Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

Absent normal-formed formal Jewish blessings

All formal Jewish blessings seem to have a similar structure. We should notice and contemplate exceptions as they may come to teach us something important and unique.

First Blessing Amidah: Where is King of the World?

All loose-standing Blessings mention that G^d is the absolute Supreme, the Ruler of the Universe. In fact, a Blessing missing that part (two words), is not a Blessing. So, when we want to part from the Shabbat after Shabbat without (yet) saying the Evening Prayers (which contain the Havdalah), we say a Havadalah formula without His Name and Kingship – not a real Blessing. I does the job of separation but others are forbidding to say Amein to such a text.

Sometimes, following a normal Blessing, the next Blessing(s) make no mention of King of the World. But if someone is sloppy and leaves it out in the first Blessing (making it invalidate – forbidden to say Amein to it!), this does not invalidate the following Blessing – to whom other may say Amein.

But the Amidah opens with a Blessing perfectly valid without saying King of the World.

Our Patriarch Abraham though was the first person to recognize G^d’s Kingship over the World, so that way it’s His Absolute Leadership is still in when we say “The G^d of Abraham.”

A next question should be: But why is this missing?

Maybe it’s because a G^d Who’s both our G^d and the G^d of our Ancestors obviously is Ruler of the World.

Then this oddity may be here to tell us: Did you notice how special it is that we can talk to Him?

Elokai, Neshamah: Where are the Name and the Kingship?

This is the only one of the first 18 Morning Blessings that doesn’t start with G^d’s Names and mentioning His Kingship. Then it’s understandable that it is recommended that we say it after other Blessings; it follows in the Prayer book those over Torah learning or the one after using the bathroom.

A good question should be: But why are they missing?

Maybe it’s because we refer to waking up. When we awaken, we might not yet know of G^d’s Presence and Leadership. Then we acknowledge that G^d revived us after sleep, that He later will take life away from us and in the future will return us to life, but that as long as we are alive now, then we praise Him – and remember His Names.

Then this oddity may be here to tell us: Did you notice how unique it is that we can wake up at all, as amazing as the Revival of the Dead?

Second Blessing Birkat haMazon: Who, What?

There seem to be two formal Blessings in the Jewish Tradition. One that we say at the fulfillment of a Commandment. And one that lauds the deeds or abilities of G^d. The latter type may assign to G^d a noun or a verb. He is the Healer, or He heals.

So we may recite that G^d had commanded us to light a light for Chanukah. And then we may praise G^d for doing miracles.

But the Second Blessing of Birkat haMazon has neither. You G^d are Source of all Blessing (the standard first three-word introduction) … on the Land and on the food. No recital of a Commandment nor any name for or action from G^d. What’s going on?

Also the Blessing derived from Birkat haMazon, meiEin Shalosh, has this strange form.

May I suggest that this is a Commandment Blessing that doesn’t have the Commandment formula because the Torah Verse that formulates the Obligation is listed just before.

A next question should be: But why is this missing?

Perhaps this is to highlight that here is one of only two Blessings in the whole of the Jewish Tradition that the Torah directly obligates us to say.

Normally the text that “He gave us His Command to …” is referring to the Rabbis formulating the Commandment and the text of the Blessing. Here it’s directly from G^d.

Then this oddity is here to tell us: Did you notice how special that is?

For the Onein: The missing Blessings

Jews who lost a close one, Heaven forbid, do not say any Blessings between the time of death and the burial. They eat and drink without mentioning G^d before or afterwards and they don’t say any of the obligatory three daily prayers – except on Shabbat or a Festival if the burial will take place afterwards. No Blessing whatsoever on workdays.

This may be a bit uncomfortable for the newly bereaved, as we never would do such a thing. But in any case, saying a formal Blessing or Prayer as Onein nevertheless is not virtuous.

The regular suggestion is that we’d be too busy (preparing for burial), shocked or angry to praise G^d.

Maybe the discomfort comes to say: Your need is so great now and I’m fine, ready to support you. The Blessings are always for our growth and not His needs, Heaven forbid, but here it must be clearer than ever.

Or maybe: When someone died, the greatest tragedy there is, it’s too obvious that G^d is in charge – no need to belabor the point. After all, when all humans are too small to stop calamity, it’s an Act of G^d.

Then this oddity is here to tell us: Did you notice how special that is?

The moral of this story is that we should pay enough attention to our Prayers that we’ll notice any oddities, to learn from them.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a vegan for 8 years now. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach and lehavdiel bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQAI, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quit a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500st blog post with the ToI. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having a peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me. To see other blog posts by him, a second blog - under construction - can be found by clicking on the Website icon next to his picture.
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