At Coffeehouse Torah Talk we’re exploring the morning prayers. We have started with Birchot Ha’Shachar (ברכות השחר) (“morning blessings”)
When where these written? What do they mean? Are there difficult phrases or metaphors – how do we understand them? What does this tefila mean to us? Are there different versions of the tefila, and if so, which one do we use?
Please join in the conversations, and feel free to add your ideas, and comments from any siddur commentaries that you may have!
Starting us off: One of the prayers here is “Baruch Shem Kivod Malchuto Li’olam Va’ed”, Praised be God’s glorious sovereignty throughout all time.”
This phrase was used in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem as a response to hearing the name of God pronounced. It was also used as a response to the recitation of the first line of the Sh’ma. Upon hearing “Hear O Israel…”, the congregation would respond “Praised be God’s glorious sovereignty throughout all time.” – literally, the name of His glorious majesty.
Although this practice fell into disuse when the Romans forbade the public recitation of the Sh’ma, these words are still recited quietly after the first line of the Sh’ma. Reciting these words here emphasizes that wearing tefillin is similar to reciting the Sh’ma, which is [literally] contained within them. It is a way of accepting upon ourselves the sovereignty of God, pledging our allegiance to the Almighty above all earthly rulers.
“Or Hadash: A Commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals”, Reuven Hammer, 2003
Following this is a reading from the prophet Hosea
וְאֵרַשְׂתִּ֥יךְ לִ֖י לְעוֹלָ֑ם וְאֵרַשְׂתִּ֥יךְ לִי֙ בְּצֶ֣דֶק וּבְמִשְׁפָּ֔ט וּבְחֶ֖סֶד וּֽבְרַחֲמִֽים׃
And I will espouse you forever: I will espouse you with righteousness and justice, And with goodness and mercy,
וְאֵרַשְׂתִּ֥יךְ לִ֖י בֶּאֱמוּנָ֑ה וְיָדַ֖עַתְּ אֶת־יְהוָֽה׃ (ס)
And I will espouse you with faithfulness; Then you shall be devoted to the LORD.
What does this mean? Why is it in the service here?
Translation from Sefaria Sefaria.org/Hosea.2.22
Next we read וְאֵרַשְׂתִּ֥יךְ לִ֖י לְעוֹלָ֑ם/I will betroth you to me forever
The recitation of these verses was added in the seventeenth century. The choice of this passage from Hosea emphasizes the tefillin as signs of the love between God and Israel. The straps are wound around the fingers, reminding us of a wedding band.
The passage describes the reconciliation between God and Israel. Although Israel has been unfaithful to God, God will take Israel back and enter into a renewed espousal. These specific words are God’s formula of betrothal.
They follow a magnificent pledge: “And in that day, declares Adonai, you will call me ishi (“my man”, meaning “my husband”) and no more will you call me Baali (another term for husband; literally “my master,”, but rejected here because it is also a name for pagan gods/idols); Hosea 2:18.
– “Or Hadash: A Commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals”,
What insights can you bring from books, or from your teachers? Your teachers can be rabbis – or even your students and children!)