The Blessing of Accepting My Place in the Scheme of Things
I don’t have a favorite color or a favorite flower or a favorite sports team. So it may surprise you that I have a favorite blessing.
I have developed the practice of sitting at my kitchen table for a few minutes every morning repeating some of the traditional Jewish morning blessings. My favorite is “yotzer”-- the blessing for going to the bathroom. Judaism cherishes and celebrates the miracles of everyday life. “Blessed are you for creating our bodies with wisdom: tubes and more tubes, ducts and more ducts. It’s known before your glorious throne that if even one is blocked, or one is open (that should be closed), it would be impossible to stand before you. (And yet) you heal all flesh and perform miracles.”
When I take my pills in the morning with a gulp of water I visualize the pill traveling down the tubes of my digestive system (esophagus, stomach, intestines) and then by osmosis into the tubes of veins and arteries. I am grateful all the way down to my gut. But I have to reckon every day with the second half of the blessing: the gift of this miraculously complex body is for a limited time only. The blessing (as Rabbi Amy Eilberg has pointed out) is also a preparation for accepting that inevitability. It’s like going to a restaurant. You eat this good food and enjoy this good conversation. But eventually the table will be cleared and the next guest will come. From an evolutionary standpoint, death makes sense, allowing room for variety, change, growth.
There are two nuggets of comfort tucked into the blessing that help me shift from fear or resentment of death to focus on the miracle, the process of life. One is that little phrase “before your glorious throne.” I visualize myself sitting on my throne, my humble kitchen chair, and looming above is the Universe, the throne of the Creator. Yet I too am a world. I have a place where I dwell. I belong.
Then comes the last line: “Blessed are you, who heals all flesh and creates miracles.”
All those tubes and ducts are made of cells. From infancy or before until now, the cells of my body have been constantly dying and being replaced and renewed. Loss and hope, decay and healing, have been built into the system from Day 1.