“I am a poem”

Thursdays at 10 Minutes of Torah are all about prayer. This Thursday’s 10 Minutes of Torah, by Rabbi Edwin C. Goldberg, was about the left-hand-side-of-the-page (not the mention the left of the ritual spectrum) reading on page 41 of Mishkan T’filah. The reading serves as an alternatative option for what our Reform liturgists have aptly termed Nisim B’chol Yom (daily miracles).

In last week’s edition of the Thursday 10 Minutes of Torah, Rabbi Richard Sarason explained that the purpose of this collection of blessings is to bring a little kodesh (holy) into the chol (mundane) of our morning routines. Each one, with the exception of the three identity prayers, addresses a particular part of our morning, from waking up to putting on clothes all the way past the set of shorter blessings into Asher Yatzar, a prayer for going to the bathroom.

Rabbi Goldberg, in his 10 Minutes of Torah, as well as the reading he addresses ignore the morning routine-centric nature of Nisim B’chol Yom. I actually do like the poem, the “declaration of the early twentieth century poet, Edmond Fleg, ‘I am a Jew,'” as Rabbi Goldberg says. It’s a fine poem. I simply question its placement in Mishkan as an alternative for Nisim B’chol Yom. Nisim B’chol Yom, as I’ve said, is all about waking up and readying ourselves to meet the day. “I am a Jew,” on the other hand, is a statement pf Jewish identity.

Lest anyone think that I’m simply glossing over the three identity blessings, which Mishkan places as the first three of the last five of the blessings, I will mention that they might be seen as simply a part of the larger morning routine. If we keep in mind the traditional Ashkenazi order for Nisim B’chol Yom, we will see how that is. In the Ashkenazi order, the first blessing (who gives the rooster the ability to distinguish between day and night), a blessing about waking up, is followed with the three identity blessings.

If we consider this order, we see that the three identity blessings are not the point of Nisim B’chol Yom, but merely a part of the waking up process. Upon awakening, we realize who we are, what our identity is.

Though the expansion on this fraction of Nisim B’chol Yom that “I am a Jew” represents is nice and in no way objectionable in and of itself, it ignores the larger theme reprsented by the other more than three quarters of Nisim B’chol Yom: Waking up and getting ready for another day.