Counting Our Blessings

For the week ending 18 July 2020 / 26 Tammuz 5780

The Morning Blessings: Blessing Eight: Standing Tall

by Rabbi Reuven Lauffer
Library Library Library

“Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who straightens the bent.”

The previous blessing acknowledges our ability to break free from the restraints of the physical world so that we can focus on our spiritual selves. Which leads us directly to the eighth blessing: “Blessed are You, Hashem, our G‑d, King of the universe, Who straightens the bent.” Who is bent over? Someone who is overburdened by the weight of the world’s problems. Someone who unceasingly feels the heaviness of that responsibility.

But Judaism teaches that the existence of the world is not the responsibility of any one particular individual. The world belongs to G-d. Therefore, a person who knows with certainty that they do not have the undivided responsibility of the word’s wellbeing on their shoulders is not bent down with the weight of that responsibility. In effect, they are able to stand up straight because they do not have to carry a burden that is not theirs. Rather, they will be able to focus on their own personal responsibilities instead.

Of course, this is not to suggest that a person’s individual duties are not numerous and all-encompassing. They are. We are obligated to live our lives in such a way that reflects the Divine that resides within us. That is a solemn responsibility that requires much inner strength and determination. But, what we are not obliged to do is to take sole responsibility for the world. More than that, by accepting that it is G-d Who directs and oversees the running of the world, we open ourselves up to the capability of contemplating our own individual obligations. To focus on the reality that G-d has tasked each of us with a particular purpose, and, most importantly, with the wherewithal to fulfill our purpose. It is an obligation that we should all embrace enthusiastically because it confers personal meaning to each and every person’s existence.

Yes, it may be a weighty responsibility, but it is the most exhilarating concept as well.

On June the 2nd in 1952, Princess Elizabeth was crowned as queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. The investiture ceremony is very long, full of British pomp and pageantry. The coronation clothing is heavy. Very heavy. Just like the crown itself, which is worn only once in the lifetime of a monarch, and weighs in at just under five pounds. Due to its excessive weight, wearing it for an extended period of time is extremely uncomfortable, perhaps even oppressively so. When Rabbi Shimon Schwab was asked by one of his children how the newly crowned queen could possibly sit there for so long while wearing such a load on her head, he answered, “You are right. It is frightfully heavy, and, I am sure, it is very, very uncomfortable. But I guarantee you that at that moment she wouldn’t change places with anyone in the world!” The reason is obvious. All of that “extra” weight is not really extra at all. The glorious magnificence that are the crown jewels define the wearer as the Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. And it is worth every moment of discomfort to wear them!

When we recite the blessing, “Who straightens the bent,” we are accepting upon ourselves the leadership of G-d. And, together with His Torah, we now have the wherewithal to be guided in the correct direction so that we can fulfill our task in this world. We stand up straight, like soldiers on parade, secure in the knowledge that it is the ultimate Monarch Who is ruling over us.

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