Most Jewish prayers are recited at specific and regularly recurring times. Think of the blessings said upon waking in the morning, or the specific holiday liturgies, or the blessings recited before and after food and drink.
But some are recited on rarer occasions, or upon seeing or hearing something that isn’t routine. Below are eight of these prayers and blessings you might not have encountered before.
1) The Blessing of the Sun
The “blessing of the sun,” or Birkat Hachamah, is arguably the rarest blessing in all of Judaism, recited only once every 28 years, when — per the Talmud — the sun is at the precise spot in the firmament as it was when it was created. The blessing was last recited in 2009 on the eve of Passover. The blessing is the same as said upon seeing other natural wonders.
The text of the blessing is:
ברוך אתה ה’ אלהינו מלך העולם עושה מעשה בראשית
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe maker of the works of Creation.
Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, oseh ma’aseh b’reishit.
2) Prayer for a Confusing Dream
According to the Talmud, one who has a dream that he does understand should recite a prayer asking for clarity. The prayer is to be said during the time of the Priestly Benediction (typically recited in the Diaspora during the Musaf service for festivals). The full text of the prayer is laid out in the Talmud and is included in many prayer books.
רבונו של עולם אני שלך וחלומותי שלך חלום חלמתי ואיני יודע מה הוא בין שחלמתי אני לעצמי ובין שחלמו לי חבירי ובין שחלמתי על אחרים אם טובים הם חזקם ואמצם כחלומותיו של יוסף ואם צריכים רפואה רפאם כמי מרה על ידי משה רבינו וכמרים מצרעתה וכחזקיה מחליו וכמי יריחו על ידי אלישע וכשם שהפכת קללת בלעם הרשע לברכה כן הפוך כל חלומותי עלי לטובה
Master of the Universe, I am Yours and my dreams are Yours,
I dreamed a dream and I do not know what it is.
Whether I have dreamed of myself, whether my friends have dreamed of me or whether I have dreamed of others,
if the dreams are good, strengthen them and reinforce them like the dreams of Joseph.
And if the dreams require healing,
heal them like the bitter waters of Mara by Moses our teacher, and like Miriam from her leprosy,
and like Hezekiah from his illness, and like the bitter waters of Jericho by Elisha.
And just as You transformed the curse of Balaam the wicked into a blessing,
so transform all of my dreams for me for the best.
Ribono shel oman, ani shelach v’chalomotai shelach, v’eini yodeah mah hoo. Bayn shechalamtee ani l’atzmee, uvain shechalamtee lee chaveirai, uvein shechalamtee al acheirim, eem tovim hame, chezkaim v’emtzaim k’cholomotav shel Yosef, v’eem tz’reecheem r’fooah r’fa’aim, k’may marah al y’day Moshe Rabeinu ooh k’Miryam meetzaratah ooh k’Chizkeeyah m’chalyo ooh k’may Y’reecho al y’day Elisha. Ooh k’shaym shehafachta kill’lat Bil’ahm Harash’ah liv’rachah, kayn hafoch kol chalomotai allai l’tovah.
3) Blessing on Seeing a Wise Man
According to the Shulchan Aruch, the code of Jewish law, one should recite a blessing on seeing a wise man. The text is different depending on whether or not the wise person in question is Jewish. For a Jew, one recites the following:
ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם שחלק מחכמתו ליראיו
Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the Universe, who has imparted wisdom to those that fear You.
Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, she chalak mee chachmato leerayahv.
If the person is not Jewish, the blessing reads as follows:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ׳ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁנָּתַן מֵחָכְמָתוֹ לְבָשָׂר וָדָם
Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the Universe, who has imparted wisdom to flesh and blood.
Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, she natahn maychachmatoh l’vassar vadam.
4) Blessing on a Rainbow
Rainbows are deeply symbolic in Judaism. After the flood in Genesis, God says that a rainbow is a remember of his promise never again to destroy the world with a flood. The rabbis of the Talmud were in agreement that one should say a blessing when seeing one, though they disagreed on just what that blessing is. The solution was to combine two blessings in one. The traditional text recited is:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעולָם זוכֵר הַבְּרִית וְנֶאֱמָן בִּבְרִיתו וְקַיָּם בְּמַאֲמָרו.
Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the Universe, who remembers the covenant, and is faithful to God’s covenant, and keeps God’s promise.
Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, zocher habrit v’ne’eman biv’reetoh v’kayam b’ma’amarav.
5) Blessing on Seeing an Unusual Creature
Jewish law prescribes the recitation of a blessing upon seeing an unusual person or animal, though there is a wide range of opinions over just what kind of animal qualifies. According to Jewish legal codes, this includes an albino, a dwarf, an extremely tall person, a monkey, and an elephant.
The text of the blessing is:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעולָם משנה הבריות
Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the Universe, who makes creatures different.
Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, m’shaneh habriyot.
6) Blessing on Thunder
The Mishnah states that one should say a specific prayer to be said over thunder. The text is:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעולָם שכחו וגבורתו מלא עולם
Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the Universe, whose strength and glory fills the universe.
Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, shekocho ooh g’vuratoh mahlay olam.
7) Blessing on Beauty
The Shulchan Aruch states that one should recite a blessing when seeing a beautiful tree, animal or human. The text is:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעולָם שככה לו בעולמו
Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the Universe, who has such things in his world.
Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, she kacha loh b’olamoh.
8) Blessing on Seeing 600,000 People
The source of this blessing comes from the Talmud, which explains that the blessing is meant to acknowledge the diversity of humanity and assert God’s all-knowingness of what is contained in their hearts.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעולָם חכם הרזים
Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the Universe, knower of secrets.
Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, chacham harazeem.
Pronounced: TALL-mud, Origin: Hebrew, the set of teachings and commentaries on the Torah that form the basis for Jewish law. Comprised of the Mishnah and the Gemara, it contains the opinions of thousands of rabbis from different periods in Jewish history.
Pronounced: MISH-nuh, Origin: Hebrew, code of Jewish law compiled in the first centuries of the Common Era. Together with the Gemara, it makes up the Talmud.