Rethinking Blessings: Berachot as Presencing and Jewish Connectivity

ברוך אתה 

We’ve been teaching blessings all wrong.

Now that I have your attention, here’s the error of our waysin Jewish education. We teach berachot, blessings, as “thankingGod” for the things he gives us. It’s totally incorrect, from a Hebrewlanguage and a theological viewpoint. The word for blessing is ברכה, beracha, which is quite possibly related to the Hebrew wordfor knees [kneeling],  ברך  . The word for giving thanks is todah, תודה  ,which appears, in various forms, in other prayers, but not in blessings.
Not only are we not thanking God in a beracha, we’re noteven blessing God. The exact wording that begins every blessing is “Youare blessed, God…..”, not “I bless you, God”.
So, our beracha merely points out that God isblessed. Already. Always. Without our Beracha. We are saying what is, notadding any value to God’s blessedness.
That recognition of God in the beracha also helps toexplain a huge challenge: that we begin by speaking to God [“Blessed areYou”] and end a beracha referring to God’s action in third person[e.g., “who opens the eyes of the blind”].
So, if the goal of the beracha is not to praise or blessGod, what does it do? It helps to establish a habit of mind for the Jew. In abusy world, in which we are constantly multitasking and moving, it requires usto  stop and smell the roses [quiteliterally] by pausing to acknowledge God’s blessedness as inherently manifestby that smell. So also by blessings on food, on seeing a beautiful person, onseeing a national ruler, on experiencing thunder and lightning, and more.
Each beracha gives us the opportunity to be fullypresent for a few seconds, to really connect with what we areexperiencing.  Jewish tradition in notcontent with simply hoping that these opportunities will occur. It actuallyrecommends a number of berachot – 100 – that a person should aim foreach day [the Jewish version of “counting one’s blessings”].
The beracha, taught and used properly, is our tool toconnect with the world and with the Godly.
For ideas about presenting Jewish Connectivity ideas likethis, using modules for teachers, learners and families, be sure to email me

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