Monday, August 13, 2012

Your Loving-Kindness in the Morning and Your Faithfulness at Night -Berachot 12a

Today's daf contains an astonishing statement.

אמר רבה בר חיננא סבא משמיה דרב כל שלא אמר אמת ויציב שחרית ואמת ואמונה ערבית לא יצא ידי חובתו שנאמר {תהילים: צב-ג} להגיד בבקר חסדך ואמונתך בלילות

Rabba Bar Chinana Saba says in the name of Rav: Whoever does not say Emet Veyasiv (Is true and firm) at Shacharit and Emet VeEmuna (Is true and faithful) at Arvit has not fulfilled his obligation. At it is written: To tell Your loving-kindness in the morning and Your faithfulness at night. (Psalms 92:3)

This statement comes after the Gemara has already decided that ברכות אין מעכבות זו את זו, the Berachot of Shema do not restrict each other, meaning one can fulfill one of the Berachot of Shema without reciting the other.

The Tur seeks to greatly limit this statement by saying that the Gemara does not mean to say that one will not fulfill his obligation of Shema of day or night without saying the proper phrasing. Rather, one will not fulfill the mitzva fully as it was intended but really one will fulfill Shema even without the Berachot.

However, the Beit Yosef cites Rav Yosef Isserles, the Terumat Hadeshen, who quotes in the name of Rav Hai Gaon that one would not even fulfill Shema at all if he recited the wrong phraseology. (This is based on Rav Hai Gaon's opinion that the Berachot in fact do restrict each other and only the order of the Berachot אין מעכבות זו את זו do not restrict one from fulfilling the mitzva.)

The Ben Yehoyada tries to learn the Gemara literally but still follow the Halachic decision of the Tur. He interprets the Gemara as saying that if one has not recited Emet VeYasiv at Shacharit and Emet VeEmuna at Arvit he might have fulfilled the obligation of Shema but he has not fulfilled ether of these two berachot. Based on this interpretation, these two blessings are intimately intertwined and one cannot fulfill one without the other.

Why are these two phrases so important? Rashi and Tosfot both explain that the Beracha of Emet VeYasiv focuses on the kindness and open miracles that G-d did for us during the Exodus while Emet VeEmuna focuses on our faith that G-d will perform similar miracles in the future redemption, bimehera beyamenu. Tosfot gives a second explanation that Emet VeEmuna focuses on our daily faith that G-d will return our soul to us after a night of sleep.

I believe that one can truly understand the importance of this blessing by focusing on the proof-text. The full context which comes from the Mizmor we say on Shabbat is:

ב  טוֹב, לְהֹדוֹת לה';    וּלְזַמֵּר לְשִׁמְךָ עֶלְיוֹן.
ג  לְהַגִּיד בַּבֹּקֶר חַסְדֶּךָ;    וֶאֱמוּנָתְךָ, בַּלֵּילוֹת.

It is good to give thanks to G-d, and sing of Your exalted name.
To tell in the morning Your acts of living-kindness, and Your faithfulness at night.

These verses explain the nature of miracles. In reality, miracles occur every day. The sun rising is a miracle. Childbirth is a miracle. But these miracles are within natural events. G-d כביכול is hiding behind a curtain as he runs the world. However, there are brief moments in time where G-d removes the curtain and shows that he is really there. These are the open miracles like the miracles of the 10 plagues and the splitting of the Sea. It is in these moments that G-d's presence in the world is a clear as בקר, the day, and all we have to do is give thanks and sing songs to G-d as the Children of Israel did by reciting Az Yashir.

I like to compare this to a scene from the classic film, the Wizard of Oz. The wizard appears with great fire and circumstance and then Toto the dog runs to the back to reveal the man behind the curtain controlling everything. After that moment, even as Dorothy and her friends gazed at the image of the great wizard they were no longer afraid. They knew there was really someone controlling everything behind the curtain.

Similarly, when we experience G-d כביכול peaking out from behind his curtain when he does open miracles, we should sing his praises. We should tell in the morning of his loving-kindness. But this is not enough. It should also lead us to faith in G-d even during the times where he appears to be hidden. During the long nights of the exile we keep our faith in the G-d who we glimpsed once in the morning of our redemption. This is why as Ben Yehoyada pointed out these two blessings of the morning and evening are so intertwined. If our אמת ויציב in Shacharit does not lead to אמת ואמונה at Arvit then there is something kacking in both Berachit. It is the true and established fact of G-d's open presence in the world illustrated by the redemption from Egypt which keeps us faithful in a final and future redemption during the long night of our exile.

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