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

Why Jew do not bless before some commandments. An investigation.

In fact, there are two kinds of set statements that can be said before doing Mitzvot.

  1. A declaration to help us focus, pay attention
  2. A formal Blessing to sanctify our action.

Focusing

There are traditional statements about kavana, focus and intention, before many Commandments: saying Hallel, taking the Palm bundle, entering the Booth on Tabernacles, counting the Omer, etc.

Some rabbis plead against saying things to extra focus on Commandments that are done through speech, like counting the Omer, making Kiddush or Havdalah, or saying the Blessings after a bread meal. If we say a declaration on the automatic pilot, what we’ll have gained? Just do it.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe suggested adding a declaration before our morning prayers, because of the times we’re in. That we take upon ourselves the very important Commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves.

These statements don’t have the form of a formal Blessing. Therefore it’s not so pressing to know if we can say them. While a redundant formal Blessing may be a violation on one of the Ten Commandments, not to use G^d’s Name in vain.

Blessing

We make a Blessing before eating, before saying Hallel (Ashkenazics even before Half Hallel), before taking up the Palm bundle, before entering the booth to eat a regular meal, before eating Matzot and bitter herbs on Passover Night, before putting on Phylacteries, even before putting on a Prayer shawl (there is no obligation to wear four-sided clothing but if we do, we should attach fringes to them and then make a Blessing), before listening to the Shofar, before learning and before reading Torah, before counting the Omer, before checking for chameitz, etc.

But, we do not make a blessing before giving charity, before returning a loan, before having proper sexual relations, before saying our daily prayers, before returning a lost object, before honoring our parents, before teaching our (grand)child, etc.

Why? Many learned detailed ideas have been suggested. I’m certainly not the first to wonder about this. One reason I heard often is that one doesn’t know if the poor would accept your gift (he might suddenly die), if the relations will lead to a child (but enjoying sex is a Commandment in itself), if our prayers will be heard and answered (they will be heard but answered by: Not yet), if the child will understand any of the learning, etc. I find that to reason this way sometimes sounds a bit farfetched (but it’s better than nothing). Let me suggest something else. Maybe I’m not the first to say so.

Others

One reason I can think of is that these Commandments happen in vis-√†-vis another. Don’t let the other (in prayer: the Other) wait because you want to sanctify. Proper interaction with others is consecration enough already.

This even more so when the interaction with the other is commanded and urgent: to save a life, stop a would-be murderer. But before you properly slaughter an animal, you do make a blessing because the animal will only profit, from you being calm and having a few seconds more to live.

Also a newborn baby won’t mind if it takes a few seconds more before he’ll encounter the knife of the circumciser.

How about the Blessing on getting married? Well, maybe that comes to teach the groom to go slow on his wife. And though the bride is not like an animal about to be slaughtered, she just profits from a few more seconds as a free girl. (Besides, most brides are too busy crying/praying to notice.)

But when you make Kiddush Friday night or Havadalah Saturday night, others wait for you to finish the Blessing. Not really. You say it for them.

We acknowledge specifically being Divinely commanded before doing a Commandment but not at the expense of someone (someOne) else.

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 (https://diethylstilbestrol.co.uk/studies/des-and-psychological-health/), 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 strict vegan since 2008. 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, lehavdil 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, LGBTQIA, 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 quite 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 500th 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. * NEW: To see other blog posts by him, his overspill blog you can reach by clicking on the Website icon next to his picture at the head of every post. There you may find precursors to later TOI blog posts, addition or corrections of published TOI blog posts, blog posts the TOI will not carry, and some thoughts that are too short to be a TOI blog post. Also, the TOI only allows for one blog post per blogger per 24 hours. Sometimes, he has more to say than that. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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