Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: ברוך השם Does Not Mean, "Thank G-d!"

As you may recall, I do not like answering queries about my well-being with the simple statement of faith: ברוך השם.  As many of my friends (and ex-friends, I suppose) know, I also don't like being answered that way.  When I answer non-Jews (except Christine and Ross, may he rest in peace), I pretty much give the same response; except that I substitute "Thank G-d" for ברוך השם.  Which brings us to today's thought.  "Thank G-d" is a a reasonable substitute for ברוך השם -- meaning that it satisfies the requirements of giving a real answer to the query and doesn't require any additional explanation -- but is not a translation of ברוך השם.

So... what does ברוך השם literally (more or less...) mean?  How is it used?  Why do we use that phrase/concept for those use cases?

Translating the word ברוך is harder than translating השם, but much easier to understand why we use it.  The word השם simply mean, "The name/reputation" ("The Name/Reputation", if you prefer; though the Hebrew alphabet has no concept of capital and lower case letters.)  The word ברוך is nearly always translated as "blessed".  I have no clue why that is, as the an exhaustive search of the internet (meaning I typed "bless definition" into the search box and scanned the top dozen or so hits) bears no relation to what the word means.  The Hebrew word ברוך is from the same root as the words בריכה/pool (of water) and ברך/knee.  The verb לברך means to provide an overflowing abundance (the pool connection) of goodness to the point that the receiver is totally dependant on and subservient (as in, "I bend my knee to you, Oh Lord") to the one who confers said goodness.  ברוך, then, is simply the noun form, meaning the One and Only source of all goodness upon whom we are completely dependent and subservient.

Cool.  And השם?  Why not the generic word for G-d or Lord or Master or Creator?  Well, first please note that the Hebrew word for G-d really just means "the source of all power and control".  Pretty much a drop in replacement for what we now call "physical law".  We have so many words to refer to G-d/Lord/Creator/etc because we can only know Him through His interactions with the world and using the concepts that He has given us.  We have no word nor term nor even concept for what is behind that interaction.  We, as created beings cannot -- even in principle -- really know anything about our Creator.  Instead, we are honest in our limitations and always refer to Him via the interaction to which we are responding or addressing.  Generically, we use the term השם to to refer to whatever interaction is appropriate.

Therefore, the term ברוך השם at once acknowledges that there is only one source of all good, that it is overflowing in abundance, that we are totally dependent on it, and that we declare our subservience to a Being (even that word is wrong, as being-ness is also a creation) that we cannot really understand at all.  We use that term where the non-Jewish word uses the term "Thank G-d", therefore, for obvious reasons.  But we also use that term when some horrible tragedy occurs.  There is no contradiction for us.  Since we know that we are only in this world for a short time and it is only a preparation for our real/eternal life, we acknowledge that whether is feels good or bad to us, we know with clarity that it is for ultimate good; !ברוך השם

See why I just say, "I am doing fine, thank G-d" and don't try to explain each time what is meant by ברוך השם?

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…