Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: The Soul Opens Your Eyes to Divinity

More from R' Efraim Twerski's insightful t'fila shiurim.

There is a reasonably cut and dried halacha that long brachos -- not the one liners, but the ones that have a beginning, middle, and end -- always end with "baruch atah HaShem..." and must either start with "baruch atah HaShem" or be cuddled up to a preceding bracha; aka "samuch l'chaverta".  "asher yastzar" is an example of a long bracha.  Each bracha in shmone esrei and in birkas ha'mazon are also long brachos.  The first bracha of each starts and ends with "baruch atah HaShem...", while the subsequent brachos only end with said prescription.  (The fourth bracha of birkas ha'mazon is actually a later addition and is d'rabanan, so it starts again with "baruch atah HaShem".  I know it doesn't end that way; that's because it's really a short bracha that kept getting longer.  A story for another time.)

What about "elokai neshama"?  It's long, but it doesn't start with "baruch atah HaShem".  As usual, delving into why that is so leads to an interesting machlokes rishonim.  The Rosh says that "elokai neshama" is meant to be said immediately after "asher yatzar" upon arising in the morning.  Therefore, since it is samuch l'chaverta, it does not begin with "baruch atah HaShem".  Tosofos, however, learns that "elokai neshama" is a "t'fila b'alma" (their words, don't blame me!) and not a bracha at all.  That is the halachic source for putting "elokai neshama" later in the service and not immediately following "asher yatzar".  R' Twerski has a beautiful (albeit "chasidish") vort that captures both ideas and brings out an important idea in living life as a Jew.

There are four categories of brachos: ne'he'nin (on pleasures; such as eating and smelling), shevach (praise; such as yishtabach and baruch sh'amar), mitzvos (like it says; such as lulav and t'fillin), and ho'dayah (thanks/acknowledgement; such as the birkas ha'shachar).  In each case, the formula begins "baruch atah HaShem" -- which is in second person; Blessed are You, HaShem.  Take a moment to contemplate what we are doing.  We just open our mouths and start talking directly to the Creator of the world as if He were right in front of us!

Well... of course, HaShem certainly is right there in front of us at all times.  The problem is that He can seem hidden (ne'elam) by this world (olam).  The nusach (format) of the bracha is to tell us that each benefit we enjoy, praise we render, mitzvah we perform, and acknowledgement we express is an opportunity for us to see the Creator.  We are not just animals going through the motions, we are Jews taking using this world to experience the reality of HaKadosh Baruch Hu.  What gives us that ability?  "Elokai, neshama sh'nasata bi"/My G-d, the soul that You have given me, "t'hora hi"/is purely spiritual, unsullied by physicality.  It is that Jewish neshama, the "pintele yid" that give us the extra sensitivity to see this world as an expression of HaShem's greatness and reality.  Which is why the roshei tavos (initial letters) of the four categories of brachos: Ne'he'nin, SHevach, Mitzvos, Hodaya -- Nun-SHin-Mem-Hei, spells neshama/soul.

Which makes Elokai Neshama both a t'fila -- that we should keep our neshama in place as long as possible, and a bracha -- in fact, the bracha which is the introduction and basis of all brachos.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…

Thought for the Day: Prayer II -- How?

Now that we know that the obligation to pray is nothing more (nor less!) than a divine decree, we are going to also need instructions from heaven on how to implement that decree.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to have instruction from heaven how to implement heavenly decrees.  One only needs to look at the shambles that one modern ism has made of the very important Torah principle of תיקון עולם/improving and fixing the world.  They have taken words out of context and used them to support their own nefarious schemes.  (To the point that Google Translate actually translates -- not transliterates -- תיקון עולם as Tikkun Olam.  Amelia Bedelia would be proud; we are not amused.

The Torah teaches us how to pray in two complementary fashions.  One is the way in which the concept is presented as an obligation, the other is by giving us examples of how to practically implement those instructions.

The obligation is introduced in the second paragraph of "sh'ma" -- וּלְ…