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Noach: What is our most repetitive blessing?

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What is our most repetitive blessing?

Without doubt it’s the bracha we recite over a rainbow. In Parshat Noach, the Torah tells us that immediately after the flood Hashem placed a rainbow in the sky to be an everlasting sign of the fact that never again would He bring about global destruction. Therefore when we see a rainbow, we recite this beautiful blessing and it brings us a lot of reassurance. 

The wording is as follows: 

Baruch ata Hashem Elokeinu melech haolam – Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe 

zocher habrit – who remembers the Covenant 

vene’emen bevrito – and Who is faithful to His Covenant 

vekayam bema’amaro – and who fulfils His word. 

We can see three statements in this brief blessing, and they all seem to be saying the same thing.

The origin of the blessing is in the Gemara Masechet Brachot 59a. There the Gemara asks what is the blessing we recite over a rainbow. The answer given is that it’s a blessing with the conclusion, “zocher habrit” – “Hashem remembers His Covenant,” and that’s all. 

Rabbi Yishmael however has a different tradition; that we conclude the bracha with the words, “vene’eman bevrito vekayam bema’amaro,” – “Hashem is faithful to His covenant and He keeps His word.” 

When Rav Papa heard these two different traditions he struck a compromise formula.He brought both endings together to keep both traditions, and that’s how our bracha came about, a bracha with these three statements in it.

When you come to think of it, they are not completely repetitive. First of all we say, “zocher habrit,” – “Hashem remembers the Covenant.” Remembering could mean recalling without necessarily doing anything about it, and that’s why in addition we say, “vene’eman bevrito,” ‘ “He is faithful to His covenant,” that is, He cares about it, He will recall it properly for the sake of the future, but even that isn’t sufficient. We need the third statement, “vekayam bema’amaro” – “and who fulfils His word.” Hashem will act on His word to guarantee in practice that He will deliver.

When it comes to our commitment to a Jewish way of life I believe that similarly, there are three levels. First of all we have “zocher habrit” – it’s so lovely and wonderful when Jewish people remember their Jewishness, their upbringing, their roots, their Bar or Bat Mitzvah. It is part of what they are about.

But in addition to that, we need a higher level as well – ne’eman bevrito, faithfulness to the covenant, support for Judaism. We need to be loyal to our synagogues and communities, to be there for the sake of our nation, to participate generously in charitable activities, to be one of those seeking to guarantee the continuity of our faith.

But even that is not the highest level we can reach. We need the third level as well: “vekayam bema’amaro” – kiyum hamitzvot, the fulfilment of the word of Hashem. This means being observant, to guarantee that on a practical level in our lives we are true to the word of the Almighty. 

So therefore we find within this ever-so-repetitive blessing a key to guaranteeing the continuity of the Jewish nation.

Shabbat shalom.