In the Jewish tradition, as in other religious and spiritual traditions, there is a blessing that can be said for pretty much anything. A blessing for waking up, and a blessing for going to sleep. A blessing for sunsets and for lightning. Blessings for food and for rainbows. Blessings for new clothes, for reaching special days, and for anniversaries. Blessings for the bathroom. Blessings for encountering others. Blessings, even, for bad news and for dying.
The simplest way to understand blessings is as an act of thanks. But they’re also a practice in remembering what is so easily forgotten – that even the humdrum and mundane is neither humdrum nor mundane. And they’re a practice in noticing all those phenomena and entities which are often in the background for us but upon which all of life is standing. In this sense blessings require no belief in a deity but simply a commitment to marvel at life’s sheer beauty and complexity. They are a practice in staying awake. They are an invitation to live in a state of what Abraham Joshua Heschel called a state of ‘radical amazement’.
The rabbinic tradition invites people to say at least a hundred blessings a day. What would become possible, I wonder, if just now and again we each started to look at what’s become most ordinary and most unremarkable in our lives, perhaps even that which we’ve come to resent, and turned to wonder at the blessing within?
Photo Credit: by Emma Gregory, herself one of life’s blessings
And this short interview with Alice Herz-Sommer is a striking example of what a life lived through the eyes of blessing can be: