Dear Mishpochah in Yeshua,
Thanks and the Jewish Root
As our hearts turn to thanksgiving this month, I personally always return to the Jewish root of giving thanks: the b’rakhot or blessings (brah-KHOAT). B’rakhot are at the very heart of Judaism. There are set blessings which were formulated around the year 350 B.C. which are still said today. These include blessings for almost every conceivable situation. According to one traditional guide to blessings, Brachos Study Guide by Rabbi Eliezer Wenger, “We must praise and bless HaShem at all occasions, whether something good, or G-d forbid, something bad has happened to us. A person should accustom himself to say, ‘All that HaShem does is only for the good.’ For even though we cannot realize at the moment that there is good in any given event, we can be assured that it is still for the good.” (Sounds like Romans 8:28).
Yes. God is a Good God. He works all things together for the good of those who love Him. He is worthy of all our praise and thanksgiving. One rabbi in the second century said that it should be the duty of everyone to say 100 b’rakhot daily! Consider this, in light of a verse from the New Covenant: “Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Messiah Yeshua for you” (1 Thes. 5:17-18). When we regard everything in life as an opportunity to bless the Lord, we are entering into the spirit of b’rakhot.
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.
Every b’rakhah (B’RA-khah) in Hebrew begins with the same six words, Baruch Atah Adonai
Eloheinu Melech HaOlam (bah-ROOKH ah-TAH Ah-doe-NYE Eh-low-HAY-noo MEH-lekh ha-oh-
LAHM), Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe. All of life should be a “Blessed are You.” It has been said that to enjoy anything on earth without saying a b’rakhah is tantamount to robbing God, since “The earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness…” (Ps. 24:1). My husband Neil used to say, “Happiness is seeing a beautiful sunset and knowing who to thank.” Neil was emphatic when it came to giving thanks. He insisted that a key to the victorious life in Messiah was to consistently live in an attitude of gratitude—in spite of outward circumstances. He did, and I learned from him.
King David proclaimed in Psalm 34:1, “I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” While those of us who know the Messiah Yeshua are used to saying spontaneous prayers of blessing and thanks, one might expect that traditional, authored blessings are rote and not heart-felt. While that can be the case, the rabbis exhort that b’rakhot be said with kavanah (kah-vah-NAH), devotion. This includes stopping to think about God, to concentrate with full devotion on the goodness of God and pay attention to the words of the blessing (which takes about twenty seconds, according to the rabbis).
There are b’rakhot in which God is thanked 1) upon seeing lightning or hearing thunder, 2) upon seeing a rainbow, 3) upon seeing a wise man (non-Jew) in the secular fields, 4) upon seeing a beautiful tree, animal, or other creature for the first time, 5) upon putting on a new garment, 6) upon hearing good news, 7) upon building or purchasing a home, 8) upon seeing a dear friend after 12 months and many, many more.
The “first time” or “special occasions” blessing is one of the most well known. It is called the shehecheyanu blessing (sheh-heh-khee-YAH-nu) and is said to express gratitude to God for new and unusual experiences or possessions. This blessing has been recited for over 1500 years. Try it sometime! “Bah-RUKH ah-TAH Ah-doe-NYE Eh-low-HEY-nu Meh-LEKH Hah-o-LAHM sheh-heh-kheeYAH-nu Veh-key-yah-MAH-nu veh-hee-gee-YAH-nu Lah-z’MAHN ha-ZEH.” Blessed are You, Adonai our God, King of the Universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.”
Give thanks—with a grateful heart.
Thanks and the Knee
The noun “blessing” in the Bible is ברכה b’rakha. The one being blessed is baruch ברוך. Both
Hebrew words are derived from the root bet-resh-kaf (.ב.ר.כ) which means “knee.” Thus, the word “knee” is found within the Hebrew word “blessing.” When we bless or thank the Lord, we are spiritually bending our knees before Him—kneeling down and bowing down in respect and reverence, humbling ourselves before our King.
Kneeling down and blessing are linked together spiritually in the Hebrew language. Consider the following verses: “…that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath” (Is. 45:23). “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker” (Ps. 95:6). Since every blessing in Judaism begins with “Baruch,” God is being acknowledged as the Supreme Blesser, the One to whom we owe honor respect, and thanksgiving.
Given the blessing / knee connection, you would assume that kneeling is part of Jewish prayer today. It is not. Kneeling in prayer is rare for Jews except in Orthodox synagogues on Yom Teruah and Yom Kippur afternoons. Otherwise, kneeling has been replaced by bowing from the waist while standing in prayer. This is very common today. (Refraining from kneeling is based on Lev. 26:1 which seems to link kneeling with bowing down to idols.)
As I meditated on kneeling and thanksgiving this year, I saw a verse from the New Covenant in a new light: “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Yeshua every knee should bow of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Yeshua HaMashiach is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11). I always saw the “every knee should bow” in this verse as an indication of submission to the authority of Messiah. Obedience. Reverence. Now, I also see that “every knee should bow” means that everyone will give thanks and bless King Yeshua. Praise and thanksgiving for Who He is and what He has done will resound throughout eternity. “Baruch atah Adonai!”
As Messianic Jews, we feel free to bow at the waist, bend our knees, or kneel in prayer. We choose to follow the custom of Daniel, God’s obedient servant: “…and in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days” (Dan. 6:10).
Thanks and the Pilgrims
This year, 2021, marks the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ harvest celebration of 1621. Each year on the fourth Thursday of November, our country celebrates a special day of thanksgiving, honoring our godly forefathers. The original “Thanksgiving” was a three day feast, patterned after Sukkot, the biblical feast of the Lord, Hag HaAsif (the Feast of Ingathering), the fall harvest festival. The Pilgrims thanked the God of the Bible for preserving their lives and giving them their harvest. If they had known it, they probably would have recited the Shehechiyanu blessing!
Are we a grateful nation today? We should be! I remember coming home from our mission trip to Cuba many years ago. We had been to a supermarket there and saw mainly empty shelves, one type of yogurt, and only a few containers. Then, we returned home and went to a supermarket in Ft. Lauderdale. We almost wept at the number of varieties of yogurt and the quantity! The U.S. is the wealthiest country in the world. If you earn $20,000 or more per year, you are in the top 2% of the richest people in the world. The average laborer in Ghana would take 156 years to earn this amount. Your monthly income would pay the monthly salaries of 94 doctors in Kazakhstan. Did you know that 1/4 of all people worldwide live without electricity? 805 million people worldwide do not have enough food to eat. Hunger is the number one cause of death in the world. 1 billion children worldwide live in poverty. Abba, please help us to be thankful—and generous.
God has blessed us like no other nation. (That is why so many people want to come here!) But, sadly, we as a nation no longer give God glory for His blessings. We, Yeshua’s Body, His Bride, must shine now as the “Thankful Ones.” Not complainers. Not negative. Not like the ones spoken of in 2 Tim. 3:-1-5, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come [We are in them!]; For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”
We are thankful. We obey the command of Psalm 100:4, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving (בתודה b’todah), and into His courts with praise. Be thankful (הודו hodu) to Him, and bless His name.” The New Covenant also exhorts us to be thankful: “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Col. 3:15).
Thanks and Our Priestly Calling
One of the main functions of the Levities in Temple times was to give thanks and praise to God. This is our priestly calling as well, since we are a “royal priesthood” in the Messiah Yeshua (1 Peter 2:9). We offer sacrifices of thanksgiving to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As in Temple times, where one of the types of peace-offerings was the praise-offering (זבח התודה Zebach HaTodah), the thanksgiving sacrifice, we offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving as our Todah-offering. We thank the Giver of all good gifts.
A refrain found throughout the Tanach (Old Covenant) was chanted by priests and people. It appears first in 1 Chronicles 16 where David “appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the LORD to commemorate, to thank, and to praise the LORD God of Israel” (vs. 4). They sang: “Hodu L’Adonai kitov ki l’olam khas-doe.” “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” (See also Psalm 106:1, Psalm 107:1, Psalm 118:1, Psalm 118:29, Psalm 136:1).
Let us thank our Good, Merciful God:
Todah Abba for life, eyes that see, hands that touch, lips that speak
Todah Abba for abundant food, homes, transportation, and luxuries without number
Todah Abba for hot water, air conditioning, and cell phones
Todah Abba for Your beautiful creation—trees, flowers, lakes and oceans, birds, bees, cats and dogs
Todah Abba for friends, family, neighbors, and the Body of Messiah
Todah Abba for Your Word, a lamp to our feet and a light to our path
Todah Abba for Yeshua, the Messiah, who died that we might live
Todah Abba for all the promises in Your Word that are Yes and Amen to me
Todah Abba for Your Holy Spirit living inside of me and guiding me
Todah Abba for the sure hope of heaven and eternity with You Add to this list—it should be unending!
Thanks, Yeshua, and the B’rakhot
Irene Lipson, in her book Blessing the King of the Universe, explains that Yeshua lived in a world in which b’rakhot were commonplace. B’rakhot have always given to Judaism its characteristic stamp—”awe of the one, true God; the development of a God-centered life; the sanctifying of the ordinary experiences of life.”
We see Yeshua blessing God in the breaking of bread and the drinking of wine. He made a
b’rakhah upon responding to the seventy talmidim (disciples) who reported that demons were subject to them in His name (Luke 10:17-21). According to Ms. Lipson, “People responded to his miracles in the familiar Jewish way. When the crowds witnessed the healing of the paralytic, ‘they were awestruck and said a b’rakhah to God the Giver of such authority to human beings” (Matt. 9:8). “As they watched his multiple healings, they were amazed and ‘they said a b’rakhah to the God of Israel'” (Matt. 15:31). The author points out that we can practice the presence of God by praying the traditional b’rakhot as Yeshua did. “And as God touches our hearts and surprises us with His bounties and His love, why should we not coin our own spontaneous b’rakhot?” Thank Him!
Thanks, the Psalms, and Circumstances
King David had many trials and afflictions in his life, yet he often concludes His psalms thanking the God of Israel for His mercy, kindness, and saving grace. His voice cries out four times in Psalm 107, “Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (vs. 8, 15, 21, 31). I love Psalm 79:13, “So we, Your people and sheep of Your pasture, will give You thanks forever; we will show forth Your praise to all generations.”
I recently began reading Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling again. I am sure many of you are familiar with this excellent daily devotional. The day’s reading from October 3 blessed me greatly. Sarah’s emphasis on thanking God, at all times, and in all circumstances, reminds me of King David in the Psalms. She has grasped a biblical truth that underlies her writing, and I believe, has caused great success in her outreach. I quote from October 3: “When many things seem to be going wrong, trust Me. When your life feels increasingly out of control, thank Me. These are supernatural responses, and they can lift you above your circumstances. If you do what comes naturally in the face of difficulties, you may fall prey to negativism….Cry out to Me in My Name! Affirm your trust in Me, regardless of how you feel. Thank Me for everything, though this seems unnatural—even irrational. Gradually, you will begin to ascend, recovering your lost ground….” The devotion concludes with Ephesians 5:20, “Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Yeshua HaMashiach.”
Thanks at Hanukkah
Yes. Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication, mentioned in John 10:22, begins early this year on Sunday evening November 28, 2021. It ends on the evening of Monday, December 6, 2021. I fly to MD Anderson in Houston on November 29, 2021 and have testing and consultation on November 30-December 1, 2021. Hanukkah is the season of the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem, the Nes Gadol, the Big Miracle of the Maccabean victory, and our personal rededication to serving the Living God. I am believing God for a NES GADOL for my temple (body) which has been desecrated by cancer. God has a plan to cleanse it. I so appreciate all your prayers, cards, and support. The love is tangible. Todah Rabbah. I thank God for His great salvation (Col. 1:12-14) and for each one of you.
“Since you have accepted Yeshua HaMashiach as Lord, live in union with him. Keep your roots deep in him, build your lives on him, and become stronger in your faith, as you were taught. And be filled with thanksgiving.” (Col. 2:6-7, GNT)
Much Love in Yeshua,