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What is a B'rakhah? 

02/05/2023 08:15:21 PM


     The Talmud instructs us that Jews should recite 100 blessings a day. We begin our day with many blessings as part of our daily liturgy. B'rakhot are a device to focus our awareness of the miracles great and small in our lives. When we pause to acknowledge the miracle of a morsel of food or the ability of our body to function, we bring holiness to the moment. So, what is a b'rakhah? Yes, I am sure you can recite many b'rakhot, those are the prayers that begin with the words "Barukh Ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh Ha'olam..... " This is an ancient formula that we recite by rote with very little thought, even though the whole point of reciting them is to focus attention on an action we are about to do or express appreciation for something we are about to enjoy. How does a b'rakhah differ from other prayers? 

     Joel Lurie Grishaver is one of the founders of Torah Aura, a publishing house of Jewish educational materials for children and adults. He and his partners have produced materials that are utilized in almost all conservative and reform synagogue schools in North America.  In 1993 he wrote a book called And You Shall Be A Blessing, An Unfolding of the Six Words That Begin Every B'rakhah. He devoted a book of about 150 pages on the first six words of a b'rakhah: "Barukh Ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh Ha'olam". In his introduction, he explains the difference between a "b'rakhah" and prayer as follows: A prayer is the expression of the needs and desires that we hope God will fulfill, but a b'rakha is a statement of praise or gratitude. In an prayer (tefillah), we are saying "Please!", In a B'rachah, we are saying "Thank You" or "You are Great!" However, Grishaver  further explains that within every B'rakhah is also a "secret petition". When we praise God for the good things in our lives either as individuals or as Jews, we are also saying to God, "Please do that again". When we praise God daily for redeeming the Israelite people at the Red Sea, we are not just praising God for that past action, but we are petitioning God to continually protect us and deliver miracles to us. So, while a b'rakhah is an expression of gratitude and appreciation, it also includes a hope for the future. 

     Much of the liturgy we recite in the morning includes "b'rakhot", we are expressing gratitude for waking up, for opening our eyes, for standing up straight, for being free, for being part of the Jewish people, etc...  Only after we have exhausted our expression of gratitude, do we begin to ask God, "Please". 

     I will be continuing the theme of b'rakhot in next week's blog, meanwhile, here are a couple of links about b'rakhot. The first one talks about The Power of Jewish Blessings and how a Tu Bishvat Seder acts to reconnect us to the blessings recited over food. The second link is a beautiful list of lesser known blessings that can be said upon encountering events in nature.

The Power of Jewish Blessings, My Jewish Learning

18 Jewish Quotes, Blessings and Readings for Earth Day



Wed, April 17 2024 9 Nisan 5784