Any Way Saturday
As a Christian, have you ever celebrated the 'opening of' or 'start of' the Lord's Day on the vigil of Sunday - that is, on Saturday eve after sundown? That is what the Jews do on Friday eve, the vigil of their shabbat [sabbath] . They celebrate this special day in their week with a special meal on Friday evening. For Christians, we can do the same thing on Saturday eve, the vigil of our Lord's Day. Many of the prayers used in the ceremonial blessings of this meal are in the form of:
A berakhah (blessing - singular) is a prayer that is very common in Judaism. Berakhot (blessings - plural) all start with the word barukh (blessed or praised).
The words barukh and berakhah refer to the practice of showing respect by bending the knee and bowing. There are several places in Jewish liturgy where this gesture is performed.
According to Jewish tradition, a person should recite 100 berakhot each day! There are dozens of everyday occurrences that require berakhot.
Many English-speaking people find the idea of berakhot confusing. To them,"blessing" seems to imply the conferring of some benefit on the person being spoken to. In Catholic tradition, confession begins by asking the priest for a blessing [Bless me , Father, ...]. In a berakhah, the person saying the blessing is speaking to G-d. When we recite a berakhah we are expressing wonder at how blessed G-d is.
Berakhot recited before enjoying a material pleasure, such as eating, drinking or wearing new clothes, acknowledge G-d as the creator of what we are about to use. The berakhah for bread praises G-d as the one "who brings forth bread from the earth." The berakhah for wearing new clothing praises G-d as the one "who clothes the naked."
Berakhot recited before performing a mitzvah (commandment), such as washing hands or lighting candles, praise G-d as the one "who sanctified us with his commandments and commanded us to..." do whatever it is we are about to do. A person who performs a mitzvah with a sense of obligation is considered more meritorious than a person who performs the same mitzvah because he feels like it. The berakhah focuses attention on performing a religious duty with a sense of obligation.
Berakhot recited at special times and events acknowledge G-d as the ultimate source of all good and evil. When we see or hear something bad, a berakhah underscores that things that appear to be bad happen for a reason that is ultimately just.
Thou (and the corresponding Hebrew atah) is the informal, familiar second person pronoun, used for friends and relatives. This expresses our intimate relationship with G-d.
Immediately after this phrase, the berakhah shifts into the third person. This grammatical faux pas is intentional. This shift is a deliberately jarring way of expressing the fact that G-d is simultaneously close to us and yet transcendent. This paradox is at the heart of the Jewish relationship with G-d.
For a more complete treatment of this topic, link to Judaism 101.
Now it is your turn.
Try it this week end - tonight, Saturday eve - the vigil of our Lord's Day. Write your own berakhot [blessings] using the form above - ie: Blessed art thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who commanded us to keep holy the Lord's Day.
Share with us some of those prayers by writing them in the 'comment box'. We may post them in an article on this blog.