The Blessings of Each Day

by Rabbi Audrey Pollack, November 1, 2017

What keeps you up at night? I remember back when I was expecting child #1, that friends, family members, congregants, and even complete strangers would offer this piece of advice: “get your sleep now, because once that baby arrives, you won’t be getting much sleep at all.” I also remember thinking – who are they kidding? That little one already keeps me up at night, kicking and rolling.

After child #1 (and subsequent children #2 and #3) arrived, friends, family members, congregants, and even complete strangers would ask “Is the baby a good sleeper?” “Are you getting any sleep?” Truth: he wasn’t and no, we didn’t get much in the early part of his life. But thankfully, those early months passed and the bleariness faded. Now that all of my children are older, there are times I still don’t always sleep well – I am up waiting for one of them to come home, or I wake in the wee hours of the morning worrying about something. I often joke that “sleep is overrated, and that’s what coffee is for” (although those who know me, know that I don’t indulge) but truthfully, sleep is integral to being a functional, thinking, human person.

We all know that when we feel overtired, when we are stressed and worried over something in our lives that is causing us pain or anxiety, it is hard to find perspective. We may go through the day feeling grumpy or upset and find it difficult to see the positive.

The wisdom of our Jewish tradition recognizes and acknowledges the realities of daily life. Just as we have blessings to say for special occasions, to celebrate simchas, there are also blessings to acknowledge loss and struggle, and there are parts of our daily prayers that remind us that there is holy in the mundane.

When we lie down at night to sleep, we recite the words of Sh’ma and of Hashkiveinu, a prayer for God’s protection throughout the night, that we may lie down in peace and awaken in the morning to renewed life and strength. One of the most beautiful and comforting images in Hashkiveinu is of God spreading over us a canopy of peace and protection while we sleep.

Our siddur (prayerbook) begins with blessings for the morning that were originally part of home rituals, spoken when we wake up, stand up from our bed, wash our face, get dressed, etc. each morning. Most of these blessings come from tractate Berachot 60b of the Babylonian Talmud. Berachot 60b describes how one should express gratitude for being awakened to consciousness and a life of purpose each day. This Talmudic section ends with these words: “Grant me, this day and every day, grace, favor, and mercy in Your sight and in the sight of all who behold me. Bestow lovingkindness upon me. Blessed are You, Adonai, Who bestows lovingkindness upon Your people Israel.”

The next to last blessing in the Amidah, the main section of the daily service, ends with the words Modim anahnu lakh . . .v’al nisekha sh’b’khol yom imanu, “We give You thanks . . .and for Your miracles that we experience daily.”

You might notice that I sign my emails with a verse from Psalm 118:24, “This is the Day that God has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” It is a verse that I meditate on. For me, it is a reminder that no matter what the day brings, within this day is holiness, blessing, learning, growth, and the gift of another day on this earth. I am so grateful for the present that is today.

Rabbi Audrey S. Pollack

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