The first blessing before the reading of the Shema in the morning prayer starts with

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעולָם, יוצֵר אור וּבורֵא חשֶׁךְ. עשה שָׁלום וּבורֵא אֶת הַכּל.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who forms light and creates darkness, who makes and creates all things.

and this in nusach Ashkenaz, Sfard and Edot Hamizrach.

According to both artscroll and R Shimon Schwab's masterful book on prayer, the source of the blessing is Yeshayahu 45:7 ... except there it says "borei ra" instead of "borei et hakol"

יוֹצֵ֥ר אוֹר֙ וּבוֹרֵ֣א חֹ֔שֶׁךְ עֹשֶׂ֥ה שָׁל֖וֹם וּב֣וֹרֵא רָ֑ע אֲנִ֥י יְהוָ֖ה עֹשֶׂ֥ה כָל־אֵֽלֶּה׃

I form light and create darkness, I make peace and create evil — I the Lord do all these things.

Why did our Sages change the phrasing of this blessing? R Schwab simply says "they did not want to use the words".

Is the idea that God created evil too hard for the common Jew to accept? We know that in the world to come, we will understand how evil is actually a manifestation of good (see Pesachim 50a). Why not leave this idea as in Yeshayahu?


2 Answers 2


Thanks to JoelK for pointing to this answer on MY which mentions the gemara in Brachot 11b which already points out the same issue. On that gemara, artscroll comments

The reason for this deviation is that it is not fitting to praise God by saying that He creates evil; we therefore do not specifically mention the creation of evil, but speak in general terms of God creating "everything" including evil.

  • Does Artscroll cite any source for this explanation? May 27, 2018 at 14:48
  • No it is in the ArtScroll “anonymous” voice without specific reference
    – mbloch
    May 27, 2018 at 15:08

To drastically oversimplify, the Zoroastrians basically believed in one God of good, and one God of evil. (I think I'd seen that they actually liked to point to that verse in Isaiah.) The Sages made the deliberate change in the prayers to stress that evil is part of one totality, all of which is controlled by one God.

(Notice, similarly, that the Talmud bans any cantor who prays "We thank You, we thank You" [modim modim] as it looks like there are two different Gods. There was cross-pollination with Zoroastrianism at this time, so they had to draw some sharp lines.)

  • 1
    Zoroastrians believed in one God, not two, and they didn't believe in the Jewish scriptures, so they obviously wouldn't point to that verse. While the Babylonian Talmud may well have been in "cross-pollination" with Zoroastrianism, the line you quote about "we thank you, we thank you" is from the Mishnah, which was written in Israel, not under any Persian influence.
    – b a
    May 27, 2018 at 10:39
  • @ba when the Gemara says we'd take the person down because it sounds like "there are two domains", what does that mean to you?
    – Shalom
    May 28, 2018 at 0:01
  • One god responsible for good and one god responsible for evil. Apparently some people believed that. Plato also said that. There were Platonic philosophers in Israel contemporary with the Mishnah (Justin Martyr studied with one, mentioned in his dialogue with Trypho). Were there Zoroastrians in Roman-occupied Israel?
    – b a
    May 28, 2018 at 7:56

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