Define: Bless

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means “to bless.” We use this term all the time.

  • Blessed are you…
  • Blessed be…
  • As we bless the Source of Life…
  • May God bless you…

Blessings are huge in Jewish life. Brachot fill our day, if we are traditionally observant. Even if we are not traditionally observant, we may say “bless you” dozens of time each day. Even Christian women at my bus stop wish me a “blessed day.” So what are we all saying?

I’m currently reading “Entering Jewish Prayer” for the Kohenet training intensive, and the author seems to use the term blessing interchangeably with “praise,” “gratefully acknowledge,” and a host of other terms. Not only is this a spiritually unsatisfying answer — it’s intellectually unsatisfying.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines the verb to bless as:

1. To make holy by religious rite; sanctify.
2. To make the sign of the cross over so as to sanctify.
3. To invoke divine favor upon.
4. To honor as holy; glorify: Bless the Lord.
5. To confer well-being or prosperity on.
6. To endow, as with talent.

None of these are very satisfying definitions either. None describes what is happening when we bless something. So I started to think about what is physically happening when something is blessed. One of the most evocative blessing images in Judaism is the priestly blessing, this is not only a speaking of words, but also has the hands in a specific position. Why do they do that? What’s happening by someone placing their hands like that?

A transfer of energy. A transfer of Divine Energy — life source energy — from one being to another.

When we “bless the Source of Life” we offer back some of that Divine spark that is within us to replenish the source. Whether the Source needs it or not is irrelevant — it’s our willingness to give it back that’s important. But I think the laws of nature, and thus God, have shown us that conservation is important. When we are blessed by God or by another person, there is a gift of Divine energy that is given to us. When we bless our food, we are acknowledging the transfer of Divine energy that was in the living creature we will now consume to feed the fires that keep our bodies and souls alive.

The next time you say a Bracha or offer a blessing of any kind, think about this. Think about the physical act of blessing. Allow yourself to feel that gift of energy, of God(dess) light and love. Blessing connects us to the Divine and everything around us.

Blessed be.


3 Replies to “Define: Bless”

  1. I agree. I think making blessings shows the inherent interdependent quality of being. We offer blessings to recognize the divine "above" us as well as the divine within us and within others.
    Any direction we travel, whether its inward, outward, upward, downward, leftward or rightward, we always encounter the divine.

    We can also find out own power by offering blessings as well as discovering the health of the humility might go along with that.

  2. this is an interesting topic.

    the first thing that popped into my mind as i read your topic… Bless…

    i thought of choosing Life and Death… Blessing and Cursing….

    so from that i take bless to me a state of positivity… look upon with favor…

    so when we speak good of people we bless them… when we speak ill of people we curse them….

    such as the american definition up there #5….

    we bless and curse daily with our mouths, our thoughts….

    perhaps not only the next time we say a bracha or a blessing upon something…but the next time we choose to either speak good or speak ill upon someone…..

    oh… so hard!! but so important…

    at least for me, the only one i can speak for….

    thank you for this tidbit…

  3. Thank you so very, very much for this clear insight on the word "bless". I am currently seeking the Holy Spirit and am new to the apostolic faith. I, too, was puzzled by "bless you" and "bless Jesus". After reading your research, I now understand a little better what it means to say "bless you" and I am committing this meaning to memory. If you only knew how much you really "BLESSED ME". (Smile).

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