"With what shall I bless you?
There’s a Friday night ritual where traditionally parents bless children. When, I had Shabbat dinner with Audrey Potter last week, I surprised and intrigued to hear the blessing that she offered her daughters. “May you be blessed to be like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Ruth, Harriet, Elena, Jane, and Kamala.” Her list included traditional names, the names of the matriarchs, but it also included the names of others that she wanted to serve as role models for her daughters (imperfect individuals still, just like the matriarchs). It felt so intimate to see some hints of Audrey’s values through the composition of her blessing, and to see this glimpse of the promise that Audrey saw for her daughters.
In parshat Eikev, there is also a moment of blessing, where God offers a blessing to the people: “[God] will love and bless and multiply you, blessing the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your land, your grain, your wine, your oil, the offspring of your herds and flocks…”
What values of God’s are communicated through this blessing? What promise does God see in the people, and what might this sort of blessing evoke for its recipients? As moderns, even with our access to historical research, only have so much access to what this blessing might have meant to its particular recipients. Even standing in the room with Audrey last week, I have limited sense of what her blessing evokes for her, even less of a sense of what it evokes for her daughters!
Blessings are moments of deep connection and have the potential to create greater intimacy with people we live. This Shabbat, I invite you to take a little risk and offer a blessing to someone whom you might not usually. If you don’t know the person very well, I will share my strategy. I start by asking a person a question that I learned from the Talmud, “With what shall I bless you?” (Taanit 5b)
And if you leave a comment, I would be honored to also offer you a blessing!
Shabbat Shalom and wishing you each a week of blessings.
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Rory Katz is the rabbi of Chevrei Tzedek Congregation in Baltimore. She was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in May 2019.