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      Judaism: Past and Future, Blessings

      Published: Thursday, July 25, 2013 11:47 AM
      Definng the future and blessing God in the present.


      A recurrent theme of the fifth Book of the Torah is the duty to remember. The events and encounters of the past made us what we are; to erase them is to wipe out part of our being.

      However, we have to learn how to balance the past and the future. If we merely live in the past we are little use to anyone, even ourselves. We need the past as a lead-in to the future.

      If the past reminds us of good things, let’s be happy and say, “How can I make sure that good things take place in the future too?” If the past is full of woe, let’s be canny and say, “How can I make sure that tomorrow is better than yesterday?”

      In seeking the balance between past and future, let’s recall an old Jewish story about a man from a village who came to the big city and found that everyone was staring at him. He was certain it was because he was wearing a shabby old suit, so he went to the tailor and bought a smart new set of clothes. But people still stared, so he went back to the tailor and complained.

      The tailor said, “There’s nothing wrong with your new suit, but the problem is that you’re wearing it on top of the old one. No wonder people think you look strange!”

      The tailor was right. The old suit had its uses, but the new one would define the future.

      100 Blessings
      The sidra asks, “What (mah) does the Lord your God require of you but to revere the Lord your God and walk in his ways” (Deut. 10:12). Rabbi Meir (Talmud M’nachot 43b) applied a play on words to this verse, reading mah as me’ah – “a hundred”.

      According to Rabbi Meir, what does God require of us? To say a hundred b’rachot every day. Calculate the number of times we say Baruch Attah HaShem every day and you find that you get to a respectable total, close to if not actually one hundred though it is more likely that we will end up exceeding the hundred.

      Shabbat is harder because on that day the Amidah – recited three times on weekdays and four times on Shabbat – has only seven blessings and not the regular 19, so we need to build up the total when we eat. To make this possible some communities have a custom of eating a succession of small entrees before making Motzi and eating the main course, in order to allow the opportunity of adding to our tally of b’rachot.

      In a spiritual sense, however, Rabbi Meir is telling us something more: that every moment of every day – even those that seem unpleasant and trying – adds to our faith experiences. In every achievement we see the hand of God; in every trial and failure we see a challenge to overcome, a goal to re-affirm, an aspiration to reinforce.

      We can add an additional thought – that every day a person should say, “Today I am going to try and make myself into more of a blessing to other people than I was yesterday”.
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      A recurrent theme of the fifth Book of the Torah is the duty to remember. The events and encounters of the past made us what we are; to erase them is to wipe out part of our being.

      However, we have to learn how to balance the past and the future. If we merely live in the past we are little use to anyone, even ourselves. We need the past as a lead-in to the future.

      If the past reminds us of good things, let’s be happy and say, “How can I make sure that good things take place in the future too?” If the past is full of woe, let’s be canny and say, “How can I make sure that tomorrow is better than yesterday?”

      In seeking the balance between past and future, let’s recall an old Jewish story about a man from a village who came to the big city and found that everyone was staring at him. He was certain it was because he was wearing a shabby old suit, so he went to the tailor and bought a smart new set of clothes. But people still stared, so he went back to the tailor and complained.

      The tailor said, “There’s nothing wrong with your new suit, but the problem is that you’re wearing it on top of the old one. No wonder people think you look strange!”

      The tailor was right. The old suit had its uses, but the new one would define the future.


      100 BLESSINGS A DAY

      Inline images 2
       
      The sidra asks, “What (mah) does the Lord your God require of you but to revere the Lord your God and walk in his ways” (Deut. 10:12). Rabbi Meir (Talmud M’nachot 43b) applied a play on words to this verse, reading mah as me’ah – “a hundred”.

      According to Rabbi Meir, what does God require of us? To say a hundred b’rachot every day. Calculate the number of times we say Baruch Attah HaShem every day and you find that you get to a respectable total, close to if not actually one hundred though it is more likely that we will end up exceeding the hundred.

      Shabbat is harder because on that day the Amidah – recited three times on weekdays and four times on Shabbat – has only seven blessings and not the regular 19, so we need to build up the total when we eat. To make this possible some communities have a custom of eating a succession of small entrees before making Motzi and eating the main course, in order to allow the opportunity of adding to our tally of b’rachot.

      In a spiritual sense, however, Rabbi Meir is telling us something more: that every moment of every day – even those that seem unpleasant and trying – adds to our faith experiences. In every achievement we see the hand of God; in every trial and failure we see a challenge to overcome, a goal to re-affirm, an aspiration to reinforce.

      We can add an additional thought – that every day a person should say, “Today I am going to try and make myself into more of a blessing to other people than I was yesterday”.