Are You Living Life Deliberately? A Lesson From the Rules of Blessings

Lately, Natanya and I have been working on living life more deliberately.  As life happens, it's so easy to enter autopilot and just go with the flow.  Thanks to a couple of our mentors, we've been so much more aware of everything that we do and are conscious of infusing it with purpose.  And then I realized that this dovetails with what we were talking about last week, blessings.

I've wondered many a time about all the details & rules of blessings.  Many people joke about the "religious lifestyle" and its OCD tendencies.  Last week we spoke about how all the prayers and blessings throughout the day are literally an all day discussion with G-d.  There are so many rules around the blessings.  I'll give you some examples and please bear with me through them.  I know they're long and boring (at least until you see them in context):

(1) We make a blessing before we eat anything.  There are separate blessings for bread, other glutenous foods, wine, fruit, vegetables, and everything else that doesn't fit into one of the other categories.

(2) There is another blessing when we're done eating.

(3)  The blessing should be made in the same place that you ate.

(4)  If you made a blessing for one food and started eating, any food that you didn't have in mind to eat during your blessing requires a new blessing, even though it has the same blessing as the first food (unless you're a guest being waited on by the host).

You may have read these rules and be scratching your head, "does G-d really care about the details of which food I'm eating?  Before and after?  I can't move until I'm done?  And the blessing only counts for what I was planning on eating at the time of the blessing?  How am I supposed to find meaning in this?

Here's a little thought that I think you'll find meaningful.

Life is so demanding and there are so many distractions.  The way to stay focused on keeping our relationships "greased" is by self-awareness and being deliberate.  Let me explain what I mean:

Self-aware means that we know what we are doing, and how it affects other people.  Deliberate means that we're doing everything with a purpose.  Instead of reacting to life, we are proactively choosing what to do.

When we know exactly what we're doing and why we're doing it, inevitably, each task will have a (1) beginning (2) end, and (3) place.

On any regular day, I might walk through the kitchen and spot some chips (my weak spot).  If I'm just going with the flow, it's very likely that I'll take some and start eating.  Once the bag is open, I might take it into the other room, and start doing something.  When the salt makes me thirsty, I might take some juice (luckily we don't have soda in my house) and drink and before I realize it, I could be eating a box of cookies in the car on the way to a meeting!

Part of this day-long discussion with G-d is that we are aware of what we're doing, and we're deliberately doing it.  When I take a snack, it has a beginning and an end, and takes place in one place.

Don't you see?  All of these rules might just be G-d's way of training us to be aware and in control of everything we do.  Meals don't happen in a number of places with whatever food happens to be in front of us in the moment!  They happen because we chose to eat, and we know exactly what we're going to eat before we start.  If we decide to eat more or something different, or in a different place, we carve out attention by making another blessing.

It's kind of like giving someone attention.  These days, it's so common to talk or listen to someone while glued to the phone.  The "deliberate way" of carrying a conversation though, is to put the phone down, create a moment, and listen.  This applies to when children are talking to us too.  It applies to work, play, relaxation, pleasure and learning.

Do what you're doing because you're doing it, not just because it happens to be what you're doing!  Ha! That sounds like a good saying!

Shabbat Shalom, 

Rabbi Abrams


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