Rav Daniel Kohn (left) and Eli Schwebel

Eli: Boker tov, Rebbe. I’ve really been energized by this idea of “giving strength to the tired.” It’s really an attitude to life, like, what’s in this moment to open up to, what’s new here.

Rav Daniel: Piece by piece, we’re connecting to what makes us live. The next blessing takes us to a primal distinction between who we are as human beings and what might have been.

Eli: You’re talking about “Roka ha’aretz al ha’mayim—Who spreads out the land over the water,” right?

Rav Daniel: Yes.

Eli: It’s actually quite fascinating to think of what would have been different if our planet had been completely covered by water … Could we have developed, talked, written …

Rav Daniel: Actually the Torah begins its cosmology with everything being water-like, “chaos … the winds of Hashem over the waters,” everything amorphous, without pattern, without direction. Once the earth is formed, that’s the first “spreading out the dry land over the waters”—solidity. And then we end up with a planet covered with water.

Eli: Only then it says that the waters gathered together and the dry land came up.

Rav Daniel: That’s right, but that isn’t spreading the dry land over the waters … it’s different. This blessing is about keeping those first waters under the earth—whatever those original waters were … It seems we can say they are the open potential of what cosmologists call the “primordial soup” of particles, energies, ions, gases, forces … The resources for creating life, the potentialities for what is to come.

Eli: Am I supposed to think of this every morning??

Rav Daniel: Well, I think this berachah is waking us up to something. We continue to live in a universe that has endless, open potential. These same forces of “water” are still around. I think we feel them sometimes inside us as we aspire for more, feel the need to “break out” and build something new. We experience the chaos in our lives and the calling to make a pattern, to discover purpose and give our lives form … but we know we take our next steps and form them out of these wide-open possibilities which life is always offering us. Hashem gave us a place for this, the ground we stand on. But that is mirrored in things we face every day. The dry land we walk—the particular life we have formed—continues to sit on bubbling possibilities that are “covered over” but still offer their creative powers.

Eli: Wow, so it’s really like a dialogue between our solidity and fluidity. It’s not just that He made the dry land. He spread it over the water—meaning, the waters are still there.

Rav Daniel: Contributing to our growth, even as we stabilize ourselves in the present.

Eli: You know, creative process is so much like this. When I write a song I really feel like I’m in an energy realm, possibilities flying around, nothing formed yet. And then, eureka! There’s suddenly the word, the melody…

Rav Daniel: Precisely! So we’re blessing Hashem for having given us a place to stand, grow and develop … while it remains hovering over endless wellsprings of possibility which we continue to draw from. It’s a big blessing!

Eli: Kind of like a prayer and a hope and a blessing all together. 

Please look out in the coming weeks for more transcribed installments of Siddur Alive, and continue to follow @ HYPERLINK “https://www.instagram.com/elischwebel/” EliSchwebel on Instagram to see them in engaging video format.

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