By Hannah Berman


By Hannah Berman

In last week’s column, I shared that my mini-survey regarding schuckeling did not prove terribly successful.

I got nowhere in my search for an explanation, because in response to my queries I received many different theories and explanations about why we schuckel when we daven. None of the people I asked seemed to know for sure, but each of them was willing to hazard a guess.

Personally, I do it because my back hurts when I stand still, but it was unclear to me why everyone else does it.

And then, thanks to having written about my confusion and my quest for a reasonable explanation, I got the phone call.

Every columnist can expect to receive phone calls in response to something that he or she has written. Most often the calls that I receive are of a positive nature, but there are some that are less pleasant.

Every now and then a reader will call to argue with me or, as we say in the vernacular, to give me a mishebeirach. For those not in the know, a mishebeirach is usually a positive thing. It is a prayer for the recovery of someone who is ill. We say that we are “making a mishebeirach.” But, as I learned from my late husband, Arnie, “giving a mishebeirach” is another story because it means something far less pleasant.

Many years ago, in response to a humorous piece I wrote about having children when one is younger rather than having them in later years, somebody left a horrific message on my voicemail. It was long and nasty and vulgar.

The gist of it was, “Who are you, Hannah Berman, to say how old people should be when they start their family?” This caller “gave” me a mishebeirach. I can’t remember everything she said, but I do know that there were words I could never put into print.

Clearly, the woman who left the message had no clue that what I had written was meant to be humorous. She left no name (of course) and no phone number (of course) and her phone number was blocked (of course) — all of which prevented me from responding to her diatribe.

Not everyone agrees with what I write, but they are usually pleasant when they contact me to disagree.

That message, however, was anything but pleasant. The best part of it was that I never heard from this individual again.

Fortunately, most of the feedback I receive is positive. In short, there are negative responses as well as positive ones.

However, there is a third type of response that I occasionally receive. These responses, whether in the form of phone calls, text messages, or e-mails, are meant to be helpful.

These people are neither agreeing nor disagreeing with me. These are kind folks who, having perceived that I have a question or am puzzled about something, want to help me.

A few days after my article about schuckeling appeared in print, a very kind gentleman called because he wanted to clear up my confusion. And what he told me made perfect sense.

Finally, I think I know one of the reasons men schuckel, even if many who do it do not know why.

I learned from the caller that it is written (Tehillim 35:10): “Kol atzmosai tomarnah, Hashem, mi chamochah — All my limbs will say, Hashem, who is like You?” For that reason, many men, and some women, move all parts of their body when praying — schuckeling!

So there is a logical reason for schuckeling, and that’s a lucky thing for me and for anyone else with a bad back who needs to keep moving in order to be pain-free.

I am very glad that this is just the way it is.

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at or 516-295-4435. But be nice.


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