Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pop quiz :)

How many b'rachot/blessings are there in the Birkot HaShachar/Morning Blessings, and/or how are they divided, if at all?

I'm working from memory here, so please bear with me.  Feel free to correct me in the comments, if corrections are needed.  I'm also working from the oldest to the newest of the following siddurim/prayer books, to the best of my recollection.

All references are to Nusach Ashkenaz 'cause, hey, I'm Ashkenazit, and that's what I know.  :) 

  • The Birnbaum Siddur starts a new paragraph at "Yehi Ratzon/May it be Your will . . . "
  • The ArtScroll Siddur notes say that a new paragraph should start before there, at the b'rachah "hamaavir sheinah mei-einai/Who makes sleep pass from my eyes . . .," and proceeds to start one right at that point.
  • The Koren Sacks Siddur doesn't indicate a clear paragraph break, and seems to treat all of the b'rachot as one big long b'rachah (or b'rachot series), stating that one should stand for the entire "list," a practice that I've never seen (but perhaps that's British minhag/custom).
So who's right?

In typical Jewish fashion, maybe they all are.  :)

The ArtScroll version "frames" the final b'rachah, "gomeil chassadim tovim/Who bestows good kindnesses" with an "opening" b'rachah "hamaavir sheinah mei-einai/Who makes sleep pass from my eyes . . .," "

The Koren Sacks ignores the fact that there's a "Yehi Ratzon/May it be Your will" smack dab in the middle of the series.  B'rachot are so inconsistent in their structure that there's probably another one like that somewhere else in the siddur that I can't think of, at the moment.  :)

Personally, I rather like the Birnbaum's paragraph break.  All of the b'rachot preceding "Yehi Ratzon/May it be Your will . . . " are either in the first-person singular ("sheh-lo asani/who did not make me . . . " or sheh-asani/who made me . . .," depending on your haskafah/religious perspective) and/or talk about HaShem in the third person ("Who gives sight to the blind"), ending with "hamaavir sheinah mei-einai/who makes slumber pass from my eyes."  Starting with "Yehi ratzon/May it be Your will," however, the rest of the series is entirely in the plural, except for the closing b'rachah, which, just for inconsistency's sake :), goes back to praising HaShem in the third person ("gomeil chassadim tovim l'amo Yisrael/Who bestows good kindnesses on His people Israel.")

On the other hand, one could also argue that Koren Sacks has it right--a third-person b'rachah "asher natan/Who gave" at the very beginning is topped off at the end by another third-person b'rachah "ha-gomeil/Who bestows."

Have fun with this question.  Don't worry--I'm not grading.  :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012 update:

I took another good look at the Birkot HaShachar this morning while davvening/praying, and it occurred to me that I'd missed something that should have been obvious--the b'rachah beginning with "Yehi ratzon/may it be Your will . . . " is not only all one b'rachah, it's also not the same kind of b'rachah as the previous ones.  To quote Entering Jewish Prayer, by Reuven Hammer, "Blessings are words of praise for what God has done. Prayers are requests for God to help us. Sanctifications are those that hallow the name of God—kiddush ha-sham. Havdalot would be those in which a distinction is drawn between categories such as light and darkness, day and night, the holy and the profane."  All the earlier b'rachot are "blessings," but Yehi ratzon is a "prayer."  (Some might call this type of b'rachah a "petition.").  I'm delighted that I've learned something new.

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