Blessing for Auto Service

Blessed are You, Eternal our God, who invested Betzalel every with the skills and talents to build the Mishkan to make a vehicle for transporting the Tablets in beauty and safety.

Let me see each person at the mechanics’ shop as a human being with a story of their own. Let them see me as well; may we recognize the humanity in one another.

May those who work here be skillful and honest. May they see into the mysteries of my vehicle, and find ways to make it safe and dependable.

Blessed are You, Eternal God, who gave to human beings the ability to build and to repair. Amen.

Blessing for a Drink of Water

Image: Water, glass, ice cubes. (By Bruno Glätsch / Pixabay)

We will die without water. The human body can survive no more than a few days without water, depending on the temperature, the exposure to direct sunshine, and many other variables. It makes sense, then, that there is a blessing for a drink of water.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְ‑יָ אֱ‑לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁהַכֹּל נִהְיָה בִּדְבָרוֹ:

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haOlam, she-ha-kol ni-hi-yah bid-var-o.

Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Ruler of Time-and-Space, by Whose word all things came to be.

This blessing is also used for other things we eat that do not come from the ground: meat, eggs, fish, chicken, and other drinks (except wine, which has its own blessing.)

Before a full meal that includes bread, we say only the blessing over bread and that covers everything on the table.


Blessing for Fragrance

Image: These are the irises in my yard, surrounded by sweet-smelling grasses. (Photo: Ruth Adar)

It’s springtime, and my garden is at its most glorious. Everything is blooming at once, and my heart fills up just to look at it, and the odor is amazing.

There’s a blessing for fragrant flowers and herbs, one that I love to say because it gives me a moment to absorb the wonder:

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech haolam, borei isvei b’samim.

We praise You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the universe, who creates fragrant flowers and herbs.

The Blessing for Bread

Ideally, Jews say two sets of blessings with every meal. Before the meal, we acknowledge that our food comes from God. After the meal, we say another set of blessings, the Blessing for Satisfaction, called the Birkat Hamazon. (Learn more about the Birkat Hamazon, and see a video of a rabbi chanting it, by clicking the link.)

If there is some form of bread on the table, we say only the blessing for bread, and it covers all the food on the table. This is the blessing:

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh ha-olam, hamotzi lekhem min ha-aretz.

Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Ruler of Time-and-Space, who brings forth bread from the earth.

The first part of the blessing is the standard formula: “Blessed are You,” etc. The second part has a subtle message built into it. Taken literally, one might get the idea that we think loaves of bread are pulled from the earth like potatoes!

But look deeper: the wording of the prayer stimulates a question in our minds. The prayer engages us with a puzzle: how did the bread get to the table? That offers us the opportunity to appreciate not only the goodness of the Holy One, but the effort of the person who planted the seeds, and nurtured the plants. It reminds us that someone harvested the grain, and ground it into flour. Someone brought the flour to market and yet another person baked the loaf. Thus a whole cascade of figures come to mind, briefly present at our table, as we say the words, break the loaf, and eat.

Does this happen every time? Of course not. But the words are there, waiting for us, when we are ready to be reminded that we are not alone, that we are interdependent with people we do not know and will never meet. No human being stands alone.

Image: A loaf of bread. Photo by Alexas_Fotos/Pixabay.

Thanks for Life and Breath

Image: Girl blowing a bubble. Photo by AdinaVoicu / Pixabay.

Mornings are tough for me. I’m a night person by nature, jittery in the morning, and now age and arthritis have added a new edge to rising in the morning. I have written in the past about my reworking of the Asher Yatzar, the blessing for bodily function, which is one of the morning prayers. Now I’d like to look at another of the morning prayers, the one that gets me moving. Specifically, this prayer gets me breathing properly and directs my attention outside myself, which prepares me for everything else.

 

  1. The soul that You have given me, O God, is pure!
  2. You created and formed it, breathed it into me,
  3. And within me You sustain it.
  4. So long as I have breath, therefore,
  5. I will give thanks to you. – Mishkan Tefilah, p 292.

This is not the whole prayer. I say it in Hebrew, but it is fine to say it in English. The key to this prayer is that the word for soul in Hebrew, neshamah, is also the word for breath. So one can say this prayer in thanks and gratitude for breath. In fact, we can combine the words of the prayer with breath:

  • Inhale during lines 1 and 2.
  • Hold the breath, and appreciate it, during line 3.
  • Exhale during lines 4 and 5.
  • Pause for a moment, then repeat.

After a few repetitions of that prayer, I’m ready to move. I am less focused on aches and pains and energized by the oxygen in my system. My attention is outward, towards God and creation, rather than inward towards my own thoughts. I’m ready.

I wish you peaceful sleep, and an energetic awakening!

The Blessing for Earthquakes

Image: Kenemetrics Seismograph recording a quake. Photo by Yamaguchi, some rights reserved.

At 12:50 last night a small earthquake shook my neighborhood. Given that I live not far from the Hayward Fault in California, it was not a huge surprise except that it woke me up. I fumbled for my cell phone, to check the time and to check Twitter to see if it was an #earthquake or merely a dream. Nope, #earthquake.

Then I tried to remember the blessing for earthquakes. That one wasn’t so easy – I remembered seeing it in Tractate Berakhot [Blessings] of the Talmud but for the life of me I couldn’t remember it. Finally I had to get up and look it up:

Baruch Ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha’olam, shekokho oogevurato malei olam.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of Time-and-Space, whose strength and might fill the world. – Tractate Berakhot 54a

Whew! Having settled that, I could go back to sleep!

quakemap

An Interfaith Thanksgiving Blessing

Blessed are You, Heart of the Universe,
Who sets within human beings the desire to gather together
to prepare food with memory and gratitude, to share that food
with friends new and old, with family from near and far.

You give us minds to understand the issues of the day.
Grant us the love and patience with which to respect,
indeed, to appreciate our differences,
and to seek common ground for this festive meal.

Grant us mindfulness about this food; bless those who grew it,
who picked it, and brought it to market.

Bless those who prepared it and cooked it.

Grant us the awareness of the many sources of this food,
not only in the present, but the brilliant cooks in the past
who devised ways to make simple things delicious.

May we rise from this table
with new understandings of one another:
filled not only with food,
but with gratitude for our many blessings.

Blessed are you, Holy One, who has given us hearts
that can appreciate one another,
and the many blessings we have received.

Amen.

 

I posted a slightly different version of this blessing last year; this one is modified to be useful for interfaith families.