About Me

I'm the Rabbi of B'nai Israel Synagogue in West Bloomfield, MI, a highly-participatory, traditional, egalitarian synagogue.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Blessing, In Hand

Limbs felled by age and infirmity, his right arm maintains its vigor, to convey His blessing.

I’m struck each time I experience it -- the strong, willful blessing of Asher Shemesh -- an old 81 in every other respect.

His arms, his hands lie dull on the chair rests. Long past their dutiful years – serving, saluting, blessing, pushing the papers of the people of B’nei Brak. Now, sadly, seemingly, serving only the needs of the self.

Ma nishma, Asher? (How are you, Asher?)

Asher’s eyes circle around the pleasant but confined study, stacked as it is by books not opened for years and photos from an old camera. The faint glimmer of desire disappears from his face.

Yet, suddenly, Asher’s arm responds, rising in a careful, stepped trajectory toward his face. It is a servant, the carrier of precious jewels. As it approaches its destination, his fingers come together as one, stretching towards his lips.

Asher kisses his fingers with the passion of relationship long-lived but still kindling. He then spreads his fingers north to the heavens, to the Source of blessing. To the source of Asher’s blessings – still appreciated, still magnified, even as his own fruit withers.

The gesture is imbibed with the faith, and the gratitude, of his ancestors, generations back into Iraq. Its expression needs no words.

Blessing falls back on me, like a soothing coat of warm mist. It is the blessing of a man, the kavana of a faith culture – from a land not my own. A blessing to which I am privileged – as a Jew living kibbutz galuyot, the gathering of the exiles, in the land of Israel.

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