A Shehecheyanu moment...
The Shehecheyanu prayer is a blessing for expressing gratitude for experiencing a new or special occasion and is said when we do something for the first time in a calendar year. It is said at the lighting of the Hanukkah candles, hearing the shofar or shaking the lulav and etrog as well as the start of most Jewish holidays. It is also said when we taste the first fruit of a season, acquire something new and precious to us as a gift or purchase, or to mark any first time special moment. We say this blessing at times of joy or pleasure, times when we are glad to be alive and to have reached this moment.
In her article, Shehecheyanu: A Meditation on this Moment, Rabbi Shefa Gold explains that, “the traditional formulation of the blessing thanks G-d for three things: Shehecheyanu (given us life), v’kiyimanu (sustained us), vihigiyanu lazman hazeh (allowed us to arrive at this moment). Implied in this blessing is a commitment to vitality, to sustained presence and awareness.”
I’ve had a few Shehecheyanu moments in the past couple of weeks. The first and most life altering for me was becoming a bubby. My daughter, Cara, had a healthy and beautiful baby boy named Dawson Benjamin Gold two weeks ago on January 27th.
What an overwhelming moment. I never could have imagined the emotions and gratitude I felt when he was born. I kept pinching myself that he was real. It was an extremely bonding moment for me and Cara.
I’m sure that many of you have had this Shehecheyanu moment and have experienced the same feelings. My heart has swelled to double its size!
Another Shehecheyanu moment for me was receiving the COVID-vaccine. In an article by Laura E. Atkins, she sought opinions from a number of rabbis on what blessings one should say when getting the COVID vaccine and the Shehecheyanu prayer was among them. For example, Rabbi Yosie Levine from The Jewish Center in New York City argued that the distribution of the COVID vaccine calls for the recitation of birkat Shehecheyanu as the blessing acknowledges how indebted we are to G-d for permitting us to reach a given milestone. “In the midst of the untold suffering brought about by this pandemic, the almost miraculous production of a vaccine represents a dose of unusually good news. As the Talmud teaches, hearing exceptionally good tidings is a reason enough to recite the blessing.”
He also mentioned that there is another reason to say Shehecheyanu, as Jewish law mandates this bracha in a case where a person sees his/her friend for the first time in 30 days. I anticipate that we all will be saying this blessing as we re-engage with our family and friends in the hopefully not too distant future.
So, there is a lot in our lives for which to be thankful and indebted to G-d for permitting us to reach these milestones. I must say that being a bubby and getting my shots so I could spend time with my new grandson were Shehecheyanu moments for me. This has been, and continues to be, a difficult time for all of us. The days are short as it gets dark very early. The weather is bitterly cold and dreary. Many of us are alone and desperately miss our friends and family.
But, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Today’s news from the New York Times reports that the pandemic is in retreat and new coronavirus cases continue to plummet, as does the number of Americans hospitalized with symptoms. Deaths have also begun to decline. And the number of daily vaccinations shots has nearly tripled over the last month. This is all good news for which we can be thankful.
So, continue to hang in there and look for the rainbow. We have lots to celebrate in our lives and hopefully soon our lives will have a different ebb and flow. I am grateful for our knit community and the warm and wonderful people who are part of it. I am proud of the way our community has come together to care for the vulnerable, reach out to the lonely and elderly, celebrated holidays and adapted to these unforeseen times. We are here, together and I look forward to coming out of this with new appreciation and gratitude for who we are and what we do.
My hope is that all of you take the time to celebrate the Shehecheyanu moments in your life and be grateful for how far we have come during this past year.
Baruch Ata Adonai, Eloheiny Melach Haolam, shehecheyanu, v’kiy’manu, v’higianu lazman hazeh.
Blessed are You Eternal Spirit who has given us life, sustained us and allowed us to arrive in this moment.