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The Blessing Bee

The writer Rachel Maizes reflects on counting her blessings.

Practice

Illustration Credit: everything was as it should be, by Amanda Blake

I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish community that was crazy for blessings. Even the most ordinary action called for a blessing. Before eating an apple: “Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.” We said a different blessing for bread, another one for cookies, another for vegetables. Finish a meal? Time to say a blessing.When I awoke, I said the blessing for having my soul returned; when I went to bed, I praised the name of God forever. If my family was traveling, we said the blessing for safety along the way.There was even a blessing for successfully going to the bathroom. Really. I appreciate that one more as I get older.There were so many blessings, our teachers devised a “blessing bee” to test us. In the first round, the fourth-grade students at my Jewish parochial school stood up next to our graffiti-marked wooden desks. The teacher, who was also my aunt, a thin Israeli woman with a sharp nose and a tight wool suit, went around the room, row by row, naming foods. The student whose turn it was had to name the blessing for that food. A student who got it …

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