Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Gratitude


בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֶלוֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הַעוֹלָם שֵהֵחְיָנוּ וְקִיְמָנוּ וְהִגִיעָנוּ לַזְמַן הַזֶה


Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha'olam shehehiyanu v'kiyemanu v'higiyanu lazman hazeh.

"Blessed art thou, Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season (also translated as 'moment' or 'occasion')."

This gorgeous prayer is known as the Shehechiyanu, a prayer said in moments of great joy or upon experiencing something good for the first time. So it is said at the beginning of a holiday, the first time a ritual is performed in a year or a lifetime, the first time food is eaten in a season.

But most Jews I know use it at so many other times - when a child is born, when a difficult time is over, at any moment where they feel moved to thank G-d.

It is one of the prayers said over the lulav and the etrog at Sukkot - it was as I was looking these up last week, as Sukkot began, that I really started thinking.

What if, even in the most difficult moments, when it seemed darkest, I recited the Shehechiyanu - as a reminder that whatever G-d has brought me to, I am grateful that He has brought me to this moment, that I am not alone - no matter how painful, no matter how hard the moment may be?

What if I said it EVERY DAY - no matter how ordinary the day, no matter how frustrating, no matter how simple the pleasures? No matter that I wish for much that I do not (yet?) have?

Would life look different? What would shift, change? How would I live? Who would I become?

I've decided to give it a try. I may not have everything I want, but I have so, so much. It's time I said, "Thank you": because to everything, there is a season - and I have, through countless others, been brought to this one - whatever it may hold.

Baruch atah Adonai eloheinu...


7 comments:

Anonymous said...

What an excellent idea! It makes so much sense to do that, and I know through the practice of thanking God for the good things (however trivial or little they may seem) that one comes to a far greater realisation of the place that God's love and generosity has in life.

Go for it! May it bring you as much benefits as it has for so many others!

Ariel said...

I was told before I converted that I could basically do anything Jewish I wanted, in order to understand what it was like to live as a Jew, so long as I didn't touch the Torah or recite a blessing until I'd entered the mikvah. Saying the two blessings afterwards - one of them was the Shehecheyanu - was a big deal. So... I'm not sure how I feel about someone who isn't Jewish or intending to become Jewish reciting Jewish blessings daily.

Ari.xx

Irim said...

I can hear and respect that. But I know Jewish atheists who recite the blessing - and I'm not sure how I feel about people who don't believe in G-d reciting a prayer that addresses G-d and therefore, in reality, means nothing to them.

To me, that's a mockery in a way that someone who isn't Jewish, but is feeling that exact sentiment and saying it in a heartfelt way, to a G-d they share with the Jewish people, isn't.

I suppose it's that for me, prayers to G-d aren't owned by any one religion: if someone says it from their heart and with deep reverence to their G-d, surely that's more real than someone who recites by rote. If the words perfectly express what one wants to say to G-d, why not use them?

I'd have no problems with someone using a Catholic prayer in the same instance.

Who owns the sentiment of gratefulness to G-d for bringing one to this time, this place, this meeting? Or the need for protection in a time of fear? Or joy?

No one, I think.

I can completely understand the discomfort around a non-Jew saying the Shema, the Shahada, or prayers that require a declaration of faith particular to that religion. If you don't believe THAT or are not coming to that, it is wrong.

But those that express love, gratitude, joy, fear, what humans need to express to G-d - even if they are used at special times by that religion - when spoken in love, truth and reverence - I may be wrong, but I think they can be universal. xx

Irim said...

*non-Muslim saying the Shahada

Also, here's an interesting question - would it bother you less if it were the English translation, rather than the Hebrew?

Ariel said...

The thing is, the Shehecheyanu isn't a prayer the way the Shema or the Amidah are prayers. It's a blessing, and blessings are in a different category. I was allowed - encouraged, really - to say both the Shema and the Amidah before I converted. I wasn't allowed to say the blessings. Moreover, you're not intending to use the Shehecheyanu as most Jews would use it; you're intending to say it every day as a matter of course. I've never heard of anyone doing that. I've also never heard of a Catholic layman reciting the blessings usually made by Catholic priests. How would you feel about a non-Catholic - or a non-Christian, for that matter - reciting the blessings made by Catholic priests? Or reciting the text of the mass?

I would never, ever perform a ritual from a religion not my own without first ascertaining how a member of that religion would feel about it. Prayers are one thing; rituals are another. Blessings are rituals.

So yes, it would bother me less, indeed possibly not at all, if it weren't Hebrew, because the ritual involves saying the words in Hebrew. If you're not saying it in Hebrew, you're not performing the ritual, you're saying a prayer. Prayers I consider more or less universal, obvious caveats notwithstanding; rituals are another matter entirely.

Ari.xx

Irim said...

Hmmm.

I've never heard of anyone doing that. I've also never heard of a Catholic layman reciting the blessings usually made by Catholic priests.

My understanding of it must be different then, because the people I know who say it aren't rabbis. They say it when a child is born, when they're grateful for something new and unusual in their lives, when they are just grateful for coming to a particular moment. They say it at moments in their lives when they feel it.

Honestly, if someone said those blessings recited by priests or the text of the mass and MEANT it? Believed it? "Blessed art thou, Lord G-d of all creation..." Not a problem for me.

Ed Milliband, a Jew who doesn't believe in G-d, reciting Jewish blessings? Problem. How do you not believe in G-d and say, "Blessed art thou, O Lord..." Why do you get a pass to say that just because of your religious label?

I expect I wasn't clear, since I used the Hebrew transliteration at the end as a literary device: I DO plan on saying it in English, since it is in that language I can say it with the most feeling.

Hopefully, that eases your discomfort.

xx

Playful Grace said...

I love this post. It is so fitting for where I am in my life.

I am not a specific religion. Hecht, I'm still working out my relationship with the divine. Yet, each year I look forward to being invited to celebrate Sukkot with our friends (who are Jewish) and dining under the Sukkah. We gather together, and say these prayers together (in Hebrew), and shake the lulav and etrog and say the blessing - adults and children together. Everyone - Jew and non - are welcomed to say the blessing and face the various directions. It's lovely - and it is as though time pauses for a bit.

It's become one of my favorite times of the year.

What moved me most about your post, and why I love it, is because of your willingness to show gratitude and consider challenges (daily or otherwise) as blessings. Because they are.

Life is a gift; as is each day. Why shouldn't it be blessed?

I want to know if it has changed or blessed you. I strive to celebrate each day, and recently I've been dealing with my fair share of challenges that have been hard and yet have blessed me beyond measure.