Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89)

Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben, Ph.D.

Blessings come in so many different forms that most of the time they pass us by with little notice at all. We wake up grumbling and out of sorts because we went to bed too late and now, without enough sleep, have to get up earlier than we would like in order to get to work on time or get the kids out of bed, cleaned and fed so they will get to school on time. We sigh and pray for the day when we can sleep in, when the kids are off at summer camp or staying overnight at a friend’s house and it’s our day off and work isn’t demanding our presence or attention. We look with a jealous eye on friends or family who are already free from the daily burdens we shoulder.

And then one day we get one of life’s dreaded phone calls and suddenly are faced with the stark reality of someone we love dying and the realization that they will never greet another sunrise, never wake up to another hassled or hurried morning, never hear the whining of two siblings fighting over the bathroom again, never grumble at another morning whether winter, spring, summer or fall. Those are the moments when we discover the miracle of the ordinary, the miracle of the everyday, what I have come to understand as “the miracle of the grumpy morning.”

After all, every grumpy morning is so much more than simply the feelings of irritation we so often experience when we haven’t had enough sleep or the day before didn’t meet our expectations for success, or someone we love was out of sorts and we were put off by their sullenness. Of course it is true that life is indeed all of that for most of us on a regular basis. Yet the miracle of the grumpy morning for me is the opportunity to recognize every single day in our lives as a divine gift, grumpy or not. It is the realization that every morning is an irretrievable blessing that only comes once in a lifetime (our lifetime), a never-to-be-repeated opportunity to hold someone we love in our arms, to speak words of encouragement and love, to revel in the blessing of friends who care about us, family who love us, and work that helps give purpose and meaning to our lives.

Yes, grumpy or not, there will never be another “this” morning for the rest of our lives. What greater blessing can there be in life than to recognize each morning as a gift, each day as an opportunity to find our true purpose in life and live as if every day truly matters.

In this week’s Torah portion we are given an ancient Hebrew formula that started out as a blessing for Jewish civilization and then, through its adoption by Christianity, became a blessing for most of the Western World. It’s called the “Priestly Benediction,” and the formula contains three sentences of 3, 5, and 7 words (in Hebrew). “May God bless you and keep you. May God’s radiance illumine your life with graciousness. May God’s face be lifted up to shine upon you and bring you peace.”

These ancient words remind us that even from biblical times our ancestors recognized that God’s blessings result from the words and deeds of fellow human beings with whom our lives are blessed. May each of us wake up every day with an attitude of gratitude that reminds us that, sleep-deprived our not, our lives are filled to overflowing with the blessings of the everyday.

(Check out www.rebreuben.com , www.becomingjewishbook.com and www.interfaithrabbi.com for more commentaries, articles and books by Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben).