One Transformational Blessing

There are hidden blessings everywhere.

Living a spiritually healthy life asks us to be grateful. In Judaism, this is usually done through the practice of reciting blessings.

On ​Menachot 43b​, we learn this:

It was taught in a baraita: Rabbi Meir used to say: A person is obligated to bless one hundred blessings every day, as it is said in scripture, “And now, Israel, what [ma] does the Lord ask from your people.

Taking time to recite one hundred blessings provides us with so many opportunities to pause, collect ourselves, and express our thankfulness.

You don’t have to take Rabbi Meir’s word for it, though. This practice has been scientifically proven to have a positive impact on us. In fact, in 2003, a ​journal article​ specifically discussed counting our blessings!

Now, you might have noticed that the number does not appear in the verse. So how did we get to one hundred? Well, we have a couple of explanations:

According to Rashi, the word mah (mem, heh), meaning “what,” in the verse should be read as meah (mem, aleph, heh), the word for one hundred.

According to the Tosafot, there are three additional reasons for the one hundred count:

  1. By adding an extra vav into the word “ask,” shoel. This would still be grammatically correct, but a fuller spelling of the word. The additional letter brings the count of letters in the verse to one hundred letters.
  2. Gematria is the practice of counting Hebrew letters according to their value. An alternative counting scheme flips the alphabet backward, so, for example, instead of aleph being one, it becomes four hundred, which is the value of the final letter, tav. In our context, our mah transforms from forty-five to, you guessed it, one hundred.
  3. Similar to the first explanation, but we add the aleph in meah instead of the vav in shoel.

The Maharsha, a 16th-century Polish rabbi, suggests that:

“…This is hinted by the missing aleph in meah that represents a single blessing from the one hundred blessings. This is the secret of the soul from earlier, to fear the Lord…”

His explanation also draws on the idea that there are almost one hundred letters. He argues that the missing letter is the commandment to be in fear or awe of God.

The fact that the verse has ninety-nine letters, and we are seeking one hundred, invites us to think creatively about the kinds of blessings we notice.

It is the noticing that allows us to be grateful. The mechanism that we use is blessings. Blessings are our actions to acknowledge a moment and elevate it to holiness.

I’d like to invite us to raise our awareness of the actions of others. The hidden Aleph blessings that are all around us but not always acknowledged.

There are so many hidden ways that others improve our lives—the little things that friends, partners, and strangers do that make our lives better and more livable—the extra effort that is made, even if we don’t notice it.

Dwight watering plants in The Office 3:14 “The Return”

In The Office, one character, Dwight, has been watering and caring for the plants in the office without anyone being aware. It is only when he’s no longer there, and the plants begin to die that the blessing of his effort is noticed.

By focusing our blessing practice on others, and not just ourselves, we can share our gratitude. Everyone likes to be acknowledged. Most of us can think of a moment when we received recognition for our efforts and it transformed the rest of our day. The gratitude and blessing then spreads out from person to person out into the universe.

There are hidden alephs everywhere, but they go unnoticed. Imagine the impact of just acknowledging one each day. Not only will we improve our well-being and make our lives more holy, but we will also elevate the lives of those around us.

Thank you for reading! In my With Torah and Love newsletter, I write about Torah, Talmud, self-awareness, and becoming our best selves as students of life and Judaism.

About the Author

Rabbi Jeremy Markiz is a teacher and consultant. He teaches the Torah rooted in personal growth, kindness, intentionality, and bettering the world. He writes the With Torah and Love newsletter.

He helps clergy, congregations, and Jewish organizations grow and communicate clearly in the digital world, develop effective strategies, and solve problems with his consulting firm, Next Level Rabbinics.