There is this blessing/declaration which we recite everyday:

"Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha'Olam, shelo asani goy."

But why is it expressed this way? Why the usage of the term goy

Didn't HaShem told Avram: ואעשך לגוי גדול. I will make you a great goy? And again in Shemot 19:6 teach us that we have to become a goy kadosh? Why don't we refer to the rest of the world - in making a distinguish between ourselves and the others of this world - as amim or umot ha'olam or something like that?

  • In SA there is over cochavim and he says that a ger can recite it
    – kouty
    Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 20:56
  • @kouty my question isn't about wether or not a ger can recite it, it's about the recitation self and specifically the usage of the word goy here and the form in which the rest of the blessings are been presented.
    – Levi
    Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 21:17
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    judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/8498/… -- part of your question is answered here
    – Menachem
    Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 21:27
  • Note that the negative phraseology was likely borrowed from ancient Greek blessings, so not as much of a question.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 22:15
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    In Mishnaic Hebrew גוי means non-Jew. Cf. Taanit 3:7, Yevamot 7:5, 16:5, Ketubot 2:9, Nazir 9:1, etc. Why the terms came to mean this is a separate question.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 22:18

2 Answers 2


I suppose first the different versions in the Oral Law should be considered. In the Tosefta Berakhot 6:23 (2nd century) it is written:

ר' יהודה אומר, שלש ברכות צריך לברך בכל יום, ברוך שלא עשני גוי, ברוך שלא עשני אשה, [ברוך] שלא עשני בור

In Yerushalmi Berakhot 9:1 (4th century) we read:

תני רבי יהודה אומר, שלשה דברים צריך אדם לומר בכל יום, ברוך שלא עשאני גוי, ברוך שלא עשאני בור, ברוך שלא עשאני אשה

Please note that the discussed blessing is not present in Bavli Berakhot 60b. However, in Bavli Menachot 43b (5th century) you can find:

תניא היה ר"מ אומר, חייב אדם לברך שלש ברכות בכל יום אלו הן, שעשאני ישראל, שלא עשאני אשה, שלא עשאני בור

The same is cited by Rosh to Berakhot 9:24 in the name of Rabbi Yehuda. In the siddur of Amram Gaon שלא עשני גוי is written, and in the available copy of Machzor Vitry the relevant part is erased, but the negative version was used.

Gra notes in his commentary on Orach Chayim the difference between the positive and the negative phrasing found in the available sources. Bach in Bayit Chadash on Tur Orach Chayim 46 gives arguments against the positive version, since the word Israelite means a free man (similar reason for ladies), therefore two blessing would be in vain, and it is not good to say less blessings.

In the negative version two wording is considered, גוי and נכרי. As you point out, the first goy is a general term in the Torah to denote a nation, while later on our sages started to denote a single non-Jewish person with this word. Isaac Satanow proposed נכרי, which was used by Heidenheim as well, but its use didn't become widespread and it's not a precise term either (see the reasons).

[I took some of the sources from My People's Prayer Book: Birkhot hashachar (morning blessings) pp. 29-30 by Lawrence A. Hoffman]

  • 2
    How do you know none of those sources was censored or changed? Just because the printed Talmud has the positive version doesn't mean it was like that in the 5th century.
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 14:20
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    It was changed in other places! (Why is the Gra relevant? Anyone with a few books could have noted the differences.) There's every variation under the sun for most of the sources, plus variants which can't be accounted for or works which were obscure enough to evade the eyes of the censors. The whole thing is a mess, and quoting modern editions as if they are authoritative is just silly, even if some Acharonim couldn't have done better.
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 15:40
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    @DoubleAA I've checked just for you, in the Leiden Yerushalmi שלא עשני גוי is written and this was used by Bomberg (folio 29v, top left). But I'm afraid you don't get the idea of my answer. I've presented 3 versions that can be found in siddurim with their origins, and given reasons why that 1 is used mostly. You don't need to accept these sources, the reasoning of Bach is sufficient to select one of them. Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 16:37
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    The idea of your answer, as you say, is fine and dandy. Just your presentation of the age of these variants is misleading.
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 16:42
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    שעשאני ישראל appears in no manuscripts of the Talmud
    – wfb
    Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 18:33

Professor Louis Ginzberg wrote the following:

Shu"t Ma'aneh Levi p. 258

Mr. Szacki has the audacity to maintain that Goy means "dirty, unclean", whereas a beginner in Hebrew might have told him if he were anxious to know the truth that Goy is the Hebrew prototype of the word "Gentile". As a matter of fact, Goy is used several times in the Bible to describe any people including Israel, but later it was limited to the meaning of "Gentile". (My emphasis)

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