| Second Thoughts |

Bless You!

What, then, is the real meaning of baruch?


Let us at least for today set aside matters such as the daily scandals, hypocrisy, politics, and the usual fare that constitutes a column’s subjects, and let us discuss some really important things. Such as:

Just as we often take familiar people for granted — wives, husbands, children, siblings, parents, friends, community — so also do we often take familiar prayers for granted, barely giving them a mumble and a nod, all but ignoring them.

The daily brachos — which a Jew is supposed to recite 100 different times each day (and which are on a par with hearing the Megillah and lighting the Chanukah menorah; Talmud Menachos 43b) — are a prime example, especially the very first word, the ubiquitous baruch. That poor, overworked word flits from our tongues without effort and without much thought. Sometimes it is hardly pronounced in full. Instead of the two syllable baruch, it is often slurred into a one-syllable “b’ruch.”

It is universally translated as “blessed,” so that every brachah begins with “Blessed art Thou, King of the universe…” Which is fine, but with one major problem: Baruch means much more than “blessed.” G-d is the very source of all blessing. Would it not be odd for mortal man to bless the source of all blessing?

Baruch also has a deeper meaning than its other common translation, “thank you.” It is of course appropriate to thank G-d for many things, and we do so several times each day: In the Modeh Ani when we arise in the morning, and thrice daily in modim anachnu lach in the Amidah. But the operative word there is modim, not baruch.

Baruch means blessed, but much more. It refers to gratitude, but much more.

What, then, is the real meaning of baruch?

A brief search uncovers a related word that reveals a deeper layer of meaning. The Hebrew word berech means “knee.” In the Aleinu we recite, “to Thee every berech will bend….” Bending of the knee indicates bowing and subservience. Thus baruch Atah means: You are the “kneed-to” One, or the One before Whom one bends the knee and bows down to in subservience.

Further digging uncovers more insights, this time via another related word: breichah. While this means “pool” in modern Hebrew, originally it refers to a wellspring, a source of water. A wellspring does not dry up; its flow is continuous, intense. With baruch we acknowledge G-d as the Source of all, the wellspring of everything, the continuous provider and benefactor of all our needs,  from the food we eat, the air we breathe, the beauty we experience, the very lives we live — and we pray for amplification of His goodness.

Baruch is thus more profound than “blessed” or “thank you.” It is actually a description of what G-d is: Just as He is merciful and compassionate, so also is He baruch; i.e., the “kneeled-to” One, the Source of everything, Who constantly increases and amplifies his benevolence toward His creatures. In truth, baruch is “blessed,” but much more; it is “thank you,” but much more.

Baruch thus is not a simple word; it is complex, with multiple layers of meaning. We have 100 opportunities each day to say it properly, and to think about it seriously.

And each time we say it with conviction and kavanah, our appreciation of the Creator grows and intensifies. Even if we don’t reach a perfect score of 100, every serious baruch is one step forward on the road to a renewed relationship with our Maker.

May we all be blessed with the ability to acknowledge our Creator thoughtfully — by learning to curb our mumbling and shut off our automatic pilot.

Because G-d does not need our baruch; He does not need our appreciation and acknowledgment. But we do.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 894)

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