I was davening this past Shabbos in a Chabad where I noticed two kids imitating shuckels, they were clearly making fun of the few people in the room who knew what they were doing with regards to shuckling. I immediately slowed down from my regular medium pace to a slower one and thought about how I never really did a proper guide to shuckling – God usually grants me good ideas for posts on Shabbos morning and then he sends the angel to make me forget them all during havdalah. I took a look at the original guide to shuckeling which was more of an essay and not a guide.
Violent Shuckel: The violent shuckel is everything. You can really do whatever you want as long as it’s violent and there are lots of gesticulating motions involved. Usually the violent shuckel combined both side to side and forward aft motions, it seems as if the person davening can’t really figure out what they want to do, they just know they want to serve the lord with violence.
Arm swing: Some people sway their arms without actually swaying, I have always found this interesting. They feel the need to have their bodies still while they swing their arms back and forth.
Constipated: Why do people feel the need to look like they are constipated when they are davening or learning? I guess the look of seriousness, the squinted eyes and the bulging temples help with davening, I just hope the shuckeling and squeezing doesn’t cause them to lose sphincter control in the middle of modiim. You can’t daven in the same room as excrement — kal vachomer (insert thumb dip) you surely can’t daven with it in your pants. The fellow in the picture is imitating the Why Me God Constipated Shuckel.
YMCA: This may also be known as the classic “why me God” or the movie pose where the man is standing in a field with his hands raised like the Y in the YMCA song and it is usually raining as he wonders why terror has reigned upon him. The YMCA shuckel is typically done with a side to side slight sway, usually it is done without a siddur and it is usually done by FFB’s.
Fists hitting the air: Don’t step in front of these guys. They typically have a whole bunch of moves but the fists in the air is a biggie. This can be combined with a medium speed straight regular shuckel. Much of the time it is done with a face that appears to be constipated or gasping for air. If a siddur is used, it is typically placed on a shtender.
Women Shuckel too (sometimes): Women typically have two different shuckels. They either put their face into their siddur (typically looking down, but sometimes looking up) or they fold one arm across their chest for support of their other arm that is holding the siddur at eye level or even higher than eye level. I have been told that this way they can feel protected and one girl went so far to tell me it was because women were weak and didn’t have the strength to hold the typical artscroll siddur with one hand (in my hood she would have been slapped or dragged out of shul and thrown into the pile of burning bras and Israeli flags for saying such blasphemy.)
Side to side: The side to side sway is typical of spiritual types and BT’s. It takes a good coordination to pull it off and for this reason, many folks that do a side to side shuckel, tend to last only a few minutes before going back to the regular forward aft motion. Side to side shuckels are good for combing other hand motions and facial expressions into your shuckel.
Side to side with the stare: This is one of my favorite shuckels, it is typically done by folks who do not wish to daven, they just wish to stare around. They do a fairly quick side to side sans siddur and at every moment when they are about to fling to the other side they stare at whoever may be in their line of sight. Once in a while they find something that catches their attention and stop mid shuckel and kind of stare at whatever it is in the middle of a paused shuckel motion.
Push off the table: The table push is the lazy man’s shuckel. It is more like a pushup without actually pushing your entire body up. These are typically done by the older folks who daven at big personalized shtenders. The table push shuckel contains no emotion unless you happen to be sitting down. See my guide to the sit down shuckel post.
Pause for a moment to imitate tarretz: The tarretz shuckel may even be called the yeshivish shake in some places. It’s hard to explain in writing, but this is basically when some guy (must be yeshivish) is shuckeling pretty quickly, but pauses at the cusp of every shuckel to give himself this little shake, kind of like a lulav actually.
Super fast: Super fast shuckels usually don’t exist in modern orthodox shuls unless it’s a couple of kids having a shuckel race. Yeshivish folks who come into shul late typically go into the shuckel zone real quick to show their lack of hesitation when it comes to rushing shemona esrei to catch up with the tzibur.
Super fast with a pause: This always gets me. If you’re going to do a super fast shuckel, why pause in the middle of the flow. Are they trying to balance their thoughts? It really looks dizzying.
Lean on one leg and look bored: I did this shuckel, or shall I say shemona esrei stance for years. I would lean on one leg; look around at how many people had finished and when it was 3, suddenly half the high school would sit down.
Butter churn: It sounded like it could be a cool shuckel. You know two BT’s are talking and one says he does shemona esrei like his mama used to churn butter in their one room shack in the Appalachian hills
Wringing of the hands: I feel like kiruv rabbis are big into the hand wringing. They do it when they learn with you and they do when they shuckel. Hand wringing goes well with a side to side or medium, forward aft shuckel. I have also noticed that when they stop wringing their hands they usually go to the beard comb.
The peyos twirl: Chassidim always seem to be shuckling and twirling their greasy mikvah water filled peyos.
The beard comb: The beard comb is peaceful; it’s related to the peyos twirl and the hand wringing. It involves gently combing the beard while contemplating life and God.
Humbly Bent: Some folks feel the need to do shemona esrei like they do viduy, bent down and huddled over their siddur. Amazingly enough, this shuckel is usually down while making short but extremely fast forward aft motions.
Shtender lean: The shtender lean is done by old men, folks who like to cry and beard combers. It isn’t really a shuckel but more of a position. These people obviously have to have a shtender to lean over. Do not confuse the shtender leaners with bimah leaners, usually hockers that daven really fast so they can look around from the bimah’s center viewing point.
Definition of shuckling as per wikipedia:
Shuckling, from the Yiddish word meaning “to shake” (also written as shokeling) is the ritual swaying of Jewish worshippers during prayer, usually forward and back but also from side to side. This practice can be traced back to at least the eighth century, and possibly as far back as Talmudic times. It is believed to increase concentration and emotional intensity (Eisenberg 2004:360). In Chassidic lore, shuckeling is seen as an expression of the soul’s desire to abandon the body and reunite itself with its source, similar to a flame’s shaking back and forth as if to free itself from the wick (Tanya chapter 19).
The 12th century Jewish philosopher and poet Yehuda Halevi wrote that the habit began as a result of a shortage of books, forcing people to hover over a single codex laid on the ground, each one bending in turn to read a passage (The Kuzari, part II, para. 80).