middot frugality mesorah morning blessings

morning blessings

Written by  rabbi benjamin ehrenfeld

art-siddur3One of the components of the birkhot hashachar (morning blessings) section of shacharit service is the section of saying a blessing over learning Torah. The standard is that one is not supposed to learn any Torah until having recited this blessing. As is the case with almost every other blessing, the act that follows the blessing must correspond to the subject at hand (in this case the subject is Torah learning). The particular passage chosen from the written Torah is Numbers 6:24-26 (The Aaronic Blessing). One of the sections of oral Torah selected is from B. Shabbat 127a:

“These are things that yield interest during your life, while the principal remains for you in the world-to-come: honoring your father and mother, doing kindness, arriving early to study morning and evening, welcoming strangers, visiting the sick, providing for the bride, burying the dead, paying attention to prayer, bringing peace between one person and another; and the study of Torah is like them all”

(Translation from My People’s Prayer Book, vol. 5: Birkhot HaShachar, Lawrence Hoffman, ed.)

It could be asked why Torah study serves as a part of daily davening. Are not learning (Torah) and davening (Avodah) different? Furthermore, aren’t the deeds mentioned in Shabbat 127a more related to acts of loving-kindness (Gemilut Chasidim)? It is well known that Judaism sees the world as standing on these three pillars: Torah, Avodah, and Gemilut Chasidim. The fact that the three are mentioned as three would seem to suggest they are three different things. It is not so simple, however. Our Sages clarify the interconnectedness of these three pillars by placing Torah learning within morning prayers, and by inserting texts  that deal with our righteousness (Shabbat 127a), as well as God’s (Numbers 6:24-26). One of things that links Torah, Avodah, and Gemilut Chasidim is righteousness.

It is telling that we do not begin with the Shema. We build up to it, but our first daily experience of Torah is a recognition of God’s blessing upon us (in Numbers 6:24-26) followed shortly with our responsibility to be righteous with others. Righteousness is a middah that is central to living a life connected with Torah. May we all open our hearts and minds to understand and teach to every fiber of our being that the way of God is one filled full with rigteousness.

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