Since I’m working on the middah of gratitude this week, I want to focus on the morning blessings, Birkot ha-shachar, in my daily prayers. These blessings all start with the foundational six words, Baruch atah Adonai Elohenu melech ha-olam, “Blessed are you, Lord our God, king of the universe,” and then go on to thank God for a specific gift—for opening our eyes, providing clothing, giving us a firm step, giving strength to the weary. By reciting these blessings—fourteen in the Koren Siddur that I use—I can build my day on a platform of gratitude.
Fiddler on the Roof teaches us that there is a blessing for everything in Judaism (including the czar)! One can come to the same conclusion with careful analysis of a siddur or halachic work that discusses blessings.
The Koren Siddur, for example, actually lists some of the rarer blessings to be found in siddurim, including the blessings over: seeing a rainbow, hearing thunder, seeing lightning, coming to a place where a miracle has occurred, etc. We also discover that many of the morning blessings were initially intended (and many still do this) to be recited while performing certain actions, such as the blessing over the body after using the bathroom, the blessing over crowning Israel with glory when covering one’s head, and so on.
One 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:
One of the first activities incumbent upon Jews as preparation for morning prayer and meals is the act of ritual hand washing. One of the more interesting features of this mitzvah is the language of the blessing one recites upon performance: