Quite a few years ago, I remember a fruit and vegetable marketing campaign that had the local grocery stores covered in signs that said “Strive for Five,” Hanging from the ceiling: “Strive for Five”, on the refrigerator where they keep the lettuce: “Strive for Five,” over by the bulk bins: “Strive for Five.” As you moved through the aisles, filling your cart, sign after sign would remind you to try to eat five servings of produce each day.
As a young adult, I decided to “Strive for Five.” I quickly realized that I was not eating nearly enough fruits and vegetables most days and that, if I wanted to get to five servings, not only would I need to add more fruits and vegetables to my life, I was also going to have to remove other, less nutritious things to make room for all of that produce. All of those fruits and vegetables were crowding out other less optimal foods.
The “Strive for Five” experiment of my mid-twenties taught me that when we fill our baskets up with those things that help us, there is suddenly less room for that which does harm. Sometimes we can crowd out habits we wish to change simply by adding healthier, better choices.
The Talmud teaches us that “a person is obligated to recite 100 blessings a day” (Menachot 43b).
100 blessings. Now, this teaching does not say that a person is obligated think 100 kind thoughts or say 100 prayers, but specifically to recite 100 blessings. 100 blessings, spoken aloud, uttered and brought into existence through our speech.
Some days, I do not talk much. In the spectrum of people who speak many words and those who speak very few, I am probably somewhere in the middle. So, my daily expenditure of words is what it is, much like the room for calories ingested into a body in a day are quite finite. As we have the ability to choose if we eat enough fruits and vegetables, so too do we choose whether or not we breathe into existence enough words of blessing, encouragement, and affirmation. We have the ability to choose the right balance of words of blessing, just as we choose the balance of what is in our shopping cart. The more we choose that
which nourishes ourselves and others, the less room there is for that which causes harm.
What would happen if we flooded our speech with words of blessing? What if we walked outside, looked up, and proclaimed with awe, “Blessed are You, Creator of all, who has formed this Carolina blue sky”? Or breathed through a stressful moment and said the words, “Blessed are You, Source of Peace, who has given me the ability to bring a sense of calm to my family”? What if we sat at our socially distant dinner and said, “Dear friend, how blessed am I to know you and to have your trust”? What if we said aloud, before we put the keys in the ignition or logged into the first zoom call, “Blessed are You, God, who has breathed life into my body and entrusted me with the ability to bring goodness into this world, a partner with You in the daily renewal of creation”?
I believe that we would find that our lives change in the similar ways to when we eat enough fruits and vegetables. We thrive when we are filled with healthy fuel and we thrive when we tend to the care of our souls. Speak words of blessing, words of care, and watch the light within you burn ever more brightly. That bright light, in turn, will inspire and nurture those we encounter.
As we prepare for Thanksgiving later this month, may we open our eyes to the blessings that surround us. Let us speak our blessings into being, filling our world with words of praise, and the hearts and minds of those we love with the very best we have to give. May these words, the expression of our hearts and minds, reach the Divine. Blessed are You, Adonai our God, who hearkens to our prayer.
Please join us online for the MeckMIN 45th Annual Community-wide Interfaith Thanksgiving Service on Tuesday, November 24th. The service is at 7:00pm and is preceded by a 6:45pm prelude. Hosted by Temple Beth El.