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Alphabet Soup for the Soul

WEEK 2 -

ב/Beit houses discernment,

night and day, good and evil, together and alone,

life and death, curse…and blessing.

WORD: Discerning-awareness / Binah – constructive thought

PRACTICE: The practice of reciting blessings is central in traditional Jewish circles. The sages recommend striving to say 100 blessings each day. The essence of the practice is to simply name moments, occurrences, places, objects and subjects as blessings. When rebooting my blessing practice, I usually start with food and drink. “This apple, this universe in which trees bear such fruit, is a blessing.” “This water, the water in this glass, all the waters upon the earth, blessings.” “The deconstructed banana cream pie in a glass that I had at Lariat Lodge tonight, now that was a blessing!”

Say blessings before and after eating and drinking. Make up your own form of blessings, and once you do, be consistent with its use. Next try your lips-and-breath at blessing moments of the day, (whether or good or bad), like the first sighting of stars in the night sky, sunrise or the experience of waking, opening your eyes, successfully going to the bathroom, having clothes to wear, walking, even hearing a bit of bad news.

If last week’s mantra was an unconditional “I AM, I just am," this week, as we exercise the capacity to discern between this and that, self and other, light and dark, night and day, Sunday and Monday, right and wrong, etc., the focus pivots from the unconditional truth of the existence of my consciousness to the conditional dimensions of life, and names them too as blessings. To borrow from a Hasidic reading of the morning prayer known as Baruch She’amar, “a blessing that creates a world, a new life, (or at least a new world view), now that's a blessing!

WORD-PLAY: The Hebrew word for Blessing, ברכה / b’rachah, shares a common root with the Hebrew word for knees בירכיים / bircayim. This may seem odd, though it does help to explain the physical practice of bending one’s knees (and bowing) when reciting blessings. Another word with the same Hebrew root is the word for a fountain, pool, or well, a בריכה / breichah. This trio of seemingly disparate concepts (blessing, knees, and fountains) sharing a linguistic root lead Rabbi Marcia Prager (in her book The Path of Blessing) to associate the image of bending [at the knees] to draw refreshing waters from a living fountain with the act of reciting a blessing. She translates the first word or two of the traditional Jewish blessing formula with the expression, “A Fountain of Blessings are You…” And if you hear such a blessing recited by another, affirm the blessing, their existence and yours, with a return to the Aleph, and say, "Amen."

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