Blessed Are You

One of the places we visited in Amseterdam was the Jewish history museum. The museum itself did a wonderful job of conveying the history of the Jewish population of Amsterdam.

As part of our visit to the museum, we visited the Portugese Synagogue, still a functioning synagogue. Jews who fled from Catholic persecution in Spain and Portugal found a more congenial home in Amsterdam. Conegenial, that is, until the arrival of the Nazis.

After the end of World War II, a very small percentage of the Portugese Jews survived the Holocaust and returned to Amsterdam. Those who did found their homes destroyed and their possessions stolen by former non-Jewish friends.

Yet on the first service at the Portugese Synagogue after the war, the service began with a form of the traditional prayer: “Blessed are you Lord God, king of the universe, through whose goodness we are here today and have what we have.”

I was enormously touched by the prayer. (I listened to the recording twice as I imagined the seats populated by a fraction of the pre-war population. In the midst of death and loss, heartache and grief, still the recognition of God’s presence and blessing.

Can we (most of whom have suffered far less) do the same? Offer praise and blessing for what we have, in spite of what we don’t?

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