In a previous post titled, “Getting Better Mileage From Our Mitzvah Observance”, I suggested that those interested in continued spiritual growth, which I assume is most readers of this site, should try to say their Brachos with more mindfulness. I’ve been following my own advice and it is indeed a powerful, accessible way to connect to Hashem.
But don’t take my word for it, here’s a story adapted from the Introduction to Meah Brachot Ki’hilchata, by Ner Lelef Resources in the The Concept and Practice of Berachot class of their amazing Morasha Syllabus:
One of our greatest leaders in the last century, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, was visited daily for advice, blessing, and encouragement by people from all walks of life. One day a man who was suffering a deadly illness approached Rabbi Auerbach to ask his advice on how to invoke Divine mercy to spare his life.
“I am unworthy of advising definitively on such a serious issue,” he replied. “However, I will tell you what I would do in such a situation. I would strengthen myself in the reciting of Brachot, making sure to enunciate each word carefully and clearly and with the proper concentration. If I were to succeed in that,” concluded the sage, “that would be for me a great accomplishment.”
Now, it is well known that Rabbi Auerbach was always particularly careful with his Brachot and said them with much concentration and mindfulness. So much so, people would come just to observe him utter a Bracha and would be duly uplifted as they watched this holy man connect with his Creator in a deep, meaningful way. Nevertheless, he would still strengthen himself constantly in this area. Even in the last year of his long life (which is when this incident happened) he felt that there was room for improvement and growth.
It seems there is no limit to the levels of perfection and growth in the purity of heart and mind that can be attained in the recitation of a simple Bracha.