A Life Filled with Blessing
May the good Lord be with you
down every road you roam
And may sunshine and happiness
surround you when you’re far from home
And may you grow to be proud
dignified and true
And do unto others
as you’d have done to you
Everybody likes a blessing. To have someone wish us health, success, prosperity and good things in life is wonderful. What’s not to like? To receive such a wish from someone who seems to have a close connection with God is even better. Hence many seek the blessings of great rabbis, or others whom Jewish tradition views as having a special role because of their time and place, such as the Sandak (the one holding the baby during a circumcision) or a new convert who is regarded as sin-free when he or she emerges from the mikvah. But any blessing will do and the Talmud says that one should never treat the blessing of a regular Joe lightly.
Blessings play an important role in Judaism. The Hebrew word for blessing, ברוך Baruch probably appears in the Siddur, Prayer Book more than any other word. We say a bunch of blessings when we arise in the morning as well as in the essential prayer, the Shemoneh Esrei, the silent meditation that is literally called, “Eighteen” after the number of blessing included in it. The Talmud says one should strive to utter 100 blessings a day.
When we look at the first encounter between God and the first Jew, Abraham, we note that “blessings” plays an integral role.
And the Lord said to Avram, “Go forth from your land, from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great, and [you shall] be a Blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. All the families of the earth shall be blessed through you.”
Five times the word “blessing” is used. Not only as a verb, as when God blessed Abraham, but as a noun as well; Abraham is a blessing (“and you will be a Blessing”). And not only that, but all of Mankind is to be blessed via Abraham. The definitive message that God is getting across to the first Jew in His first communication with him is all about Blessing.
The Jewish notion of Blessing is the opposite of a common present-day viewpoint that life is a “Zero-Sum Game”. In case you are not familiar with this term, Wikipedia defines it as follows: In game theory and economic theory, a zero-sum game is a mathematical representation of a situation in which each participant’s gain (or loss) of utility is exactly balanced by the losses (or gains) of the utility of the other participant(s).
In other words, if someone is getting ahead, it is at the expense of someone else. Things always have to add up to zero, so my loss is your gain and vice versa. People who subscribe to this theory believe that the rich, or anyone who achieves success, only attain it at the expense of others. Sadly many people go through life with this pessimistic outlook.
There is nothing more diametrically opposed to a Jewish world-view than Zero-Sum Game. Blessing is about win-win realities, not win-lose theories. My good can lead to your good and will not cost me a nickel. In fact the opposite – if I gain, you and others can gain as well without any loss. If one person is creative, successful and becomes wealthy, he can now employ many others so they can now have the means to make an honest and decent living. Furthermore, the successful person can contribute to charity to improve his or her community and society at large. Blessing is something that emanates outward in a ripple effect, broad and wide.
There is a fellow I know who found his niche in life a few years back with a particular business after many years of ups and downs. He now employs so many others, both young (including my son for a summer job) and old. His personal blessing and good has led to good and blessings for tens of others in our community.
A few years ago a synagogue moved right next door to Aish. Before they opened – and they were very upfront, honest and open about their intentions from the beginning – they wanted to make sure it was ok with me. And it was. I had no issue with it at all because I knew that, not only will it not take away from anything we are trying to accomplish, but that it actually will help us. And indeed that is what has transpired as we both assist one another. And the very exact same thing happened again when a Kollel opened up two doors away just a few months ago. Each of our organizations have their own strengths and, combined, we create a more diverse community, offering more opportunities than we could if we acted alone. It is win, win, win and win.
This is what Blessing is all about and what the Jewish people try to offer the world. It is the truest expression of an Infinite God who can give without limit and still suffer no loss. This is something that God put into the fabric of creation for those wise enough to take advantage of it. Sadly, it is an idea that most of the Arab world refuses to acknowledge in their blind hatred that prevents them from partnering with the Jewish nation and enjoying so many benefits and blessings economically and otherwise that would result. They may be descendants of Abraham, but they have failed to learn the most important lesson of their forefather: The never-ending giving power of Blessing.
God has endless amounts of blessings. If you wish to go through life with petty competitions, jealousies and resentful anger at the good of another, then it is hard for God and others to share His and their blessings with you. But if you become a disciple of Abraham and realize that God’s blessing have no limit, then you will be amazed at how much good and blessings will magically fill your life.
But whatever road you choose
I’m right behind you, win or lose
Forever Young, Forever Young