It’s a Jewish spiritual practice to say a berachah, a blessing, when experiencing an awesome, beautiful, or startling sight (or sound like thunder, or delicious scent) in nature. When I suddenly get to that first view of the ocean, I always catch my breath at the grandeur and beauty of the sight. All of my senses are opened up by the vista, the crash of the waves, the fresh ocean air.
For many, beholding the vastness and power of the sea evokes thoughts of the Creator and the majesty of creation. You can, like some friends of mine, just say “Holy Wow!” But to bring in a moment of tradition and spiritual practice, seeing the sea offers the perfect moment to say a one-line berachah. There are varied traditions about which one to say for this occasion, but it is usually one (or both) of these:
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheynu Melech ha-olam, oseh ma’aseh beresheet.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, עֹשֶׂה מַעֲשֵׂה בְרֵאשִׁית
Blessed are you, YHWH (Breath of Life) our God, Cosmic Majesty, creating the world ever anew.
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheynu Melech ha-olam, she-asa et hayam hagadol.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁעָשָׂה אֶת הַיָּם הַגָּדוֹל
Blessed are you, YHWH our God, Cosmic Majesty, who made the great sea.
Some people combine the two blessings, adding the last four Hebrew words of the second blessing to the end of the first. The blessing is traditionally said after at least 30 days away from seeing that particular sea, so that the experience is even more powerful.
Learn more about traditional Jewish berachot/blessing, in which Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman explains the Jewish view that “the holy can come bursting through the everyday at any time.” Although the traditional blessings are interesting and intriguing to learn, if you find learning the traditional words is too hard, I often suggest just saying, “Baruch Atah,” Praised are You…and fill in the blank for your gratitude as you experience life’s large and small wonders.
Comment below to share a time that a view of the sea or ocean brought you to awe.
Featured Image: Cape Cod National Seashore, Marconi Beach, JHD
Learn an ancient teaching about the sea filling a cave as a metaphor for the divine filling us and our world, or return to the Gateway of the Sea.