A Spiritual Refresh: Shehechiyanu

Photo by Haley Phelps on Unsplash

This week’s parsha is Bereisheet / Genesis and just yesterday, CAJE was able to host its first in-person board retreat in 3 years—yay! So there was a lot to celebrate. We began with this dvar torah on the Shehechiyanu prayer, which is also very appropriate for the beginning of our Jewish year as well.
The Shehechiyanu blessing is traditionally recited when we do something for the first time in a year, such as observe holidays and their mitzvot, eat fruits in their season, acquire major purchases, and see a friend for the first time in at least 30 days.
(Did you know that if you haven’t seen a friend in a year or more, the blessing to recite is: Baruch Atah… Mechayei HaMeitim / Blessed are You.. who revives the dead!)
And of course, for many people in the non-Orthodox movements, the Shehechiyanu blessing is said whenever we realize the miracle of the present moment.
The text of the Shechiyanu blessing is as follows:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָֽינוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמָן הַזֶּה
Baruch Ata A-do-nai, E-lo-heinu Melech HaOlam, shehechiyanu, v’kiy’manu, v’higianu lazman hazeh.
Blessed are You, Eternal One, Ruler of All Time and Space, who has given us life, sustained us and allowed us to arrive in this moment.
Note that the blessing’s formulation thanks G!D for three different things:
  • shehechiyanu (we were given life),
  • v’kiyimanu (we have been sustained),
  • vihigiyanu lazman hazeh (we have been allowed to arrive at this particular moment).
As Rabbi Shefa Gold has taught, implied in this blessing is a commitment to vitality, to sustained presence and to awareness. Then she takes apart each word for us.
Shehechiyanu / Vitality: There is a Force that animates us — a soul-spark that is energizing. We have all been through so much; we’ve struggled, and yet, been blessed and guided. There is a treasure in this moment waiting to be discovered and mined. Tune in to your inner essence, the tzelem elohim (your Divine image), that manifests as vitality — our animating life force.
V’kiyamanu / Sustained Presence: We have survived in order to thrive in the world that is emerging right now. Sense the potential in this moment and make a commitment to explore and unfold that potential in ways that will sustain yourself and inspire others.
V’higiyanu lazman hazeh / Awareness: Make a commitment to fully inhabit life. That means accepting particular predicaments and challenges, while opening to the gifts that allow us to rise up to those challenges. Open your awareness to the big picture and to our small, yet essential place, in that vastness.
And whether you are saying Shehechiyanu over a piece of fruit or over seeing a friend you haven’t physically been in contact with for 30 days or more, when we say this blessing, let us expand and feel we are receiving the gift of life.
Let us be reminded to take nothing for granted and allow ourselves to be surprised.
Let us realize the blessing is in the plural, not the singular, to teach us that we Jews are connected to one another across time and space at every moment.
May you have many wonderful Shehechiyanu moments in the year ahead and may you increase your commitment to vitality, sustained presence and awareness in your life.
Click here to listen to Rabbi Gold sing a contemplative version of the Shehechiyanu blessing.

Shabbat Shalom