My Grandfather's Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging by Rachel Naomi Remen



This was not the book I had planned to read this week. But after reading Almost Amish, and Living More With Less last week, it seemed like a natural pivot.


As described by the publisher:


In My Grandfather's Blessings, Rachel Naomi Remen, a cancer physician, and master storyteller, uses her luminous stories to remind us of the power of our kindness and the joy of being alive.


Dr. Remen's grandfather, an orthodox rabbi and scholar of the Kabbalah, saw life as a web of connection and knew that everyone belonged to him, and that he belonged to everyone. He taught her that blessing one another is what fills our emptiness, heals our loneliness, and connects us more deeply to life.


Life has given us many more blessings than we have allowed ourselves to receive. My Grandfather's Blessings is about how we can recognize and receive our blessings and bless the life in others. Serving others heals us. Through our service we will discover our own wholeness—and the way to restore hidden wholeness in the world.


I often wonder if the individuals tasked with writing book reviews have actually read the book. While everything mentioned in the review is factual, it missed the point, albeit a subtle one.


In the Introduction, Remen offers the reader a primer on blessing. First, she defines what a blessing is and is not.


A blessing is not something that one person gives another. A blessing is a moment of meetings, a certain kind of relationship in which both people involved remember and acknowledge their true nature and worth, and strengthen what is whole in one another. We enable people to remember who they are.


She then differentials prayer from a blessing:


Prayer is about our relationship with God; a blessing is about our relationship to the spark of God in one another. God may not need our attention as badly as the person next to us on the bus or behind us on the line in the supermarket.


She outlines why blessing are important:


When we recognize the spark of God in others, we blow on it with our attention and

strengthen it, no matter how deeply it has been buried or for how long.


When we bless others, we offer them refuge from an indifferent world.


When we offer our blessing generously, the light in the world is strengthened, around us and in us.


She gives us examples:


We bless the life around us far more than we realize. Many simple, ordinary things that we can do affect those around us in profound way: the unexpected phone call, the brief touch, the willingness to listen generously, the warm smile or wink of recognition. We can bless total strangers and be blessed by them.


And concludes with why blessing matters:


Blessing life moves us closer to each other and to our authentic selves. When people are blessed they discover their lives matter, that there is something in them worthy of blessing. And when you bless others, you may discover this same thing is true about yourself.


The Introduction is a thought provoking and challenging call to action in and of itself. Remen points out that as we do not live in a gentle world, the need to bless each other is more important now than ever before. That to repair the world we live in, we need to find a deep connection to the life around us.


I had to read the Introduction several times to absorb the depth of what Remen was describing. It was only then that I felt ready to actually read the rest of the book. .


My Grandfather’s Blessings is comprised of six sections, with a total of 103 individual 2-3 page stories from Remen’s personal and professional life. They are beautifully written and bear witness to what it means to live blessing life and blessing those around you. Each story is filled with wisdom, subtly demonstrating the power of our own innate humanity to make a difference in the world around us. Often in the most unexpected ways.


Her story ‘Remembering’ begins with the sentence:


Sometimes we live in ways that are too small, and in places that focus and develop only a part of who we are. When we do, the life in us may become squeezed into a shape that is not our own.


Wisdom from a blessed life, a life well lived.


And so is true of each story in this book. Though they are short, the profound wisdom and insight Remen offers caught me completely off guard, had me stop short, and several time took my breath away.


My Grandfather’s Blessing’s will forever be found on my nightstand. For in a moment of need, or confusion, or despair, I know that I can pick up this book, read any story, and be made whole.


Blessing be.


Robin


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