Today I recited the blessings as I walked to a nearby store to buy food for the soup kitchen where Gabe's Hebrew School class was scheduled to help out later in the day. The sun illuminated some glorious trees along the way. I was so tired but walking through all that beauty gave me the energy I needed to get through the rest of the day.

As it turned out, Gabe was sick, but Asa and I went to the soup kitchen anyhow. We have done this routine enough times now that the scene and the people are becoming familiar. The whole enterprise is small-scale and personal, and every time I am touched to see the kids serving the food, and more importantly serving the people who are eating it. The kids act with a natural courtesy and deference for people who I am guessing are not always treated with respect. It is a beautiful expression of how we are all b'tzelem elohim, made in God's image.

Baruch atah adonai eloheynu chey she'asa li kol tzorki. Blessed are You the Generous our God who provides me with all I need.

Blessed are You, the Wise, Our God, who reminds me of all I have and allows me to help provide for those in need.

Baruch atah adonai eloheynu chey ha'olamim she'asani betzalmo. Blessed are You, the Imageless, Our God, Life of all the Worlds, who made me in your image.

Blessed are You, the Creator, Our God, who made each and every one of us in your image.


This morning I had to do some very repetitive data entry for several hours. Part of me finds it boring and gets antsy after a while, but there's another part of me that relaxes into listening for the rhythms of the task and making them work for me. I am soothed by such droning activity, free to let my mind wander and settle.

And I wonder about this ability to do the same thing over and over again. We all seem to have different thresholds for how much repetition we tolerate, for how much repetition we seek. I thrive on routine and repetition, but my son Gabe can barely tolerate it. Why are we so different? And what is the importance of repetition in a spiritual practice?

Obviously, repetition is a big part of this practice of reciting the morning blessings. On many days, it's the baruch atah adonai part of the blessings that is most appealing to me, the part that is exactly the same every time. My appreciation of the words and of all the qualities each one evokes grows with each repetition. There's a spaciousness in the set of blessings that allows each word to expand and come into its own. I don't have to devote any attention to remembering the words or to considering the individual meaning of a particular blessing, so I am free to savor each little detail of how the word interacts with the melody or how a consonant resonates. I can almost imagine painting or sculpting each word.

Baruch atah adonai eloheynu chey ha'olamim she'asani bat horin. Blessed are You, the Free, our God, Life of all the Worlds, who made me free.

Blessed are You, the Creator, our God, who made me free to find wonder in the tedium.


After another night with very little sleep, I wanted desperately to keep sleeping. No luck!

And so, awake I was, early enough to watch the dawn come and light up the hill across the river in all its fall glory. In the process of putting away laundry, I walked past the western window at regular intervals, as if I was watching a time-lapse photo series. It was thrilling to see how the colors of the sky and the woods changed each time, growing more brilliant step by step.

Autumn Dawn, a quilt by Ann Brauer 

Baruch atah adonai eloheynu chey ha-olamim, hama'avir sheynah me'etna utnumah me'afapay. Blessed are You, the Awakener, Our God, who removes sleep from my eyes and slumber from my eyelids.

With gratitude, I open my eyes to see the beauty even when I might rather be asleep!


This morning I sang the blessings to the Fun. song "Carry On," a fitting, title on a day when I had to will myself into the day and the work required of me. I had a night of wrestling with the bones I cannot seem to stop picking, the grudges I nurse, the frustrations that gnaw at me, and most of all the tension that keeps me from relaxing enough to sleep. I am tired from the struggle, from feeling stuck, from wanting things to change when they don't. And yet, I have some peace with the idea that this struggle is part of what it means to live and change and grow.

Gabe too last night was stuck with his demons, or maybe with a reflection of my struggles. He is beginning to wake up to the tensions of adulthood, to the disappointments of what must be done versus what it is fun or most satisfying to do, to the challenge of finding joy in whatever is in front of you. As always, I want to protect him from these hard realities, I want to protect him from my ups and downs, and I want his life to be all smooth sailing. But I can't.

So, instead, I sing my blessings, and once again, I will strive to make my mostly personal and internal practices more visible, more apparent because I am sustained by them, even through the valleys of a night of wrestling. May we be like Jacob, and find God in the wrestling.

Baruch atah adonai eloheynu chey ha'olamim she'asani Yisrael. Blessed are You, the Ancient One, our God, Life of all the Worlds, who made me of the people Israel.

Blessed are You, the ineffable, Our God, who made me one who wrestles with God.

Two Tunes

On another beautiful morning, as we move towards late autumn with the brilliant orange leaves falling fast, the oaks beginning to turn, and more of a rustle to all the leaves, we wonder at the warm temperatures. It's lovely but unsettling.

As I wait for a melody to emerge, I am not sure what character it will have today, and I am surprised to find a mournful simple tune. The intervals send a tingle up my spine, and I know that it is exactly as it should be even if surprises me.

After a stop on my way into work, I finish up with the rest of the blessings and wonder what I want to do next. Suddenly a second tune comes tumbling out, this time much more hopeful. And so I repeat the blessings in this new mood.

And sure enough, something that was troubling me as I made my way across town, that made me want to weep at my first stop, came to a happy resolution as soon as I entered the office, mirroring the change in tune.