These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Yet Another Bracha

Posted on July 2, 2013 by Ben Macdonald

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Presenting this dvar at the final Pardes community lunch of 2013

Presenting this dvar at the final Pardes community lunch of 2013

photo credit: Andrea Wiese

Two months ago, I decided to do a little experiment. For those who haven’t heard me talking about it, I decided to take 30 days and live shomer mitzvot.

I started on Yom HaZikaron and ended on Shavuot and from the first day in I had a really difficult time. First off I needed to wake up and hour earlier than usual to daven shachrit. Then I realized how much of life involves a bracha. Wake up in the morning, bracha. Eat my breakfast, bracha. See a flower, bracha. All I could do that day was complain about how I didn’t want to go to the bathroom because it meant I would need to say another bracha.

Since that day was Yom HaZikaron, an Israeli army veteran came to speak about his experience in the war against Lebanon. When he was finishing his story, he started saying how he didn’t have the time to describe the first time he wasn’t hooked up to machines, or describe the feeling he had the first time he could get up out of bed, or talk to us about how he felt the first time he could drink water and have it go all the way through his body on its own. It was right then that it hit me. Here I am complaining about having to say a bracha on going to the bathroom, when really I should be thankful that I have the opportunity to say the blessing in the first place. I realized that with each blessing I was living with greater intention and acknowledgement of the work that goes into what I once saw as mundane daily tasks.

Whenever anyone would ask me why I decided to do thirty days of mitzvot, I would respond that I just wanted to do it for the experience. In some ways my favorite line of Chumash describes this: Bereishit Gimmel: Kaf-Bet, just after Adam and Eve have eaten fruit from the tree of knowledge God said:

“Behold man has become like the unique one among us, knowing good and bad, and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat and live forever.”

Being at Pardes has been a blessing for me in many ways, having the opportunity to learn with such amazing people with wonderful insights. Although at times it has been hard to realize the fortune I came upon, I feel that I have gained a lot of knowledge in ways I’ve never expected. The teachers here at Pardes have allowed me to know and experience the good and bad, and take from the tree of life. Although there is still much for me to learn, I am happy to be able to step out of the orchard that is Pardes and continue to learn wherever I may go next. Thank you to everyone for giving me the blessing of learning, and I hope for everyone, that wherever we go next, we may live with strong intention in whatever we do.