The Jewish Blessing Upon Hearing Bad News
Receiving bad news, such as the injury or loss of a loved one, can be shocking, confusing, and agonizing. In traditional Judaism, however, receiving bad news is used as yet another opportunity to praise and bless the Lord.
The principle of blessing God despite hearing devastating news comes from Berachot 54a in the Talmud, where it explains that one must recite a blessing for the bad things that happen to him just as he does for the good. The idea is elaborated even more in reference to Deuteronomy 6:5:
“One is obligated to recite a blessing for the bad that befalls him just as he recites a blessing for the good that befalls him, as it is stated: ‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.’ (Deuteronomy 6:5). The mishna explains this verse as follows: ‘With all your heart’ means with your two inclinations, with your good inclination and your evil inclination, both of which must be subjugated to the love of God. ‘With all your soul’ means even if God takes your soul. ‘And with all your might’ means with all your money, as money is referred to in the Bible as might. Alternatively, it may be explained that ‘with all your might’ means with every measure that He metes out to you; whether it is good or troublesome, thank Him.”
The blessing itself is rather short and simple, however, it holds a deep meaning:
ברוך אתה ה’ אלוהינו מלך העולם, דיין האמת.
Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam, dayan ha-emet.
Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, the Judge of Truth.
Declaring that God is the righteous and true Judge amidst sorrow and heartache reminds us of His glory and of the fact that He is ultimately in control of all that happens in our lives. As it is written in Job 1:21:
“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”
Let us remember that even in our darkest times, we are not alone. Our sovereign Lord is watching over us and has a plan for all things, even if it may not make sense to us in the moment. May we remember to praise the Almighty at all times, through both good news and bad, He remains faithful.