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Parashat Naso May 25, 2018

05/25/2018 09:24:17 AM


Rabbi Robinson

Last night Rabbi Koppel and I had the blessing of being at the Islamic Society of Delaware’s Interfaith Iftar. For those who don’t know, Iftar is the ritual breaking of the fast each evening of the month of Ramadan, marked with prayer and a festive meal precisely at sundown (last night it was 8:18pm, exactly). I’d been to the New Castle County Iftar at Rockwood last year, but hadn’t been able to go to the one in Newark, so when I got the invite I jumped at the chance to celebrate with our brothers and sisters for one of their holiest days of the year. It was wonderful; they hosted religious leaders from across Delaware—Black and White, Protestant, Catholic, Jew and Sikh, men and women, as well as elected and appointed governmental officials. The governor was there, along with Senator Carper, County Executive Matt Meyer, and many others. Their Imam spoke, the governor spoke, the senator spoke, and the food was delicious. But the most impressive speech, the one that made the most impact on me, was by the head of their sisterhood, who quoted from her favorite verse of the Koran. In it, God asks a question of the people, saying, “so which of the Eternal’s Blessings would you deny?”

What a great question! It could have come out of the mouth of the prophet Isaiah or Micah rather than the mouth of Mohammad. And it’s a perfect reflection for this week, as we read the priestly benediction. Now, as I indicated already, Aaron and Moses have already blessed the people back toward the beginning of Leviticus, but here we have the actual text of the blessing. And in reciting this blessing, Israel and God are connected one to the other, inextricably linked. But it’s more than just Aaron’s responsibility. This blessing, birkat shalom, is also the blessing we say at the holidays and the festivals, and most importantly, the blessing we recite over our children. Birkat Shalom is NOT a special events blessing, it’s a reminder that we and God are interconnected, that we and the world are full of God’s glory.

So, which of God’s blessings would you deny? Because our world is full of blessing, full of opportunities to lift up and sanctify our experience. Yes, even now, when the world is on fire, when we are acutely aware of the pain in the world and the suffering of our neighbors, there is opportunity for blessing. There is a tradition in Judaism that we should say one hundred blessings every day. Which sounds like a lot, but many of them are baked into the three services we’re supposed to observe. Factor in bedtime shema, hamotzi before meals and birkat hamazon after meals and you’re most of the way there. But it’s worth looking at so many of those blessings. As I teach our b’nai mitzvah students as they prepare to lead the morning service, so many of the blessings we say are for seemingly mundane things. In the course of the morning service we say blessings for getting up, putting on our shoes, belt and hat, for roosters knowing the difference between morning and evening, cleaning out eye boogers when we go to wash our face, and even for going to the bathroom. That’s right! Go look in the morning service and you will find those blessings. Which, I remind our kids, means that everything we do has the potential for holiness, everything we do can be worthy of blessing. Everything we do can connect us back to God and God’s world and those created in God’s image.

So, which of God’s blessings would you deny? Let us instead embrace every opportunity for blessing. Or, rather, let us embrace every experience as potentially sacred, potentially holy, and therefore worthy of blessing, connecting ourselves back to God, and to each other. Amen.

Wed, December 6 2023 23 Kislev 5784