Mishnat Hashavua' - Berachot 9:2

Does prayer come from the heart, or is it a response to the world around us?

One who sees shooting stars, earthquakes, lightening, thunder or storm-winds says, "Blessed is the One whose might fills the world." One who sees mountains, hills, seas, rivers or deserts says, "Blessed is the One Who creates material existence." Rabbi Judah says, One who seas the great sea (i.e. the ocean) says, "Blessed is the One Who creates the great sea." This is when he has not seen it for some time. Regarding rainfall and good tidings one says "Blessed is the One Who is good and does good." Regarding bad tidings one says, "Blessed is the true judge.":


This Mishnah instills a sensitivity to the wonder of material existence, and links that sense of awe to a Jewish vocabulary of prayer. The stimulus to prayer is not simply physical beauty or the emotion of gratitude. Rather, our Mishnah includes terrifying spectacles and horrifying news as cause for prayer, reflecting the sentiment expressed by Job to his wife, "Shall we accept the good from God, and not the bad?"(2:10) This is not so much a heroic form of piety as a strategy for viewing the universe as orderly and firmly within God’s control.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Should a person who experiences these phenomena indirectly, such as one who is blind or deaf, also respond with blessing?
  2. Can you find or even compose a blessing for something that you see today?