A Pagan-Seeming Blessing in the Daily Prayers

Why do Jews praise the great lights?

From The Sun by Edvard Munch, 1909. Wikipedia.

From The Sun by Edvard Munch, 1909. Wikipedia.

Atar Hadari
Observation
Jan. 3 2019
About the author

Atar Hadari’s Songs from Bialik: Selected Poems of H. N. Bialik (Syracuse University Press) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award. His Lives of the Dead: Poems of Hanoch Levin earned a PEN Translates award and was released in 2019 by Arc Publications. He was ordained by Rabbi Daniel Landes and is completing a PhD on William Tyndale’s translation of Deuteronomy.


A centerpiece of the daily morning liturgy is the Sh’ma—the essential declaration of faith in the Almighty and His oneness. According to the Talmud, it must be preceded by two blessings, the second of which describes God’s love for the Jewish people. But the purpose of the first blessing, a much longer, lyrical paean to the sun and its rays, yoked to praises of the Creator sung by angels and seraphs and other elements of the “heavenly host”—is not nearly so obvious.

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More about: Religion & Holidays, Sh'ma