(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
In this week’s Torah portion, we continue reading Moshe Rabbeinu’s words as he guides the nation on how to preserve its Jewish faith and lifestyle even after he parts from them and they enter the Land of Israel. One of the directives that Moshe imparts to the nation is kept by the Jewish nation to this very day, and it provides one of the fundamental premises in the life of a person of faith.
Moshe tells the nation: “For the Lord your G-d is bringing you to a good land, a land with brooks of water, fountains and depths... a land of wheat and barley, vines and figs and pomegranates, a land of oil producing olives and honey... And you will eat and be sated, and you shall bless the Lord, your G-d, for the good land He has given you.” (Deuteronomy 8, 7-10) The principle expressed in these verses is that when a person enjoys the good land, he must bless G-d for this pleasure. These verses serve as the basis for Birkat Hamazon, Grace after Meals, which we say after eating bread.
But we do not make a blessing only after bread.
Our sages set blessings to be said before and after everything we eat, and also during other times when a person is amazed by the beauty of creation.
For example, when a person sees the ocean, he must bless “Blessed... Who made the great sea,” and when a person sees lightening he must bless “Blessed...
Who makes the works of creation.” We even bless special days by reciting “Blessed... Who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.” Actually, the life of a Jewish person of faith is enveloped in blessings from all directions. He is constantly blessing G-d.
In each of the blessings we recite, we thank G-d and praise Him for a phenomenon we are experiencing at that moment. Put simply, we are expressing gratitude. Just as we expect ourselves and teach our children to say thank-you to someone who does them a favor, we remember to say thank-you to G-d for every experience we experience. Saying thankyou is basic manners.
But on a more profound level, the experience itself changes because of the blessing. We all know the difference between an object we acquire for ourselves and one that we receive as a gift from a friend or spouse. We use both objects and they benefit us equally, but the experience is completely different.
When someone thinks of me and takes care of me, using the gift I received from him makes me feel good, gives me a sense of worth. Using the gift makes me feel loved.
A person can bite into an apple and enjoy the experience, and another person can bite into the apple and feel that the apple was created especially for him and was sent to him for his pleasure. The apple did not grow on the tree coincidentally and did not get to me coincidentally. It is delicious – also not coincidentally. The apple is a personal gift sent to me by G-d. And why? Because He loves me. That simple.
The sages of the Mishna said a very profound thing that we should each adopt and become accustomed to: “Every single person is obliged to say: ‘The world was created for my sake.’” (Tractate Sanhedrin, chapter 4) What does this strange sentence mean? Are we supposed to be megalomaniacs and think the entire world was created just for us? No. This is not a reflection of being megalomaniacs.
This is the expression of deep faith in a G-d that is limitlessly good and Who has faith in me and you that we are worthy of His abundance of goodness.
A person who lives with the sense that the world was created for his sake is a person inundated with love of G-d. He becomes calm, happy and beneficent.
He takes responsibility for things that occur around him. He is loved.
When a person makes a blessing over any food he puts in his mouth, he gets used to living with this amazing feeling. In light of this understanding, we can draw the conclusion that we should bless G-d for the blessings themselves.
The writer is rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites.
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