I am not one for reciting blessings – not in the manner mandated by the Talmud. One hundred blessings a day? I am reminded of The Blessing Bee, a powerful piece by Shalom Auslander (who I think is an incredibly evocative and brilliant writer). Auslander exposes the dangers behind rote adherence to ritual. Check out his reading of The Blessing Bee on This American Life (it’s Act Three). I first heard it years ago, and it has stuck with me in a visceral way, as have all his writings.
So where does that leave me in the great Blessing challenge? Inspired by my brilliant Rabbi, Carolyn Bricklin-Small, when she spoke of blessings and gratitude at the Shabbat service the day after Thanksgiving. I was mesmerized by her teaching, as I often am by her words. She speaks, I listen. Often, I shift a bit. On this particular Shabbat, my shift was seismic.
My Rabbi explained (much more eloquently than my wild paraphrasing) that the Talmudists believed that saying 100 blessings a day would cause people to look at the everyday things in their lives in a more positive way. And to thank God for them. See a beautiful sunset? Run into an old friend? Catch your train as the doors were closing? Blessings, all. I can get behind this concept. Not sure about the God part of it, except in a macro sense. Seems to me that God is too busy with bigger issues to help me catch my train. Then again…
So here’s my challenge to myself: I’m going to do a 26-part acrostic prayer poem (using the English alphabet, because my Hebrew is almost non-existent). Each day I will celebrate one blessing – avoiding the easy ones. To me, this exercise calls for mindfulness and humble gratitude – especially for challenging concepts. At the end of 26 days, I’ll have my poem of blessings. Wish me luck.
Thank you God
for the blessing of
ambiguity, for allowing