Tefillah Tips - Birchot HaShachar I

As we begin our prayers every morning the chazzan leads us in "Birchot Hashachar - the morning blessings."

This set of 15 blessings allows us to focus on the daily gifts our Creator restores for us each morning. We thank G-d for our sight, our clothing, our ability to stand up straight, and for the feeling of being refreshed after a good night sleep (to name a few).

At first glance, the opening blessing is a bit perplexing - "Asher natan Lasechvi vina Lehavchin bein yom uvain layla - we thank you G-d since you have given the rooster the cognitive power to distinguish between night and day."

I like roosters as much as the next guy, but what were the sages thinking when they established this as the lead blessing??

One approach towards understanding this is that we are appreciating the transition from night to day, which is symbolized by the crowing of the rooster.

Rabbeinu Asher (1250-1327) understands the word sechvi to mean human insight and not a rooster. This changes the entire meaning of the blessing. We now understand it as saying that we thank Hashem for instilling humanity with the capacity to discern between night and day.

We can appreciate the usage of day and night because the brightness of day and the darkness of night are often utilized in our liturgy to represent good and evil.

Now the blessing makes perfect sense. We wake up in the morning to start our day with an interest to make the world a better place. As we open the siddur and begin our prayers the first thing we acknowledge is our G-d given privilege to recognize what is day and what is night-what is good and worthy as opposed to what is frustrating and what is negative. With this in mind we praise and thank G-d for all of our rich blessings and request from Him success in all of our endeavors.

Before we rush off towards our day in the office a few moments of prayer allow us to put our lives into perspective so that we can make good choices and achieve positive results. We are fortunate that G-d has bestowed on us this uniquely human quality to choose freely the "right thing" to do - asher natan Lasechvi vina Lehavchin bein yom uvain layla.