Friday, August 9, 2013

#BlogElul 3 - Blessings

[For those who don't know, #BlogElul is an invention of the brilliant Rabbi Phyllis Sommer. Elul is the month leading up to the High Holy Days, and is traditionally a month of introspection. She blogs on an Elul-related topic daily, and encourages others to do the same. You can read her stuff at]

What, exactly, is a blessing? What does it mean to bless someone? What does it mean to be blessed?

It seems like it should be obvious. Ask someone, "Do you know what a blessing is?" and they'll undoubtably tell you that they do. Ask them to define blessing, and you'll probably get a lot of hemming and hawing. And then some self-referential, non-specific definition. We all kind of know what blessing is, but we can't really pin it down.

A few years back, I was able to take an on-line class led by Nehemia Polen, a brilliant Rabbi and professor, all about Blessing. And, he had a pretty radical theory about what "blessing" really meant, originally.

Plainly and simply, it meant acknowledgment.

You know how countries "recognize" each other? How we all like to make jokes about it ("Israel? Didn't I see you at the Feinstein Bar Mitzvah?"). What does it mean to recognize a country? It means to acknowledge that they exist, and therefore to be willing to engage in dialogue with them. Nothing more. But, it's so important, because it's the beginning--the beginning of relationship. Before that, nothing is possible. Afterwards, anything is.

That's everything.

What do we want from God? Blessing*. What does that mean? It means that what we want from God, more than anything else, is to be acknowledged. To be recognized as existing. As ourselves. After that, anything is possible. A conversation--a real conversation--can occur, because we've been acknowledged. As a human being, in the fullest sense of that term. As some one who matters.

* When do we want it? Now!

All relationship starts with that seemingly trivial, but ultimately foundationally sacred moment, of being recognized. With seeing the humanity, the spark of holiness, that lies within each of us.

Baruch Atah Adonai. God, You are blessed.

Now, bless me, too.


Mr. Bean said...

This is great. It pretty much sums up or defines the most basic yet important need in human relationships: acknowledgment. Thanks Rabbi for sharing. Shabbot Shalom.

Mr. Bean said...
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