Berakhos and Continuous Creation

You may have heard the Baal Shem Tov’s thought that the close of the first berakhah before Shema in the morning, “Yotzeir haMe’oros – Who Creates the [Celestial] Lights.” He says that it is written in the present sense because the Ribbono shel olam didn’t create the me’oros and then they just continue to persist. Rather, He is creating and recreating everything continually. As we say shortly before that closing, “Hamchadeish beTuvo bekhol yom tamid — Who in His Goodness renews every day, continually, the Act of Creation.”

Our persistence is as much an act of creation as the original moments when things came to be.

In Arukh haShulchan OC 46:3, Rav Yechiel Mikhl Epstein notes that this is just one example of a general rule. Every berakhah concludes in present tense: “Nosein haTorah – Who gives the Torah”, “Borei peri ha’adamah — Who creates the produce of the ground.” And therefore the AhS says that our nusach haNosein lasekhvi vinah — Who gives the rooster/hear the understanding to distinguish between day and night” (the version found in the Rambam, Tur, and SA) is the essential law, even though the extant edition of the gemara reads, “asher nasan lasekhvi vinah — Who gave the rooster/heart understanding….”

R YM Epstein then adds, “Asher Yatzar” starts out in past tense — the title words mean “Who Created man with wisdom” — because it’s about what just happened, but there too the closing is “Rofei khol basar — Who heals all flesh”, present tense..

I want to combine this with something the Arukh haShulchanwrites in OC 4:2. There he talks about the shift from second to third “Person” grammar in berakhos. “Barukh Atah” talks to a You. However, “asher qidihanu — Who sanctifies us” or “hanosein — Who gives” or whatever talks about a He. We similarly find in a number of songs and litergical references to “Atah Hu — You are He Who”.

His Essense is ne’elam mikol ne’eman, hidden from every believer. Even the higher classes of angel, he seraphim and ophanim, have no idea. They and we only know Hashem by His actions. And therefore “Barukh kevod H’ mimqomo” — His Kavod, which we can understand something about, because they are His Actions, are blessed in its “Place”. But not Hashem’s Essence. So, when we speak of something we receive from Him, we are talking about Hashem’s action, and can use the word Atah.

But the Arukh haShulchan doesn’t explain why then we switch to the third “Person” language for the chasimah, the closing of a berakhah.

Perhaps this idea from 46:3 is why. We can relate to Hashem providing us the bread before us. But can we relate to Maaseh Bereishis being lemaaleh min hazman, beyond the concept of time, such that His providing us that bread is the same Action as His creating the concept of wheat, it properties, and the first wheat, to begin with? This present-tense praise can only be at a remove, to a “He”.

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