A book that recently made a big impression on me is “My Grandfather’s blessings” by Rachel Naomi Remen who has been counseling patients with chronic and terminal illnesses for over 20 years, and is a clinical professor at the University of California at the San Francisco School of Medicine. Her book contains stories of wisdom about healing, loving and living- stories that make you think with a calm mind and also sooth and pacify your heart.
In one of those stories the author shares a conversation with her grandfather during which he shared the legend of Lamed-Vov and her subsequent reflections from it:
“ In this story, God tells us that He will allow the world to continue as long as at any given time there is a minimum of thirty-six good people in the human race. People who are capable of responding to the suffering that is a part of the human condition. These thirty-six are called the Lamed-Vov. If at any time, there are fewer than thirty-six such people alive, the world will come to an end.
It turned out that Lamed-Vovniks could be tailors or college professors, millionaires or paupers, powerful leaders or powerless victims. These things were not important. What mattered was only their capacity to feel the collective suffering of the human race and to respond to the suffering around them. “And because no one knows who they are, Neshume-le, anyone you meet might be one of the thirty-six for whom God preserves the world,” my grandfather said. “It is important to treat everyone as if this might be so.”
“How do the Lamed-Vovniks respond to the suffering, Grandpa?” I asked, suddenly anxious. “What do they have to do?” My grandfather smiled at me very tenderly. “Ah, Neshume-le,” he told me. “They do not need to do anything. They respond to all suffering with compassion. Without compassion, the world cannot continue. Our compassion blesses and sustains the world.”
Remembering how to bless each other is more important now than ever before. The solution to the destructiveness in this world is not more technical knowledge. Repairing the world may require us to find a deep connection to the life around us, to substitute the capacity to befriend life for our relentless pursuit of greater and greater expertise. It has been said that it has taken us thousands of years to recognize and defend the value of a single human life. What remains is to understand that the value of any human life is limited unless there is something in it that stands for the benefit of others and the benefit of life itself.
A blessing is a place of refuge, a connecting back to the place in us where we are coherent and whole. A remembering of who we are.”
We all have the power to bless others through our compassion. At the same time, we are constantly knowingly and unknowingly receiving blessings from others. Being able to recognize the times when life blesses us – for example the smiley cashier receiving your order, or the friendly stranger who held the door for you is something that allows us to form a bigger connection to life around us and to live more joyfully.
When thinking which picture to use, I immediately thought of the moon and clouds that I saw in Kerala last year and that formed a fascinating giant-like shape. Seeing it back then made me think that there are so many beautiful things that are hidden for us unless we look in their direction. I believe the same applies to life’s blessings- so shall we look for them today?