Wednesday, May 1, 2013

TEFILA: The underrated importance of wearing a belt

כשהוא חוגר את חגורו, הוא אומר: ברוך אוזר ישראל בגבורה.

When describing the blessings to be said in the morning (birkot hashahar) the Talmud explains that when a person girdles his belt he says: 'ozer Israel bigbura.  "Blessed are You, haShem, Who girdles Israel with strength". 
We have already explained that birkot hashahar are said for the small "events" we experience every morning, from the moment we wake up until we are ready to leave home.  For example: poqeah 'ivrim, when we open our eyes; malbish 'arum, when one wears his main cloth (in those days  a plain tunic) or she'asa likol tzorki, when we wear our shoes ( see this ). Now, in ancient days, when these berakhot were established, men did not wear pants or undergarments. How do we know? We have a priceless barayta in Masekhet Shabbat 120a which describes the typical 18 garments that a person would normally wear in those days. There are socks, scarfs, coats, etc. but not pants (a Kohen, however, would wear pants during his ritual duties).  A belt around the waist was then an essential tool to keep the tunic in place. The Halakha stresses the importance of the belt. At the time of praying, for example, the belt would avoid the possibility that a person would see his own nakedness while praying ( there is also another special Halakha in this area related to the belt "shelo yihe libbo ro-e et ha'erva", see here). 

This is indeed an atypical berakha. Up until now we have seen that each of the berakhot describe what a person experiences in the morning, acknowledging haShem for it.  In this case, however, the wearing of the belt becomes a motif of the dynamics between HaShem and Israel. I found two ways of interpreting this symbolism. 1. In the same way the belt protects the clothing from being loose or falling, HaShem protects His people Israel. Or 2. This berakha might refer particularly to the Tora's guidelines and restrictions in the area of sexuality.  When we control our desires, we become stronger. As the Rabbis said: "Who is considered strong?  The man who controls his impulses". i.e., through His Miztvot, HaShem girdles Israel with strength.  

If one of the readers has any other suggestion about the explanation or symbolism of this berakha, please, feel free to share. Write to   

Early childhood is a great time to expose our kids to Jewish education. The results can last a lifetime.
by  Yvette Alt Miller, from