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From the Rabbi - Counting our Blessings

Every Shabbat morning that we celebrate a bar or bat mitzvah, I have an opportunity to call attention to some of the central themes of the service. Every Jewish morning service begins with blessings of gratitude. It begins with gratitude for the so-often-taken-for-granted, like a body that is functioning and enabling us to move, breathe, and therefore rise to do all of the things we hope that our day will be filled with. So often, it is only when we’ve experienced illness, or the illness of a loved one, that all of the days that our bodies were healthy and able to support all that we want to do with our lives come into focus and we recognize those everyday blessings. Engaging with the habits of Jewish ritual, whether communally in the temple or at home when we wake up, provides us with an opportunity to pause and count those blessings each and every day.

This thought comes to mind as I’m about to head off on a summer vacation that begins with the opportunity to celebrate the blessing of my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary back in London. Like so many others, their lives have been filled with ups and downs — wonderful times together, but also painful losses and the health challenges that come and go in most of our lives at some stage along the journey. I’m blessed to still have them in my life, and they are blessed to have each other fifty years after they got married.

In reflecting on the reality of our lives, and the ups and downs that we all encounter, I was recently speaking with a congregant about the ways that we make meaning of our lives. Sometimes we live each day, thinking we’ve got it all figured out; but when one of the elements of our lives — a job, a family member, our health, suddenly changes or is lost, it can be destabilizing. It can cause us to question that which we took for granted. These are things that we can’t always “make sense” of because they are not the result of any easily-identifiable chain of events, and I certainly don’t believe they are the willful act of some cognizant greater being who is moving the chess pieces of our lives (I do believe in God, but not that notion of God).

While there may not be any easy “answers,” I come back to the way that I began, and the way that our tradition invites us to begin each and every day — counting our blessings. Even in the midst of painful times in our lives, there are moments of connection, moments of sweetness, quiet or calm in a sea of unrest. Being able to focus on those can provide us with the spiritual strength and resilience that will help us get through the challenging times. Whether through words of prayer, a gratitude journal, or fifteen minutes of meditation, I invite you to try to make this a new habit. Grounded in our faith tradition, we have many tools like these that can help us to navigate all of the ups and downs of life.

The summer offers a change of pace for many, and an opportunity to try out new things. I hope that, whenever you are in town, you’ll also take advantage of the many summer social connections we have lined up, whether after one of our Shabbat summer services, or at my annual BBQ. We can find blessing not only in the small details of our everyday lives, but also in this community and the vessel it provides for connection. I hope that I’ll see many of you over these coming months upon my return from vacation.

Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz

Wed, August 21 2019 20 Av 5779