You’re on the bus in Jerusalem. Once you determine that the uncharacteristically not-plugged-in woman sitting next to you is neither Anglo nor Israeli in native language preference, you muddle through with a German-English-Hebrew hodgepodge conversation. You give each other brachot, blessings, after a conversation about your new grandson and her two unmarried sons. Both of you feel like it’s a better day.
Walking down Ben Yehuda, a mendicant to whom you frequently give a bit of change gives you many brachot, at your request, for the new baby boy. You give him brachot for parnassa (livelihood) and good health. Both of you smile. It’s a slightly warmer day than it was five minutes ago.
You stop in at a store you frequent. You love the store because the clothes are soft and beautiful, you always get a discount (even though you are fairly certain that everyone gets a discount), and you get brachot and an inspiring dvar Torah from the proprietor. You tell him and his father about the new grandson. You get a mile-long string of brachot from both gentlemen because: Mizrahim. You tell the proprietor, Uri, about the list of “Ruti’s Rules” in the back of your book, specifically Rule #17: “When passing a Sephardi or Mizrahi Jew, always be the first to offer a greeting. There will nearly always be a response, and always with more blessings than you offered them. It’s the coolest kind of competition. Nobody loses.” Uri thanks you for the cultural appreciation, and gives you a dvar Torah on brachot. You give him a blessing you learned long ago from one of your rabbis. “May you dance at your great-grandchild’s wedding after dining on golden plates.” You discuss how that is actually several brachot in one. Uri’s father gives you more brachot, and a onesie for the baby with the word “Tzadik” on it in Hebrew letters. You three feel the glow of an increasingly good day.
At the bank, the teller is having trouble with her wifi. You get the patented Israeli Service Patience Test as she calls over a bank technician to help her during your transaction. You quietly give yourself kudos for standing and waiting as they sort out her issue on her cell phone. (Yes, you know that only freierim don’t yell at times like this, but you have learned that your American manners often pay off.) The tech asks her who is the cute kid on her phone’s wallpaper. “My daughter,” she responds. “Chamuda,” you and the tech say at once. Such a cutie! They spend a few seconds sharing information about how many children they each have. You jump in to tell them that you are on the way to the brit milah of your first Sabra grandson. You all exchange many brachot for each other’s families, for health, wealth, long life…
This is a normal day in Israel. This is what it is to be surrounded by people who may drive you crazy (like family), but are also there for you like family. And perhaps even beyond the Israeliness of it, this is what life is like around people who love putting smiles on the faces of others.