Boredom and Berachos

Many people seem to be bored with their lives. They look for diversion in activities such as swimming with sharks, bungee jumping and extreme sports. Others obsessively pursue whatever is new — fashion, music, or high-tech gadgets. This boredom really stems not from a lack of novelty, but from a lack of appreciation of life itself and all the blessings of life. A person who takes pleasure in his very existence, who savors the beauty of the natural world and the richness of human relationships is unlikely to be bored, or to take anything for granted. A young child finds the world endlessly fascinating; but too often the sense of wonder erodes in adulthood. Through the recitation of blessings, Judaism tries to help us retain this unspoiled perspective and increases our appreciation of the pleasure and wonder of life.

Rabbi Yehudah Halevy, a 12th century philosopher and poet taught, “God wants us to rejoice in the good that He has given us, as the verse states, ‘You shall rejoice in all the good that the Lord your God has given you.’”

A crucial technique in achieving this goal is enhancing our awareness of what we really have. This is done by saying a prayer of appreciation to God before we benefit from His world and by thanking Him after we enjoy His blessings. These prayers are called berachot, blessings. If we go through each day, understanding the blessings that we recite, we can become happier, more generous people, grateful to God for all His goodness.

Some of these blessings are recited before partaking of a pleasure, others praise God for the wonders of the natural world or beautiful sights, and some are recited before the performance of a mitzvah. All of these prayers enable us to pause, reflect, and to appreciate what we are about to do, what we have just done, or what we are experiencing.

Rather than a generic “thank you God,” Jewish law specifies a different blessing for every category of food and enjoyment. In this way, Judaism impresses upon us the abundance of good, the diversity of pleasures and the rich complexity of God’s gifts to us. Even though we could survive without things like cinnamon, chocolate, kiwi, roses and magnificent sunsets (OK, not chocolate), God chose to create a world that is abundant in pleasurable foods, fragrances, sights and experiences. In our blessings, we acknowledge this diversity by saying specific prayers for each pleasure, thereby enhancing our gratitude for every one.

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