Blessings launch good into the world

Rabbi Jessica Shafrin is PRN Chaplain at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital.

By Rabbi Jessica Shafrin

I have a tradition every Friday afternoon. It doesn’t matter where I am or where my mother is. I receive my Shabbat blessing. I have been in the car or in the grocery store, answering, “Amen, Shabbat shalom, I love you.”  

Receiving this blessing has been as important to me and the schedule of my week as living a life full of gratitude.

Acknowledging the blessings in the world through living a life of gratitude has a flip side of giving blessings to the world. We often think that gratitude is only about recognizing the good that it is all around us, when it also consists of generating good as well. 

Releasing the good into the world is about paying it forward to others; we see that there is good and so we regenerate that energy and rerelease it into the world around us. Being active in promoting and stimulating the gratitude through giving and receiving blessings takes our role as humans to a greater level, and we are then able to recognize the important role that we play in the world around us.  

Jacob makes an important declaration regarding the giving and receiving of blessings when he says to Esau “that my soul may bless you” (Genesis 27:4). Jacob is affirming that when a blessing is given, there is piece of the soul that is forever attached to it.  

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Danish theologian Johannes Pederson comments that “[one] who blesses another gives [that person] something of his [or her] own soul. … The strength of the word of blessing depends upon the power that the word possesses to hold the real contents of soul.”  

And so, at the end of his life, Jacob asks Joseph to bring him his grandchildren Ephraim and Menasheh so that he may bless them. Like his ancestors before him, in the footsteps of Abraham and Isaac, Jacob gives blessings; he gives of his soul before his soul departs him. 

Yet, we do not need to reserve the giving of blessings to the end of life. We can start today, and we can start simple. Take the language from “Shalom Alechiem,” a song that is sung around the Shabbat table: “Peace to you, ministering angels … may your coming be in peace, messengers of peace … bless me with peace … may your departure be in peace.”

Just as we bless the angels who visit us Friday night with peace, may we bless each other — each person we meet along the way —  with peace.