In searching my inbox for a certain file, I came across an article I wrote 10 years ago as a rabbinic intern. Not only did it correspond with Parshat Balak, but it also honored the first yahrtzeit of my grandmother, Anne Sherman, z’l.
Bracha, blessing, is an overused word in Judaism, so much so that blessings are taken lightly. Yet, the challenge in our faith is to recognize where our blessings come from- Who is our source of blessing? Who or what makes us into the blessed people we hope to be?
As a four-year old child, I would stand in my living room, donning a large black kippah and a large tallit, dressed as a rabbi, leading a Shabbat service for a congregation of three…My grandfather, Pa, my grandmother, Nanny, and my 4 month old sister, Nitza. I would pretend to be like my father, who stood on the bimah as rabbi of our synagogue, as I scolded the congregation, “Nanny, you must keep the baby quiet or leave!” This service, led by the 4 year old rabbi, was not meant for children.
The Torah teaches when the prophet Bilam asks God how he should curse the Jews, God responds, “Don’t curse them ki baruch hu, because they are a blessed people.” While baruch means blessed, it can also translate as source of blessing. The Rabbis teach that this is a people who are able to transform the blessings bestowed upon them into righteous acts. So we must ask ourselves, “How can we be that source of blessing?” Each day we benefit from zechut avot, the deeds of those who came before us.
When I wrote these words ten years ago, Rabbi Guzik and I were not married and I was not yet an ordained rabbi.
I can only imagine my grandmother’s smile this Shabbat, on her tenth yahrtzeit. What would she think, watching her grandson, a rabbi, holding his eldest daughter, Annie, her namesake, on the bimah of his family’s community? Yes, we remember the blessings that were given to us. But that must not be the end. For while we must thank God for the blessings of yesterday, we must enable them to become the blessings of tomorrow.