Six ways to heighten Elul
On meteors, the night sky, and seeing ourselves in a new light - thoughts for Elul

Making my morning coffee holy

Cup-of-coffeeSometimes in the morning I find myself singing the words אין מספיק כפה בעולם / ein maspik cafe ba'olam -- "there's not enough coffee in the world" -- to the Rizhyner's melody for Ana B'Koach. (That's the first mp3 of the several on this NeoHasid page.)

And then I acquire a cup of joe, and I change my tune. Instead of bemoaning what I don't have, I celebrate what I do. The blessing I say over my morning coffee is a line from our daily liturgy, and the practice of using it in this way is one I learned from my friend Rabbi Megan Doherty.

In the daily amidah, the prayer which is recited standing and which is central to every Jewish service, there is a blessing which ends with the line ברוך אתה ה' מחייה המתים / baruch atah Adonai m'chayyeh ha-meitim –– "Blessed are You, Adonai, Who enlivens the dead." In modern times, some prayerbooks have amended the final word from מתים to הכל, so that it now reads "Blessed are You, Adonai, Who enlivens all things." Others amend the translation to "...Who enlivens the deadened."

Jewish teachings about resurrection, and how those ideas have shifted and changed over the last few thousand years or so, could make up their own very long post. For now, just take it as read that this phrase is part of our standard daily liturgy, and that these days it's understood in a variety of different ways. (If you're interested in learning more about Jewish ideas on death and resurrection, there's a decent overview at My Jewish Learning: Jewish Resurrection of the Dead.)

With the shifted translation -- making the bracha not about literal resurrection, per se, but about God Who brings life to that which had been deadened -- I've used this blessing sometimes over antidepressants. (See my poem Change, which appears in my second collection Waiting to Unfold.) In general I like the broader translation, and as a poet I think it's an entirely fair way to render  המתים  / hameitim. Anyway, these days I make this blessing over my first cup of morning caffeine.


Here's the blessing most people offer.

The traditional blessing over coffee would be  שהכל נהיה בדברו / shehakol nihiyeh bidvaro – "...Who creates all things with Your word." That's the standard blessing which we recite over any food or drink which doesn't have its own blessing -- it's the catch-all for everything else. I like that blessing too. But I like doing coffee differently. It's a sweet little moment of ritual. It helps me sanctify one of the day's most mundane acts. And it reminds me to be thankful for being alive and being enlivened, every day.



Related: Morning blessings with Drew, 2013. Also, if you like the idea of prayers relating to coffee or tea, you might enjoy this pair of Caffeine (tea and coffee) Litanies I saw on Twitter recently.