(click the below music notes to listen)
Barchu et Hashem hamevorach
Bless Hashem, the blessed one.
Baruch Hashem hamevorach le-olam vaed
Blessed is Hashem, the blessed One, for all eternity.
Barchu, the call to prayer in the synagogue, is the introduction to the Shema' and its Blessings and to the Amidah (Shemoneh Esrei) which follows, in both the morning and evening service and is only recited in the presence of a minyan, a quorum of ten adult males. The rabbis found an allusion to this in the verse, "and my holiness shall be affirmed (ve-nikdashti) among the Benei Yisrael," namely, in the context of community worship alone. (Megillah 23b)
Talmud - Mas. Megillah 23b
MISHNAH. THE INTRODUCTION TO THE SHEMA' IS NOT REPEATED,4
NOR DOES ONE PASS BEFORE THE ARK,5 NOR DO [THE PRIESTS] LIFT THEIR HANDS,6 NOR IS THE TORAH READ [PUBLICLY] NOR THE HAFTARAH READ FROM THE PROPHET,7 NOR ARE HALTS MADE [AT FUNERALS],8 NOR IS THE BLESSING FOR MOURNERS SAID,9 NOR THE COMFORT OF MOURNERS,10 NOR THE BLESSING OF THE BRIDEGROOMS,11 NOR IS THE NAME [OF G-D] MENTIONED IN THE INVITATION TO SAY GRACE,12
SAVE IN THE PRESENCE OF TEN.
FOR REDEEMING SANCTIFIED PROPERTIES(13) NINE AND A PRIEST [ARE SUFFICIENT], AND SIMILARLY WITH HUMAN BEINGS.
GEMARA. Whence these rules?14 — R. Hiyya b. Abba said in the name of R. Johanan: Because Scripture says, But I will be hallowed among the children of Yisrael:15
every act of sanctification requires not less than ten. How does the verse denote this? — As R. Hiyya
taught: We explain the word ‘among’ here by reference to its use in another
place. It is written here, ‘But I will be hallowed among the children of
Yisrael’, and it is written elsewhere, Separate yourselves from among this
congregation;16 and we further explain the word ‘congregation’ here by reference to what is written in another place, How long shall I bear with this evil congregation.17 Just as there ten are indicated,18 so here.
NOR ARE HALTS MADE [AT FUNERALS]. Since [the conductor of the funeral] requires to say, ‘stand, dear friends, stand; sit, dear friends, sit’,19
it is not proper20 [to have less than ten].
NOR IS THE BLESSING OF MOURNERS NOR THE BLESSING OF BRIDEGROOMS SAID etc. What is the blessing
of mourners? The blessing of the public square,21 since22
R. Isaac said in the name of R. Johanan:
The blessing of mourners requires the
presence of ten, the mourners not being counted; the blessing of bridegrooms requires the presence of ten, the bridegroom being counted.
THE NAME [OF ELOKIM] IS NOT MENTIONED IN THE INVITATION TO SAY GRACE WITH LESS THAN TEN. Since the one who invites has to say, ‘Let us bless our G-d' it is not seemly to do so with less than ten.
FOR REDEEMING PROPERTIES NINE AND A PRIEST. Whence is this rule derived? — Samuel said: Ten priests are mentioned in the section [dealing with sanctifications],23
one for the actual priest required (and [the first] one [after] to limit),24 and the rest constitute a limitation after a limitation, and a limitation after a limitation has the force of an addition, to include, namely, nine Yisraelim and one priest.25 But cannot I [rather] say five priests and five Yisraelim?26 — This is indeed a difficulty.
4 ‘they do not divide over the Shema’’ (v. Glos.). According to Rashi this means that if a number of persons (not less than ten, or seven, or six, or three, according to various opinions, v. Tosaf. and Asheri) come into synagogue after the Shema’ has been said, it is allowable for the congregation to repeat the
Kaddish and Barchu and the first blessing before the Shema’ for their benefit. From the context one would say that it means here more simply ‘say the Shema’ with its attendant blessings’. V. P.B. pp. 37ff. V. Rabbinowitz Mishnah Megillah, ad loc. [Kohler (The Origin of the Synagogue and the Church; p. 58) explains the phrase: ‘The lifting up the hands towards heaven at the recital of the Shema’ — In continuation of the old practice of the Chassidim’. Krauss (Israel-Theol. Lehranstalt, Wien, Bericht, 1933 p. 53): The stepping forward of the reader to recite the Shema’].
5 To lead the congregation in the Amidah.
To say the priestly blessing, BaMidbar 6:24-26.
V. supra p. 140.
8 Lit., ‘they do not make a halting and sitting’. It was the custom on the return from a funeral to have seven pauses during which lamentation was made in
honor of the dead. V. infra.
9 V. infra.
10 The formal words of consolation addressed to the mourners on passing between the two rows formed by friends after the funeral; v. Keth. 8b and Sanh. 19a. Some texts omit ‘NOR COMFORT OF MOURNERS’.
V. Keth. 7b and 8a and P.B. p. 299.
12 Said by one of those present at table to the rest of the company.
13 V. VaYikra 27:16-23.
14 Relating to the synagogue.
15 VaYikra 22:32.
16 BaMidbar 16:21.
17 Ibid. 14:27.
18 The twelve spies without Yehoshua and Kalev; v. Sanh. 2a.
19 V. B.B. 100b.
20 Lit., ‘the way of the world’.
21 vcjr ,frc A blessing of consolation pronounced in the open air on the mourners return from the burial; v. Keth., Sonc. ed. p. 41, n. 5.
22 [To be omitted with MS.M. ‘R. Isaac said etc.’ beginning a new sentence v.Tosaf. s.v. rntu].
23 In VaYikra 27, three times in connection with personal valuations v. 8, three in connection with the valuation of animals vv. 11-13, four with sanctification of property vv. 14, 18, 23; v. 21 is not included as the word priest is not mentioned there in connection with the act of ‘valuation’.
24 These words are bracketed in the text.
25 V. Sanh., Sonc. ed. p. 71 notes.
26 The second mention adding an Israelite, the third going back to a priest, the fourth adding an
Israelite and so on.
Because for many individuals it is too much of a presumption to declare G-d's holiness independently, when they themselves are remote from any true perception of it. In the context of the community, however, we all stand together, mutually supportive, with our collective merit conferring upon us the mantle of holiness.
That we require just ten men to constitute a communal quorum is inferred by the Talmud from the episode of the twelve spies, ten of whom returned with a slanderous report of the Promised Land. (BaMidbar 14) G-d referred to those ten as "an evil congregation" (BaMidbar 14:27) and that consequently became the numerical paradigm for the transition from individuality into community.
Perhaps it was no coincidence, therefore, that when Avraham was pleading with G-d to save the cities of Sedom and Amorah for the sake of the righteous among them, as soon as it became apparent that there were not even ten righteous people - a minyan - able to testify to G-d's sanctity and to serve as a catalyst to promote and generate
kedusha, Avraham realized that the cities were doomed, and he pleaded no further. (Bereishit 18:33)
The Chazzan (leader) calls upon the congregation to proclaim their blessing of G-d. This call is in the nature of a summons to the assembled people to join in the forthcoming prayers known as birchot keriat shema' (Blessings of the Shema'). As the Zohar puts it: All sacred acts require summoning.
With relation to G-d, the term bless cannot mean that we add anything to His powers or possessions. Rather it constitutes our declaration that He is the source of all blessing (Kad HaKemach). Furthermore, it represents our dedication to allow His will to be fulfilled by our obedience to His commandments. Thus, in a sense we do confer something upon Him, for it is in our power to accomplish His goals for man (R' Hirsch).
Blessed is Hashem, the blessed One. With or without our human acknowledgment, G-d is constantly 'blessed' by all aspects of Creation - from the spiritual beings above to the humblest pebble - through the fact that they function in accordance with His will (Kad HaKemach; Kol Bo).
Having called upon the congregation to bless G-d, the chazzan must not let it appear as though he excludes himself from the obligation to bless Him. Therefore, when the congregation has concluded its response, he repeats it after them, lest he seem not to concur with their statement (Tur).
This short prayer is also discussed in Orach Chaim 57:1.
- Blessed Are You, Rabbi Jeffrey Cohen
- Soncino Talmud