Blessings (berakhot) are the most basic form of Jewish prayer. You can recognize them because they begin with the word Baruch [Blessed]. Ideally, we say a blessing before every mitzvah, before every bite we eat, and before many other life events. The Gemara says that every Jew should try to say 100 blessings a day.
There are three kinds of stand-alone blessings:
1. Blessings we recite before or when we experience a pleasure of creation. For example, we say blessings before eating food, to acknowledge that the food comes from God:
Example: Blessing before eating bread:
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam, hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz.
Blessed are You Adonai, our God, Ruler of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.
2. Blessings we recite before performing a mitzvah:
Example: Blessing for putting a mezuzah on a doorpost of a Jewish home:
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav, vitzivanu likboa mezuzah.
Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, Ruler of the Universe, who sanctifies us with mitzvot and commands us to affix a mezuzah.
3. Blessings we recite at remarkable times and events:
Example: Blessing when we hear that someone has died.
Baruch Dayan ha’emet.
Blessed is the true Judge.
There are many, many Jewish blessings to be said for every kind of food, for many mitzvot, and for many different events and experiences. To learn more blessings, there is a list of blessings of various sorts in the Reform Judaism website.
If you listen carefully in the daily and Shabbat worship services, those are also made up of blessings: there are blessings before and after the Shema, and the Amidah is a series of blessings, stacked up like the sacrifices on the Temple altar of old.
If you wonder why Jews make blessings, read this: Why Bless?
If you recite Jewish blessings, when and why do you do so?
10 thoughts on “Basics of Blessings”
Daily blessings are a way of filling me with the joy of life. Just giving thanks for the daily wonders I do and experience are such thoughtful ways to be positive I cannot imagine not doing these small acts of thanks.
“Why bless?” Why not?
I always say the Shema when flying and hoping for a good landing/take off. And Mi Sheberakh when someone is sick.
A blessing is one way to not take for granted. A blessing is a feeling. A blessing is a blessing.
B’rachot for me represent the flow of energy that circulates. Saying a blessing is the way to acknowledge the perception of that flow: sometimes the energy is positive, sometimes it is not, like with electricity where there is positive and negative and if not both are present, it simply does not work.
There is a b’racha for good and a b’racha for not so good things in life because sometimes things happen that we would not want to happen, because they scare us or make us feel bad, sad or depleted.
I love the idea that we can say a hundred blessings each day because it reminds me of the source of that energy, even when I tend to forget it.
What an apt way to think about blessings! We perceive the flow of energy and particularly.
What an apt way to think about blessings!
Merci, Otir! I always say the Shema when I hear a siren (fire engine or ambulance). Starting today, I will add the Shema when I hear or read about a national “leader” committing evil. Wish me luck!
When we first started the journey towards conversion, I wasn’t sure which blessings to say. It was so interesting how Judaism is specific about the type of food matching the blessing–vegetables, fruit, wine, bread, or even mizonot–things that are like bread but not actually bread. So we would look at all the ingredients in the food and say each blessing for that part of the food. Then my rabbi told me you can just pick one. But, I kind of miss going through all the blessings–it made a more memorable pause before rushing through a meal.
I ebb and flow with blessings, I admit, but when I say them, they enrich my life. Their specificity encourages attention. If Hebrew is difficult for you remember that improvising in a more familiar language is also fine!