Most blessings seem to begin in second party ("Blessed are You..."), and end in third party ("Who gives us His Torah" or "Who santifies us with His commandments")—as if we were discussing G‑d instead of addressing Him directly. Why is this?


Rabbi Shlomo ibn Aderet (1235-1310), known universally as the RaShBA, was asked the very same question, and answered as follows: There are two ways in which G‑d relates to Creation: On one hand, He is perfect and has no need for creation. After all, what does our little ball of dirt and ocean have on an infinite Creator? On the other hand, in spite of this, he chooses to actively create, and taken an interest in, us.

In the first half of the blessing we address Him as He chose to vivify His universe, so we speak to Him as a present entity with whom we can converse. The second half addresses that which cannot be addressed—as we have ascended to the reality where there is no reality—and therefore speaks of Him as if He were not present in our conversation, for on that level we do not exist to converse with Him.

The Tzemach Tzedek (1789-1866) expands this thought through the lens of Kabbalah: The first half of the verse addresses Memalle—the Divine radiance which enters each creation on its own level, and the second half of the verse addresses Sovev—His emanation to which nothing exists, which "enters" nothing.

Elsewhere, the Tzemach Tzedek presents an alternative reading, that "You" refers to G‑d in His essence, as He stands beyond any name. Every blessing begins with us addressing G‑d in this most personal way. Next, we address Him as He has a name, then as He is King of the World, working our way down, so that we can speak of Him in more graspable terms.

Please let me know if this helps.

Yours truly,

Rabbi Menachem Posner