Favourite Words and Wisdom

My favourite line from the morning blessings is

נשמה שנתת בי טהורה היא

(Neshama she’natet bi tahora hi), the soul You have placed within me is pure.  I have always visualised souls as looking like kidney-bean-shaped quasi-orbs of glowing white light, so it’s very easy for me to think of this line a lot.  It also helps me be mindful (there’s that word again!) of other people — I have a pure soul, and so do you, and so does that person over there, and so even do people I don’t particularly like.  For some reason, the image just sticks with me, and the line itself is consonant and has a lovely internal rhyme.  Every time I say this bracha in the morning, I want to repeat that line three or four times.

My favourite bit of Jewish wisdom, which I think everyone could stand to internalise — Jewish, not Jewish, atheist, Flying Spaghetti Monsterist, et cetera, is

לא עליך המלאכה לגמור ולא אתה בן חורין להיבטל ממנו

(Lo alayikh ha’melacha ligmor ve’lo ata ben khorin lehivastel mimenu)*, usually translated roughly as “It is not for you to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”  (From Rabbi Tarfon, Pirkei Avot.)  In context, this refers to the work of tikkun olam, repairing the world, but can be applied to many tasks, and even to life itself at times.

The words…I am in love with them.  Hebrew especially is like a fascinating stranger I can’t help but be totally infatuated with, but who isn’t going to fall easily for my advances!  (Oh Hebrew, will you marry me?) 


* Amazingly enough, I can directly understand the Hebrew much better now than I could when I first asked my friend DE for the Hebrew text — I read Pirkei Avot in English, as my Hebrew is still pretty bad.  Yay!


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