Thoughts from the Rabbi…
Jewish tradition encourages us each to recite 100 blessings every day. It is not that we are supposed to keep a little “bracha (blessing) diary” as a checklist for the prayers we recite. Rather, we are enriched when we make it a habit to give thanks for the goodness we receive and the many blessings we know.
Obviously, our goal as a vibrant Jewish community is not to simply to “teach about Judaism,” but rather it is to enable Jews to live Jewishly. That is why we come together to celebrate Shabbat, holy days, and life cycle events; and to commemorate all of the moments of both joy and sorrow that the members of our community experience.
It is our dedication to prayer, and dialogue with our tradition that gives context and meaning to our days and our times together. Beyond doing so just at the temple, I’d like to encourage you to include appropriate rituals within your homes and workplaces --- wherever you might find yourself! Just as we recite at the beginning of each of our Adult Education classes here at TBI, it would be wonderful for every member of our temple family to be familiar with the traditional prayer for studying Torah. Tradition tells us that everything we do is to fulfill the mitzvah of life-long learning. It can also provide a sense of elevation to anything we do. Recite the following prayer every morning along with the words of “Shema Yisrael…” Wake up ready to engage the world through the lens of Torah-tradition:
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haOlam,
Asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav, v’tzivanu la’asok b’divrei Torah.
We praise You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe: You hallow us with mitzvot and command us to engage in the study (words) of Torah.
Additionally, reciting motzi prior to eating should be a regular daily ritual. It is a fitting way to signify our understanding that something as potentially mundane as snack-time is a perfect opportunity to give thanks to God for the blessings we enjoy:
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haOlam, haMotzi lechem meen ha’aretz.
We praise You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe:
the One Who brings forth sustenance (bread) from the earth.
I believe it is up to each one of us to become as Jewishly-literate as possible. When we consider the number of hours the children in our congregation spend in Religious School, it is also important for each of us to consider whether we just talk the talk, or walk the walk as adult role models? How much do we expect from our children that we do not expect from ourselves?
Let us lead by example – whether the children are part of our own nuclear family, or part of our extended temple family. Learn the blessings I’ve included here… and use them often. Share them with others. Say them together.
And please feel encouraged to contact me if you’d like to know more!
Rabbi Jeffrey R. Astrachan