Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Anachronistic Prayers Part 1 or The Crow of the Cock

When he hears the cock crowing he should say: 'Blessed is He who has given to the cock understanding to distinguish between day and night'. (Berachot 60b)

The ArtScroll siddur quotes Rabbenu Asher ben Yechiel, the Rosh, who interprets "sekhvi" as "the heart" (see Iyov 8:36), thus making the morning beracha

Blessed is He who has given the heart understanding to distinguish between day and night.

It is clear from the Talmud that this late interpretation has nothing to do with the original intention of the composer of the blessing. In a time when there were no alarm clocks, one would wake up to the crowing of the rooster. Indeed, Tehillat Hashem (the Nusach Ari / Chabad siddur) in its halachic note to the blessing states "if he was awake all night and heard the crow of the rooster after midnight, he may recite the berachah."

The Rosh lived from ca. 1250 to 1328. Wiki mentions an interesting contemporaneous fact in its article on clocks: "Between 1280 and 1320, there is an increase in the number of references to clocks and horologes in church records, and this probably indicates that a new type of clock mechanism had been devised. Existing clock mechanisms that used water power were being adapted to take their driving power from falling weights. This power was controlled by some form of oscillating mechanism, probably derived from existing bell-ringing or alarm devices. This controlled release of power - the escapement - marks the beginning of the true mechanical clock." A speculative thought is that the Rosh's reformulation arose out of his prescient awareness that the need for the rooster alarm clock would soon eliminated.

This blessing was at one time a very practical one. Today, however, it has no meaning to us without the creative rendering of Rabbenu Asher.


think said... long as you do not live on the countryside.

I even live in the city and have a rooster crowing next to my house.

Frum Heretic said...

Yeah, I once also had a neighbor with a rooster. It was VERY annoying and certainly didn't make me feel like saying that beracha!

think said...

Oh, I like it very much, on the contrary. I was very annoyed with the neighbours working in the building block next to the rooster who called the police and had him removed last year. But he had enough time to make children, and this year, a new rooster is there. I feel so much on vacation when I hear him.

Joshua said...

If one's livelyhood depended on getting up early in the morning one presumably wouldn't mind the rooster as much.