This blog explores the weekday morning prayers in light of the contributors’ personal experiences with depression and anxiety, complemented by an analysis of what traditional Jewish sources have to say. The posts that are about personal experiences are categorized as “Reflections,” while the posts that delve into more traditional Jewish sources are categorized as “Commentary.”
In addition to exploring the intersection between tefillah [prayer] and depression, an important secondary goal of this blog is to create a virtual community around reflections on Jewish religious practice in general from the point of view of people who have experienced depression and other mental illnesses. It aims to be a safe space in which to discuss the ways in which Jewish practices and mental health intersect both in positive and in negative ways. This process should help others who are trodding the path of recovery feel less alone.
However, it can in no way take the place of a good therapist and medical care.
See posts categorized as “About this blog” for more information about the why and how of this blog.
The blog’s title, “Borei Hoshech” or “בוֹרֵא חֹשֶׁךְ,” means “who creates darkness,” and comes from the first blessing before the morning Shema. The full blessing reads:
ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם. יוצר אור ובורא חשך. עשה שלום ובורא את הכל
“Blessed are You, God, King of the World, who fashions light and who creates darkness, who makes peace and who creates everything.”
It reflects belief in a God who creates darkness and depression, as well as light and peace.
This blog is a work in progress, and posts are constantly being edited and refined. So far, the following prayers have been written about:
- Modeh Ani
- Adon Olam
- Birkat Kohanim
- Elohai Nishama
- ShehAsani Kirtzono
- Mizmor Shir Hanukat HaBayit LiDavid
- Birkat Kohanim
Comments and feedback to the editor are welcome and may be sent to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to share this with other people and can’t quite remember how to spell “Borei Hoshech,” we don’t blame you! This blog can also be reached through www.fromdarkness.org [currently not working -ed.], which is much easier to spell and remember. This redirect was inspired by the phrase “מאפלה לאורה,” which appears in various contexts throughout traditional Jewish literature, but has a strong connection to the idea of prayer.
:תלמוד ירושלמי, מסכת ברכות, פרק רביעי, הלכה א
ר’ שמואל בן נחמני אומר: ממה למדו שלוש תפילות? כנגד שלוש פעמים שהיום משתנה על הבריות. בשחר צריך אדם לומר: “מודה אני לפניך, ה’ אלוקיי ואלוקי אבותיי, שהוצאתני מאפלה לאורה.” במנחה צריך אדם לומר: “מודה אני לפניך…כשם שזיכיתני לראות החמה במזרח, כן זכיתי לראותה במערב (נוטה לצד מערב).” בערב צריך לומר: “יהי רצון לפניך, ה’ אלוקיי ואלוקי אבותיי, כשם שהייתי באפלה והוצאתני לאורה היום בבוקר כן תוציאני מאפלה לאורה מחר בבוקר
Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate Brachot, 4:1:
Rabbi Shmuel the son of Nachmani says: From where do we learn that we should pray three times a day? From the three times that the day changes for the creations. With sunrise, one must say: “I am grateful to you, God and God of my ancestors, that you brought me out from darkness to light.” In the afternoon, one must say: “I am grateful to you that just as I merited to see the sun in the East, so may I merit to see it in the West.” In the evening, one must say: “May it be your will, God and God of my ancestors, that just as I was in the dark and you brought me out into the light of day this morning, so may you bring me from darkness to light tomorrow morning.” [Translation mine.]
The URL http://www.fromdarkness.org [currently not working -ed.] reflects the hope that all of us who are in darkness may merit to see light–soon and each morning.