In the past week, I feel like that old amazement has swept over me - amazement at all those little things that make my life so full: The smiles all around as we sit outside in the sunshine and eat grapefruit after grapefruit, letting the juice run all down our arms. The coziness of climbing in bed with the Engineer and piling all the blankets on us while we watch the latest episode of Downton Abbey together. The awe that I feel knowing that there is someone out there who loves me and thinks of me whenever I pick up the phone and hear a family member or friend on the other end.
My dad got an unusually good report earlier in the week...and a more nerve-racking one today. I tracked my mood along with the reports and as I thought of my dad I wondered today:
Is this any way to live?
Is this the way to live, to know that you have to work hard if you want to stay alive? Is it any way to live, to not be able to lose sight of the next small goal, even for one second, in your journey towards healing?
The answer came clear. Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, even the knowledge of death can be a blessing because it increases the preciousness of life. You realize that days are not a limitless commodity anymore. Every time there is a report that frightens me, it makes me refocus on how I can show my love to my parents...and it sends me scurrying back to my Father in Heaven who remains constant and limitless despite all the fluctuations in life.
Tu B'shevat this week brought some beautiful reflections on what it means to give a blessing for the food we eat...and on the very nature of "blessing". Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi offered these reflections:
The main avenue for blessing during Shvat is the fruits of Eretz Yisrael, a timeless land:
(A land upon which the eyes of Hashem your G-d are from the beginning of the year until the end of the year). When you eat the fruits of Eretz Yisrael you put into yourself a piece of personal Divine guidance, a goodlook from Hashem.
How do you recite the brachah? Hold the fruit in your right hand. Look at it when you say the brachah. Inject this intention into the brachah: “I hereby intend to increase the joy with which people look at one another!” Why?
Rabbi Wolbe says:"All concealment of Hashem’s Face results from a lack of brachah. So when you say, “Baruch are You,” the word “You” gives presence to Hashem, causing Him to be more present in the place where you are, giving Him thanks. And then, instead of Divine concealment, you will feel the light of Hashem’s face and His blessing for you. Then you eat it and gain everything! As Birkat Hamazon says, Hashem nourishes you,
- with grace, wth kindness,
with plenty, with mercy, with vitamins ...
Vitamin A —
—Amore; love, of course.
Vitamin B —
— Be confident
Vitamin C —
— Constellations —
mazal — siman tov u’mazal tov
Vitamin D —
—Declarations of brachah
and abundance, salvation, and renewal.
When do we ask for joy? When reciting the
"Shehakol nihyeh bidvaro,” because that brachah is about hakol — everything. We’re all
familiar with having everything but joy. There are plenty of married but miserable women. With children. And not happy. Making a living. But not happy. Healthy. But
not happy. So what’s everything worth? Shehakol — it really is everything. Have this in mind:
“Creator of the world, I want to be happy with what I have, and happy with what I don’t.”
Sometimes even sickness is a blessing because Hashem's face comes more sharply into focus. And each time I enjoy one of those picture-perfect sweet moments I hope I can reach out to Hashem and thank Him, feeling the reality that on the scales of my life, the sweet far outweighs the bitter. I hope I can transform the feeling into a bracha, and begin to see more moments in my life - even the ones that feel difficult - as being expressions of His expansive love and care.