Counting Our Blessings

For the week ending 5 September 2020 / 16 Elul 5780

The Morning Blessings: Blessing Twelve: How Strong Are You?

by Rabbi Reuven Lauffer
Library Library Library

“Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who girds Israel with strength.”

It is now apparent that Hashem has granted us, His nation, a special task. We are commanded to become a “light unto the nations” (see Isaiah 49:6) and it is our mission to represent Hashem in this world. We are His ambassadors and we are supposed to epitomize the potential for Divinity that exists within humankind. We have been given a fulltime job. And it requires focus and inner-strength to be successful.

I had a student who used to compete at state level in power-lifting competitions. He told me that his personal record was just less than 120 kilo (260 lbs.)! In class one day, he explained to us that when he was lifting he had to be completely and absolutely focused on what he was doing. To lose concentration, for even a second, would mean failing to lift at all. Or, even worse, might cause an injury. He then tried to describe his feeling after succeeding at lifting his heaviest weight. He told us that however difficult it sounds to lift such enormous weights, once he was in the right state of mind it was “relatively simple” to do. It was interesting, although I wasn’t sure how connected it was to what we were learning. But then he added a sentence that turned an interesting conversation into a riveting one. He told us that when he utilizes that same inner fortitude and endurance to living his life as a Jew, keeping the commandments becomes easy. “After all,” he added, “it is inconceivable that Hashem would expect us to keep the commandments if we weren’t physically or emotionally capable of doing so!”

“Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who girds Israel with strength”. Strength for what? The strength to live our lives in a way that reflects the sense of G-dliness and holiness inherent inside each and every one of us. This is not an allusion to physical strength. Rather, the blessing is affirming that we are capable of so much more in the spiritual realms. The secret to getting there is that we have to focus, laser-like, on our inner dimensions. Our blessing is referring to “spiritual adrenalin.” When a person becomes infused with adrenalin they can achieve the most incredible things. Even “superhuman” things.

In 1982, in Lawrenceville, Georgia, Tony Cavallo was working on a Chevrolet Impala. He wriggled under the chassis to fix something, and the jacks that were holding up the car gave way. The car immediately collapsed, pinning him underneath. His mother instantaneously jumped into action, lifting the car high enough and long enough for two neighbors to replace the jacks and pull Cavallo out. Please do not think for one minute that this was the kind of thing Mrs. Cavallo did in her spare time. Panic-stricken, her body had been flooded with adrenalin and she found herself inundated with herculean strength. She was able to do something that she could never have been able to do under normal circumstances.

Our blessing is teaching us that in our spiritual lives we are also capable of accomplishing such heroic feats. Probably not picking up Chevrolet Impalas singlehandedly. But feeling confident that we can push beyond ourselves to serve Hashem, exceeding what we thought was our limit. Because our blessing is letting us know that He has given us hidden reservoirs of inner strength that we can tap into. Strength that will allow us to continue to flourish and thrive. And, by doing so, we are now equipped to break new records in our own personal spiritual power-lifting!

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