Blessings Part III - Making Mitzvot Meaningful

Friday, 11 August, 2023 - 3:00 pm

For the past two weeks we have been exploring the meaning of the text of blessings.

Part I here:
Part II here:

In our third installment, we will explore the words that are added in a blessing over a Mitzvah, “Asher Kidishanu B’Mitzvotav, V’tzivanu” - Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us…

Asher – Literally means who or which has. Asher is etymologically related to Osher which means joy or fortune. We have the good fortune and joy of being singled out by our great G-d for the purpose of fulfilling His mandates.

Kidishanu – Literally means sanctified us, from the root Kodesh – holiness. The same term is also used for the act of marriage, where the groom says Harei At Mekudeshet Li – behold you are consecrated to me. In this context it connotes two things. Firstly, designation for an exclusive relationship. The second connotation is the holy union of intimacy.

B’Mitzvotav – Literally means with His commandments. However, in Aramaic Mitzvah is etymologically related to Tzavta, which means connection. So, a Mitzvah is not just a mandate to perform an act, it is an opportunity to connect to the Infinite.

V’tzivanu – Literally means and commanded us. As above in the interpretation of Mitzvah, this word is related to connection. So, we would read it “and He connected us (to Him through the particular Mitzvah that we are about to perform).

To summarize, when we make a blessing over a Mitzvah, we are thanking G-d for giving us the great fortune of designating us for a profoundly intimate relationship with Him, and abundant opportunities for connection bridging the gap between finite me and Infinite G-d.

Bringing this full circle, we encounter this text of blessings wherever we turn as Jews. As mentioned in part I, we are making as many as 100 blessings a day. I hope that these articles will empower us to infuse more meaning and intentionality into the otherwise mumbled words of a Bracha.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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