Shabat, Elul 4, 5767
I compiled a sidur this summer. For fun, y’know? That sidur will be the subject of a later blog post when its editorial process is over. While creating it, I learned quite a bit about liturgy. This morning I had a final chance to lead services at the congregation I grew up at, here in Austin, before departing for college. Before giving much thought as to what to do this morning, I decided that some of my new knowledge, gained as a result of my liturgical endeavors over the last couple of months, would be applied to this service.
Working in the frame of the rather old Mishkan T’filah draft, from which we daven at our minyan, I decided on a mostly unremarkable service. On two occasions we read silently whatever selection from the spread we wanted, reading all else together, in Hebrew. One thing, however, I decided to do in a more remarkable fashion.
I used to always wonder at the appearance of the brachah for Torah study in the midst of Birchot Hashachar, the Morning Blessings. When one pronounces a brachah for an action, it is considered wasted if one does not follow it as soon as possible with that action. The brachah for Torah study however is followed immediately by Eilu D’varim, which I always assumed to be a meditation on commandments which are immeasurably good to do. That assumption is thanks to the Gates of Prayer phrasing “These are the obligations without measure, whose reward too is without measure.”
As it turns out, Eilu D’varim is included as a piece of daily study. It is a selection of mishna, meant to be part of every man’s daily routine. The whole of Birchot Hashachar is meant to reflect the order of a person’s morning routine. The rabbis who constructed the service could not imagine a morning with no study. Thus, the morning routine they present us with includes study.
So we studied. I explained what we were doing while my father passed around copies of the selection of mishna that Eilu D’varim comes from. I had people get in pairs and study together. Then we came back together and shared our toughts.