Q. Can you explain the early morning blessing praising God “who gave the rooster intelligence to distinguish between day and night”?
A. This is part of a series of blessings that accompany each stage in waking up and starting the day. The source is Talmudic – B’rachot 60b and M’nachot 43b. Stage 1 is the waking up itself, which is accomplished by an alarm clock or a built-in alarm system in one’s mind.
The Hebrew word sech’vi translated by the rabbinic sages as “rooster” may come from an Arabic derivation, with a possible root that means “to look out”. A verse from the Book of Job (38:36), which is the actual source of this blessing, is often rendered, “Who has put wisdom in the inward parts, or who has given understanding to the mind (sech’vi)?”
The blessing is in the past tense (“gave”) where other blessings in the series are present tense (“God gives strength to the weary”), because Job uses the past tense and we echo his wording.