During the first centuries, the sages established a set of blessings to be said before and after eating food, as well as other pleasures. The Talmud quotes several reasons for these blessings, among them the phrase ‘The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof’ (Psalms 24:1). In my paper I examine how in the High Middle Ages this reasoning became an acknowledgment of God’s lordship. Perhaps because of a Christian influence, it became accepted that man’s lordship on property is qualified by the lordship of God.
The concept of the ‘Blessings of Pleasure’ first appears in the Middle Ages (12-13th centuries) as a description of blessings preceding various activities associated with pleasure. The origin of these blessings lies in the Mishnah and Talmud of Tractate Berakhot with the instruction that man offer a blessing before the consumption of food. However, despite the many sources dealing with these blessings in the Talmud and Gaonic literature, the term ‘Blessings of Pleasure’ does not appear until the Middle Ages. This lecture will examine the significance of this term and its development, in the context of the period of its appearance, and will also endeavor to evaluate its place in the early siddurim available to us.
Talmudic sources tell us about a change in one of the most important Jewish prayers, from reciting the prayer silently to audibly. This change is attributed to the conflict with ‘heretics’. In this paper I show that this change was one of the measures taken by Jewish sages to distinguish Christian Jews from mainstream Judaism.