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Notes from Limmud 2007

Four Gemaras to Live By: (i) Concerning the Daily

Dr Raphael Zarum

[Standard disclaimer: All views not in square brackets are those of the speaker, not myself. Accuracy of transcription is not guaranteed.]

The daily blessings are different in the Talmud to in the various different siddurim. Why so? The study of Tefillah is a difficult subject. There's not as much in it as other things; and there's lots of different versions of each. Many siddurim don't give you much in the way of background to it.

Halacha and Aggada—law and lore—are mixed together in the Talmud. The idea is to study both, and see how one leads to the other.

The following is the blessings that were originally said at home upon arising; they have since been moved into the synagogue service. The identification of the sources is conjecture. (It follows upon אשר יצר, which was in the context of priests getting up in the night to go to the toilet.)

Berachot 60b ברכות ס ב

When he wakes, he says: "My G-d, the soul which You have placed in me is pure. You fashioned it in me, You breathed it into me, and You preserve it within me and You will one day take it from me and restore it to me in the time to come. So long as the soul is within me I give thanks to You, LORD my G-d, and the G-d of my fathers, Sovereign of all worlds, Lord of all souls. Blessed are You, Lord, Who restores souls to dead corpses."1

1 When he hears the cockerel crowing, he should say: Blessed are You, LORD, King of the Universe, Who gave the cockerel understanding to distinguish between day and night. [See Job 38:36]

2 When he opens his eyes he should say: Blessed... Who opens the eyes of the blind.3 [Psalms 146:8]

3 When he stretches himself and sits up he should say, "Blessed... Who frees captives" [Psalms 146:7]2

4 When he dresses he should say: Blessed... Who clothes the naked [Gen. 3:7,21].

5 When he draws himself up he should say: Blessed... Who raises those bowed down [Ps. 146:8].

6 When he steps on to the ground he should say: Blessed... Who spreads the earth above the waters [Ps. 136:6].4

7 When he commences to walk, he should say: Blessed... Who makes firm the steps of man [Ps. 37:23].

8 When he ties his shoes he should say: Blessed... Who provides me with all I need [Gen. 14:23].5

9 When he fastens his girdle, he should say: Blessed... Who girds Israel with strength [Ps. 65:7].6

10 When he spreads a kerchief over his head, he should say: Blessed... Who crowns Israel with glory [Ps. 8:6].

11 is about ציצית; blessings 12 and 13 about תפילין, and 14 about washing the hands.7

15 When he washes his face, he should say: Blessed...Who has removed the bands of sleep from my eyes and slumber from mine eyes. And may it be Your will, LORD my G-d, to habituate me to Your law and make me cleave to Your commandments, and do not bring me into sin, or into iniquity, or into temptation, or into contempt, and bend my inclination to be subservient to You, and remove me far from a bad person and a bad companion, and make me cleave to the good inclination and to a good companion in Your world, and let me obtain this day and every day grace, favour and mercy in Your eyes, and in the eyes of all that see me, and show lovingkindness unto me. Blessed are You, LORD, Who bestows lovingkindness upon Your people Israel.

כי מתער אומר אלהי נשמה שנתת בי טהורה אתה יצרתה בי אתה נפחתה בי ואתה משמרה בקרבי ואתה עתיד ליטלה ממני ולהחזירה בי לעתיד לבא כל זמן שהנשמה בקרבי מודה אני לפניך ה׳ אלהי ואלהי אבותי רבון כל העולמים אדון כל הנשמות ברוך אתה ה׳ המחזיר נשמות לפגרים מתים׃

כי שמע קול תרנגולא לימא ברוך אשר נתן לשכוי בינה להבחין בין יום ובין לילה׃

כי פתח עיניה לימא ברוך פוקח עורים׃

כי תריץ ויתיב לימא ברוך מתיר אסורים׃

כי לביש לימא ברוך מלביש ערומים׃

כי זקיף לימא ברוך זוקף כפופים׃

כי נחית לארעא לימא ברוך רוקע הארץ על המים׃

כי מסגי לימא ברוך המכין מצעדי גבר׃

כי סיים מסאניה לימא ברוך שעשה לי כל צרכי׃

כי אסר המייניה לימא ברוך אוזר ישראל בגבורה׃

כי פריס סודרא על רישיה לימא ברוך עוטר ישראל בתפארה׃

כי מעטף בציצית לימא ברוך אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו להתעטף בציצית׃

כי מנח תפילין אדרעיה לימא ברוך אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו להניח תפילין׃ ארישיה לימא ברוך אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על מצות תפילין׃

כי משי ידיה לימא ברוך אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על נטילת ידים׃

כי משי אפיה לימא ברוך המעביר חבלי שינה מעיני ותנומה מעפעפי ויהי רצון מלפניך ה׳ אלהי שתרגילני בתורתך ודבקני במצותיך ואל תביאני לא לידי חטא ולא לידי עון ולא לידי נסיון ולא לידי בזיון וכוף את יצרי להשתעבד לך ורחקני מאדם רע ומחבר רע ודבקני ביצר טוב ובחבר טוב בעולמך ותנני היום ובכל יום לחן ולחסד ולרחמים בעיניך ובעיני כל רואי ותגמלני חסדים טובים ברוך אתה ה׳ גומל חסדים טובים לעמו ישראל

1. Clear distinction between body and soul here.
2. You are being thankful you are not captive in your own body.
3. Even if you can't do it yourself; it's like the way you pray for the community in the Vidui on Yom Kippur.
4. If you can walk, the world becomes a lot larger a place.

5. Not tying your shoelaces before you start to walk!? In the Siddur these are reversed for this reason. For the reason it is in this order in the Talmud, see below. Also, "Who provides me with all I need" for tying shoelaces? Is shoelaces all I need? It's something which differentiates us from the other animals...? Not everybody has shoes.

6. At this point it starts switching from being personal to being national.

7. The rabbis switched the order of these: they didn't want people donning tallis or tefillin without having first washed their hands.

What happened to הנותן ליעף כח? That's not here. Where did it come from? There's another three missing: Blessed... that did not make me a Gentile, a slave, or a woman. These were introduced after blessing 1. These are in the Gemara, but elsewhere, in מנחות, where it says you should say them every day. (The blessing for women, "Who has made me according to Your will" was introduced a thousand years later.)

The first paragraph, אלהי נשמה, is about the soul, to which G-d does five things: created it, breathes it in, maintains it, takes it back, and restores it in the future. We have the whole of history from Creation to Resurrection in five verbs. But the one we care about now is the middle one, maintenance of it. Hence "So long as it's in me I will give thanks."

G-d is then referred to in increasing terms of greatness: G-d of my ancestors, and of all worlds; but the G-d of souls is the greatest of the three. The final term, "restores to dead bodies," refers to the daily awakening, not to future resurrection.

שכוי, normally translated "cockerel", some people interpret to mean soul, but the speaker disagrees. It's referring to:

Job 38:36 איוב לח לו
Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart? מי נתן לשכוי בינה׃ או מי שת בטחות חכמה

This is the chapter where G-d turns around and says to Job "Where the hell where you when I created it all?" Unlike Job, we are thankful to G-d, and we quote this verse to demonstrate this.

These blessings recapitulate Creation. Not only are you waking up, but you are being created again, every day. So first we start with light and dark. Then we have giving sight to the blind.

Psalms 146:8 תהילים קמו ח
The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous: ה׳ פקח עורים ה׳ זקף כפופים ה׳ אהב צדיקים׃

Then follows a reference to the previous verse: It's out of order here. The Siddur is making a point different to that of the Psalmist, i.e. recreating the Creation story. (The Haggadah does the same thing.) Why's it פוקח עורים and not פותח? It's the verb used for Adam and Eve eating from the tree and their eyes being opened. The second blessing is recreating this moment. This is another reason why a blind person can make this blessing. It's not sight, but insight, consciousness.

So are we thanking G-d for something He didn't want us to have? Most rabbis agree G-d did want us to eat from the tree, just not at that moment. The rabbis say Adam's sin was not actually the eating, but the passing of the buck. Adam is not grateful for what he's got (Eve), and he doesn't take responsibility.

The minute they ate from the tree, Adam and Eve put their own clothes on. So, we get "Who clothes the naked." But that's not what G-d does; G-d actually dresses them.

Genesis 3:7, 21 בראשית ג
And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them. ותפקחנה עיני שניהם וידעו כי עירמם הם ויתפרו עלה תאנה ויעשו להם חגרת׃ ויעש ה׳ אלהים לאדם ולאשתו כתנות עור וילבשם׃

Beforehand it says they were not ashamed בושה. But G-d gives them something for their shame ל־בוש, i.e. he clothes them, לבש.

Before clothing, however, the Talmud says to thank G-d for freeing captives. In Eden, once they've eaten from the tree, having everything done for them makes it a prison. Hence we give thanks for being freed from captivity.

After being kicked out of Eden, they had to work the land, and it was hard. They're spending all day bending down, and at break time they finally get to stand straight: זוקף כפופים, "Who raises those bowed down".

רוקע הארץ על המים, spreading the Earth upon the waters, refers to Noah emerging from the Ark after the Flood.

First steps, המכין מצעדי גבר, now refers to coming out of the Ark.

Next, shoelaces. This refers to Abraham, who after the War of the Four Kings and the Five Kings. Abraham says he will not take even a shoelace from the spoil. This chapter contains the word "king" more than anywhere else. He meets the kings in the Valley of the Kings; and he's choosing here not to be a king. He's going to be a leader of a different king. He's following G-d instead, and so are we.

After Abraham, we have the origin of the Jewish people, at Sinai.

Then we go to Israel and build our own civilisation, and we do have kings. The Crown of Glory could be the Temple, or it could be the Davidic Monarchy.

But this only takes us to the middle of the Bible. After the Temple, and the Second Temple was destroyed, we went into Exile. This is what הנותן לעיף כח, Who gives strength to the exhausted, refers to.

Finally, the final paragraph thanks G-d for everything, and hopes that we meet with the right kind of people.

[(ii) and (iii), concerning the weekly and the monthly will follow in due course. (iv), concerning the yearly, I couldn't attend because I was quarantined with norovirus.]

Jewish learning notes index

Date: 2008-01-25 02:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] curious-reader.livejournal.com
Are you doing this now? Just kidding!
But it is interesting, anyway. I sounds as if the priest was making blessings all the time which would make it sound a bit crazy if anyone would do it nowadays.

Date: 2008-01-25 03:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lethargic-man.livejournal.com
Yes, I do say all of the above ברכות now, with the exception of those for ציצית and תפילין, since I do not routinely wear these at present, and of washing the hands. (Maybe I could start the last of these.) I say them in one block, though, as I think most people do nowadays.

And you've seen me on a Shabbos afternoon; saying אשר יצר doesn't involve making blessings all the time.

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