This is the d’var Torah I offered last night at my synagogue.
This week’s Torah portion is Lech L’cha, when God tells Abraham to get up and go to an unknown destination, and that he both will be blessed and be a blessing.
We know about being blessed, but what does it mean to be a blessing? I thought about this all week, and this afternoon I received an email with the perfect description of what it means to BE a blessing, to embody blessings for another.
Here’s the story, and my seven tips on how to be a blessing:
A colleague recently went to Urban Outfitters. It’s not a place she normally shops, but they were having a sale and her daughter particularly likes their brand of tights.
Tip Number One – to be a blessing, do something for someone else; a friend, a family member, a stranger. It can be something easy, or something that’s a stretch. It doesn’t matter. You can be a blessing with incredible ease, without putting yourself out at all. Or you can go out of your way for someone. Your call.
Unfortunately for my friend, there were long lines in the store, they didn’t have the tights in stock, and she discovered that she was going to have to order the tights from the store to get the sale price, and that meant waiting. So she got on a line, hoping she’d chosen the one that would go fastest.
Number Two – to be a blessing, stick with the thing you’ve decided to do, even when the going gets tough, even when it turns into something you really don’t want to do, and even when it becomes an inconvenience.
She overheard the staff talking about one of them not feeling well, but they were busy and they needed her. So one young woman, who clearly wasn’t at her best, came out of the back and opened a register, and the lines began to move a little more quickly. My friend hoped to herself that when she reached the head of the line, she would get the healthy employee.
Number Three – allow yourself to be human and, sometimes, selfish. Because none of us are perfect. And if we expect perfection from ourselves, we’re not going to accomplish anything, much less be a blessing.
Sure enough she got the sick cashier. As they finished their transaction, she started to walk away and then paused, and asked, “Would you like some water?” The cashier hesitated, and then said, “Yes, I would. That would be great.”
“No problem,” said my friend. “I’m a Mom!” and then ran off to a nearby Starbucks and grabbed a water bottle. The line there was long too. She picked what seemed to be the coldest bottle of water, and asked the cashier if he’d trust her to come back in two minutes to pay. He nodded yes, and off she ran, back to Urban Outfitters.
Number Four – don’t hesitate, even if it’s an inconvenience, and don’t dawdle. Be like Abraham; in next week’s Torah portion we’ll read about Abraham recovering from his adult bris, and although it’s hot out and he’s not feeling well, when he sees three men coming towards his tent he runs to tend to their needs. The men turn out to be angels, but Abraham didn’t know that. All he saw was fellow humans, and that was enough for him.
She rushed back to Urban Outfitters and went to the end of the counter where the sick cashier was working. She put down the bottle of water and started to leave, because the cashier was taking care of another customer and my friend didn’t want to disturb her.
Number Five – it’s not about you. Be humble. Remember that the Hebrew word for blessing is baruch, as in baruch ata Adonai, blessed are you God. And the Hebrew word for knee? Barach. Same root letters. Bending the knee is a way we both bless God and show our humility before God. Humility and blessing go hand-in-hand.
She looked at the water and at my friend. “Thank you so much!” then, “Can I give you a hug?” The way the story was related to me, I can’t tell which of them asked for the hug, but it was obviously mutual because the cashier walked out from behind the counter and they hugged. Then the cashier said, “you have blessed me.” My friend wrote that she was suddenly filled with joy…real joy! She replied, “And now, you have blessed me.”
Number Six – get ready for joy. Being a blessing is a gift that you give to yourself. And don’t worry, it’s OK to receive something in return for doing something good. That’s what enables us to go back again and again, renewed by the joy we felt.
And Number Seven – be open to both giving and receiving blessings, because they come at the oddest times, from the most unlikely people. You never know when a small kindness will be a huge blessing for someone else. You never know when someone will unexpectedly do something for you, seemingly insignificant to them, but enormous and wonderful to you.
One of my favorite examples of random blessings comes from my daughter, who has a habit of leaving pennies, heads up for luck, in stray places. Remember the nursery rhyme? “Find a penny and pick it up, and all the day you’ll have good luck.”
She’ll carefully place a penny on a shelf at a store, on a ledge outdoors, on top of a parking meter, pretty much anywhere. These tiny blessings give her pleasure, even though she never knows who found the coin, or if it indeed gave them luck. She figures that by simply finding it they’ll feel lucky, and it will make their day that much brighter.
That’s being a blessing. Without ego, without wondering what she’ll get back. Like my daughter, my friend didn’t expect thanks, actually tried to leave without collecting a “thank you,” but got two unexpected gifts from being a blessing – a hug and an overwhelming feeling of joy. And then she wrote it down and sent it to me, another blessing.
Seven simple steps to being a blessing: Do something for someone else, stick with it, let yourself be imperfect, don’t dawdle, be humble, get ready for joy, and be open to the unexpected.
Lech l’cha – go forth and be a blessing. The world awaits.
Dedicated to Betsy Roth and Ellie Singer