I visited Maureen, an old friend who has Alzheimer’s, this week. As we admired the spring blossoms outside her window, she began talking about how she is lucky.
She found it a blessing that she still had people in her life who she knew and liked, even if she could not remember their names, including mine. As we made our way slowly down the hallways to lunch, Maureen marveled at the pictures that have hung on the walls for years – seeing them with the fresh eyes which a lack of memory allows. She found the beauty of those pictures to be a blessing too, simply because they made her happy to look at them. She began to pointing out all the blessings she saw, in everything around her.
The simplicity of her vision might be easy to shrug off, but I am not sure that would be wise. Acknowledging one’s blessings is a path to God
For Jews, blessings are both something we receive from God, and something we say to God, in acknowledgment and thanks as the source of all things. The Hebrew word for blessings is “brachot.” It can also mean, “to kneel down.”
Prayers and blessings are in integral part of Jewish life, recited throughout each day, not something done only at religious services.
Brachot divides into three major categories:
▪ The first set of blessings are said to acknowledge a physical pleasure, or having something new, such as new clothes.
▪ The second type of blessings are those recited as part of a commandment. The blessing for food is called the Birkat HaMazon and is spoken after meals. This commandment to do this is found in Deuteronomy 8:10. It thanks God for giving us food. There are also blessings for candle lighting and more. These blessings focus our minds on what we are doing and remind us of the holiness of our actions.
▪ The last type of blessing is that which praises God at special times; around holidays or hearing important news, either good or bad. Those blessings are intended to praise God as the true Judge, even if we cannot understand the reason for the event.
The format of the blessings was developed around 2,500 years ago. It begins with, “Blessed are you Lord God, Ruler of the universe.”
From that introduction, the blessing continues with thanks for the specific item, which can range from, “thank you, I woke up alive!” to other occurrences, like celebrating a wedding, the birth of a child or seeing a rainbow.
According to Jewish tradition, one should recite 100 blessings a day. Imagine, finding 100 activities, things or actions, and pausing for a moment to thank the Creator. Even starting to fulfill that tradition can give one fresh eyes to appreciate more of the holiness which surrounds us all.
Would you try this? Taking little moments to step away from the treadmill of life and acknowledge our blessings can make us ever more aware of the miracles all around us and more sensitive to our fellow man.
Blessings are all around us. Acknowledging them is a path to God and to Grace.
Edie Yakutis works with Ritual Life at Temple Solel in Fort Mill. Contact her firstname.lastname@example.org.