Shuckling (also written as shokeling), from the Yiddish word meaning "to shake", is the ritual swaying of worshipers during Jewish 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).
Dr. Simon Brainin says that the practice was historically done "to afford the body exercise during study and prayer, which took up a large portion of the time of a great number of Jews".
- Joseph Jacobs, Judah David Eisenstein. "SWAYING THE BODY". Retrieved December 7, 2011.
- Eisenberg, Ronald L. The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions. The Jewish Publication Society, 2004. ISBN 0-8276-0760-1
- Halevi, Yehuda. The Kuzari. ISBN 1-58330-438-X