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Barekhu

BAREKHU

BAREKHU (Heb. בָּרְכוּ), opening word of the call to worship by the sheli'aḥ ẓibbur at the formal beginning of the daily morning and evening services. The full invocation is Barekhu et Adonai ha-mevorakh ("Bless ye the Lord who is [to be] blessed"). The congregation responds Barukh Adonai ha-mevorakh le-olam va-ed ("Blessed be the Lord who is [to be] blessed for ever and ever"). "Bless," in this context, is the equivalent of "praise." Barekhu is also recited by the person who is called up to the Torah reading and is followed by the same congregational response. In the morning and evening services Barekhu also serves to introduce the reading of the Shema; this accounts for the absence of Barekhu before the *Minḥah service which lacks the Shema. Barekhu is considered to be one of the devarim she-bi-kedushah (lit. "holy things") and may only be recited in the presence of a quorum of at least ten grown male Jews (minyan; Sof. 10: 7; Sh. Ar. oḤ 55:1). The invocation Barekhu possibly originated in the time of Ezra, as might have the practice of standing at Barekhu; compare with Nehemiah (9:5) "Then the Levites… said, 'Stand up [cf. the practice of standing at Barekhu] and bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting and let them say: Blessed be Thy glorious Name, that is exalted above all blessing and praise.'" A shorter formula, Barekhu et Adonai, occurs in Psalms 134:1–2 and 135:19. In the opinion of R. Akiva, the liturgical invocation, in accordance with scriptural precedent, should consist simply of Barekhu et Adonai, whereas the formula Barekhu et Adonai ha-mevorakh was advocated by his contemporary, R. Ishmael (Ber. 7:3). The latter formula was preferred by most of the amoraim (Bet. 50a; tj, Ber. 7:4, 11c), and became standard. There is evidence that in the early period Barukh Adonai ha-mevorakh… was the response to Barekhu only in the Torah reading, while different responses were used for Barekhu as the invocation to worship. These were Barukh Shem kevod malkhuto le-olam va-ed ("Blessed be His Name, whose glorious kingdom is for ever and ever"), the standard response when the Divine Name was mentioned in the Temple of Jerusalem; and Yehe Shemeih rabba mevarakh le-alam u-le-almei almayya ("Let His great Name be blessed for ever and to all eternity"; Sif. Deut. 306, ed. by M. Friedmann (1864), 132b). In the course of time, however, Barukh Shem kevod… became the response to the Shema only: Yehe Shemeih rabba… was reserved for the Kaddish; and Barukh Adonai ha-mevorakh… became the exclusive response to Barekhu. At one time Barekhu was also used as a summons to recite Grace after Meals, but in the amoraic period, it was felt that this second-person form of address removed the leader from group participation and the invitation was standardized to Nevarekh ("Let us bless"; Ber. 7:3 and 49b–50a; tj, Ber. 7:2–3, 11b–c; Tosef. Ber. 5:18). This objection, however, did not apply to Barekhu in the synagogue. The Reader may employ the "you" form but only when inviting the congregation to join him in prayer. Even then, he repeats the congregational response, thus associating himself with the praise of God. The Sephardi rite, as well as some ḥasidic congregations, retained the paradoxical practice (Sof. 10:7) of reciting Barekhu at the conclusion of the daily morning and evening services when there is no Torah reading. The custom accommodates worshipers who arrive too late to hear Barekhu at the opening of the services.

bibliography:

Liebreich, in: huca, 32 (1961), 227–37; M. Kadushin, Worship and Ethics (1964), 135–41; J. Heinemann, Ha-Tefillah bi-Tekufat ha-Tanna'im ve-ha-Amora'im (19662), English abstract, v–vi, and index, s.v.

[Herman Kieval]

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