Life keeps handing me these moments. So here is Mah Gadlu, Part 2
This week I saw the most amazing 4th of July fireworks over the Hudson River. Even with a partial view from a roof top half way across town, people had no trouble oohing and ahhing over the incredible colors that lit up the sky. There were even a few applause moments. These were true expressions of joy at incredible sites.
It seems we have no problem showing appreciation for human-made wonders. What about God-made wonders?
This winter I traveled to Israel with an amazing group of Jewish educators. We arrived after dark and headed south to a kibbutz. The next day we saw the kibbutz and toured the beautiful desert. It was stark, with incredible light. Yes, many of us said a Shehecheyanu or personal blessings of thanks upon landing. As we drove into Tel Aviv the next day we were exhausted, and it was just the beginning. The driver made a turn and suddenly, I saw the Mediterranean Sea — Yam Ha’tichon. Without even thinking, I uttered “Mah Gadlu, Ma-asecha Yah, Me’od Amku Machshevotecha,” How great are the things you make Adonai, deeper than the deep are your ideas. With these few words, I turned a bus trip into Tel Aviv into a sacred moment.
Our rabbis had the wisdom to create brachot for almost every occasion. For instance, there is a bracha for:
- seeing a rainbow – zohair ha-briot v neh-ehman be’vreto v’kaiyam b’mahamaro, who remembers God’s covenant, is faithful to it, and keeps God’s promise
- seeing something amazing,- she-kacha lo ba-olam, who has such beauty in God’s world
- doing something for the first time, or the first time in a long time – shehecheyanu v’kiy’manu v’higiyanu lazman hazeh. who has supported us, protected us, and brought us to this moment.
For me, I find it difficult to remember all of the brachot and I tend to fall back on the shehecheyanu blessing, the blessing that I know well as it is said on all holidays. Although there are times that Mah Gadlu are the only words that make sense.
Recently, I was part of a group leading a pre-Shabbat program at the end of a week of study for these same educators. I suggested that we use the words of Mah Gadlu which comes from the Psalm for Shabbat. I would explain about my Israel experience and my idea to find our Mah Gadlu moments in life. I totally forgot to do this as a true Mah Gadlu moment happened. As we were singing these words, one of my colleagues came in with her now almost two year old. When we last saw him, he was a few months old. Mah Gadlu — he was in his mom’s arms pointing at the ark and saying “Torah.” He was told that he was going to see the Torah and that’s what he wanted to do.
Mah Gadlu, Ma-asecha Yah, you never know when the moment will strike. Don’t miss out on your Mah Gadlu moment!