Why is Birkat HaMazon So, So Long? (Video Lecture)

March 15, 2011

Explore the structure of the Birkat HaMazon (Grace After Meals). This lecture is based upon a previous lecture given in German (Danksagung ausserhalb der Synagoge: Das Benschen), and answers some of the questions raised at the conclusion of that lecture. Read the rest of this entry »

The Anatomy of a Beracha

June 15, 2009

English“Blessed are You, G”d-Eternal, our G”g-Almighty, Sovereign of the Universe, who …”

The sudden change, within the very same sentence, from addressing G”d in the second person, to the third person, serves to emphasize the remarkable fact that we address G”d directly, in the second person, altogether. An infinite chasm separates Man from G”d, He is unfathomable, even His Name is ineffable. And yet, in the act of prayer, and particularly through the recitation of blessings, we reach over that gap and speak directly to G”d.

The otherworldliness of this experience is emphasized by Rav Joseph Ber Soloveitchik, for whom the recitation of the verse ה’ שפתי תפתח ופי יגיד תהלתך (L”rd, open my lips, that my mouth may speak Thy praise – Psalms 51:17) immediately before beginning the recitation of a תפילת עמידה (silent, standing devotion) was instituted because, as we set out to address G”d so directly and so intimately, we become speechless. Only with the added strength G”d grants us can we overcome our speechlessness. Read the rest of this entry »

Basic Building Blocks of Jewish Prayer

June 5, 2009

EnglishJewish prayer is composed three most important building blocks Psalms and hymns, ברכות – Blessings -, and the Recitation of the Shma’.

These three basic building blocks are joined by four secondary building blocks:  Scriptural prayers by key Biblical personalities, פיוטים – liturgical poems -, תחינות – sundry petitionary prayers, and readings.

In this post, I want to briefly elaborate on the function of blessings, Psalms and the Shma’ Yisrael. Read the rest of this entry »