The Blessings of the Dawn

by Rabbi Audrey Pollack, October 29, 2020

Dear Solel,

As the days grow shorter and we turn back our clocks to bring daylight a little bit earlier in the morning, I linger a bit longer on the opening blessing of Birchot HaShachar, the morning blessings (literally the blessings of the dawn). This set of 15 blessings allows us to focus on the daily gifts of creation that are restored for us each morning. We thank God for the opening our eyes to a brand new day, for the ability to stand up and put on our clothes, and for the feeling of being refreshed after a good night sleep, among others (See page 79 in the Solel Shabbat Siddur).

That opening blessing is: “Asher natan Lasechvi vina L’havchin beyn yom u-veyn laila – we thank you God for giving the rooster the capacity to distinguish between night and day.” You probably wake to the sound of an alarm clock app on your phone or an alarm clock. The opening blessing of the dawn prayers symbolizes that transition from darkness to light with the crowing of the rooster, the natural alarm clock in the time of our liturgists.

A later commentator, Rabbeinu Asher (1250-1327) interprets the word sechvi to mean human insight rather than rooster. According to his interpretation, we thank God for giving us human beings the capacity to distinguish between day and night.

As our days grow shorter, and there is less daylight and more darkness, in these pandemic times, it is even more important to seek light in our days, to take care of our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Make a plan: Think about what you can do to brighten up dark days. Now is the time to get a flu shot; plan for winter exercise options – bundle up and get outdoors and/or consider what you can do to get moving indoors at home; set up some regular video chats or phone calls with friends and family; maybe make a cozy space with a blanket and good lighting to read, write or work on your hobbies; join us for Shabbat services, learning opportunities at Solel, and our weekly lunch break; think about small things that boost your mood.

And, start your day with prayer. Recite those morning blessings to focus each day on what light is in your world as opposed to the darkness. When we wake up in the morning, open the siddur and begin our prayers, we acknowledge the gift of distinguishing what is good and positive in the world. And we are reminded of the many blessings that are ours and our commitment to make this world a better place for ourselves and for others. With this in mind we offer thanks to the Source of All Being, and pray for strength and hope for this new day.


Rabbi Audrey S. Pollack

Filed under: Rabbi's Message

« Read more articles