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The Duty to Bless

Tuesday, 23 January, 2018 - 8:22 pm

 For a 2 minute audio version click here 

It’s human nature to experience an emotional spike of joy when we get something new.  But new ultimately becomes normal and we don’t find happiness in normal. So we look for the new new.  The cycle never ends. When we are so focused on getting more, we lose the chance to appreciate what we already have.
Many see the drive to accumulate more as a result of unhappiness and the need to fill the emptiness that unhappiness brings.  But in truth, the drive for more means that our minds and hearts are focused on something negative i.e. that which we don’t have. This is not just a roadblock to happiness, it is also a path that leads to unhappiness.
A Jewish antidote to this vicious cycle is offered by the Kuzari: “One’s pleasure is enhanced by the duty of saying blessings over everything we enjoy or that happens to us.”
The Jewish morning prayer (Shacharit) begins with several preliminary blessings to thank G-d for providing us with our daily needs and for performing everyday miracles.  Some of these blessings include thanks for waking in the morning, our body functioning properly, our sight, freedom, clothing, strength etc.
These blessings of thanks force us to begin our day with gratitude which is an antidote to taking things for granted and is therefore a key to happiness.
The gratitude we feel then for what we have does not come only from the thing itself but also from appreciating that it is the Almighty who bestowed all these pleasures upon us. This awareness greatly enhances the value of these pleasures.
Here is a practical exercise:
Imagine what your life would be like without some of the things we often so easily take for granted eg your home, family, job, health etc.  Then, recite a prayer thanking G-d for providing you with that gift.
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