God in Jewish Prayer

The Talmudic rabbis crafted a formula that moves from addressing God to speaking about God. What did they mean to convey through this dual formula?

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A Relationship like No Other

They had, according to Dr. Kadushin, a mystical apprehension of God. When the medieval authorities discuss the b'rakhah, they understand the use of the second person and the third person as two separate ways of relating to God. Thus, they need to account for the change from second person to third person by associating each with a different idea.

Dr. Kadushin maintains, however, that the b'rakhah deals with what can only be described as a mystical consciousness, the consciousness of a relationship like no other, that is, the relationship of Creator and creature, immortal God and mortal human beings. The mystical consciousness is expressible to a point, but in a manner in which no other relationship is expressible.

"The b’rakhah formula thus enables the Rabbis and the people as a whole to express their consciousness of relationship to God... It was nothing short of religious genius first to have achieved the b’rakhah formula and then to have made it the basic element of the prayers." (Kadushin, The Rabbinic Mind, published by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America).

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Rabbi Jules Harlow

Rabbi Jules Harlow edited many prayer books and other liturgical works as Director of Publications for the Rabbinical Assembly. He is the Literary Editor of the Torah commentary Etz Hayim, the author of a number of textbooks for children, and a widely published translator of modern Hebrew literature.