You are probably aware that Judaism provides us with opportunities to imbue with sanctity virtually every experience through the recitation of a b’racha–a blessing. There are b’rachot to be recited upon hearing thunder, encountering a person of unusual stature or extraordinary beauty or seeing a head of state. There is a b’racha to be recited when one encounters a friend that one has not seen in more than thirty days. That blessing is known as Sh’hechianu, a formulation that praises God for giving us life, sustaining us and enabling us to reach special moments…such as reunions. Rabbi Levi Cooper, of Jerusalem’s Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, writes: “This blessing is generally recited at festivals and upon other seasonal events, such as tasting a new fruit. The benediction is also mandated for moments of personal joy, for instance upon the acquisition of significant new possessions. In this spirit, seeing a friend after a lapse of 30 days warrants the recital.”

There is extensive debate in rabbinic literature over the obligation to recite this blessing. Understandably, the rabbis are concerned that, in certain situations–such as a monthly market-day–one would be so involved with reciting that blessing that one would never be able to engage in commerce.

There is another b’racha mandated by Jewish tradition when one encounters a friend that one has not seen for a year. It praises God for “giving life to the dead”. Rabbi Cooper continues: “It sounds somewhat strange to recite the blessing over the revival of the dead just because you have not seen a friend for a year; an extended absence is hardly akin to the finality of death. One early hassidic master – Rabbi Pinhas of Koretz (1726-1791) – explained the blessing in mystical terms: The joy of two people meeting creates an angel. This angel has a limited life expectancy of one year. If within this period the two meet again, the angel receives a new lease on life. Alas, after a 12-month separation between friends, the angel is no more. When friends meet again after a year-long absence, the angel is resurrected. The blessing is pronounced over the miraculous revival of their joint angel and thus the benediction over resuscitating the deceased is appropriate.”

I love that image….loving reunions engendering angels!

I had two occasions in recent months to think of the blessings that are recited, and created, by reunions. In the first instance, I received a phone-call from a first-cousin of mine whom I’d not seen in at least twenty-five years. It turns out that he has been living in Falmouth for the past six years and only recently discovered that we live in the same town! We had a wonderful reunion.

On the second occasion, I reconnected with a dear friend I had last seen in 1979. We had met when we were both unemployed, living in New York next door to one another. He was a talented young Brazilian musician and we spent many an evening on the stoop of our apartment building, making music together.

I lost touch with my friend, wondering often through the decades what had become of him. Then, last year, I opened the Boston Globe to see a photo and an article about my long-lost friend! It seems that he has been a globe-trotting street musician in the intervening decades and he often spends the summer in Boston, entertaining tourists with his music. Through a time-consuming and convoluted process we reconnected by e-mail and finally, in early June, we had our face-to-face, angel-birthing, reunion. It was extraordinary, deeply-moving and spiritually uplifting for us both.

In a Googling, Facebooking, Twittering age, it is easier than ever to track down those we’ve not seen in years. Not every long-lost friend wants to be found and not every formerly-healthy relationship can be resurrected. But I can personally attest to the power of such encounters and the potential therein to give birth to “angels” of holiness and blessing.

Reb Elias