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In shacharit we say:

לְאֵל בָּרוּךְ נְעִימוֹת יִתֵּנוּ. לְמֶלֶךְ אֵל חַי וְקַיָּם זְמִירוֹת יֹאמֵרוּ וְתִשְׁבָּחוֹת יַשְׁמִיעוּ. כִּי הוּא לְבַדּוֹ פּוֹעֵל גְּבוּרוֹת. עוֹשֶׂה חֲדָשׁוֹת. בַּעַל מִלְחָמוֹת. זוֹרֵעַ צְדָקוֹת. מַצְמִיחַ יְשׁוּעוֹת. בּוֹרֵא רְפוּאוֹת. נוֹרָא תְהִלּוֹת. אֲדוֹן הַנִּפְלָאוֹת׃ הַמְחַדֵּשׁ בְּטוּבוֹ בְּכָל יוֹם תָּמִיד מַעֲשֵׂה בְרֵאשִׁית. כָּאָמוּר לְעֹשֵׂה אוֹרִים גְּדֹלִים. כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ׃ אוֹר חָדָשׁ עַל צִיּוֹן תָּאִיר וְנִזְכֶּה כֻלָּנוּ מְהֵרָה לְאוֹרוֹ. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה׳, יוֹצֵר הַמְּאוֹרוֹת׃

Translation:

They offer sweet melodies to the blessed God; to the Almighty King, Who is living and abiding, they recite songs and pronounce praise. For He alone is exalted and holy, performing mighty deeds, bringing about new developments, the Master of wars; He sows righteousness, causes deliverance to sprout forth, and creates cures; He is awesome in praise, the Master of wonders, Who in His goodness renews every day, continuously, the work of creation, as it is said: “[Give thanks to] the One Who makes the great luminaries, for His kindness is everlasting. Blessed are You, God, Creator of the luminaries.

This paragraph seems to contain many disparate elements and ends with the fact that God renews creation every day. It then proves this from the fact that we give praise to God who makes (present tense?) the luminaries (sun, moon etc.) which is taken from Tehillim 136:7. And we conclude with a blessing of God for the same.

My questions are:

  1. What is the theme of this paragraph?
  2. Why do the מְאורות play such an important part here (as opposed to the other things listed [earlier] in that chapter of Tehillim)
  3. Why does this paragraph appear at this stage in davening?
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Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/7639/… Especially with regards to the second question. –  jake Jul 11 '12 at 3:13
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1 Answer

(These are my own thoughts on the subject)

First of all, you need to know that this is one long brachah, beginning with yotzer or; this paragraph is not the entire brachah.

What is the theme of this paragraph?

As we all know, the חתימה of a brachah tells us its theme. The theme therefore must be that G-d created creations which give off light. (I would appreciate if someone could find the source for this.)

This is the outline of the entire brachah:

  • Part 1: יוצֵר אור וּבורֵא חשֶׁךְ. עשה שָׁלום וּבורֵא אֶת הַכּל

    • G-d creates light,

    • G-d creates darkness,

    • G-d creates peace,

    • G-d creates everything (the pasuk from which this is taken from actually says "bad")

    This section primarily deals with G-d's creations, but the first statement deals with light

  • Part 2: הַמֵּאִיר לָאָרֶץ וְלַדָּרִים עָלֶיהָ בְּרַחֲמִים. וּבְטוּבו מְחַדֵּשׁ בְּכָל יום תָּמִיד מַעֲשה בְרֵאשִׁית. מָה רַבּוּ מַעֲשיךָ ה'. כֻּלָּם בְּחָכְמָה עָשיתָ. מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ קִנְיָנֶךָ: הַמֶּלֶךְ הַמְרומָם לְבַדּו מֵאָז. הַמְשֻׁבָּח וְהַמְפאָר וְהַמִּתְנַשּא מִימות עולָם: אֱלהֵי עולָם. בְּרַחֲמֶיךָ הָרַבִּים רַחֵם עָלֵינוּ. אֲדון עֻזֵּנוּ. צוּר מִשגַּבֵּנוּ. מָגֵן יִשְׁעֵנוּ. מִשגָּב בַּעֲדֵנוּ:

    • G-d illuminates for the land with mercy

    • G-d illuminates for the inhabitants of the land with mercy (the word בְּרַחֲמִים is going on both)

    • G-d renews every day His creation

    • G-d has many creations which He created in wisdom that fill up the earth

    • G-d has always been king, and has always been praised

    • G-d, have mercy on us (and we give titles to G-d)

    Again, we see that it deals with G-d's creations, but has a reference to light. The last two points now deal with G-d's greatness and ask a request. Now that we are mentioning that G-d created many creations, we ask Him to have mercy on us for this reason — because he created us (just like a father is required to feed his son until bar mitzvah). (An explanation similar to this I heard in the name of R' Chaim Kanievsky on the first brachah of birkas hamazon)

  • Part 3: אֵל בָּרוּךְ גְּדול דֵּעָה. הֵכִין וּפָעַל זָהֳרֵי חַמָּה. טוב יָצַר כָּבוד לִשְׁמו. מְאורות נָתַן סְבִיבות עֻזּו. פִּנּות צְבָאָיו קְדושִׁים. רומְמֵי שַׁדַּי. תָּמִיד מְסַפְּרִים כְּבוד אֵל וּקְדֻשָּׁתו: תִּתְבָּרַךְ ה' אֱלהֵינוּ עַל שֶׁבַח מַעֲשי יָדֶיךָ. וְעַל מְאורֵי אור שֶׁעָשיתָ. יְפָאֲרוּךָ סֶּלָה:

    • (Positive descriptions of G-d)

    • G-d made the rays of the sun (not the sun, but its rays, which are its light)

    • (More positive descriptions)

    • A reference to things that give off light

    • (More positive descriptions)

    • Praise

    • and for the things that give off light which You made

    We see this alternates between praise and mention of the luminaries, and it no longer focuses on creations. If you look closely, you'll see that about the same amount of words compose each bullet point above

  • Part 4: The paragraph of תתברך

    • I won't copy all of it, but it's obvious that it deals with angels.
  • Part 5: This is the brachah you quoted above in your question.

    • Saying to give praise to G-d

    • Giving praise to G-d

    • G-d renews all His creations every day

    • Conclusion: G-d creates the luminaries

So there are five parts to this prayer:

  1. Light, G-d's creations

  2. Light, G-d's creations

  3. Light

  4. Angels

  5. Light

(Obviously, some of the sections deal with G-d's praises, but I am not addressing that because it is not unusual for G-d's praises to appear in our prayers)

Why do the מְאורות play such an important part here (as opposed to the other things listed [earlier] in that chapter of Tehillim)

As I noted above, it is not just light which is the main theme of this prayer: It is light, G-d's creations, and angels. I will therefore address why those three areas are the main subject of the prayer.

I would answer this based on R' Schwab's idea of prayer (see R' Schwab on Prayer p. 259). He believes that prayer is based on the architecture of the beis hamikdash: We start at the inside and work ourselves inside until the kodesh hakodashim. At this point in the prayer, we are in the heichal:

Menorah.............Mizbach HaZahav.....................Shulchan

Orach Chaim 94:2 (with Rama) says that menorah corresponds to spiritual needs and shulchan corresponds to physical needs. We pray concerning light corresponding to the menorah (because it has light). We pray concerning G-d's creations corresponding to shulchan (because עיני כל אליך ישברו ואתה נותן להם את אכלם בעתו, and so being a creation is therefore connected to food, the purpose of the shulchan).

Concerning the angels, Targum Yonasan (to kadosh kadosh kadosh) translates it as "holy in heaven ... holy on earth ... holy forever..." If so, heaven may represent the menorah (spiritual), earth may represent the shulchan (physical), and forever may represent the mizbach hazahav: As you know, Onkelos translates "reiach nichoach" (an expression first used by ketores in P' Noach) as "demitkabel be'raava kadam Hashem" (favorably received by G-d).

Why does this paragraph appear at this stage in davening?

In Shulchan Aruch 59:1, it says that we mention day and night by the brachos of krias shema at day and night to prove that it was the one G-d who created it all.

Possibly, it is relevant here because we say shema twice a day, once in the evening and once at night, and we say no other brachah only twice a day at those times (I think). Alternatively, we say it here before shema, in which we say "Hashem echad."

(This was mostly based on something I wrote a while ago on the subject)

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