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A special Rosh Hashanah message from Cantor Michelle Drucker Friedman

It is taught in a baraita that Rabbi Meir would say: A person is obligated to recite one hundred blessings every day, as it is stated in the verse: “And now, Israel, what [ma] does the Lord your God require of you” (Deuteronomy 10:12). Rabbi Meir interprets the verse as though it said one hundred [me’a], rather than ma.

~ The Talmud, Menachot43b

As another year approaches, we are encouraged to reflect back in examination to take a chesbon hanefesh-an inventory of the soul. In that consideration, I realized that I have commemorated many milestones in the last year. I've had the joy of celebrating 30 years at Emanuel and watching both of my girls go off to college. But the sweet has been tempered by the loss of my beloved father, and the grief that has followed.


Such are life’s ebbs and flows.


If I learned one thing from my father, it is that acknowledging the multitude of blessings in one’s life allows for tremendous grace in moments of challenge. My father never failed to acknowledge the beauty of dappled sunshine playing with light, or the miracle of a bird taking wing. His eyes never failed to see-even though blindness in his later years made that reality impossible. Even when dementia clouded his mind, he believed that even in the darkest moments there is always manifestation of God’s blessings.


In Deuteronomy 10:12, Moses tells the Jewish people: "What (mah) does God ask of you? From that question, The Talmud hears a different word-me’ah, which means one hundred - asserting that God’s desire is for us to acknowledge one hundred blessings throughout our day. With one hundred brachot spread out over a typical sixteen-hour day, on average one bracha would be said every ten minutes. That amazing extrapolation creates one of the first models for the practice of gratitude. Imagine, if you will, the astounding contribution to our life and the lives of those around us if we adopted such a practice. Even engaging with ten of the requisite hundred could literally change us for the better.


According to studies at the University of Pennsylvania, the practice of gratefulness has a profound effect on the human body. Scientists have found it lowers blood pressure, helps people sleep better and creates healthier immune systems. It aids mental health as well-making one kinder, more compassionate and happier. Gratitude not only strengthens us as human beings, it strengthens us as a community.


On such matters, Rabbi Michael Zedek often quotes Elizabeth Barrett Browning:


Earth’s crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God,

But only he who sees takes off his shoes;


In the New Year, may we allow ourselves the time to admire that which we usually rush past-the bird in flight, the dappled sunlight-and engage with the beauty that has always been there right in front of our eyes. Maybe this year we will take off our shoes. And for the many gifts that I have been given: my beautiful family, drawing breath and giving voice to song, being with you in sacred moments of joy and sorrow– I am supremely grateful. May we all reap the benefits that hakarat hatov (noticing the good) will bring to our lives and loves.


May your blessings abound, and may you notice them all.


Shanah Tovah,


Cantor Shelly Drucker Friedman

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