Question: There are those who recite the words “Baruch Hu U’Baruch Shemo” whenever they hear a blessing. What is the source of this custom and when should this be recited.
The roots of this custom are in the bible. When Noah is first introduced in the Torah the verse states [Gen. 6:9] : “These are the generations of Noah – Noah was a righteous man …” Why are we told that he was a righteous man? Rashi explains the principle – zecher tzadiik levracha – whenever a righteous person is mentioned his praise is also mentioned.
This principle is applied also to God. At the beginning of the Ha’azinu song, Moses states: For the Name of the Lord I proclaim; Give glory to our God [Deut. 32;3]. … the Talmud explains [BT Yoma 37a] For the Name of the Lord I proclaim; Give glory to our God: Moses said to Israel: When I mention the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, ascribe greatness unto Him.” The Sefer Haredim [Eliezer Azikri, Tzafat, 16th Cent.] interprets this obligation as meaning that one should recite ‘Baruch Hu U’Baruch Shemo’ whenever one hears God’s name.
The specific custom of reciting ‘Baruch Hu U’Baruch Shemo’ upon hearing a blessing is first mentioned in the Tur [Jacob ben Asher, Spain 15th Cent.] [OC 124], who states “I have a tradition from my father, the Rosh, that it was his custom that each time he heard a blessing he would recite ‘Baruch Hu U’Baruch Shemo’.
Not everyone has approved of this custom. God’s name is mentioned so frequently in our prayers, that taken to the extreme, it would be impossible to concentrate on the meaning of the prayers and it would render almost any prayer unintelligible.
Ma’asei Rav writes in the name of R. Elijah of Vilna [Lithuania, 18th Cent.] that one should not say this recitation during the repetition of the Amidah, for frequently it means that one misses hearing the end of the blessing and thereby does not fulfil his obligation. In his siddur The Vilna Gaon writes that it is forbidden to recite the ‘Baruch Hu …’ because one must concentrate only on the blessings he is hearing and on reciting amen at the end of each blessing.
The common practice is to recite this praise, but only in places where it is not disruptive to the flow of the service. We recite it at the end of a blessing – where there is a natural pause after God’s name, but not at the beginning of blessings, where God’s name is in the middle of a phrase. The ‘Baruch Hu…’ is not recited at any point of the service where it is forbidden to interrupt the flow. This means that we do not say it during the Pesukei D’zimra, during the recitation of the Shema and the surrounding blessings until the end of the silent Amidah. We also do not recite the ‘Baruch Hu’ if someone else is reciting a blessing on our behalf – such as the public recitation of the Kiddush or the Hamotzei. It is commonly recited during the repetition of the Amidah by those who are listening to the service leader. The leader should pause slightly after saying Gods name – to leave time for the praise.
Rabbi Chaim Weiner
Based on R. Ovadia Yossef, Yachve Da’at, 4, 9.
This study sheet is sponsored by Jewish Journeys Ltd: Currently booking trips to Germany (The Rhineland).