Friday, February 2, 2018

A Phrase of Praise

If you’ve ever been in a synagogue and heard a bunch of congregants seemingly mumble something after the chazzan (prayer leader) recited a blessing and wondered what they were saying, and why, and when...then, hopefully, today’s Jewish Treat will provide you with an answer. The phrase that is recited is Baruch Hu U’varuch Shemo, which means “Blessed is He and blessed be His name.” It is recited in response to hearing God’s name in a blessing (after Baruch Ahtah Ah’doh’nai...Blessed are You God). There are, however, several caveats to its recitation.

During a prayer service, there are certain sections of prayer when one is not permitted to interrupt except to say Amen, which is considered an obligatory response to a full blessing. Saying Baruch Hu U’varuch Shemo, while considered important and praiseworthy, is not obligatory, and, therefore, one would not interrupt during these parts of the service to recite it.

One possible source for the custom of reciting Baruch Hu U’varuch Shemo is, according to Rabbi Asher ben Jehiel (aka the ROSH) as cited by his son, Rabbi Jacob ben Asher (aka the TUR) in his commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, the verse “When I call upon the name of the Lord, exalt our God” (Deuteronomy 32:3).

Because the recitation of Baruch Hu U’varuch Shemo is to praise God after hearing his name, the phrase is generally not recited when one listens to a blessing that includes his or her fulfilment of a mitzvah, because then it is as if one is saying the blessing one’s self. For example, Kiddush is often recited only by one person at the Shabbat table, but fulfills the mitzvah for everyone present (click here for more on this concept). Only Amen is the proper response.

It should be noted that there are some rabbinic authorities who do not feel that Baruch Hu U’varuch Shemo should ever be recited because it interrupts prayer and hinders one from hearing the blessings properly.

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