The Blessing for Milestones Also Helps When Things Go Wrong


My daughter decided to learn how to ride a bike on Sunday.

Strange wording. Not “my daughter learned to ride a bike” but “my daughter decided to learn how to ride a bike.” Because that is precisely what Lilly does; she makes a decision and then does it.

And when she brought me outside to see her newest accomplishment, I said, “Remember what we do when we do something for the first time?”

Her response was carried back to me in the wind.

“I already said the


I’ve long been a proponent for using this blessing to mark life’s milestones. The Shechiyanu serves to elevate seemingly-ordinary events by making us aware of the fragility of life and expressing our gratitude for having made it to this very moment.

But what about moments that are painful? Are they deserving of blessing?

Recently my son, Ben, was suspended from school. (Which is another story for another day.)

It was the first time that any of my kids have been suspended, and my heart felt that someone has stomped on it when the principal called.

With tears rolling down my cheeks, I realized that I needed to say the 
even though it was a painful moment. Because it was the first. And though it was a difficult experience, God still needed to be thanked for providing us with life. And I still needed to acknowledge the privilege of being alive and of being Ben’s mom.


On the day of my youngest’s seventh birthday party, my car died. 11.4 miles from my home. TWO HOURS before said party. While my husband was out of town.

When I was a kid, I thought that it must be really neat to ride in a tow truck. Which is why I posted a picture of myself in the tow truck with the following hashtags: #iveneverbeeninatowtruckbefore, #lessthan2hourstil7yobdayparty, #shehechiyanumoment

Although it turns out that riding in a tow truck wasn’t nearly as thrilling as I once believed, I was so grateful that help had arrived. That I broke down in a safe parking lot rather than on a freeway. That I hadn’t been injured. That I had family (thanks, Zack and Jen) who could run the last minute errands in my stead and pick me up from the mechanic’s. And that Jacob’s birthday party hadn’t been ruined.


I talk freely about acknowledging God with the joyous firsts. And I’ve been thinking a lot about the need to acknowledge God with the sad, painful, and disappointing firsts. So when Lilly’s first boyfriend broke up with her, I suggested the moment needed to be marked in such way.

With tear-streaked cheeks, she looked at me and said, “I’m too sad and angry.”

And then, in that moment of staggering emotion, she whispered the words that acknowledge that we aren’t going through this alone.

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Rebecca Einstein Schorr

Ordained by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Rabbi Rebecca Einstein Schorr is a CLAL Rabbis Without Borders Fellow, a contributing author of The New Normal: Blogging Disability, and the editor of the newsletter of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Her writing appears regularly on various sites and she is a frequent guest on Huffington Post Live. Rebecca is a contributor toThe Sacred Encounter: Jewish Perspectives on Sexuality (CCAR Press, April 2014), and is the co-editor of a forthcoming title on the impact of forty years of women in the rabbinate. Writing at her blog, This Messy Life (, Rebecca finds meaning in the sacred and not-yet-sacred intersections of daily life. Engage with her on Twitter @rebeccaschorr.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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