Cantor Shapiro's Shabbat Message - June 14, 2024

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Cantor Shapiro's Shabbat Message - June 14, 2024

I just returned from a week-long silent Jewish mindfulness meditation retreat. Yes, you read that correctly - Jewish and silent. So, what do 50-some Jews ranging in age from their early 20s through their 70s do when we come together in silence?

One of our practices was to engage in a blessing practice. I’ve often wondered why we aren’t also known as the people of blessing along with being called people of the book. We Jews have a blessing for everything. Every moment in life is seen as significant and worthy enough to take a moment, take a breath, slow down, bless, and only then engage in the activity. 

This week’s Torah portion includes the most ancient Jewish blessing that exists in a written form. The blessing is one that we use often in our community. You may use it to bless children or grandchildren on Shabbat; we use it on our bimahs to bless our children as they receive Hebrew names and as they become b’nei mitzvah; we use it under the wedding canopy to bless couples as they begin their marriages. In the Torah itself, the blessing comes with a set of instructions about how it’s to be used. The priestly blessing was originally assigned to Aaron and his sons (the Cohanim or priests) as a way to bless the people of Israel.

While this wasn’t the text that was used on retreat for our blessing practice, it’s one that I often return to for precisely that purpose. 

May God bless you and protect you. 
יְבָרֶכְךָ֥ יי וְיִשְׁמְרֶֽךָ׃    

May God deal kindly and graciously with you.
יָאֵ֨ר יי ׀ פָּנָ֛יו אֵלֶ֖יךָ וִֽיחֻנֶּֽךָּ׃  

May God bestow divine favor upon you and grant you peace.  
יִשָּׂ֨א יי ׀ פָּנָיו֙ אֵלֶ֔יךָ וְיָשֵׂ֥ם לְךָ֖ שָׁלֽוֹם׃   

f you’re interested in bringing a blessing practice into your life, you can use these ancient and powerful words. If these words in their exact form don’t resonate with you, go ahead and change them! In English, it’s a translation after all, so use your own experience to connect with the text. You can begin by silently sitting and focusing on offering these words of blessing to yourself. That may be enough. If you want to you can offer them to a benefactor, someone who has been a positive force in your life. From there you can offer them to someone to whom you have a very small connection (you can picture their face, but you haven’t had a deep conversation with them) - perhaps a barista or your mail delivery person. If you are feeling settled and stable, you can offer blessings to someone in your life who presents you with difficulty. And finally, you can imagine offering blessing to all creatures who inhabit this earth.

After a week of silently offering blessing in what we call practice, it’s a delight to re-enter our community feeling as if I am overflowing with blessing. Our tradition points us toward walking in this way at all times. May we all find ways to bless one another, the ones we love, the ones who are difficult, and to every living thing that dwells on earth.  

Shabbat Shalom,
Cantor Shapiro


PS If you want a guided blessing practice experience, click here for your 18-minute experience.