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Many of the prayers of the Birkot HaShachar are in third person. Such as: "...who opens the eyes of the blind." Or "...who frees the captive." I've always thought about personally thanking G-d (for example) for giving me sight or giving me freedom, respectively. But maybe I should take it more literal, and thank G-d for giving people sight, freeing the captives, etc.

Should I take a more personal or literal approach to the meaning of these prayers?

  • If you learn the classical interpretations of this prayer, there are personal interpretations possible for pretty much every line. "Who gives sight to the blind" can refer, for example, to "Who let me open my eyes again after I was sleeping last night." "Who straightens the bend" is another well-known one; while it likely has a whole host of global interpretations about righting wrongs, in your case, it applies to getting you out of bed to stand up. This stuff is worth studying; it's fascinating and can add a lot to the recital of brochas. – SAH Dec 8 '15 at 5:43
  • Warning: The more you cram into the Bracha the greater your chance of getting distracted. :-) But it's a good question. +1 – Danny Schoemann Dec 8 '15 at 7:48
  • Offhand thoughts - It seems that you focused on the "central" birkot hashachar, i.e. the list of "short" blessings commonly placed after Elokai Netzor using Nusach Ashkenaz - correct? From what I see, the verb form is "general", not necessarily 3rd person. I.e. it means "the one who opens the eyes of the blind". I.e., it could be considered a noun / gerund, rather than a 3rd person verb. Make sense? – DanF Dec 8 '15 at 17:50
  • I have an article I saw a while ago that answers why the format of every blessing begins in singular ("Adonai" - my lord) and ends in plural (Elokenu - Our G-d). If I find that article, would that be relevant to answering your question, even if somewhat indirectly? – DanF Dec 8 '15 at 17:52
  • @DanF Thanks, I would love to see it, even if it doesn't answer the question. – Gabriel12 Dec 8 '15 at 18:12
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One of the purposes of prayer is to thank and acknowledge G-d as the source or "wellspring" of everything. As a matter of fact, the word בְרָכָה(blessing) is related to the word בְרֵכָה meaning "spring". See this article for this and more explanations.

The phrasing in most birkot hashachar uses a verb such as מלביש ערומים - "clothing the naked". While it is true that מלביש is the 3rd person form of the verb לבש, it is also common in Hebrew that such verb forms are used as nouns or gerunds meaning "the one who clothes the naked."

Thus, when reciting such blessings, don't focus on the format of the verb being 3rd person, not is it meant to be personal, either, in these cases. But, rather, focus that G-d is the source of this gift for all mankind, in a general term.

What I'm pointing out is that there are multiple aspects to prayer other than viewing things from a personal stance.

If you really want to make it "personal", using the example, above, imagine a world where everyone roamed around naked because G-d never thought of clothing. (Yes, that did happen in the Garden of Eden, and we saw how "well" that idea worked out.) I won't delve into your own thoughts about whether you would or wouldn't mind seeing others nude, but, I think you'd agree that eventually, you would get cold, at the least.

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I located this great OU article that deals with the general discussion / purpose of all brachot, not necessarily Birkot Hashachar. In the middle of the article, he asks the question, why the beginning of the bracha phrasing I sin 2nd person ("Adonai" - MY lord) and then it quickly switches to 3rd person (Elokeinu - OUR G-d)?

I am excerpting a section that I believe relates to your question since your issue seems to wonder about the 3rd person vs. "me" "conflict".

Every time that a Jew utters a blessing, he does so out of a sense of gratitude which takes account of the role that God plays in his life. When he awakens in the morning he thanks God for his renewed health and vigor. Before he retires at night, he thanks God for the day's energy and requests a gentle night's sleep. When faced with a piece of bread, fruit, meat, or a drink, the gratitude he experiences is one which contains a sense of closeness to God. But that sense is always ephemeral. It cannot last and it quickly transforms into an awareness of God as the powerful Omnipotent Being whose majesty makes all humans feel puny and insignificant.

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