This post is part of the #blogelul project started by the inimitable Ima On (and off) the Bima. I am using it as my motivation to rejuvenate this site and get myself back into the swing of things.
I entered the room as part of a throng of men, escorting the groom to see his intended after their week of separation. My daughter sits before us, enthroned in a high-backed wicker chair and limned in soft light. Her mother and future mother-in-law hold court with her to either side.
This moment isn’t really about me. It’s about the two of them – bride and groom. But I have a part to play – I need to bless the bride.
What exactly, I wondered for the hundredth time since being told I had this task, does it mean to bless someone?
“I will bless you, and I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing”
– God’s promise to Avram [Bereshit 12:2]
Recently a friend and co-worker – someone on his own religious journey – were comparing notes. He confided in me that he’s skeptical about the existence of heaven, but that it shouldn’t be a limiting factor in any faith. He believed that religion was meant to engage us in the here-and-now, not the hereafter. Our only task, he told me, was to be joyful in our experiencing of all the good things that the world has to offer. Our job is to celebrate and give thanks for the good in our life, and to strive to keep in mind how much of our lives are, in fact, good.
The thought resonated with me. As Abraham Joshua Heschel famously observed, Judaism creates cathedrals – not in a place, but in a moment. We light candles to mark the beginning of “sacred time”. We thank God for the times when we are able to perform one of the mitzvot. It isn’t the thing we do which we celebrate as much as the fact that we have been brought to the moment where we have an opportunity to do it.
If so, if my friend is right, then giving a blessing may have nothing to do with any special status I have, or can confer on another. One person “blessing” another may be nothing more than the act of helping someone recognize the good that is before them, so that THEY take a moment to be thankful. A blessing is the act of opening someone else’s eyes, which in turn sparks in them the desire to connect to God.
“And through you will be blessed all the families of the earth.”
I reached out my hands over my daughter’s head, sent my own prayer for guidance heavenward, and began to bless.