the most natural order

Written by  rabbi benjamin ehrenfeld

art-siddur2Not surprisingly, the name for the collection of blessing and davening texts for the Jewish people is the siddur, which comes from the word, seder (order).

On the one hand, the siddur indicates the order by which services are to be recited. Much can be said about the dramatic/thematic arc of shacharit (the morning service) and birkat hamazon (grace after meals). However, a complete siddur contains more than just the main prayer services of the Jewish people. A full siddur contains blessings for various life-cycle events: weddings, circumcisions, birth of a daughter, redemption of the firstborn son, funerals, blessings upon witnessing beautiful sights, and much more. The asher yatzar blessing thanks God for his wisdom in creating the human body and is meant to be recited after every time one goes to the bathroom. All of this comes to indicate that the siddur is a guidebook to prayers and blessings that are meant to be internalized and even memorized at times.

The siddur presents the order to our mandated devotional lives as Jews and conforms to the natural order of our existence. The siddur turns that natural order into an opportunity to cleave to God in praise or supplication at every turn. This reveals one of the most beautiful aspects of the halakhic order of b’rachot (blessings): to view eating, sleeping, marrying, traveling, going to the bathroom, seeing a rainbow, hearing thunder, etc. as a part of the order of our avodah (service to God). There is no such thing as disembodied religious obligation. The obligation is to provide order to our lives by declaring every facet of life, holy.

In our pursuit of order, may we begin by acknowledging the holiness in all of the things in our lives that we so easily take for granted. When we start by ordering our everyday lives around blessing and encountering God, I believe (with perfect faith) that we will be empowered to live lives balanced in every aspect.

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