24. Reciting Blessings

5:17 A man may not study Torah or daven if his heart is in a direct line of sight with his genitals with no barrier between the upper and lower portions of his body (such as a belt or an elastic waistband). This is true even if he is covered, such as by a beltless robe. If he doesn’t have a belt or a pair of pants, at the very least he must use his arm to create a separation. A woman’s genitals are positioned in such a way that this entire matter is inapplicable to her. (There are those – most notably the Bach – who say that this matter does apply to women, although such is a minority opinion. In any event, when a woman attends the mikvah, she blesses standing so that her heart is above the water and her genitals are below. See Mishnah Brurah 74:16.)

6:1 Before reciting a blessing, one needs to know what it is he is going to say. That way, when he reaches the Name of God, he knows what it is he’s praising God for. One may not multi-task, reciting blessings while doing other things. A person must not rush through his blessings, but pay attention to the words he is saying. When we thank God for our food and such, the very least we can do it thank Him sincerely by thinking about what we’re saying and not just spitting out words by rote. The prophet Isaiah communicated God’s message on this matter, that “the people draw near, honoring Me with their mouths but they have distanced their hearts from Me” (Isaiah 29:13). The result of this was that God then chose to distance Himself from the people in return. Therefore, we should always be cautious in this matter. Hearing one’s own voice when reciting blessings greatly improves one’s concentration.