This paper examines the role of law and liturgy in constructing the political borders of the early rabbinic community, focusing on the treatment of the blessings over commandments (birkat ha-mitsvot) in chapter 6 of tBerakhot. The conclusion of both Mishnah and Tosefta Berakhot addresses several liturgical formulas that are invoked when encountering an assortment of unique natural phenomena. As such, these texts center on the most religious of spheres, pertaining to issues such as prayer, ritual, miracles, and theology.
One anomalous subject addressed in the last chapter of tBerakhot is the blessings over the commandments. This essay argues that the novel institution of the blessings over the commandments serves important legal and political functions. By detailing who is obligated to recite which blessings, the Tosefta creates a stratified conception of legal obligation, with some members of the community obligated by more duties than others. Moreover, the language of the blessings, the laws pertaining to blessings, and the examples of blessings given by the Tosefta frame the concept of obligation (mitsvah) as a duty that ties the individual to the broader community through the performance of the law. The Tosefta thus presents a novel vision whereby carrying out legal obligations accompanied by blessings simultaneously denotes legal personhood and delineates the political borders of the community.