The Shmona esray shuffle:
You know those people that clear a huge area around them, and angrily grab a chair to put in front of them as if to box themselves into their own little room. They then proceed to do what I call the violent spin cycle shuckel, they sway back and forth usually in a forward motion, though I have seen some do it side to side, fast enough to give all those around them a soft breeze, albeit a smelly one sometimes and then they raise their clenched fists and shake them at eye level with their eyes clenched tightly shut and a grimace on their face as if they were constipated. Then you have the peaceful sawyers who sway and assume the Y in the YMCA dance pose, their outstretched arms bent slightly at the elbow, palms flat and extended into the air. You can almost hear them saying why me G-d, why me? They sway oblivious to the other daveners focused solely on the prayer at hand. How about the back and forth side to side sawyers, the gartel wearers usually assume this pose, it kinda looks like they are those folks who cannot really hoola-hoop but try it anyway, you know the hoola-hoop sway minus all the hip action that enables the hoop to spin. To a lesser extent the wacky Zionist NCSY types also frequently assume the more casual hoola-hoop sway.
Then there are the folks that do the traditional shuckel, back and forth at moderate speed but constantly ring their hands together as if they were doing the Health Department approved washing of hands for food service employees, they shuckel and ring their hands of the imaginary soap. How about the criers, the ones who always cry when they daven, their hands over their faces as if they were licht benching, the tears streaming down and other peoples mumbling muffled by the persons slight murmurs and occasional bawls as he remembers all the bad things he has done since maariv the previous night.
Then there are the folks that do not move at all, they stay perfectly still and when it comes to any bowing that needs to be done they do it as if they were meditating and trying not to disturb any of their followers, a slow smooth rather deep bow for the first couple brachos and then for modim a perfect 90 degree bend will suffice, and then at the end of the whole shebang they bow as they are stepping their three steps back and proceed to wait quietly for the repetition, these people obviously don’t have ADD.
Don’t forget the women who always seem to do the same as all the other women. Kind of like having the same menstrual cycles when they live together I feel as if the confined space behind the mechitza causes women to all daven exactly the same. Across the mechitza there are all types of shuckel poses, but go to the womens side and there is generally two. There is the siddur in face, combined with the gradual hoola-hoop swaying back and forth ever so slightly producing a small ruffle in their skirts as they go from side to side. Then there a similar shuckel except for the height at which the siddur is held is normally lower just below eye level. Higher then the men who hold their siddurs usually at belly button level, the women always seem to hold their siddurs higher then the men, I cannot figure out why. Once in a rare while usually in a shul with lots of girls who recently were brainwashed in seminary you have the female violent shuckeler. Her fists are usually raised to the rafters and she is shaking them at the ceiling and swaying violently back and forth- but its rare I tell ya to see women doing a straight back forth traditional shuckel almost all women do the side to side hoola-hoop shuckel. I feel that based on my experience with frummy women in the Glatt Mart on Friday afternoons that they would be of the violent shuckel type, after all if they could mow me down in the grocery store with three kids screaming the shopping cart acing to get that last oversized bag of leibers potato chips they must be able to rock the violent shuckel up their in their enclosed one way mirror women’s sections. Fortunately or Unfortunately I never get to see inside of the women’s sections in frummy shulls since they lock them up and they tend to have separate entrances to prevent hose curious prying eyes of mine from checking out what they really do in that balcony while we do the shmona esray shuffle.
How about the men that always seem to be bowing first to the right and then to the left during the whole shmona esray, they also tend to have their hands clenched in front of them though they don’t pretend to be lathering the soap. The side to side bowers many of the time keep their hands perfectly straight at their sides moving with the rhythm of their shuckel. How about the guys that use their shtender or wall as an anchoring device and proceed to push off of it to produce their shuckel as if their own power could not do it, these tend to be less organized shuckels and more randomly placed back and forths at different speeds which have no bearing on anything else the shuckeler may be doing. Then there are those that hunch over their shtenders, usually the same folks who wear huge talesim draped over their heads possibly to hide that I-Pod with the days daf yomi or maybe the latest MBD album playing. These talis drapers also tend to let it go once it falls off their shoulders and kind of wear them like a towel, towel-talis vuts da difference?
Maybe some of you fall into the random shuckeler group of folks who switch it up to keep things interesting. The hoola-hoop side to side gives you motion sickness after a while so you switch to the casual forward sway followed by a bout of the violent get the f— out of my way shuckel that blows cool air onto all the other worshipers. Then all of the sudden you are wringing your hands of the soap suds and trying to be in compliance with the health departments standards and all of the sudden your hands being dry you assume the YMCA pose begging G-d for parnassha and a healthy baby boy. Then you start shaking fists like the Lubavitch Rebbe during his Fabrengins. Yes the schizophrenic shuckler we call you, cant make up your mind, maybe its actually ADD, ADHD or maybe you are trying to gauge the crowd as to what shuckel will make you seem to fit in the most. Maybe a peacefull hand wringing shuckel will allow the women looking down to gauge whether they have a shidduch for you or something. But if you go for the violent shuckel and you are in a modern shull with the whole pew setup you’re liable to get into a fight. You also will be looked at with disdain for not keeping the peace possibly, depending on how politically liberal the crowd is.
I almost forgot the unaffiliated Jew who doesn’t know what they are doing shuckel. You know the type, yellow teepee yarmulke siddur held up to their stomach, talis worn like a scarf and feet placed in army stance, looking around to se everyone else is doing but still cant seem to figure out that during shmona esray people stand with their feet together. It never ceases to amaze me how many people cant figure out the whole feet together thing.
I bet your all wondering what kind of shuckel the author busts out during his three time a day addiction. I have the normal forward shuckel at medium speed. For some reason the side to side or hoola-hoop as I have referred to I makes me lose my balance and gives me a slight bout of vertigo, the violent shuckel is just too dramatic, though on the high holidays not out of kavana reasons but out of need some blood circulation reasons I tend to kick the shuckel into high gear. I also figure that I could meld into the crowd better and catch some breeze if I were to shake faster. I just cant do the crying thing it never works. The harder I try to have kavana on the high holidays the more my thoughts wander to sexual fantasies about the girls I only get to see when I make a bathroom run. So I stick to normal shuckels, but I tend to do a little 7th inning stretch mid vidoy and grab one leg and pull it back and then do the other, sometimes I even bust a little pre-kedusha exercises to wake my toes up after standing at attention for so long.
If you have any other shuckel types I’ll be glad to add them.