Mishnah/Seder Zeraim/Tractate Berakhot/Chapter 1/4
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Seder Zeraim, Tractate Berakhot
Chapter 1, Mishnah 4
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After dealing with the times for reciting the Shema (1:1-2) and the physical position for its recitation (1:3), the present mishnah now discusses its liturgical context. The Shema is not recited alone, but “sandwiched” between the blessings “before it” and the the blessings “after it.”
The two blessings before Shema in the morning are Yozer ha-Me’orot (about light and the coming of day) and Ahavah (about God’s love for Israel, especially as expressed in His gift of the Torah). The blessing of love is called either Ahavah Rabbah (“great love”) or Ahavat Olam (“everlasting love”) in the different traditions. The blessing after Shema in the morning is Ge’ulah (redemption), beginning with the words Emet ve-Yaziv.
The two blessings before Shema in the evening parallel those of the morning. They are: Ha-Ma`ariv Aravim (about the coming of night) and Ahavat Olam (about God’s love for Israel, as above). In the evening, the two blessings after Shema are Emet ve-Emunah (about God’s redemption of Israel from her enemies, paralleling the morning blessing) and Hashkivenu (“let us lie down in peace…”). The last blessing (the second one after Shema) has no corresponding morning blessing.
[In some rites there is a third blessing on weekdays, Barukh Hashem le-Olam (“Blessed is G-d forever…”). This blessing was instituted in the post-Talmudic era, though, and hence is not mentioned in our mishnah.]
According to the Jerusalem Talmud, Shema is “sandwiched” between four blessings in the evening and three in the morning, for a total of seven each day, so that it will correspond to the verse: “I praise You seven times each day for Your just laws” (Psalms 119:164). The seven praises mentioned in the verse are the seven blessings of the Shema, and the “just laws” are those refered to in the Shema itself.
- בַּשַּׁחַר מְבָרֵךְ שְׁתַּיִם לְפָנֶיהָ וְאַחַת לְאַחֲרֶיהָ,
- וּבָעֶרֶב שְׁתַּיִם לְפָנֶיהָ וּשְׁתַּיִם לְאַחֲרֶיהָ,
- אַחַת אֲרוּכָה וְאַחַת קְצָרָה.
- מָקוֹם שֶׁאָמְרוּ לְהַאֲרִיךְ – אֵינוֹ רַשָּׁאי לְקַצֵּר.
- לְקַצֵּר – אֵינוֹ רַשָּׁאי לְהַאֲרִיךְ.
- לַחְתֹּם – אֵינוֹ רַשָּׁאי שֶׁלֹּא לַחְתֹּם.
- וְשֶׁלֹּא לַחְתֹּם – אֵינוֹ רַשָּׁאי לַחְתֹּם.
- In the morning one says two blessings before it [the Shema] and one after it,
- while in the evening he says two blessings before it and two after it,
- a long one and a short one.
- Where they said to make the blessing long – he may not shorten it.
- [Where they said] to make the blessing short – he may not lengthen it.
- [Where they said] to conclude it – he is not permitted to omit the conclusion.
- [Where they said] not to conclude it – he is not permitted to conclude.
A long one and a short one: The blessings “before it” and “after it” have already been clarified in the introduction. But what is the meaning of “a long one and a short one” – which two blessings does this refer to? Nor is it clear what a “long” or “short” blessing actually means. The two main explanations of these uncertainties are by Maimonides and Rashi.
According to Maimonides, a long blessing is one that both opens and closes with the formulaic “Barukh attah…” (“Blessed are You…”). A blessing lacking this formula either at the beginning or the end is a “short” blessing. Now, the second blessing before Shema (in both the morning and the evening), since it is the second blessing in a “chain” of blessings and follows on the heels of this formula in the previous blessing, does not itself therefore begin with “blessed.” It is a short blessing according to Maimonides, and that is the meaning of “a long one and a short one”: The first blessing before Shema both opens and closing with the “Blessed” formula, which makes it a “long” blessing. But the second blessing before Shema omits the formula in its opening, making it a “short” blessing.
According to Rashi, “long” and “short” refer to the content of a blessing, i.e. how many different matters it refers to. Thus “a long one and a short one,” for Rashi, refer to the “two after it” in the evening (mentioned immediately before in the mishnah). These two blessings, in terms of their content, are indeed a “long one” followed by a “short one.”