That Pesky Shehecheyanu!

A while back, I was struggling with a humanistic replacement for the traditional shehecheyanu blessing that celebrates doing something for the first time–the first day of a holiday, etc. I encountered the same problem at Hanukkah again in December, and I needn’t have done so.

Because I had forgotten completely about the problem having been fixed in April last year! (Why “having been fixed” rather than I fixed it? You’ll have to keep reading to find out.)

What I was struggling with was what to do about all the prior generations. In that article I linked above, from Hanukkah in 2014, I tied myself in knots with “every hero, and every wise person,” etc. Only a few months later, I found a better (to my thinking) approach: “Blessed is each and every generation,” as the start to the blessing, ending with the traditional “shehecheyanu,” etc.

And then? Then I forgot, and tortured myself with it again for Hanukkah last year.

Then yesterday, as I was working on the Haggadah for this year’s Second-Night Seder in Indianapolis (we’ve still got seats! $10/person!), I opened up last year’s Haggadah that we used at home and found:

בָּרוּךְ כָּל-דּוֹר וָדוֹר שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה.

Barukh kol dor va-dor shehecheyanu v’kiy’manu v’higiyanu la-z’man ha-zeh.

Blessed is each generation that has given us life, sustained us, and brought us to this time.

If you were looking for a non-torturous humanistic shehecheyanu, perhaps consider this one. I don’t think I got this from somewhere else–but perhaps I did? If you recognize this as someone else’s work, please let me know–it’s entirely possible I simply don’t remember from whence it came. (And, if you want me to take it down because it’s yours, please tell me and I’ll do it right away!)

It doesn’t quite work with the traditional melody for these kinds of blessings, but I’m interested more in recognizing–for Passover, in particular–the human lineage than I am the notion of the light within humanity, which is often used in Humanistic Judaism. I’m not against its use, and I have used and know I’ll again use that formulation, even in the Seder itself. But with Passover’s traditional emphasis on envisioning ourselves as though we are part of the Jewish past, I’m not especially satisfied with the light metaphor when it comes to why we do Passover and recognizing how it is we continue to celebrate the holiday.

Passover is in part about making memory present, and acknowledging “each generation” seems to me a fitting thing to do.

So, hopefully this solves my problem around Hanukkah this year. But, just in case–won’t you please remind me?


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