Rabbinic Reflections: Issue 195

January 26, 2024, (17 Sh'vat 5784)

Parasha Beshallach- Bivracha: With Blessings!

Dear Friends,

I hope this correspondence finds you well and in good health. Please join us this Saturday morning for davening, which begins promptly at 10:00 am and will be followed by a festive Tu Bishvat enhanced luncheon. Our community extends its gratitude to Gary Miller for sponsoring this Shabbat’s Kiddush in memory of his grandmother. May her memory be for a blessing.

This Shabbat, as we continue our series entitled Young Voices: Today’s Topics, we welcome Shira Wallach to our Bimah. Shira holds a BA from the University of Alabama and an MA in non-profit management and leadership from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She presently serves as the Chief Leadership Officer of Israel on Campus Coalition. In addition to combatting the vilest of antisemitism ever seen on college campuses, Shira guides people of all ages to embrace Israel as a core part of their identities. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear a verified, professional account of what is taking place on American college campuses.

Recently, I have been pondering the power of Berachot, or blessings. From a mystical Kabbalistic perspective, the power of reciting blessings has a reparative effect in the universe, both creating angels of light in this realm and bringing together Hashem’s scattered unity in the heavens.

Isaac Luria, a sixteenth century Jewish mystic, taught that when God created the world, He formed vessels to hold the Divine Light. As the light began to fill the vessels, they were unable to contain divinity and it shattered. Sparks of Divine light were trapped in the shards of these vessels; they scattered throughout the cosmos and formed our world. The task of humanity is to reunite the scattered sparks of Light, to repair the broken world, and thus participate in finishing God’s work. Perhaps, reciting one more blessing, can indeed make a dynamic change during these troubling times.

As you know, Jewish tradition is inherently a religion of gratitude and blessing. As such, we are commanded to recite one hundred blessings each and every day. While the number may seem inaccessible, liturgically, the goal is partially fulfilled quickly if we recite the Amidah (which contains 19 blessings) three times a day. If one additionally recites the introductory blessings of Shacharit, where we find another 20 blessings, according to my accounting, we are at seventy-eight. Suddenly, making one hundred blessings is an attainable goal!

While we often think of formal prayer services (and of course eating!) as the conduit to reaching “100,” this past week’s celebration of Tu Bishvat, reminds us that reciting blessings need not be exclusively relegated to the synagogue.

In order to help you inflate your heavenly required statistics, and at the same time mystically repair the world, here are some possibilities for reciting blessings during your next walk around the block!

Praised Are You Adonai, King of the Universe Who:

  • בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁעָשָׂה אֶת הַיָם הַגָּדוֹל
    Made the large bodies of water (when seeing the ocean).
  • ברוך אתה ה’ אלהינו מלך העולם עושה מעשה בראשית
    Made the great works of creation (when seeing lightning).
  • בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעולָם שכחו וגבורתו מלא עולם
    Made the world full of signs of his strength and might (when hearing thunder).
  • בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעולָם זוכֵר הַבְּרִית
    Made His Covenant with Humanity (when seeing a rainbow).
  • בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם הנותן ריח טוב לפירות
    Made fruits full of pleasing fragrances (when smelling fruit).
  • בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם מחיה המתים
    Revives those who are deceased (when seeing someone after an extended period of time).
  • בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעולָם משנה הבריות
    Made creatures different (when seeing an unusual person or animal).
  • ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם שחלק מחכמתו ליראיו
    Imparted wisdom to those who fear you (when seeing a person of great intellect).
  • בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעולָם שככה לו בעולמו
    Made beautiful things in His world (when seeing someone of great beauty).

While outdoors, let us follow the example of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav. Nachman was the great-grandson of the Hasidism’s founder, Rabbi Israel Baal-Shem-Tov.

Nachman loved to seclude in nature's lap, trying to hear, in his own words, "Herbs bless the God’s name." Here is Nachman’s prayer for nature:

Grant me the ability to be alone; may it be my custom to go outdoors each day among the trees and grass- among all growing things, and there may I be alone, and enter into prayer, to talk with the One to whom I belong.

May I express there everything in my heart, and may all the foliage of the field - all grasses, trees, and plants - awake at my coming, to send the powers of their life into the words of my prayer so that my prayer and speech are made whole through the life and spirit of all growing things, which are made as one by their transcendent Source.

As we enter Shabbat, I pray that we consider the possibilities of blessings both in synagogue and in nature, so that we can do our small part to pave a path to perpetual harmony, for ourselves, the Jewish people, and all of humanity.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Eric L. Wasser, EdD, Hon.DM
Tel: 201-562-5277

WANT MORE??? Click HERE!!!