Who Clothes the Naked

by Rabbi Audrey Pollack, March 7, 2018

On many Shabbat mornings at Solel, I am extremely proud of our students and their teachers. What a blessing to see the young generation of the Jewish community stepping onto the bima to lead us in prayer with the knowledge that they have gained through the wonderful teachers of our own community. A few weeks ago, as the grade 2 and 3 classes led us enthusiastically in the morning blessings, as I looked around the sanctuary, my smile was returned by the moms and dads and bubbies and zaydes who had come with their family to celebrate Shabbat. Our hearts were full of gratitude for the day. We opened our service singing Modeh Ani – It’s a Brand New Day, and shared what we are grateful for – “my family”, “my pets”, “the world”, “yummy food”. A bit later on in the service, we chanted the chatimah (the last line) of Yotzer Or, the creation blessing for the morning Baruch Atah Adonai, Yotzer Ham’orot “Blessed are you God, Creator of light.” Kids and adults shared an experience of light in their lives and we chanted “thank you God for the sunlight”, “thank you God, for showing me a rainbow”, “When I was sleeping and I woke up in the morning I saw the sun.”

During the service, the students led us in four of the morning blessings that they had specially chosen to learn to recite in Hebrew. Each blessing begins “Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, Blessed are You God, ruler of the universe, and continues with one of the many blessings that we find upon waking up in the morning. Our students chose to chant in Hebrew these four blessings which mean:

      Who has given me the ability to distinguish day from night
      Who has given me freedom
      Who has made me a Jew
      Who clothes the naked

Of course, what child could resist choosing the fourth one on their list – and it’s in the prayerbook! But as I listened to their voices rising in prayer, I was reminded of the reasons we say these blessings each and every morning. Originally only part of the home ritual, these blessings were later incorporated into the synagogue ritual as well. From a literal understanding, we are grateful that we can wake up in the morning to see that the darkness has gone and light has come, we are grateful that we have the energy to stretch and move our bodies, to stand upright, to get dressed and ready to go about our day. But like many other prayers in our siddur, there is much more to them than the literal meaning. Even a blind person can say pokeach ivrim, “who opens the eyes of the blind”, because there is much more than sight expressed in these words. Even if one cannot literally see, God has still blessed us with vision. There are also some traditional blessings that we do not include in our Solel Reform siddur. The men in our congregation do not recite shelo asani ishah – “who has not made me a woman”, which is part of the traditional liturgy, because as Reform Jews we believe that men and women are equal in God’s eyes. Life’s routine often distracts us from all of the good that is in our lives. Joining together in prayer on Shabbat gives us the space and time to redirect our attention, to focus on gratitude for our bodies and our souls, for our family and friends, for our freedom to be Jewish in this great country of Canada, and for being able to put on our clothes, go out the door, and have a conversation with God, led by our grade 2 and 3 students in our Solel sanctuary on Shabbat.

Rabbi Audrey S. Pollack

Filed under: Rabbi's Message

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