This week’s Torah parta is concerned with the importance of blessings. In 2006 Rabbi Zalman Schachter Shalomi honored me with the ordination of “Ba’al at Brakhot” – Master of the Blessing. I was honored, however, I asked him “Why me? I am not a Rabbi or a Cantor. I do not have a pulpit, and I do not lead services on a regular basis.”
Reb Zalman said “You bless so many people and homes with your beautiful and sacred Jewish artwork. When someone places one of your images in their home, it is a blessing. You’ve infused the holy text with a visual image that becomes inspirational and therefore, a blessing”. I think about blessings all the time, and the gift of giving or receiving a blessing. I will share a story with you.
When our children were growing up we lived in Bloomington Indiana. Our youngest daughter was about to become a Bat Mitzvah, and R. Shlomo Carlebach z’l, came to Bloomington to officiate and bless her. Reb Shlomo was Shomer Shabbat. After the service he walked to the hotel where he was staying and he wore his Tallit, because being Shabbat, he would not carry it. Our son, then 16, accompanied him on the walk. Later that day our son came back with this report. He told us that on the way home a pick-up truck with five young men looking for trouble drove up to them and suddenly stopped. Seeing Reb Shlomo with his Tallit, they started cursing him, and calling him “dirty Jew”.
Our son told us that he knew he would be beat up but he started to approach them to defend Reb Shlomo. He told us Reb Shlomo stopped him and said he would take care of this threat. Reb Shlomo walked over to the truck and he blessed these boys. Our son said the transformation was amazing. They heard the blessing, backed down, and quietly drove off.
We read about the blessing many times in Torah, including this week. I have come to know the power of blessing – both giving and receiving. I am blessed to be able create Judiac artwork which illuminates blessings. Leon and I will be married 46 years in December. Each year we exchange a small gift, however the best gift we give each other is to bless each other daily. Some of our children call from out of town and ask for a blessing for an event in their lives, and I am happy to say our grandchildren do the same.
When I look into someone’s eyes, or they look into mine and a blessing is exchanged I know this space is holy. A true blessing does not come from me. It comes from the Holy One. I am honored to be the sheliach, the representative, for this transmission. We don’t have to be a Baal Ha Bracha to bless each other. We simply have to listen to the need, open our heart and let the blessing flow forth. So, I bless you all, including me, to give and receive blessings. I offer it through my art work, however I bless you to offer it your own way. It is you best gift.