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Morning blessings and the actions which originally prompted them are found in the Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 60b.*
Psalm 136:6 is the source of the blessing, originally recited when one first steps onto the ground and now part of the early morning synagogue service: “Blessed are You…who stretches the earth over the waters.” (E.g., Mishkan T’filah,* p.38).
Joseph Rosenstein, editor of Siddur Eit Ratzon,* translates this blessing as “…made the world a secure place, where nature is governed by law.” He notes that “a literal translation does not convey the full intention of the blessing, to declare that the world remains much the same, from day to day” (p.14), adding:
Each of these brachot [blessings] reminds us of a category of gifts that we receive each day from the Source of all blessings. If we meditate on the words of these blessings, we can recognize how blessed we truly are.
For example, the blessing of sight can represent insight and clarity, but it can also represent the gift of our senses that enable us to experience and interact with the world around us.
—Siddur Eit Ratzon, p.13
Siddur Eit Ratzon identifies the earliest part of the morning service as a series of words and meditations designed to help us “become aware of our blessings.”
According to the following passage, R. Yose (also spelled Jose) was also concerned with the human tendency to stumble through life in a state of unawareness:
We have been taught that R. Yose said: Alas for human beings who see but know not what they see, stand but know not on what they stand. On what does the earth rest? On pillars, for it is said, “Who shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble” (Job 9:6). The pillars [rest] upon the waters: “To Him that spread forth the earth above the waters (Ps. 136:6). The waters, upon the mountains: “The waters stood upon the mountains (Ps. 104:6). The mountains, on the wind: “For lo, He that formeth the mountains and createth the wind” (Amos 4:13). The wind [rests] upon the storm: “The wind — the storm executeth its command” (Ps. 148:8). Storm is suspended above the arm of the Holy One: “And underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27). But the sages said: [The world] rests on twelve pillars: “He set the [number of] borders for the peoples to be the same number as [the number of] the tribes of Israel” (Deut. 32:8); some say on seven pillars: “Wisdom…hath hewn out her seven pillars” (Prov. 9:1). R. Eleazar ben Shammua said: [It rests] on one pillar, whose name is Righteous: “Righteous is the foundation of the world” (Prov. 10:25).
— Bialik & Ravnitzky,* 759:5, from Chagigah 12b*
Rabbi Yose is not as explicit as Joe Rosenstein in telling us where to focus: What does it mean to know “on what [we] stand”?
Whose “Righteousness” is the foundation of the world? (See the full Proverbs 10)
* See Source Materials for details, full citations and links.
Is thanks ever simple?
Is thanks ever simple? — part 2
Meditations on Morning Blessings: Failure, Memory, and Change
Strength to the Weary