Saturday, March 12, 2005

Friday and Shabbat daffage: Torah blessings, praying for others

So first of all, I've noticed that in some circles it seems to have become de rigeur to substitute for the proper blessing before the Torah an invented one (contrary to halacha, which tells us that that we don't add to the blessings of the rabbis). This is apparently done because of dislike of the notion of chosenness. What I'm curious about is why the made-up blessing is used when the gemara actually offers one:

(from Berachot 11b) What benediction is said [before the study of the Torah]? — Rab Judah said in the name of Samuel: [Blessed art Thou . . . ] who hast sanctified us by Thy commandments, and commanded us to study the Torah. R. Yochanan used to conclude as follows: ‘Make pleasant, therefore, we beseech Thee, O Lord our God, the words of Thy Torah in our mouth and in the mouth of Thy people the house of Israel, so that we with our offspring and the offspring of Thy people the house of Israel may all know Thy name and study Thy Torah. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who teachest Torah to Thy people Israel’. That is: הערב נא ה אלהינו את דברי תורתך בפינו ובפיפיות עמך בית ישראל ונהיה אנחנו וצאצאינו וצאצאי עמך בית ישראל כלנו יודעי שמך ועוםקי תורתך. ברוך אתה ה המלמד תורה לעמו ישראל R. Hamnuna said: ‘[Blessed art Thou . . . ] who hast chosen us from all the nations and given us Thy Torah. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who givest the Torah’. R. Hamnuna said: This is the finest of the benedictions. Therefore let us say all of them.

From 12a: ‘On Sabbath they said an additional blessing on account of the outgoing watch’. What was this benediction? — R. Helbo said: The outgoing watch said to the incoming one, May He who has caused His name to dwell in this house cause to dwell among you love and brotherhood and peace and friendship.

From 12b: Raba b. Hinena the elder said further in the name of Rab: If one is in a position to pray on behalf of his fellow and does not do so, he is called a sinner, as it says, Moreover as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you

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