This week’s portion contains one of the most famous verses in Torah:
“God afflicted you and made-you-hungry, and had you eat the mahn (i.e. manna) which you had not known and which your fathers had not known, in order to make you know that not by bread alone do humans stay-alive, but rather by all that issues at YHWH’s order do humans stay-alive.” (Deuteronomy 8:3 – translation by Everett Fox)
The Hebrew Bible drives home the truth that God is present here and at all times, at once abiding within us and outside of us, and greater than the mind can ever expect to fathom. Our most challenging religious/spiritual question is how to maintain our conscious awareness of God’s ineffable Presence as we move through each day?
Recognizing this challenge, the rabbis of the Talmud developed the B’rachah (blessing) as a way for us to focus on what is taking place in our lives moment by moment. There are blessings for every conceivable activity: when we taste, hear, see, smell, and sense something unusual, glimpse the ocean and desert, hear thunder and see lightning, meet a friend and encounter royalty, Jewish and non-Jewish scholars – many opportunities to collapse the abyss between oblivion and consciousness, God and us, heaven and earth.
The b’rachah’s power and significance is that we experience the worlds below and above simultaneously, that we recognize constantly that God is immanent and that the material world is infused with divinity.
Rabbi Meir (139-163 C.E.) taught that every Jew should say at least one hundred blessings daily.
Here is a list of twenty blessings I could say upon rising just this morning:
- Awakening from sleep
- Being restored to consciousness
- Discovering that all my physical functions work
- Becoming conscious that I can see clearly enough
- Hearing a mockingbird singing outside my bedroom window
- Standing up
- Walking on my own two feet
- Greeting my dog and receiving her morning sweetness
- Taking her outside and smelling the grass and flowers
- Feeling the coolness of the morning air
- Knowing that God is in this place
- Being grateful for my life
- Feeling grateful for my family, friends and colleagues
- Knowing that I have meaningful work to do today
- Welcoming Shabbat this evening
- Being a part of an ever-evolving and dynamic Jewish community in Hollywood
- Teaching Parashat Ekev this morning to my weekly Friday morning Men’s Torah Study group
- Reading the ancient and holy tongue of the Jewish people
- Feeling grateful for the people and State of Israel despite its problems and challenges
- Feeling gratitude to God for the miracle of existence itself
Later in Deuteronomy (30:11-20) we read that Divinity is not far away that we should have to go and seek it. Rather, it is very close to us, upon our lips, in our breath, eyes, taste, touch, thoughts, hearts, and souls.
When we recognize all this we also recognize the truth of these words (Psalm 150); Kol ha-n’shamah t’haleil Yah – Halleluyah. Every soul sings praises to God – Halleluyah!