Morning Blessings

The Order of the Traditional Morning Service.

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Now Let Us Join Together

At this point in the service, many traditional congregations begin praying together, starting with Birkhot Hashahar, a list of blessings thanking God for fulfilling our basic needs.

These blessings praise God for giving intelligence and understanding and providing a world in which to live. We thank God for creating us as human beings and as Jews, and for the simple things in life, such as our senses, our bodies, and our freedom. Furthermore, we testify that God looks over the Jewish people, "provides Israel with strength," and "crowns Israel with glory."

This includes three blessings which have been a source of controversy. Orthodox liturgy includes two blessings thanking God for not creating us as slaves or as gentiles. The Conservative movement replaces the blessing about slavery by thanking God "for creating me as a free person" and for the second, uses a prayer from the Talmud, thanking God "for creating me an Israelite."

Dating back to the 14the century Orthodox liturgy dictates that men thank God "for not creating me a woman," while women recite "for creating me according to Your will." The Conservative movement replaces this for both men and women by thanking God "for creating me in Your image."

Generally, congregants say the blessings to themselves and respond "Amen" as the service leader reads them aloud.

The Binding of Isaac

Following Birkhot Hashahar, the story of the binding of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19) is read to remind God of what Jews throughout history have been willing to do for the sake of heaven. It is followed by a passage called L'olam Yehai Adam, which establishes our covenant with God, and admits that as humans, we are fallible, but because of our ancestors' righteousness and God's mercy, we are given life.

Finally, Korbanot, a selection of biblical and Talmudic passages that explain how the service in the Temple operated, is read. Although these passages can be found in most traditional prayer books, reading them has become less common. Because of their focus on animal sacrifice in the Temple many liberal prayer books do not print them at all.

The last passage in this section is a talmudic source that explains the 13 interpretive principles that Rabbi Ishmael used to explain the verses of the Bible. Traditional congregations end with a short prayer for the rebuilding of the Temple, and with that, the first major part of Shaharit, the Pesukei D'zimrah, is ready to begin.

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Ben Keil is a student of journalism and religion at Boston University. He works as a freelance writer and poet.