No strings attached
I don't like him either, but...

Liturgical chocolates

This morning, on my way back from an early breakfast meeting, I saw a beautiful, ungainly blue-grey bird swooping in for a landing just beyond the little dam at the edge of Pontoosuc Lake. I want to say it was some kind of heron or egret, something crane-like, with legs dangling like landing gear and great wings outspread. As I drove past, I murmured a bracha, a blessing, praising God Who has made such marvels.

Jews have an obligation to pray three times a day (morning, evening, and night). In addition to that, though, we say brachot, blessings, over pretty much everything. (There's even a blessing for going to the bathroom.) Brachot are such a major part of Judaism that an entire tractate of Talmud is dedicated to them.

In general, brachot encourage us to step back and notice the beauty, majesty, and complexity of creation. They're tools for transcendence. We say blessings that we may be mindful of the sacred hidden within the ordinary. It is written in the Talmud (Brachot 35a) that one who eats without first saying a blessing is stealing sacred property. Some even argue that our saying blessings causes God to send more goodness into the world.

Rabbi Jay Stein observes that the bracha is the both the paradigm of prayer and the smallest unit of prayer that exists, and therefore it serves as the most eloquent and powerful form of worship -- and in the lefthand sidebar of that page he's collected fifty-two brachot, from the blessing on building a parapet to the blessing one says after averting potential danger.

I love brachot because they are perfect, bite-sized prayers. They're the box-of-chocolates of the liturgical world, each sweet and small and different. Praying the birchot ha-shachar (morning blessings) when I wake, saying brachot when the world presents me with something beautiful or unexpected, praising the Source of sustenance when I eat: these keep me mindful, aware, awake. Sometimes I use the traditional forms; sometimes my brachot are free-form. Either way, saying brachot elevates my consciousness, even if it's just for a second, and that changes the tenor of my day.

I think I need a bracha for blogging. Maybe Blessed are You, Source of All, for sparking ideas and conversations so that we, Your manifestations, may experience the pleasure of engaging with Your many faces.