In our daily and sabbath prayers we do bow, but nonetheless stand up straight when saying God’s name. In reciting the Amidah, the central prayer of the service, the Shuchan Aruch instructs us not to lean on anything, but to stand before God (O.H. 94:8).
Bowing is a posture of submission and Judaism certainly instructs human beings to submit to God’s will. But submission does not erase individuality or even an element of defiance. There is a long tradition of Jews arguing with God, questioning God, placing their fallible, mortal judgment next to God’s own decrees. It began with Abraham and chutzpah kelapei shemaya, brazenness toward heaven, is woven into the tradition.
In the first chapter of the book of Ezekiel, we read of a wild, corybantic vision. In the culmination of the vision Ezekiel hears God’s voice and falls down on the ground.
The first words God speaks to Ezekiel are as follows: “Son of man, stand on your feet that I may speak to you (2:1).” Not until Ezekiel rises to his full height and is able to confront God with strength and presence, will God speak to the prophet. The lesson of being before God is the lesson of life – learn to stand on your own two feet.