01 – Blessings of Thanks
The Chachamim instituted the recital of many blessings immediately upon awakening in the morning. The purpose of these blessings is to thank Hashem for the good that He bestows upon us every day. Hence, the Talmud (Berachot 60b) teaches that when a person wakes up, he must thank Hashem and say, “My God, the soul which you have placed within me is pure… Blessed are You Hashem who restores souls to dead bodies” (Elokai Neshamah). When he hears the sound of the rooster, announcing the arrival of a new day, he must say, “Blessed are You Hashem, our God, King of the universe, who gives the rooster understanding to distinguish between day and night” (Hanoten lasechvi vinah). Upon opening his eyes, he recites, “…Who gives sight to the blind” (Poke’ach ivrim). When one stretches his limbs and sits on his bed, after being held captive in the shackles of sleep, he recites, “…Who releases the imprisoned” (Matir assurim). When he dresses, he recites, “…Who clothes the naked” (Malbish arumim). When one stands on his legs, he recites, “…Who straightens the bent” (Zokef kefufim), and when placing his feet on the ground, he recites, “…Who spreads the earth upon the waters” (Roka ha’aretz al hamayim). When one puts on his shoes, he recites, “…Who has provided me with all my needs” (She’asah li kol tzorki). As he begins to walk, he recites, “…Who prepares people’s footsteps” (Hamechin mitzadei gaver). When he fastens his belt, he recites, “…Who girds Israel with strength” (Ozer Yisrael bigevurah). When he puts on a head covering, be it a hat or a kippah, he recites, “…Who crowns Israel with glory” (Oter Yisrael b’tifarah). When he washes his hands, he recites, “…Concerning the washing of hands” (Al netilat yadayim). When washing his face, he recites, “…Who removes sleep from my eyes” (Hama’avir chevlei sheinah me’einai), etc. The Chachamim also instituted three special berachot of thanks which express gratitude to Hashem for choosing us and giving us His mitzvot. They are: “…For not having made me a gentile” (Shelo asani goy), “…For not having made me a slave” (Shelo asani aved) and “…For not having made me a woman” (Shelo asani ishah) Women recite, “…For having made me according to His will” (She’asani kirtzono).
Life’s routine generally wears away our attention from all the good that Hashem showers upon us. As a consequence of this ungratefulness, the daily blessing that HaKadosh Baruch Hu grants a person fails to delight him, and his life becomes dull and empty. In order to emerge from this desolation, he seeks out various pleasures. Hence, the Chachamim instituted Birkot HaShachar so that we will not be ungrateful. With these blessings we thank our Creator for all things, big and small, that help us function in this world. Out of this thankfulness to Hashem, we are privileged to observe the world with a rich and comprehensive outlook. We learn that every single element in our lives has Godly value, arousing our desire to add goodness to the world with every new day that God gives us.