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Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Blessing of Blessings


by Rabbi Isaac Jeret

September 1, 2007

*Reprinted From The Palos Verdes News

Just under two and a half years ago, my son arrived home from a music class for toddlers. He was not quite two years old at the time, but he was finding such joy in all things musical that Arianna and I took a chance on enrolling him in this class, together with other children his own age. His teacher was a lovely lady with an approach to teaching music that completely captured him. He learned during his lesson on the afternoon in question to identify visually and replicate rhythmically quarter-notes, half-notes, and whole-notes.

Now, further background is necessary for you to appreciate where I'm going with this. If one looks closely enough, one notices that I happen to have a mole on my left cheek. My mother has the same mole. So does my uncle, her brother. And, while my mole is an identifiable family-trait, I'll admit that I had been somewhat self-conscious about my mole for a good many years until the day my then not-quite two year-old boy learned about musical notation toddler-style. You see, as I picked my son up to give him a hug and say hello when he walked through the door, he touched my mole and said, "Abba (Daddy, in Hebrew), a whole note!" Yes, my toddler-son took a mole that I tried only to recall and account for while shaving and turned it into a memory that will last a lifetime. Ever since that day, whenever I look into a mirror, to shave or otherwise, I no longer see a mole -- I see a whole-note!

At first consideration, one might relegate my son's confusion of my mole with a whole-note to the category of cute, perhaps adorable (well, I am the kid's Dad!). Surely, he hadn't any idea how humorous or loving his innocent mistake was. However, if one considers this a second or third time, one might conclude as I did that he was right; my mole was indeed and remains his whole note! It has since become for me what it was/is to him, and I'm the better for it!

You see, all that exists does so within the context provided for it by those who witness and experience it. My mole existed for me within the context that I provided for it. It was annoying at best. But, my son blessed me. Yes, he blessed me. He did so by sharing with me his musical context for my facial flaw. He thereby and then transformed my flaw into a beauty mark. I now recall his wondrous gaze as he identified his whole-note on my face and I feel his gentle touch of my cheek as he explored it that afternoon (and any number of times since!).

My boy's delight at his whole-note opened up for me an important gateway toward a deeper understanding and appreciation of blessing. In essence, to bless another human being is first to see their self-perceived flaws for the goodness that they bring to the world and then to share with them how their imperfections can be seen when considered in a different light. It requires a certain optimism on the blessor's part. It requires one's deliberate use of one's self, one's context for living and loving, as a tool for another's rediscovery of truths always present but distant, even invisible to the blessee. To bless another is to help her to begin, to sustain, or to affirm a different view of herself; it is to help her to see a different reflection when she looks in the mirror.

This is the essence of God's blessings to us of Jewish Wisdom, as offered through the narratives and teachings of Torah. It is the most basic way that we, as images of the Divine, can learn from and imitate the most loving attribute of our Creator: God's willingness not only to forgive, but, to help us to self-repair and to heal one another -- God's capacity and compulsion to bless!

As the Jewish calendar turns toward a New Year, repair, reconsideration, self-examination, and returning to ourselves and to one another are the themes of the day. Imagine how much farther we might journey toward our desired and requisite destinations with the supportive, nurturing, transformational, and forgiving blessings that we might receive from loved ones, friends, and colleagues. Consider the strength and hope that we might grant those whom we know and love by freeing them and strengthening them with our own blessings.

As a New Year is born, may we be blessed often, and may we bless, always.