Volume 30 Issue 27 03 Sep 2021 26 Elul 5781

From the Head of Jewish Life

Rabbi Daniel Siegel – Head of Jewish Life

Counting our blessings?

In Judaism, as in other religions, there is a tradition not to count what we have lest we might lose it. Thus, soon after the bible recounts “You have blessed (ברכת/berakhta) the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased throughout the land”, Iyov (Job), we are told, loses all that he has.

We worry that our blessings may become our curse. Significantly, the word /ברכהberakhah can mean both blessing and curse. /שטןSatan (God’s Adversary), says to God, “Will he (Iyov) not curse You (יברכך/yevarkheka)” upon losing the blessings that You have bestowed upon him. Indeed, Iyov’s wife says to her bereft husband “Curse (ברך/barekh) God and die.״

It was only after God boasts, before Satan, of his blessed Iyov, that his virtuous servant suffers grievously. Counting your blessings, we are warned, is “providing an entry (פתחון פה) for Satan”. Accordingly, when we sound the shofar on the High Holy Days, and ask that our prayers be heard for good, the first letters of the verses that constitute our petition form the words קרע שטן/Kra Satan-May the Adversary, the one who might speak against our worthiness, be “torn asunder” so that we might be granted a blessed year.

Perhaps this is what is meant when one of the Talmudic sages says “A blessing (ברכה/berakhah) is found only in that over which the eye has no power”, seeming to suggest the “evil or envious eye”. However, this maxim, particularly as it appears in a somewhat different variation, “A blessing (ברכה/berakhah) is found only in that which is hidden from the eye” might be more akin to the words attributed to Albert Einstein: “Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted”.

We cannot count that which goes beyond the observable and can only be deeply experienced.

We cannot quantify or measure the true blessings of our lives. On Rosh Hashanah, may we pray that we be open to ever new blessings which very much count because they cannot be counted.