Truths You Can Use

Truths You Can Use


How To Make Your Life A Blessing

Jewish tradition tells the story of a wise man who met with a king. The king challenged the man with a riddle. He said, “In my hands is a small bird. Is it alive or dead?” The wise man paused and looked down.to make our lives a blessing

He thought to himself, “If I say it is alive, he will close his hand and crush it. If I say it is dead, he will open his hand and let it fly away.” The wise man turned his head up and said in a soft yet commanding voice, “It’s all in your hands.”

The same is true for us. Our lives are in our hands. It is not always be easy. We face struggle, challenges, difficulties. Yet, like the Biblical Jacob, we can derive blessings from them. We can, to use the beautiful phrase of the late singer Debbie Friedman, “find the courage to make our lives a blessing.”

I believe Judaism’s gift to the world is teaching us how. This blog will be devoted to uncovering those lessons.

To make our lives we blessings, we need to count our blessings and speak our blessings. 

  • Counting our blessings: As a father of two young children, I am truly blessed. Yet that’s easy to forget at 3:00 AM when one child’s loud crying wakes up the other.

One of the ways I remind myself is by following an ancient Jewish custom. In Judaism the first thing we are       supposed to do each morning is sit up and say the words, “I am grateful to you, Oh God, who has restored my soul from sleep and given me the breath of life.”

No sighing. No turning our pillows over and burying our heads in them. We recognize the blessing of life. We prime ourselves to live with gratitude. We count our blessings and find happiness in them.

  • Saying blessings: It is not enough, however, to recognize and count our blessings. We have to say them. Acknowledge them. Speak them. That’s why the ancient Jewish sages urged us to say 100 blessings a day!

Something magical happens when we give expression to our feelings. About a month ago, I saw an example of this magic. I was in my office when a member of my congregation came by. He had a burning question.

“I was dining at a restaurant in New York,” he began. “A few tables away from me a man stood up and proposed to his girlfriend. She said yes, and everybody in the restaurant cheered. Then the man walked quietly over to a corner, put on a yamacha (a Jewish ritual headcovering), and said some type of blessing. His and his fiance’s eyes filled with tears. Rabbi, do you have any idea what blessing he said.” jewish blessings

I recited a blessing I thought it might be, and he said, “Yes, that’s it! Do you have a copy?” “Sure,” I said. “Why do you ask?”

“I am planning to propose to my girlfriend this weekend, and I want to say it with her.”
With tears in my eyes, I handed him the blessing.

How a Blessing Works

Blessings express our feelings. They need not be traditional ones. They simply need to come from the heart. When they do, they can change our lives.

I experienced this truth near the end of my grandfather’s life. We were very close. Up until his death, I tried to talk to or visit him every day. We would usually end our conversations with my saying “Talk to you tomorrow.” We did not say, “I love you.” He was not a warm fuzzy kind of guy, and it just did not feel right.

But during the last few weeks of his life, something changed. Perhaps it was the birth of my daughter Hannah, or perhaps it was his declining condition. Our moments became more fused with meaning.

Saying I Love You

A month before he died, I was sitting by his bed and we were talking. As I got up to leave, I felt a twitch in my stomach. I turned to him and said, “Grandpa, I love you.” He didn’t say anything. But our connection had changed. Thereafter, we ended each conversation with my saying “I love you.”

Saying I love you to our dearest ones blesses them and us. It is a way we make our lives a blessing.



Previous Posts

Will God Condemn Brittany Maynard for Choosing to Die?
On the most sacred Jewish holiday of the year--Yom Kippur--we literally imagine our own funeral. Men traditional wear a white sash that will also serve as their burial shroud. The purpose is to picture our own death in a way that helps us live more fully. What if, however, we could not only imagi

posted 10:06:23pm Nov. 02, 2014 | read full post »

The Strange Book of the Bible We Read in Sukkot
Tonight begins the Jewish “Festival of Tabernacles.” Known in Hebrew as Sukkot, we spend time in  temporary outdoor dwellings. They remind us of the fragility of life our ancestors experienced during their journey across the Sinai Desert. Vanity, Vanity, All is Vanity!  The biblical book

posted 3:57:40pm Oct. 08, 2014 | read full post »

When a Rabbi Announces He is Gay
Religious leaders are public figures. We live on display. People look at what we drive, what we eat, what we wear. Unfortunately, sometimes we hide parts of ourse

posted 8:01:44am Oct. 08, 2014 | read full post »

Is 75 the Perfect Age to Die?
Dr. Ezekiel Emauel, the well-known bioethicist and brother of the mayor of my town, argued recently in an essay in the Atlantic Monthly that 75 is the perfect age to die. After that, he said, most people have little to contribute to society and are a burden rather than a benefit. I can think of f

posted 9:02:23pm Oct. 05, 2014 | read full post »

Yom Kippur: The Happiest Day of the Year
Yom Kippur is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. It is filled with solemn prayer, and most Jews fast. How, then, can it be the happiest day of the year? Allow me to explain... Picture the scene: It is 1944, in Glasgow, Scotland, in the midst of the Second World War. Kol Nidre is about to

posted 1:29:44pm Oct. 03, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.