Parshas Eikev – And You Shall Bless Hashem Your G-d

In this week’s poetically stirring and masterful parsha, as transmitted to us by Moshe Rabbeinu, we have the well-known mitzvah of birkat ha’mazon, grace after meals (“bentching” after a bread meal).  The Torah tells us: וְאָכַלְתָּ, וְשָׂבָעְתָּוּבֵרַכְתָּ אֶתהאֱלֹקיךָ, עַלהָאָרֶץ הַטֹּבָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַןלָךְand you will eat and be satisfied, and you shall bless Hashem, your G-d, for the good land He has given you (Devarim 8:10).

Chazal teach (Brachos 20b): 

אָמְרוּ מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁרֵת לִפְנֵי הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא: רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם, כָּתוּב בְּתוֹרָתֶךָ ״אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִשָּׂא פָנִים וְלֹא יִקַּח שֹׁחַד״, וַהֲלֹא אַתָּה נוֹשֵׂא פָּנִים לְיִשְׂרָאֵל, דִּכְתִיב: ״יִשָּׂא ה׳ פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ״? אָמַר לָהֶם: וְכִי לֹא אֶשָּׂא פָּנִים לְיִשְׂרָאֵל, שֶׁכָּתַבְתִּי לָהֶם בַּתּוֹרָה ״וְאָכַלְתָּ וְשָׂבָעְתָּ וּבֵרַכְתָּ אֶת ה׳ אֱלֹקיךָ״, וְהֵם מְדַקְדְּקִים [עַל] עַצְמָם עַד כְּזַיִת וְעַד כְּבֵיצָה

The ministering angels said before the Holy One, Blessed be He: Master of the Universe, in Your Torah it is written: “The great, mighty and awesome God who favors no one and takes no bribe” (Devarim 10:17, Parshas Eikev), yet You, nevertheless, show favor to Israel, as it is written: “The Lord shall show favor to you and give you peace” (Bamidbar 6:26). He replied to them: And how can I not show favor to Israel, as I wrote for them in the Torah: “And you shall eat and be satisfied, and bless the L-rd your G-d” (Devarim 8:10), meaning that there is no obligation to bless the L-rd until one is satiated; yet they are exacting with themselves to recite Grace after Meals even if they have eaten as much as an olive-bulk or an egg-bulk. Since they go beyond the requirements of the law, they are worthy of favor.

Since we bless and praise Hashem for all that we have – from satiation from a meal the size of an olive or the size of an egg – Hashem shows us favor in return. 

And yet… When we have eaten to satiation, when we are filled with the bounty of the Land, man is called upon to recognize the Source of all goodness, and to bless the One Who sustains us each and every day.  However, what does it mean וּבֵרַכְתָּ, and you shall bless Hashem your G-d?  Does Infinity need the blessings of finitude?  Does the Ein Sof (Eternal) require blessings of mortal man?  How can the mitzvah to bless G-d be understood, and what is the purpose of our blessing Hashem?

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, the Rav zt’l, powerfully teaches, “What does it mean to bless G-d?  How can flesh and blood, temporal man, referred to in the liturgy as ‘a fading flower,’ ‘a broken shard,’ ‘a fleeting cloud,’ approach the everlasting King of Kings, the Creator of the world, and say Baruch Atah Hashem, blessed are You, Hashem?

“The answer is that man must provide ‘assistance,’ as it were, to the Master of the Universe.  Man must ‘help’ G-d to reveal His presence in the world.  The Shechinah, the Divine Presence, resides with us on earth… We encounter the Shechina continually.  Yet G-d is not clearly revealed to us; He is hidden from view; Behold I come to you in the thickness of the cloud (Shemos 19:9).  He is indeed close, but He does not reveal Himself; He is hidden from the world.  He dwells concealed… in the shadow (Tehillim 91:1).  G-d is in close proximity to man, so close that man can almost touch Him, but not everyone can penetrate the cloud to reveal Him.

“The obscuring cloud takes on any number of guises.  For the physicist, the cloud is a mathematical formula.  For the biologist, it is a biochemical reaction.  For the physiologist, it is an instinct; for the psychologist, a drive; for the general, the power of his army.  The cloud is any manifestation of nature or man that promotes the illusion that the world operates autonomously, concealing the reality that G-d is responsible for all that occurs on earth.

“G-d can decide to disperse the obscuring clouds, and occasionally in history He chooses to reveal himself and proclaim: ‘I am the L-rd your G-d.’  More often, however, G-d remains obscure, a G-d Whose abode is transcendence.

“When one recites a bracha, he is in essence saying: ‘Master of the Universe, You are hidden behind a cloud; no one sees You.  Yet, as I drink this glass of water, I reveal Your presence.  The very fact that I can eat, that my body absorbs food, that I can digest, indeed the entire biological process behind food consumption and the creation of food itself, is testimony to Your presence.  Through this recognition I am removing the obscuring cloud: I am revealing You.’

“Blessings are addressed to G-d in the second person: ‘Blessed are You,’ rather than ‘Blessed is He,’ to affirm G-d’s very presence before us; as if to say, ‘Where are You, G-d?  You are right here with me!  How do I know?  Because Your presence is evident in this water I am about to drink!’  The purpose of a bracha is to transform the Hidden into Presence; through use of the second person singular, we reveal the Divine Presence directly in front of us” (Chumash Masores HaRav, Devarim, p.74-75).  

What a powerful and profound teaching and insight into our daily routine of brachos which we recite countless times a day!  From the brachos that we recite before we eat, to those we say after the meal; from the blessings upon thunder and lightning to that said upon seeing a rainbow; from the bracha we say after using the facilities to the one we say before going to sleep at night.  

Baruch Atah Hashem, blessed are You, Hashem”… with these three words we reveal the Presence of G-d in our world and in our lives.  

,בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום


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