B’rakhot or blessings have been divided into three categories since 15th century Spain. At this time Rabbi Abravanel identified blessings as follows: 1) God to people, 2) People to God, and 3) People to people. When we think of Jewish blessings, most of us think of the first group. We realize that all blessings flow from the hand of a good God. A verse in the B’rit HaDasha emphasizes this fact: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). God blessing mankind is obvious. Man blessing God is much less a part of the daily lives of most people today. Yet, b’rakhot are one of God’s chosen ways for people to live. They are a means of worship, a form of prayer, a way of giving pleasure to God, an acknowledgment of who we are and who He is, a way of expressing our love and appreciation of God, an expression of awe and reverence, and a way to integrate the secular and spiritual in our lives.
All of our life should be a “Blessed Art Thou.” Since “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness” (Psalm 24:1), it is reasoned that to enjoy anything on earth without saying a b’rakhah is tantamount to robbing God. Selah. The third category of b’rakhot, are the “people-to-people” b’rakhot. Aside from the blessing of children by their parents (especially in traditional Judaism), this type of b’rakhot has been relegated to the famous “Sneeze blessing”: “God bless you” in English, “Gesundheit” in German and “la-bri’ut” in Hebrew. This is unfortunate since people to people b’rakhot can be life changing. When one person blesses another, the one who speaks is actually requesting that God bless the recipient. A person who pronounces a b’rakhot over another imitates God, the originator of all b’rakhot. He takes on God’s very nature, and becomes himself a b’rakhah, a blessing. This should be a life goal for each one of us: to be a blessing. This seems to be the underlying idea in I Peter 3:8-9: “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.”