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Salvia



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PostSubject: Re: Learning about Blessings   Wed Jun 05, 2013 3:28 pm

Hi everybody,
And sorry for unearthing old topics, but I thought this better than cluttering the forum with new ones!
I would like to learn a bit more about these blessings, about when they are said, why and which ones there are...Off course I could google a lot, but I always prefer to ask actual persons, and I'd also like to know which of these blessings you actually say...

Today I was biking through a forest, it is very warm over here and you just smelled the boorm and the pine trees everywhere. It is a smell I love and which makes me happy, and somewhere in a corner of my mind I remember having read somewhere that there is a Jewish blessing of G-d for when you smell trees and flowers. I just couldn't remember it so I improvised 'Blessed are you G-d who made the trees and the flowers'.
I hadn't thought of saying these blessings before (safe for in the morning when I imrpovise a 'Blessed are you G-d who gives life and who gave us today a new day') but actually I love the idea, the idea that one encounters G-d's goodness in everything; of this moment you just remind yourself of the divine Source of all being who makes all the good things in life possible.

Not long ago I read a review for a book about prayers that was called 'Thanks Help Wow'. According to the writer, these are the three categories in which most prayers fall. These blessing fall, I think, in the 'Wow' category: the category of awe for life and gratefullness of being a part of this all...

But the question was just if anybody could tell me a reliable source, book or site, where I can learn more about the actual blessings, as opposed to my improvised ones....And if you could please share your personal obversations :)

Thanks Very Happy
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Debbie B.

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PostSubject: Re: Learning about Blessings   Wed Jun 05, 2013 9:03 pm

I do not know most of the many blessings for every day things except for the food blessings. But I do know that there are special blessings for things like seeing a rainbow or seeing an unusual or beautiful creature, even though I don't know the specific words for those blessings by heart. So I got curious and did a little Google search and found out that there is a "Halachipedia" Cool

Here is the Halachipedia page for brachot:
Brachot - Halachipedia
Links to pages for the kind of blessings you are talking about are mostly in the lower right hand purple box. I did not know before that the Ashkenazim and Sephardim differ on whether or what to say for some brachot. (See for example the page on brachot on a nice smell)

Also, here is a website all about brachot:
The Berachot Site

An interesting story about a Shehecheyanu: First woman ordained as a rabbi by JTS

Note that the Halachipedia page on the Shehecheyanu does not mention all the times that it is supposed to be said such as for various holidays. And readers of this "Jews by Choice" forum may especially notice that the page does not mention that this blessing is said after immersion for conversion. Very Happy (This indicates that immersion in a mikveh is not supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime event even if it is for many converts.)

A personal story about brachot: When I studied with my "sponsoring rabbi" for conversion I had already been very involved in Jewish life for almost 25 years, so I already knew the essentials. Therefore, after the first few meetings when he asked me about various aspects of my observance, he did not go over the basics, and when he asked me if I knew about aspects of ritual as we went along, usually I did. So for most of the time that I studied with him, we focused on a very careful reading of the weekday morning service with my rabbi explaining meaning (symbolic and spiritual), sources, history, and traditions connected with the text. Then when the date of my meeting with the Beit Din was set and I was at the last meeting before that (there was a break of a few weeks due to Pesach in between) he suddenly seemed to realize that perhaps he should have checked more about my basic knowledge and he asked me if I knew the basic "daily blessings". I asked him what he meant by that and he replied that he meant blessings like those for food, so I rattled off the various food blessings that I could think of and asked him if I had missed any. (I had learned them when my kids were young and they were learning the blessings for kids' snacks at synagogue "gan" and Jewish daycare and preschool.) He pointed out that I had not mentioned the "shehakol" blessing---the one that is not for a whole class of foods like the others (which is why I forgot it).


Last edited by Debbie B. on Thu Jun 06, 2013 9:06 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Dena

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PostSubject: Learning about Blessings   Thu Jun 06, 2013 5:42 pm

Salvia, this forum isn't cluttered. It's perfectly fine for your to start new topics. I started a new one here for you. Very Happy
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Mychal

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PostSubject: Re: Learning about Blessings   Sun Jun 09, 2013 1:17 pm

From "Gateways to Judaism" by Rabbi Mordechai Becher:

"Many people seem to be bored with their lives. ... This boredom really stems not from a lack of novelty, by from a lack of appreciation of life itself and all the blessings of life. ... Through the recitation of blessings, Judaism tries to help us retain [the] unspoiled perspective [of a child] and increase our appreciation of the pleasure and wonder of life.

"Rather than a generic 'thank you, God,' Jewish law specifies a different blessing for every category of food and enjoyment. In this way, Judaism impresses upon us the abundance of good."

I think Rabbi Becher makes an interesting intellectual point, but the drawback is that people can't always remember ALL the blessings, especially when they're young or new to Judaism.

I think it's more important that you recognized a moment that needed a blessing and you made one. That you didn't follow the pre-approved formula is not important. In fact, the blessings are guidelines, not laws.

Praying is very hard to do (unless you're really practiced), so most people find pre-made prayers (including blessings) much easier to deal with. But that doesn't mean that you're prohibited from making up your own as you feel the need to. The script is there to help you have a relationship with God, not limit it.

So, if you ever need to say a blessing, say what works--either the prescribed blessing or one of your own. The important part is to say the blessing.

(By the way, it's always okay to say a blessing in your native language; you don't have to do it in Hebrew if you don't know the words.)
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Salvia



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PostSubject: Re: Learning about Blessings   Sun Jun 09, 2013 3:56 pm

Thank you Mychal for this post! And thank you Dena for the new topic!

It is nice to know that improvised blessings in vernacular 'count' as well - although I do want to know the 'real' ones in Hebrew, maybe not even because they are more 'true' or anything but just because I feel that putting effort in actually learning them is also working on a relationship with G-d :)

I really like the quote of rabbi Becher, it is what I like most in the blessing as well, for the moment: that they make you realise how blessed you are, that you're actually making a point of recognising how great Creation is... I'm sure there is much more to it but for the moment I'm trying to learn Hebrew and Judaism 101 ;)
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Sarit

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PostSubject: Re: Learning about Blessings   Sun Jun 09, 2013 4:59 pm

I'm with Mychal! The most important thing is that you understand what you are saying (hence it can be more effective to say the blessing improvised, in your native language than to recite it in Hebrew without being fully conscious of the meaning), and of course, it is important to recognize the moment for a blessing. :)

...And all that is leading you to learn the Hebrew words, which leads to learning Hebrew as a written and spoken language... And it becomes more and more easier from that point! ;)
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Salvia



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PostSubject: Re: Learning about Blessings   Sun Jun 09, 2013 6:28 pm

I am browsing the Berachot site - I am happy to read there are also blessings for seeing the ocean, for seeing exceptionally beautiful trees or fields, and indeed, for smelling flowers, and for seeing the fuit trees in blossom - I am a bit of a hippie and I love wandering in nature like a wide-eyed child because everything is so PRETTY and I even happen to run and dance and sing like a child because of the happiez, especially on the beach at dusk, or in the forest when it is warm and everything smells so nice Razz Ok, you are with crazy, sorry Razz
These are so many occasions for blessings - Creation is so awesome - go G-d!

Every year when the apple trees blossom I am happy to see them - it seems to me like Judaism has something appropiate to say about virtually everything I hold dear Very Happy

Oh, there are also berachot for buying new clothes,for hearing good news and for eating seasonal fruit for the first time! I wish I heard that last one a bit earlier - I am a local produce market addict (when my kitchen stalls aren't full of fresh veg it doesn't feel like my kitchen anymore..) and I feel indeed very blessed when I buy a product for the first time of the year - asperagus and green peas in spring, and now the first strawberries...I'll have to wait for the first fruits of high summer, like apricots, now to say this blessing. But these are indeed things I feel so blessed about - I just discovered a side of judaism I like very, very much indeed Very Happy

Is there also a blessing for discovering bits of halacha that make you totally happy?

Now I just have to transliterate them - good occasion for practising my fresh Hebrew skills!
And they have for some of them Ashkenazi and Sephardi versions - I have no idea which one to choose, not being a part of any 'tribe'...as far as I know at least, I do know my mothers family came about 150 years ago from eastern Europe under bad circumstances and there ARE many yiddish expressions in the family (which is very helpful when learning Hebrew, but sucks when you're trying to speak German because you've got yiddishisms coming up in your head all the time...), but to say that we might have a Jewish substrate is a bit far fetched Laughing

Sorry for rambling, again!.
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Sarit

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PostSubject: Re: Learning about Blessings   Sun Jun 09, 2013 7:14 pm

Yes, I also find blessings wonderful! And I cherish all those moments that you've spoken about very much!

As for Ashkenazi and Sephardic traditions - well, I tend to learn both and to know differences and similarities between them, but I often follow Sephardic tradition (although I was born and grew up in a geographic and cultural context of Central Europe) because the congregation which I'm part of is mostly Sephardic (and actually, that's the only congregation in my city besides Chabad's, so I [sort of] couldn't choose), so I've just kind of "picked up" a lot of minhagim from them.

Do just what makes most sense to you and what feels the closest to you. Jewish tradition is so multifaceted and beautiful!
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searchinmyroots

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PostSubject: Re: Learning about Blessings   Mon Jun 10, 2013 12:08 pm

Yes, all of G-d's creation is beautiful! And isn't just so appropriate to thank G-d for everything He has given us!

There are some who look at us like we are a bit crazy.

They cannot understand what Rabbi Becher meant when he wrote -

"Rather than a generic 'thank you, God,' Jewish law specifies a different blessing for every category of food and enjoyment. In this way, Judaism impresses upon us the abundance of good."


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Salvia



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PostSubject: Re: Learning about Blessings   Mon Jun 10, 2013 6:34 pm

searchinmyroots wrote:
Yes, all of G-d's creation is beautiful! And isn't just so appropriate to thank G-d for everything He has given us!
Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy

"Give thanks to the ONE for He is good;
Yes, His friendship is everlasting"

As my Bible translates the beginning of Psalm 118, one of my favourites.

I think I'm going to start a topic on the Psalms too, if I may :)

Last stupid question on blessings (for the moment): does anyone know where I could find them listed with English or French translation? I like the sites listed here, but they are a bit above my level, especially the Halachipedia (however interesting it is). It might seem a lazy question but there are so many sites on Judaism out there that I really don't know where to start....
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searchinmyroots

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PostSubject: Re: Learning about Blessings   Mon Jun 10, 2013 7:27 pm

Salvia,

I found this but not sure how good it is. Maybe others here can chime in on what they think of it?


http://www.kakatuv.com/index.html


I remember another site but I have to find it.
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Salvia



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PostSubject: Re: Learning about Blessings   Mon Jun 10, 2013 8:38 pm

Wow, thank you so much for that site - it is very helpful!
I also love the design with the medieval adornment - very beautiful, love at first sight Very Happy
They don't give all the blessings (not the 'nature blessings' I like so much) but I guess the food blessings are more important - I'm going to study this Very Happy
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Debbie B.

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PostSubject: Re: Learning about Blessings   Mon Jun 10, 2013 8:55 pm

I thought I had posted about that website, but it must have been for the precursor to this website or perhaps only to an older listserv for converts.

I just started a new topic, "Online Siddurim":
JBC: Jewish Ritual and Mitzvot > Online Siddurim
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Debbie B.

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PostSubject: Re: Learning about Blessings   Mon Jun 10, 2013 11:07 pm

Salvia mentioned transliterating the blessings* and I just happened to come across this webpage on the Reform website:
http://www.reformjudaism.org/practice/prayers-blessings/daily-blessings-wonders-nature

*Note however that I happen to feel strongly that converts and Jews who do not know Hebrew well should resist the temptation to use transliteration, but instead should just put a sustained effort into learning to read Hebrew. I say that as a person who found reading Hebrew a difficult skill to acquire. I have been reading some Hebrew text for 5-15 minutes every single day for about 5 years now (mostly for preparing Torah readings) and I still can't sight read Hebrew fast enough to sing a fast song that I am not already quite familiar with. (So I prefer Hebrew songs that have a slow pace!) Nevertheless, I have been getting more proficient very slowly.
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Sarit

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PostSubject: Re: Learning about Blessings   Tue Jun 11, 2013 9:54 am

Thanks, searchinmyroots and Debbie! I like when there are three lines - in Hebrew alephbet, transliteration and translation. It actually pushes me to learn Hebrew faster! It can be a great tool for realizing how the sentence and syntax work in Hebrew. It also helps me to learn Hebrew with more comprehension.

I also feel, besides that it is the most important that I know what I am saying, that actually is important to say everything I can in Hebrew. It connects me to the whole history and generations before me. Besides that, every language has its own specificities and layers of meaning, and I don't want to miss that. :)

I've recently started to actively learn how to read and write Hebrew alephbet (and I must admit that Hebrew for children videos help me very much!). Since the services in our synagogues are almost completely in Hebrew (the smaller part is in Ladino) and the siddurim are printed in Hebrew alephbet with Serbian translation (so no Hebrew transliteration!), I first started to apprehend Hebrew, than to speak a little, than speak a little bit better and apprehend solidly, so now I often say that I'm basically illiterate person when it comes to Hebrew. Very Happy

Now I'm trying to learn how to read and write, and I'm waiting for the fall so I can jump in the beginners' course of Hebrew here in our community.

Anyway, blessings were one of the first sentences I spoke in Hebrew; they mean so much to me for thousand reasons! :)

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Salvia



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PostSubject: Re: Learning about Blessings   Tue Jun 11, 2013 11:12 am

I'm with Sarit on this: seeing the word-for-word translation actually helps me a lot to get more into Hebrew and to get more of a 'feel' for the language. Things always get lost in translation, because of syntactical differences - emphasis is almost always a syntactical thing and gets often lost in translation- and because of the multiple meanings and associations of words- this forms the soul of a language, I believe and is the reason why people express themselves differently in different languages - the moment you want to transmit something a little bit abstract or linked to feelings or anything subjective, you already can't convey exactly the same message in English as in French, let alone Hebrew! *language nerd*
A language is always a gateway to a culture, to a certain mindset.
I also agree on saying things in Hebrew because it is a link to the generations before us, speaking these words makes you a part of a long tradition which gives such a beautiful extra layer to prayers that are already beautiful in themself!

SoI hope that, G-d willing, I will one day be able to read Hebrew on the spot, but for the moment it is still very difficult, especially when the vowels aren't indicated.
So for the moment I will say the blessings in my vernacular - until the moment I will be able to say them in full conscience and with full intention in Hebrew :)

This got me motitaved to get out my Hebrew textbook and notebook and work a bit - see you later Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Learning about Blessings   Wed Aug 28, 2013 6:06 pm

Late to the discussion here, but I would also suggest Chabad's Brachot Handbook. It's a collection of online resources to help explain and teach the brachot. It's how I learned.
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Sarit

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PostSubject: Re: Learning about Blessings   Fri Aug 30, 2013 8:36 am

Thank you, mikedoyleblogger, so much!! Chabad's Brachot Handbook is very neat indeed! I'll definitely bookmark it.
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