to be much less common and those who shuckle there tend to use the slower varieties.)

To prepare yourself for the High Holydays, Aish has made a video for Rosh Hashanah! Everybody's shuckling... (I suggest turning on the closed captioning for the second view unless you want to watch it a few times before figuring out what's going on.)


  1. I think many people don't realize that although it is very widespread today, it is originally a Chassidic practice that was strongly resisted by non-Chassidim. The counter argument was would you appear before a human king while squirming around so indecorously?

    In more Litvish communities you will still see many people who do not shuckle.

  2. I think shuckling can aid concentration and I like the idea of prayer being an 'embodied' experience. Of course, there is the question to what degree one should shuckle and at what point it becomes undignified - but I think this is a very personal issue :)

    This Good Life