Tachanun marks a climax of prayer as we place ourselves in Hashem’s hands. In order to reach such an elevated level we need some sort of external reminder that we are actually throwing ourselves down before Hashem. How can we achieve this?
“Yehoshua tore his clothes, and fell to the ground on his face before the Ark of Hashem …” (Yehoshua 7,6). Throwing oneself down before the Ark which contained the Aseres Hadibros helped Yehoshua internalize that he was “before Hashem.” Based on Yehoshua’s actions, we only say Tachanun face-down in the presence of a Torah scroll (Rema 131,2).
In Jerusalem a person can sense Hashem’s closeness at all times. For this reason, some residents of Jerusalem have the custom to recite Tachanun face-down, even in a place where there is no sefer Torah (Sefer Eretz Yisrael l’Harav Tukatchinsky 1,9). Some explain that this only applies in the Old City, while in close proximity to the site of the Beis Hamikdash (Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, as cited in Ishei Yisrael 25,39).
Text Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org