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Tractate Berachot, Chapter 6, Tosefta 26

September 23rd, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments
Tractate Berachot, Chapter 6

Tosefta 261

[A person] who begins [his Berachot (blessings)]2 with [God’s name that is represented by Hebrew letters] Yud Heh (i.e. Adonai)3 and ends [his Berachot] with [God’s name that is represented by Hebrew letters] Yud Heh (i.e. Adonai) is a wise person.4 [A person who begins his Berachot] with [God’s name that is represented by Hebrew letters] Aleph Lamed (i.e. El or Elohim),5 but ends [his Berachot] with [God’s name that is represented by Hebrew letters] Yud Heh (i.e. Adonai) is an average person.6 [A person who begins his Berachot] with [God’s name that is represented by Hebrew letters] Yud Heh (i.e. Adonai), but ends [his Berachot] with [God’s name that is represented by Hebrew letters] Aleph Lamed (i.e. El or Elohim) is a boor.7 [A person who begins his Berachot] with [God’s name that is represented by Hebrew letters] Aleph Lamed (i.e. El or Elohim), and ends [his Berachot] with [God’s name that is represented by Hebrew letters] Aleph Lamed (i.e. El or Elohim) follows a foreign way.8

מסכת ברכות פרק ו

תוספתא כו

הפותח ביוד הי וחותם ביוד הי הרי זה חכם. באלף למד וחותם ביוד הי הרי זה בינוני. ביוד הי וחותם באלף למד הרי זה בור. באלף למד וחותם באלף למד הרי זה דרך אחרת.

Notes:

  1. Mishna Berachot 9:5 states that the Rabbis instituted that people should greet each other using God’s name. In reference to that the Tosefta states a new law regarding the usage of God’s name in Berachot.
  2. The Tosefta is referring to Berachot that have God’s name both in the beginning of the Beracha and at the end, such as the Beracha of Kiddush on Friday night. It begins with the phrase Baruch Ata Hashem … and ends with the phrase Baruch Ata Hashem.
  3. There is a prohibition in the Torah to say God’s name in vain. See Shemot 20:7. Due to that prohibition Jews are very careful with pronunciations of God’s various names. In addition to that Jews are also very careful with writing of God’s names since some of them cannotbe erased and the paper on which they are written has to be buried out of respect and cannot be simply thrown in the garbage. God’s four letter name is written in the Torah, as יהוה, known in English as Tetragrammaton. Outside of the service in Bet Hamikdash on Yom Kippur it was never pronounced. When Berachot are said the name that is used is אדני (Adonai) which means “My Master”. In general speech, not in religious services, even the name Adonai is not pronounced and instead the name השם (Hashem) is used, which simply means “The Name”. There are various abbreviations that are used in Hebrew to represent these names without directly spelling them out. The name Hashem is usally abbreviated as ה’. The name Adonai is often abbreviated as יי. The four letter name is often abbreviated by its first two letters יה. This Tosefta uses this abbreviation to refer to the four letter name, but not to that name itself, but rather as it would be pronounced in a Beracha, namely Adonai. I would like to point out that Higayon Aryeh is incorrect in commenting that the Tosefta means that the Rabbis have decreed that people should pronounce the actual four letter name of God in the Berachot since no such evidence exists that such thing was ever done, but rather it refers to the name Adonai as I already explained.
  4. The Rabbis coined the text of all Berachot that God’s name in them should be pronounced as Adonai. Therefore a person who follows the Rabbi’s instructions exactly is considered to be a wise person, meaning that he is learned in Torah.
  5. God’s names אל (El) or אלהים (Elohim) both mean “God”. TheTosefta refers to both of them by the shorter form El. These names of God are of lower sanctity and are therefore never used in Berachot as a direct reference to God.
  6. If the person began his Beracha by saying Baruch Ata El … and ended it by saying Baruch Ata Adonai … then he is considered to be an average person, meaning someone who is not very learned in Torah since he did not follow the exact prescription of the Rabbis regarding the pronounciation of the Beracha, but he is also not considered to be very crude, like a boor since he completed the Beracha using the correct name, and we consider that the completion of the Beracha is the final statement of the person’s intent. See Talmud Bavli (Berachot 12a) where it says that by Berachot everything goes after the ending.
  7. For the etymology and explanation of the Hebrew word Bur see above Tosefta 6:23, note 8. Since he completed the Beracha with the name El we consider it to be as if he did not follow the prescription of the Rabbis, since in Berachot everything goes after the ending, and he is therefore considered to be a boor. I think that the reason the Rabbis called such a person a boor, meaning that he is not learned in Torah and he has no fear of God, as opposed to an Am Haaretz who is a God fearing person, but not learned in Torah, is because the person ended up saying God’s name in vain twice by ending the Beracha with the name El. He did not fullfil the obligation of the Beracha since he did not follow the correct prescription of the text and therefore said both of God’s names, Adonai in the beginning of the Beracha and El in the end of the Beracha, in vain. Since he said God’s name in vain so much he is considered to have no fear of God and is therefore called a boor.
  8. Professor Saul Lieberman in an article (Saul Lieberman, “Light on the Cave Scrolls from Rabbinic Sources”, Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research, Vol. 20 (1951), pp. 395-404.) translates the words Derech Acheret to mean “heterodoxy”, which means a view that does not follow established, or orthodox opinions, such as the opinion of the Rabbis, but rather a dissenting view of a radical group of Jews who wanted to be stricter than the Rabbis, namely the Essenes, who authored the text called Manual of Discipline (also known as Community Rule) found among the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 (manuscript 1QS), in which they specifically avoid the use of God’s name Adonai. He explains that this group of Jews refused to pronounce God’s name, Adonai, even in Berachot where it was not only explicitly permitted but required to do so. Lieberman further points out that in the Manual of Discipline (manuscript 1QS, plate XI, verse 13) there is a Beracha written in the form ברוך אתה אלי … (Baruch Ata Eli) – Blessed You My God. For a detailed discussion of the Manual of Discipline, its authors, as well as its text in English see Preben Wernberg-Møller, “The manual of discipline, Volume 1 of Studies on the texts of the desert of Judah”, Brill Archive, 1957. For a complete list of all places in the Dead Sea Scrolls where the name El appears in a Beracha see James H. Charlesworth, “Graphic concordance to the Dead Sea scrolls”, Westminster John Knox Press, 1991, p. 91, entry ברוך.
  1. Romabers
    September 25th, 2009 at 04:31 | #1

    The word ADONAI should be translated as “my masterS” (in plural), in singular it would be ADONI

  2. Eli
    September 25th, 2009 at 14:50 | #2

    Technically you’re right. However it’s a problem to translate God’s name in plural form, because God is one and not many. Just like when the Torah says Elohim, no one translates it as Gods, but rather as God. So the same case here. However, it is an interesting question why we use the plural form Adonai in the Berachot and not Adoneinu (our Master) since we always speak in Berachot as the whole nation of Israel together. I don’t know what the answer is. May be someone else can post about that?

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