Friday, June 3, 2016

The Power Of A Bracha

Dennis Rosen from

I once read that Blessings are the Jewish version of "stop and smell the roses." Every blessing is a priceless opportunity to enhance our awareness, appreciation and joy and to connect to our Creator.

Unfortunately, many of us squander this opportunity. How many times are we distracted and say the blessings hurriedly and robotically? Even worse, how many times are we unable to remember if we even said the blessings?

Over time this can become quite discouraging. Therefore, we need to remember Rebbe Nachman’s essential teaching that we should never despair and work to strengthen ourselves from wherever we are.

Following are six ideas to help us say our blessings with greater focus, love, joy and intent.

1. Knowing why makes the doing easier It’s important to understand the purpose and benefits of saying the blessings and to remind ourselves frequently.

Rabbi Shalom Arush writes in the book In Forest Fieldsthat our Sages of blessed memory had one goal when they codified our daily blessings and liturgy – to heighten our sense of appreciation for the blessings in life and to educate us to say thank you to Hashem.

He cites the Ramban’s teaching that the Creator created our world in order that man will recognize the Creator and thank Him. The Ramban explains in his commentary on Parshas Bo that a person who expresses thanks to Hashem fulfills the ultimate goal of creation.

Gratitude leads to emuna, and emuna leads to true happiness. With gratitude and emuna we recognize that we are in the loving care of our Father and King in all circumstances, both the good and the seemingly bad. We realize that we are too blessed to be depressed. This is why Rabbi Arush says that gratitude is health for the soul.

Finally, the blessings motivate us to reciprocate and emulate.

* When we come to appreciate all Hashem does for us, we become motivated to do His will by performing His commandments.

* When we prayerfully acknowledge the blessings Hashem gives us, it puts us in a frame of mind to emulate Him by bestowing blessings and acts of kindness on others. It is in emulating Hashem that we come closest to Him.

2. Make each blessing a special event

Before making a blessing pause and reflect. The Ramchal in Mesilas Yesharim advises that when we begin to do a mitzvah we should think about what we are about to do and before Whom we are going to do it. We should therefore drop whatever else we are doing or thinking and give it all we’ve got.

3. Be a blessing specialist

When we begin an initiative to improve the way we say our prayers, it’s difficult to tackle them all at once. Rebbe Nachman recommends to focus on one prayer at a time and concentrate on reciting it in a superb manner. Eventually, when you reach a high level of performance you can move on to additional prayers one at a time. The same concept can be applied to our prescribed blessings.

A good place to start is the blessing we say over foods that are not made from grains or grapes. “Blessed are You Hashem our God, King of the Universe by Whose word everything comes into being.” This blessing makes the connection between gratitude and emuna crystal clear. We are not only thanking Hashem for the food, we are also working to internalize the first principle of emuna. As the Rambam states: He alone did, does and will do everything.

4. Pray before and thank after

In order to succeed in any endeavor, we need Hashem’s help. Blessings are no exception. Before we begin we can say brief prayers like:

* Please help me say this blessing like I really mean it

* Please help me to thank you from the bottom of my heart

* Help me feel it’s You feeding me, so that I depend solely on You

After you say the blessing you can say a brief thank you to reinforce the impact. For example after you say the blessing Asher Yatzar, thanking Hashem for your body working properly, you can say: “Hashem, thank you so much for my health and my family’s health.” Additionally, this is an ideal time to pray for someone you know who is sick, since this blessing is a powerful spiritual tool to effect the healing of oneself and others.

5. Make individual words a special interest item

There are a number of words that recur in the blessings. We can pick one word and intensely focus on it. This will enhance the overall power of the blessing. For example when we say the word “Melech” or King, we can contemplate that Hashem has absolute sovereignty and control over our lives and that we owe Him our gratitude, selfless service and loyalty.

6. Say the blessings with joy

The value of a mitzvah depends on the joy that is invested in its performance. To enhance joy:

* Imagine receiving a gift from a king or a famous person whom you truly admire. Wouldn’t you feel great joy at receiving something from such an exalted person? Well, the blessings we receive daily come from the King of all kings, the King of the universe! Realizing this adds a wonderful dimension to the experience.

* Before partaking of food, think how fortunate you are to have enough to eat and a functioning digestive system.

* Before doing a mitzvah, contemplate its infinite and eternal value.

* In order to break out of a funk, use the teaching of the Ramchal who states that the outer awakens the inner. In other words, speak and act joyfully and this will awaken feelings of joy that you can channel into your blessings.

Blessings said properly lead to gratitude. Gratitude engenders emuna, true happiness, and additional actions that bring us closer to Hashem. May Hashem enable us to say our blessings mindfully and joyfully and achieve these lofty goals