ברכות השחר | Blessings at your Dawn of Wakefulness, translated by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

Source (Hebrew) Translation (English)

[ברכות שנתני]
[Blessings Shenatani (that were given to me)[1]This section of blessings is recorded in Brakhot 60b:5 by the Stama’im]

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ
 
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
 
אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לַשֶּׂכְוִי בִינָה
לְהַבְחִין
בֵּין־יוֹם וּבֵין לָיְלָה.
Barukh attah Yah
I offer You thanks,
Cosmic Majesty
And worship You,
For giving me the gift
To discern the difference
Between day and night.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ
 
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
 
פּוֹקֵחַ עִוְרִים׃
Barukh attah Yah
I offer You thanks,
Cosmic Majesty
And worship You,
For giving sight to my eyes.[2]Psalms 146:8

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ
 
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
 
מַתִּיר
אֲסוּרִים׃
Barukh attah Yah
I offer You thanks,
Cosmic Majesty
And worship You,
For giving free movement
to my limbs.[3]Psalms 146:7

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ
 
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
 
זוֹקֵף כְּפוּפִים׃
Barukh attah Yah
I offer You thanks,
Cosmic Majesty
And worship You,
For helping me to stand upright.[4]Psalms 146:8

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ
 
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
 
מַלְבִּישׁ עֲרֻמִּים׃
Barukh attah Yah
I offer You thanks,
Cosmic Majesty
And worship You,
For giving me clothes to wear.[5]Cf. Genesis 3:21

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ
 
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
 
רוֹקַע הָאָרֶץ
עַל־הַמָּיִם׃
Barukh attah Yah
I offer You thanks,
Cosmic Majesty
And worship You,
For the firm ground
On which You place me.[6]Cf. Psalms 146:6

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ
 
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
 
הַמֵּכִין
מִצְעֲדֵי־גָבֶר׃
Barukh attah Yah
I offer You thanks,
Cosmic Majesty
And worship You,
For leading my steps
In the right direction.[7]Cf. Psalms 37:23

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ
 
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
 
שֶׁעָשָׂה לִי
כׇּל־צְרָכָי׃
Barukh attah Yah
I offer You thanks,
Cosmic Majesty
And worship You,
For providing
for all my needs.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ
 
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
 
אוֹזֵר
יִשְׂרָאֵל
בִּגְבוּרָה׃
Barukh attah Yah
I offer You thanks,
Cosmic Majesty
And worship You,
For imbuing me
Among other Jews,
With Strength.[8]Psalms 65:7

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ
 
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
 
עוֹטֵר
יִשְׂרָאֵל
בְּתִפְאָרָה׃
Barukh attah Yah
I offer You thanks,
Cosmic Majesty
And worship You,
For making my soul bright,
When I wrestle
And dance with You.[9]While the blessing is a particular derivation of Psalms 8:6, Reb Zalman here is characteristically taking his interpretive translation to the next level, invoking the origin story of the name Yisra’el in Genesis 32:22-31

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ
 
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
 
הַנּוֹתֵן לַיָּעֵף
כֹּחַ׃
Barukh attah Yah
I offer You thanks,
Cosmic Majesty
And worship You,
For taking my weariness
And giving me energy.[10]This blessing, recorded by Rabbi Simḥa of Vitry in his Maḥzor Vitry is an attestation of either a blessing no longer found in our extant manuscripts of Brakhot 60b or is a novel blessing preserved in his nusaḥ. Cf. Isaiah 40:29

[ברכות שעשני]
[Blessings She’asani (that made me)[11]Cf. Rebbe Yehudah’s statement in Tosefta Berakhot 6.23 and Rebbe Meir’s statement in Menachot.43b.17]

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ
 
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
 
שֶׁעָשַׂנִי
בְּצָלְמוֹ׃
Barukh attah Yah
I offer You thanks,
Cosmic Majesty
And worship You,
For shaping my life
in Your image.[12]Sabbath and festival prayer book, United Synagogue of America 1946, Cf. Genesis 1:27

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ
 
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
 
שֶׁעָשַֽׂנִי כִּרְצוֹנוֹ׃
Barukh attah Yah
I offer You thanks,
Cosmic Majesty
And worship You,
For giving me options.[13]Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher, Arba Turim, circa early 14th century. Abu Dirham notes this formulation was new in his time.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ
 
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
 
שֶׁעָשַׂנִי
יִשְׂרָאֵל׃
Barukh attah Yah
I offer You thanks,
Cosmic Majesty
And worship You,
For giving me the privilege
To worship You, as a Jew.[14]Sabbath and festival prayer book, United Synagogue of America 1946, Cf. Genesis 32:29

[”כי משי אפיה לימא(ברכות ס ב)]
[Upon washing the face the following blessing is said:[15]Berakhot 60b.6]

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ
 
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
 
הַמַּעֲבִיר
שֵׁנָה מֵעֵינָי
וּתְנוּמָה מֵעַפְעַפָּי:
Barukh attah Yah
I offer You thanks,
Cosmic Majesty
And worship You,
For removing
The last trace of sleep
from my eyes.

וִיהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ וֵאלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ
שֶׁתַּרְגִּילֵנוּ
בְּתוֹרָתֶךָ,
וְדַבְּקֵנוּ
בְּמִצְוֹתֶיךָ,
And we ask Your blessed help
To find that our habits
Follow Your Torah,
To make our desire
Seek Your Mitzvot.

וְאַל תְּבִיאֵנוּ לֹא לִידֵי חֵטְא, וְלֹא לִידֵי עֲבֵרָה וְעָוֹן,
וְלֹא לִידֵי נִסָּיוֹן, וְלֹא לִידֵי בִזָּיוֹן,
וְאַל תַּשְׁלֶט בָּנוּ יֵצֶר הָרָע,
וְהַרְחִיקֵנוּ מֵאָדָם רָע וּמֵחָבֵר רָע,
וְדַבְּקֵנוּ בְּיֵצֶר הַטוֹב
וּבְמַעֲשִׂים טוֹבִים,
וְכֹף אֶת יִצְרֵנוּ
לְהִשְׁתַּעְבֶּד לָךְ,
וּתְנֵנוּ הַיּוֹם
וּבְכָל יוֹם
לְחֵן
וּלְחֶסֶד וּלְרַחֲמִים
Keep us from sin and offense,
From shame and temptation.
Do not allow evil to attract us.
Keep us far from malicious people,
But draw us to seek goodness
And right action.
Induce our selfishness
To serve You.
And help us this day,
Yes, every day,
To be generous,
Friendly and cheerful.

בְּעֵינֶיךָ
וּבְעֵינֵי כָל רוֹאֵינוּ,
וְתִגְמְלֵנוּ חֲסָדִים טוֹבִים,
 
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה
הַגּוֹמֵל חֲסָדִים טוֹבִים
לְעַמּוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל:
As we face You
And all who we will meet,
Keep us in Your grace
And bless us.
Barukh attah Yah,
You are always generous to us,
Your people Israel.
Amen.

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, z”l, included his translation of the Birkhot haShaḥar in his Siddur Tehillat Hashem Yidaber Pi (2009). To the best of my ability, I have set his English translation side-by-side with the Hebrew phrases comprising the blessings. I also want to share a dvar tefillah on the following.

While preparing this work and noticing for the first time the overlapping themes of dawn, blessing, the multiple and bookending blessings concerning perception, the invocation of the name Yisra’el, and the final blessing, in its context in Berakhot 60b after washing one’s face, the valence of the ritual washing of one’s hands after contact with death, and Reb Zalman’s interpretive translation “As we face you” for “be’einekha” (lit. “in your eyes”), I came to an insight that these birkhot hashaḥar may be read as framed by the story of Yaakov wrestling until dawn with the angel he forces to bless him, and which he names Peniel (Genesis 32:25-31).

Source (Hebrew) Genesis 32:25-31 Translation (English)

וַיִּוָּתֵ֥ר יַעֲקֹ֖ב לְבַדּ֑וֹ
וַיֵּאָבֵ֥ק אִישׁ֙ עִמּ֔וֹ עַ֖ד עֲל֥וֹת הַשָּֽׁחַר׃
וַיַּ֗רְא כִּ֣י לֹ֤א יָכֹל֙ ל֔וֹ
וַיִּגַּ֖ע בְּכַף־יְרֵכ֑וֹ
וַתֵּ֙קַע֙ כַּף־יֶ֣רֶךְ יַעֲקֹ֔ב בְּהֵֽאָבְק֖וֹ עִמּֽוֹ׃
וַיֹּ֣אמֶר שַׁלְּחֵ֔נִי כִּ֥י עָלָ֖ה הַשָּׁ֑חַר
וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לֹ֣א אֲשַֽׁלֵּחֲךָ֔ כִּ֖י אִם־בֵּרַכְתָּֽנִי׃
וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֵלָ֖יו מַה־שְּׁמֶ֑ךָ
וַיֹּ֖אמֶר יַעֲקֹֽב׃
וַיֹּ֗אמֶר לֹ֤א יַעֲקֹב֙ יֵאָמֵ֥ר עוֹד֙ שִׁמְךָ֔ כִּ֖י אִם־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל
כִּֽי־שָׂרִ֧יתָ עִם־אֱלֹהִ֛ים וְעִם־אֲנָשִׁ֖ים וַתּוּכָֽל׃
וַיִּשְׁאַ֣ל יַעֲקֹ֗ב וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ הַגִּֽידָה־נָּ֣א שְׁמֶ֔ךָ
וַיֹּ֕אמֶר לָ֥מָּה זֶּ֖ה תִּשְׁאַ֣ל לִשְׁמִ֑י
וַיְבָ֥רֶךְ אֹת֖וֹ שָֽׁם׃
וַיִּקְרָ֧א יַעֲקֹ֛ב שֵׁ֥ם הַמָּק֖וֹם פְּנִיאֵ֑ל
כִּֽי־רָאִ֤יתִי אֱלֹהִים֙ פָּנִ֣ים אֶל־פָּנִ֔ים
וַתִּנָּצֵ֖ל נַפְשִֽׁי׃
Yaakov was left alone.
And a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn.
When he saw that he had not prevailed against him,
he wrenched Yaakov’s hip at its socket,
so that the socket of his hip was strained as he wrestled with him.
Then he said, “Let me go, for dawn is breaking.”
But he answered, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”
Said the other, “What is your name?”
He replied, “Yaakov.”
Said he, “Your name shall no longer be Yaakov, but Yisrael,
for you have striven with beings divine and human, and have prevailed.”
Yaakov asked, “Pray tell me your name.”
But he said, “You must not ask my name!”
And he took leave of him there.
So Yaakov named the place Peniel,
meaning, “I have seen a divine being face to face,
yet my life has been preserved.”

As we arouse ourselves from sleep, an intimate experience with “1/60th of death”[16]Cf. Berachot 57b, Midrash Rabbah Genesis 17:7, we bless Hashem that we may perceive (or benefit from other’s perception) of the dawn as well as our eponymous ancestor’s taking by force the blessing of the name Yisra’el which informs our daily identity and actions, may our wrestling with these challenges be righteous and just in the perception of our peers and in the judgement of our elo’ah who is Just. –Aharon N. Varady

Source(s)

Notes   [ + ]

  1. This section of blessings is recorded in Brakhot 60b:5 by the Stama’im
  2, 4. Psalms 146:8
  3. Psalms 146:7
  5. Cf. Genesis 3:21
  6. Cf. Psalms 146:6
  7. Cf. Psalms 37:23
  8. Psalms 65:7
  9. While the blessing is a particular derivation of Psalms 8:6, Reb Zalman here is characteristically taking his interpretive translation to the next level, invoking the origin story of the name Yisra’el in Genesis 32:22-31
  10. This blessing, recorded by Rabbi Simḥa of Vitry in his Maḥzor Vitry is an attestation of either a blessing no longer found in our extant manuscripts of Brakhot 60b or is a novel blessing preserved in his nusaḥ. Cf. Isaiah 40:29
  11. Cf. Rebbe Yehudah’s statement in Tosefta Berakhot 6.23 and Rebbe Meir’s statement in Menachot.43b.17
  12. Sabbath and festival prayer book, United Synagogue of America 1946, Cf. Genesis 1:27
  13. Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher, Arba Turim, circa early 14th century. Abu Dirham notes this formulation was new in his time.
  14. Sabbath and festival prayer book, United Synagogue of America 1946, Cf. Genesis 32:29
  15. Berakhot 60b.6
  16. Cf. Berachot 57b, Midrash Rabbah Genesis 17:7

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