A New Blessing Every Day for the New Year, Rosh HaShanah 5783
From The Curse of Blessings, adapted from Mitch Chefitz
There was an Officer of the Law, and he was as proud as you can imagine. He loved showing off his perfect blue uniform with brass buttons and sword with a gold and ivory handle that hung from his side. He was arrogant and bold and callous.
One day he was walking his beat when heard a commotion in an alley.
He ventured into the darkness, and there in the distance he saw a man in rags.
“Come forward!” he commanded. “Come forward now!”
But the man in rags did not come forward.
“I am an officer of the Law,
and I command you, come forward!”
The man in rags did not move.
He shifted his weight from one foot to the other.
Finally, he spoke:
“I don’t know what I’m going to do with you.”
“Do with me?” the Office of the Law mocked.
“You don’t do with me! I do with you!
I am an Officer of the Law, and I command you to come forward.”
To the Officer’s surprise, the man in rags suddenly drew his sword to attack. The Officer of the Law drew his own sword in defense.
“Put that sword down right now!” the officer ordered.
But the man in rags did not stop.
“Step aside! I command you!”
When it seemed the man in rags would prevail, the Officer flug his sword around to intimidate him —
the sword was thrusted into the old man, who now lay dying before him.
The officer cried out: “I didn’t mean to hurt you!
Why didn’t you stop when I ordered?
Why did you attack me?”
The man in rags waved the words away.
“I am leaving you,” he said,
“and as I do, I put upon you the Curse of Blessings.”
“What do you mean?” asked the officer, who was now thoroughly confused.
“The Curse of Blessings. Every day you must say a new blessing, one you have never said before.
On the day you do not say a new blessing, on that day you will die.”
The man in rags closed his eyes. The Officer of the Law looked for help. But there was none to be found. When he turned back, the man in rags had disappeared.
“It was a dream,” the officer thought.
It was getting late, the sun was setting.
As much as the Office tried to ignore what had happened, he could not.
The Jewish day ends with the sunset.
The Officer felt his body growing cold and was so chilled, he worried his life was leaving him.
In a panic, he uttered: “Blessed are you, God, ruler of the Universe who has created such a beautiful sunset.”
At once warmth and life flowed back to him.
The curse had been for real!
The next morning he did not delay. He awoke with words of blessing: “You are blessed that You allow me to wake up this morning.”
His life felt secure the entire day!
The next morning, he blessed his ability to rise from his bed, the following day, that he could tie his shoes.
Day after day he found abilities he could bless.
That he could go to the bathroom, that he had teeth to brush, that each finger of his hands still worked, the fact that he had toes on his feet.
He blessed his clothes, every garment.
He blessed his house, the roof and floor, the table and chair.
At last he ran out of things to bless, so he began to bless his family and friends, co-workers;
then the mailman and the clerks.
Word started to get out-
The Officer of the Law was a source of blessing!
Years passed, then decades. The Officer of the Law had to look further afield to find new things to bless. He blessed city councils, university buildings, scientists and their discoveries.
He traveled the world and blessed each place.
And he kept venturing for blessings.
As he approached the ripe age of one hundred and twenty, he considered his life was long enough.
Even Moses had not lived longer!
On his birthday, he made a decision to utter no new blessing and allow himself to meet a peaceful end.
As the sun was setting, he started to feel a chill.
This time, he did not resist.
But then in the twilight, he saw a figure in the distance — wait!
it was the man in rags!
“You”! The Officer of the Law exclaimed “I have thought about you everyday for a hundred years! I never meant to harm you. Please forgive me.”
“You don’t understand,” said the man in rags.
“I am an angel who was sent to harvest your soul, but when I looked at you, so pompous and proud,
I didn’t see a soul. Only an empty uniform.
So I put the Curse of Blessings on you and now look at what you’ve become!” (he said proudly)
The Officer of the Law grasped what had happened all those years ago.
Overcome with emotion, he blurted out: “Blessed are You God that You have kept me alive and sustained me so that I could arrive at this moment.”
“Now look at what you have done!” The man in rags said in frustration. “A new blessing!”!!!
Life flowed back into the Officers of the Law, and he and the man in rags looked at each other, neither of them knowing quite what to do.
Over this High Holiday Season,
We will say many blessings together.
Blessings in our Machzor, High Holiday Prayerbook. Blessings we say together, with our hearts filled with gratitude for being together after such a long time. And blessings we will only whisper to ourselves.
These blessings serve to wake us up to a New Year, to our lives, and to the holiness in the world.
Yet, in order to continue to be awake, to continue to find holiness and to cultivate an eye towards satisfaction, we need to make blessings a regular practice. In shul and in day to day moments.
This is not a curse — but it is a spiritual need.
Especially in a world in which it may seem more obvious, apparent and even more realistic to see and name the curses.
As Rabbi Lawrence Kushner says: “Blessings give reverent and routine voice to our conviction that life is good, one blessing after another. Even and especially when life is cold and dark. Indeed to offer blessings at such times may be our only deliverance.”
Let our Blessings help us to see the miracles that happen to us and around us every day and to become aware of life’s ever present potential.
May they help us grow our circle of love and compassion.
May they strengthen our resolve to do good in the world and enable us to be a channel of blessing into the world.