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The Unusual Looking Man

The Unusual Looking Man

The surprising impact one blessing can make.

by I. Batsheva

For most of my life as an assimilated American Jew, the only blessings I knew were the ones for bread, wine, and candle lighting. But one day, when I was browsing in a bookstore, a volume devoted entirely to Jewish blessings drew itself to my attention.

To my astonishment and delight there was a rich array of blessings -- for everything from rainbows to scholars to oceans. There were blessings to be said upon hearing good news or thunder; for experiencing an earthquake, or seeing a comet; for learning especially good news, or the opposite. Among others, there was also a blessing to be said upon seeing exceptionally beautiful creations, and one reserved for the exceptionally strange.

This one impressed me deeply and I read it over a number of times:

"Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, who varies the forms of His many creatures."

Weeks later I was walking with my 8-year-old daughter on a city street, when in the distance we noticed a man approaching -- his unusual silhouette accentuated by the harsh light of the noonday sun. He was uncommonly tall, seven feet or more, and rail thin. But this was not the strangest thing about his distinctive form.

His exceedingly long legs were as bowed as McDonald's golden arch, and by contrast, his small body perched on top as though an afterthought. My daughter squeezed my hand and pointed. "Look at that man!" she exclaimed. I pulled in my breath. How could I respond? He was coming closer towards us on the broad sidewalk.

Then I remembered the blessing. "When you see an unusual looking person, it's a wonderful chance to do something special," I whispered. "Let's say a blessing."

I wasn't prepared for the immediate and powerful effect of the blessing's few simple words. My shoulders immediately released and my breath relaxed -- as though a heavy weight had been lifted.

As this exceptional man passed by, a glow of affection for him flushed through me. Something, it seems, had shifted inside. In an instant everything about this extraordinary human being, his very existence, and our seeing him on this bright fall day had been made right.

October 14, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 9

(9) jennifer, December 31, 2008 1:34 AM

Maybe the "unusual looking" man felt he wasn't unusual-looking at all. Ever think about that?

(8) Jane LaLone, June 22, 2008 1:44 PM

A Smile is the best blessing

God would me more pleased by a smile given sincerely to someone very different. The bessing is nice, but asmile is God's best silent prayer, and actually, the best of all prayers!

(7) ZK, October 18, 2006 1:14 PM

What a wonderful lesson

What a valuable lesson to be able to give a small child. What a wonderful thing to realize that we have guidelines to help us get through all circumstances, and reasons to appreciate all of G-d's creations.

(6) AnnafromNewZealand, October 16, 2006 5:45 PM

Me, too

When I lived in our capital city, I used to see a man who was also, to put it charitably, unusual looking. He was also very tall, probably nearer 7' than 6'. His height was obviously the result of a medical or genetic condition; he never looked at ease in his body. Many tall men carry their height with casual grace, but he didn't, his hands, feet, head all seemed like burdens. His face was slablike, as it is with a condition whose name I forget-sort of like Frankenstein's monster. He was always alone & always looked sad & lonely. He was obviously intellectually as well as physically handicapped, poor boy.

I saw him occasionally, shuffling along, never making eye contact with anyone, always shabby and unkempt, with his sleeves and trouser legs at half-mast.

Then one day I saw him coming out of a building as I was going in. His head was high, his smile was ear to ear, he looked transformed ! He had a girl ! He was holding her hand in his huge one as gently as you'd hold a baby's hand. She was obviously mentally handicapped also, her head drooped and she was ill-dressed and plainfaced-to anyone else.To him, I guess she was the loveliest girl in the world and the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to him. He couldn't have been more delighted to have Miss World on his arm. His big smile encompassed us all'Look at my girlfriend !' it seemed to say. You had to smile back and send good wishes their way.

I never saw them again. I don't know what happened to them, but hope that they are still together. They looked so happy together. What a miracle that they found each other. Miracles do happen !

(5) ChanaLevi, October 16, 2006 2:33 PM


Here in Israel if one is to say such a blessing upon seeing an unusual-looking person, one should say it as quietly as possible so the person will not hear you and be insulted or hurt. Once my young daughter and I saw a very strange-looking woman in the supermarket. In fact, she looked like ET. We said the blessing in the next aisle so she wouldn't hear us. But surely Hashem did.

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