I want to talk about my right elbow. Now bear with me. There is a context…
I chose to fire up my grill for spring cooking last week. Of course, it was raining, but I would not be deterred. Soon I was literally cooking with gas on my Webber grill, getting it to about 700 degrees, to then clean the cooking surface.
In the process of prepping and scraping, I used my spatula to pry up the corner of a cooking grate. Somehow this action wreaked havoc with the tendon in my right elbow (diagnosis anyone?). In other words, it really hurt, like yell out loud cursing hurt. But the show must go on and dinner must be served. I managed to cook everything to the desired level of doneness.
My elbow still hurt. A lot. And I would be reminded of this every time I banged into something. Which was more often than I would have anticipated. Apparently we – or at least I – regularly use our elbows to locate ourselves in space. It’s as if my elbow is a sensor that automatically keeps me at appropriate distances from various surfaces.
For instance, I have some steep steps in my home. I found out the hard way when carrying something big downstairs that I lean my right elbow against the wall as I descend to keep myself from falling. In fact over the course of a day or two, I learned just how vital my right elbow is to my well being.
That’s my elbow story, or in rabbinics what they call the mashal, the parable. The nimshal, the teaching or the lesson is all about gratitude. I don’t think I’ve ever felt the need to explicitly stop and thank God for my elbows. Other organs, yes. My elbows, no.
Elbows are so … plain. Or worse. Elbows are often plagued with dry skin or eczema or granuloma, or God knows what. They’re wrinkly. And then there’s the funny bone thing – which is not funny at all.
But we need these elbows for all the obvious reasons, like bending our arms for instance. Or, as I’ve learned, for keeping myself from falling down. It’s all these little things, so much of which I take for granted that mean so much. And so I want to give thanks for elbows, for all the things coalesce to enable me to navigate reality. It won’t surprise you to know that there is a blessing that helps us find the words to give thanks for our bodies. And even though it doesn’t specifically mention elbows, I think it sets the stage and the direction of offering thanksgiving.
Blessed are You, our God, Spirit of the World, who wisely formed the human body. You created it with openings here and vessels there. You know well that should even one of these stay opened, or one of those stay closed, we could not long survive. Blessed are You, Healer of all flesh, who makes the wonders of creation.
Blessed are You, our God, for all the little things that make such a difference in our lives. For taste buds and tear ducts. For ear lobes and eyelashes. For cones and rods and receptors. And yes: thank you, God, for elbows.