There are a few of the Birchos Hashachar litany that were not listed in part 5 of this siman. The reason they were not mentioned with the others is because they have “issues” (or at least potential issues), as we will discuss presently:
Here are the brachos (found in the Artscroll Siddur, pp.18-20):
1) ‘… shelo asani goy’ (for not having made me a gentile)
2) ‘… shelo asani aved’ (for not having made me a slave)
3) Men recite: ‘… shelo asani isha’ (for not having made me a woman)
4) Women recite: ‘… she-asani kirtzono’ (for having made me according to His will)
5) ‘… haNosein la-ya’eif koach’ (Who gives strength to the weary)
And, here are the “issues”:
#1) Should a convert recite this one? The common practice is YES, with the following caveat: When he/she recites this bracha, the thought should be: ‘… for not having allowed me to remain a gentile’!
#1-3) These three classes of people – gentile, slave and woman – are not sociological classes, but mitzvah classes. A gentile is commanded only seven mitzvos (i.e. the “Seven Noachide Laws”.) A slave (Heb: ‘Eved Cana’ani’ or Canaanite slave), while not Jewish, is commanded all negative prohibitions plus non-time-bound positive ones. (Ed: This class doe not exist nowadays.) A Jewish woman is commanded even more.
Essentially, then, we are thanking Hashem for not creating us in a lower mitzvah class than the one we are in. As such, the brachos are placed in a precise order - i.e. You did not make me a 7-mitzvah person, or even a many-mitzvah person, etc. (Ed: Do you see now why it would be impossible for a woman to say ‘shelo asani ish’ – for not having made me a man?) The question now is this: if I mistakenly make, say, #2 or #3 before #1, can I go back and make the ones I missed, or is it too late? For example, if I have already acknowledged Hashem for not limiting my mitzvah-obligations to the number of an ‘Eved Cana’ani’, have I not, perforce, implied my thanks for not limiting me to the number of a gentile?! The final ruling is that it is not too late, and I can recite the missing ones now, even though I have mistakenly disrupted the proper order.
(Note: In a similar vein, if one mistakenly recited ‘… Zokeif kefufim’ (Who straightens the bent) – for the gift of being able to stand up straight, before ‘… Matir asurim’ (Who releases the bound) – for the gift of being able to sit up, is he able to still recite ‘Matir assurim’, since the ability to stand presupposes the ability to sit? Here we are taught not to recite ‘matir assurim’, but rather to listen to someone else recite it, and be ‘yotze’ (i.e. fulfill the obligation) with that.)
#5) There is not much to report about this bracha, other than to point out that the ‘Mechaber’ (R’ Yosef Karo) did not agree that this bracha should be recited at all. (Ed: I am not sure why.) The ‘Rama’, and certainly Ashkenazic Jews, recite it. (Ed: Does anyone out there know if the Sefardim do?)
A few more “issues” regarding the Birchos Hashachar:
Question: Does one recite a bracha even if he does not personally experience the “gifts” for which that particular bracha thanks Hashem? For example, does one who did not put on his shoes that day recite ‘… She-asah li kol tzarki’ (Who has provided me my every need) – for the gift of shoes? Or does a blind person recite ‘… Pokeiach ivrim’ (Who gives sight to the blind)?
Answer: YES, everyone recites every bracha. They are a general acknowledgment of Hashem’s endowing mankind with these many gifts, and are still appropriate even for someone who does not possess every single one. (Ed: Besides, the blind man does benefit from the sight of those who help him.)
There is one exception to our last point: If a person did not sleep at all for an entire night, there are two brachos that he should not make personally in the morning (rather, he should be ‘yotze’ from someone else): 1) ‘Elokai, neshama’ (“My G-d, the soul…” - see p. 18) and 2) ‘… haMa’avir sheina’ (“Who removes sleep” – see p. 20, including the entire paragraph that follows.)
[Note: Interestingly, the bracha ‘… haNosein la-ya’eif koach’ (“Who gives strength to the weary”) may be recited even by one who did not sleep at night.]
This last halacha is very relevant on Shavuos, when many people stay up learning the entire night and go straight into Shacharis. The custom is for a person who did sleep (for at least part of the night) to recite all of the ‘Birchos Hashachar’ out loud with the intention of being ‘motzi’ the others. Although most of the brachos can be made by the ones who stayed awake, we do it that way for the sake of the two we mentioned above, so as not to cause confusion (especially since everyone is so tired!) Iy”H, we will continue this discussion regarding the ‘Birchos HaTorah’ (p. 16) in the upcoming siman 47.