The Barchu

When we start service, the very first prayer we say is called “The Barchu” or more properly “Barukh” which means blessing. The first line is “Barukh atah Adonai” which means, “Bless the Lord.” It is:

  • A rabbinic creation which frames and gives meaning to the performance of a commandment “Blessed are You Adonai, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with his commandments and commanded us to…
  • Invokes both immanent and transcendent aspects of God (1st & 3rd Persons)
  • Recalls “election” and “holiness” with every act
  • Ensures that Jews maintain consciousness of and a relationship to God at all times; are always aware that they are living in   God’s presence

The B’rakhah is a prayer of gratitude or praise of God that starts with blessing God. You might think that it means that we as human beings extend our blessing or heap our praise upon God for His having done what is described in the rest of the blessing. But it is presumptuous on our part since all honor and all wisdom and all blessing reside solely in God, nothing that man says or does can add to Him any such qualities.

Barukh means blessed, and God has been described as “El barukh” “a blessed God”, so what this first line of the prayer, Barukh atah Adonai really means is “Thou O Lord are the source, the fountain head of all blessing”. The second thing about this blessing is the use of the word “atah” which in Hebrew is used in the familiar second person to mean “You” or “Thou”. When we begin in the second person addressing God as “atah,” Thou, or You, we relate to Him as our Father, as the source of mercy and compassion—as the One who cares for mankind.

In the second line of the blessing however, we switch grammar to the more formal third person when we state ” ham’vorach l’olam va’ed,” “worthy to be praised.” The way this prayer is composed leads to understanding that while we are to hold a respectful distance from God as the King of the universe, our Sovereign Ruler. He wants us to be close to Him as only family can be.

So in closing I would like to remind you of two thoughts that we talked about in last Friday’s Kabbalat Shabbat service:

The Talmud states, ” He who prays must direct his heart to heaven” – Talmud – Berakhot 31a.

Rabbi Judah Halevi, stated “Prayer is for the soul what nourishment is for the body”.


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