Tefillah Tuesday: Invisible Light

אור חדש על ציון תאיר, Or hadash al Zion ta’ir, “May You shine a new light upon Zion and may we all be privileged to enjoy its light.” Ashkenazim conclude this first blessing before Shema – יוצר המאורות,Yotzer HaMeorot, “God who creates lights” – with that familiar line. But this small petition has been controversial for centuries. In general, norms of Jewish liturgy demand that blessings have… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Seeds of Righteousness

A short tefillah comment this week, on a single phrase toward the conclusion of the first blessing before Shema. The paragraph לא’ל ברוך, La’El Barukh [to the God called “Blessed”], enumerates a number of fairly generic expressions of praise: to You sweet songs are sung, and for God alone does wonders, etc. To my ear… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Letter Creation

נגילה ונשמחה בך, Nagila ve’nismeha bakh, Let us rejoice and delight in you. [Song of Songs 1.4]. Said Rabbi Yitzhak: “let us rejoice bakh [ב”ך] in the כ”ב, or 22 letters of the alphabet in which the Torah is written.” [Midrash Shir HaShirim Rabbah]. Many ancient Jewish texts – like the well-known Psalm 145, or… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Perpetual Creation

The first blessing before the morning Shema goes on to praise Hashem, “Who, in goodness, perpetually renews creation every day,” or ובטובו מחדש בכל יום תמיד מעשה בראשית, mehadesh bekhol yom tamid ma’aseh bereshit. As we have seen in previous week’s postings, this first blessing expresses wonder at morning light, and recognizes that darkness, too,… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Light and Darkness

Continuing the theme of last week’s post, in which I discussed the opening blessing before the Shema, which speaks of God as “creating all.” This is a euphemism, softening the Bible verse [Isaiah 45.7] that God makes both light and darkness, “makes peace and creates suffering,” or “creates well-being and woe.” The Talmud [Berakhot 11b]… Read more »