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by Rabbi David Zauderer    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

Over the past few weeks, we have been reading in the Torah all about the Tabernacle that G-d commanded the Jewish people to build in the desert. The purpose of the Tabernacle, as stated in the Torah, was "so that I may dwell among them" (Exodus 25:8).



Over the past few weeks, we have been reading in the Torah all about the Tabernacle that G-d commanded the Jewish people to build in the desert. The purpose of the Tabernacle, as stated in the Torah, was "so that I may dwell among them" (Exodus 25:8). In other words, the Tabernacle was intended to be the central rallying point of the nation and the place where every Jew would go in order to feel the palpable presence of G-d and to thus be spiritually elevated. (Don’t you love the word "thus"?)

The function of the Tabernacle in the desert was carried forward by the Temple in Jerusalem. Throughout the long and bitter exile, the centrality of G-d’s presence is represented by the "miniature sanctuaries" of synagogues and study halls, for it is in them and through them that Jews hark back to the sounds of Sinai and the radiance of the Temple.

Nice little monologue, you say, but does all that "spirituality stuff" really talk to me?

For some people, synagogues these days just aren’t enough to give us the spiritual "high" that we crave. Unfortunately, in many synagogues, the only sounds that we ever "hark back to" are the sounds of the two grumpy souls sitting behind us talking about the rabbi. And the only "elevation" we get is when we "get up" to join the kiddush and refreshments at the end of the service.

Now I’m not suggesting a mass exodus from the synagogue, G-d forbid. Obviously, going to the synagogue on a regular basis gives us a sense of spiritual connectedness and communal identity which we definitely need. However. in addition to synagogue attendance, there is another simple exercise that we can all train ourselves to do, that can help us feel a certain closeness to G-d without even stepping out of our homes. We can teach ourselves and our loved ones to make blessings.

Blessings??? Huh???

The traditional prayer book is full of blessings you can recite for every conceivable occasion. The standardized beginning of every blessing is "Blessed are you, Hashem our G-d…." Did you ever wonder what in the world that means? How do you bless G-d? What can we bless G-d with—a Lambhorgini? A house in the Hamptons? What can you give to someone who’s got it all?

In reality, the Hebrew word "baruch" doesn’t mean that we are blessing G-d, but rather that we are acknowledging that G-d is the source of all blessing. The Torah tells us that when G-d created the world, He didn’t have to work too hard. It wasn’t like G-d needed to "unwind" with a Heineken after a tough day of "creating" at the office. All He had to do was to say the word "apple," and to will it into existence with those words. So that when G-d said "let there be light," He didn’t have to screw in a "cosmic light bulb." He just said the word "light" and—voila!—there was light!

This being the case, we have to realize that every time we see something beautiful in G-d’s creation—be it an apple or a rainbow or whatever—it is actually G-d Himself talking to us. He talked that beautiful creation into existence just so that we could enjoy it.

But we don’t always recognize or remember that. So we recite a blessing. And in that blessing, we say "You, G-d, are the source of this wonderful pineapple which I am about to enjoy, and I appreciate it." We Jews have blessings for everything that we enjoy and take from this world—especially food. But it’s not only over food that we make blessings.

Dennis Prager, in his tape called "Happiness is a Serious Problem," translated into English for his audience the blessing that a Jew makes upon leaving the bathroom. And the crowd was rolling. They thought it was the funniest thing. "Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, who fashioned man with wisdom and created within him many openings and many cavities … it is known before Your throne that if but one of them were to be ruptured or blocked, it would be impossible to survive…." I bet the guy with urinary problems or with clogged arteries wasn’t laughing too hard.

We have blessings upon seeing lightning, thunder, beautiful natural wonders—and the list goes on. There is a blessing that is recited in the beginning of spring, upon seeing fruit trees in bloom. (See page 228 in the Artscroll prayer book for a complete list). When my kids get up in the morning and come downstairs for Honeycombs®, before they take their first bite, they recite a blessing "Blessed are You...who creates all different types of foods to sustain us." What a powerful message for the kids and for all of us.

A blessing is easy to learn and can serve to remind us even when we’re home, and not in the synagogue, just how close G-d really is to all of us. And, if we listen closely, we can actually "hark back" to that point in time when G-d lovingly talked that beautiful apple into this world just for us to enjoy.


Rabbi David Zauderer is a card-carrying member of the Atlanta Scholars Kollel.

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