When Pope Francis assumed the papacy almost two years ago he greeted the thronging crowd in xt” The he bowed his head and beseeched those in attendance (and around the world) to bless him. Do leaders need our blessing?
In Hebrew, the word for blessing is Baruch (Beit-Reish-Kaf) and as pointed out in an early Kabbalah text (Sefer Bahir—The Book of Illumination) this Hebrew word not only means blessing, it has two other meanings: the knees (Berech) and a gathering or pool of water (Braycha).
What is the connecting concept of these three meanings?
A literal explanation of these words is suggested by the idea that people and camels bend their knees to receive (drink) water. Rabbi Marcia Prager offers a beautiful connection between the idea of blessing and knees bent in gratitude and the flow of water: “When we offer blessing we offer our gratitude not only for a particular gift but for the opportunity to experience our connection with the whole of life. Our blessing opens us to the flow of divine goodness moving through us, filling us and flowing back to God.”
Pope Francis has emerged as a change agent with his willingness to call into question Church doctrine. I reserve each Thursday morning to pray for the Pope. It was on Holy Thursday (that the Pope, as is customary before Easter, washed the feet of others. Instead of washing the feet of priests though, Pope Francis went to a jail in Rome, a youth detention center, and washed the feet of 12 of the inmates (including two young women).
I am often awake at 3:30 in the morning, the time when the Dalai Lama starts his daily morning prostrations and meditations to reflect on emptiness. Whether in Dharmsala or in Denver it is a quiet time to reflect on the self. The Dalai Lama spends another 5 hours (after breakfast) in meditation—this is his morning routine. I reserve early mornings for Yoga practice and blessing the Dalai Lama.
It was October 9th (2012), a Tuesday, when terrorists boarded her school bus and demanded to know, “Who is Malala?” That day fell on Simchat Torah—a day of joyous celebration on the Jewish calendar. It is also a day of celebration and blessing for our world that Malala did not die from the bullets that entered her skull. Tuesday’s blessing is reserved for Malala.
Wednesday is print day for Charlie Hebdo. The editors and cartoonists were busy at work before taking lunch when gunman burst in screaming, “Where is Char?” Shouting praise for Allah they murdered 12. Wednesday lunchtime prayer is now reserved in prayer for what Char and the others at Charlie were willing to risk their lives for: free expression. Wednesday lunch blessing is for those who continue the publication of Charlie (though I am agreement with Pope Francis that decorum and sensitivity is appropriate when addressing other people’s beliefs).
Friday is a day for preparation for Shabbat (the Sabbath) and so there were as expected customers at the Hyper Cacher (Kosher) market in Paris (last week), a market frequented by Jews and Moslems. A gunman entered the store and murdered 4, may their memories be a blessing. Friday afternoon is now reserved for blessing another leader: Lassana Bathily, a Muslim employee at Hyper Cacher who saved six customers, including an infant, by hiding them in a walk-in freezer when the gunman laid siege to the store.
Leaders need our prayers of blessing. They take risks that others are not ready to take. Create your own calendar of blessings for those leaders who you wish to support and bless with the divine flow of goodness, courage and strength.