The rabbis teach in the Talmud that it is forbidden to a man to enjoy anything of this world without a blessing (Berachot 35a). This idea is a part of our very core of how we exist in the world. We have blessings for the food we enjoy, for the rainbows that fill our sky after a terrible storm, for the holy moments in our lives, for wearing new clothes, for the abilities of our bodies, and for so much more. In fact, the rabbis remind us to say one hundred blessings a day.
One hundred blessings is certainly a lot of blessings to say in one day! Yet, if we stop to think about an average day in each of our lives, we can appreciate all of the goodness we enjoy on a regular basis. We can appreciate the things we take for granted; like the food we eat, the sights and smells we take in, and even the simple pleasure of wearing something new for the first time.
When we pause to recite a blessing in the moment before we enjoy these pleasures and gifts in our lives, we elevate these experiences. They go from fulfilling cravings and desires into the realm of holy experiences.
Rabbi Abraham I. Kook teaches that physical enjoyment fulfills its purpose only if it serves at the same time as a vehicle for moral satisfaction. Kook reminds us that when we enjoy what is in front of us, without a blessing, we reduce the value of what we enjoyed, by not fulfilling its higher purpose in the world.
There are some experiences in the world that do not have blessings associated with them. One such blessing that does not exist is the one for enjoying time with our family, friends, and loved ones. There is no blessing to be said before spending quality time with those that are important to us. Yet, those experiences bring each of us great satisfaction and pleasure. Those opportunities are holy moments in our lives and in truth perhaps some of the holiest.
In a few weeks, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving. We will gather around a festive meal with those who are important to us. Judaism proscribes the appropriate blessings to say over the delicious feast. But it does not proscribe a blessing to recite over the company we are enjoying. What if we added our own blessing this year, in appreciation of those who are sitting with us, and stopped to thank God for those who are surrounding us? If we keep Rabbi Kook in mind, it might just elevate the experience we have together and help one another reach his or her higher purpose.
It does not need to be Thanksgiving to stop and take a moment to appreciate those who are with us, and to thank God. In truth, it might just start a new trend of one hundred and one blessings each day.
Rabbi Loren Monosov