The wonderful Jewish educator Joel Lurie Grishaver says: “I learned to make brachot at the dining room table. I learned to pray on the ballfield.” The Talmud tells us: “A person should say 100 blessings every day.” There are rules for everything in Jewish life, but what kind of law tells you to say 100 blessings every day, and why? When you really think about it—wouldn’t it be wonderful to have 100 things every day that we were thankful for? Maybe this is what the law is suggesting—look at your life and find things, even everyday common things, to be thankful for, and then you will be truly blessed.
How to say 100 blessings? Let’s start with blessings for food. Just think—we have lots of time each day to remember we are Jewish! However, there is another blessing that would add to the count each day – the blessing we say after using the bathroom. Children of different ages will respond differently to this one – some with giggles, some with embarrassment – but do think about it!
Blessed are You, our G-d, King of the Universe, who fashioned man with wisdom and created within him many openings and many cavities. It is obvious and known before Your Throne of Glory that if but one of them were to be ruptured or but one of them were to be blocked, it would be impossible to survive and to stand before You. Blessed are You, our G-d, Who heals all flesh and acts wondrously.
Blessings are easy to learn and say. Prayer is another story— for many of us adults, it is natural. But there are many who still struggle with the questions, “why pray?” Are prayers answered? Judaism has many rules for fixed prayer, and prayer books filled with specific prayers. Many ask why we need to say formal prayers and especially in a language that we may not understand- and even the translation doesn’t work for many of us. Praying is not just about asking G-d for something – it is first and foremost about building a relationship with G-d which we do through communication just as we build any relationship.
In “The Book of Jewish Values” by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, there is a chapter titled “Pray for Someone Else Today.” It tells of a Talmudic text that praises Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, for offering a prayer to G-d for delivering the Israelites from the Egyptians. Moses also offered a prayer but his was not praised. Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter explains that Moses thanked G-d for what was done for him and his people while Jethro thanked G-d for what He did for others.
At this time and for all times, let’s give our children (and ourselves) a way to express our caring for others through prayer. Prayers can be simple words spoken spontaneously from the heart or take some time with your children to write down special prayers for certain times or people. What do we say when the inevitable concern arises: “But G-d didn’t do what I asked for?” In my work with children, parents and staff, I always respond – “I hear you.” I cannot always guarantee that I understand or that I can do what is requested, but I can guarantee that I hear and that I am listening. I believe G-d hears us even when we do not receive an answer.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.