the daily one hundred

I only just realized this morning that the essence of our tefillah, the central focus of our energies three times every day (and four or more times on chagim) during prayer is a collection of 18 (19) blessings.

I always related to the Amidah (aka. Shemoneh Esrei) as a unit. It was only this morning that I realized it is essentially 18 (19) unique blessings that Chazal lumped together intentionally.

This made me rethink the whole idea of a berachah. With some siyata d'shmaya, today before tefilla I happened to learn the three halachoth in Yalkut Yosef - kitzur Shulchan Aruch on the kavanah of berachoth. It made me realize that the essence of berachoth is the essence of tefillah. Every time we get to say a berachah it is an oppurtunity to tefillah and everything it entails.

Here are a few short details about berachoth that have accumulated in the attic of my head over the years:
  1. a berachah literally entails a desire to draw HaShem into the world, make Him (figuratively) more imminent.
  2. a berachah regarding some benefit (hana'ah) involves delaying our gratification (for the time we take to make the blessing) as a means of becoming holier through overriding our desires, even temporarily. (Rav Steinsaltz pointed this out to me.)
  3. we are careful to make one hundred blessings every day. (attributed to David haMelech in the Talmud)
  4. It is important not to say a berachah when there is no need. (since one mentions HaShem's name, which requires the appropriate honor and respect.)
  5. It is important not to swallow or skip any letters or words of a berachah.
Two insights from the Noam Elimelech related to berachoth that I learned recently:
(1) Each berachah comes from and relates to a specific world, but the answering of amen after a berachah spans all the worlds. (He goes into a complex explanation of when we answer amen after our own berachah, namely when our berachah spans more than one world, otherwise one doesn't answer amen to his own berachah, unless he is the Tzaddik of the generation in which case all his berachoth span all the worlds.)

(2) The only berachah of Bilam's that persisted (kiyyum/kayyam) was the berachah of mah tovu, the reason according to the Noam Elimelech is because it was the only berachah that Bilam made with complete intent, ie. without any desire to curse Bnei Yisrael. The other berachoth were attempts at cursing Bnei Yisrael that HaShem altered and turned into berachoth. From this perhaps we can see that when a blessing is made with proper intent, HaShem gives His ok, His Amen, and it is a berachah that persists and takes on a life of its own.


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