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Yeshua Explored

Blessings

todaySeptember 6, 2021 13

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We live in an age of short attention spans. This is why Twitter reigns supreme as a major means of communication and why the younger generation work on the principle that an emoji speaks a dozen words (or so). God is not surprised by these developments and, over the years has prompted the Jews to create a compendium of over one hundred blessings, berakhot, that can be spoken to God throughout the day. These are short prayers, of a fixed format, that cover a whole range of everyday situations. These berakhot are a constant reminder to us of Who we need to bless and acknowledge, first and foremost. When they are a part of our everyday routine, then they function to include God in every situation we find ourselves in. When I say “every”, the following examples will illustrate:

“Blessed be the LORD God, King of the Universe, who has created humans with wisdom, with openings and hollow parts, revealed before Your holy throne, that if any part of the body was to malfunction, it would be impossible for us to exist and stand before You even for a short time. You cure all flesh and perform wonders!

Yes, this is the Jewish prayer for successfully going to the toilet. All in life is a gift from God. Opening one’s bowels regularly is a blessing (more so as I get older!).

I give thanks before You, Living and Eternal King, who has returned within me my soul with compassion; great is Your faithfulness!

Yes, this is for waking up after sleep and discovering that you are still alive!

Here’s another one. “Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, King of the Universe, Who has this in His universe.”

This prayer is quite warming. It’s what you tell God when you see an exceptionally beautiful person, tree, or field. There’s an even more warming variation on this.

“Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, King of the Universe, Who makes the creatures different.”

This is what you tell God when you see exceptionally strange-looking people or animals. You see, to the Jewish eye, everything in this world is of interest to God, not just the “spiritual” stuff. Prayer is meant to be part of life, like eating and drinking, as Rabbi Abraham Heschel reminds us:

“We are trained in maintaining our sense of wonder by uttering a prayer before the enjoyment of food. Each time we are about to drink a glass of water, we remind ourselves of the eternal mystery of creation, “Blessed be Thou … by Whose word all things come into being.” A trivial act and a reference to the supreme miracle. Wishing to eat bread or fruit, to enjoy a pleasant fragrance or a cup of wine; on tasting fruit in season for the first time; on seeing a rainbow, or the ocean; on noticing trees when they blossom; on meeting a sage in Torah or in secular learning; on hearing good or bad tidings— we are taught to invoke His great name and our awareness of Him. Even on performing a physiological function we say, “Blessed be Thou … who healest all flesh and doest wonders.” This is one of the goals of the Jewish way of living: to experience commonplace deeds as spiritual adventures, to feel the hidden love and wisdom in all things.” (God in Search of Man p. 49).

The general formula is simply to thank God for something. Some of our set prayers tend to miss the simple point expressed here. For instance, think of our grace before meals. When nudged, we sometimes resort to a vague request for God to bless our food. Yet our food is already blessed, it is one of the many gifts that God gives to us. We don’t need to make the food holy by blessing it. Instead, we should be blessing God and thanking Him for His bounty. The idea of blessing the food to make it holy is Greek thinking, from the platonic idea of the separation between the physical and the spiritual, the holy and the profane. Sometimes thinking differently is just thinking Biblically. 

This is an extract from the book, Shalom, available for £10 at https://www.sppublishing.com/shalom-239-p.asp

What are blessings? 

Written by: Miriam Emenike

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