02 Aug 2018 Parshas Eikev: With Blessing and Thanks
In this week’s parsha, Parshas Eikev, we are commanded regarding a mitzvah which is an integral part of our daily routine. In regard to blessing Hashem after meals, the pasuk says: וְאָכַלְתָּ֖ וְשָׂבָ֑עְתָּ וּבֵֽרַכְתָּ֙ אֶת ה’ אלקיך עַל־הָאָ֥רֶץ הַטֹּבָ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר נָֽתַן־לָֽךְ – And 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). From here, the Sages learn (Brachos 21a) that Grace after Meals is a mitzvah d’Oraisa (biblically mandated commandment).
While we are human beings of flesh and blood, living in a very gashmius (physical) world, Hashem wants us to be ever cognizant of Who this world belongs to. We are mere sojourners and tenants, while He is the All-Encompassing Creator, Sustainer and Owner of all. Blessing Hashem for all that we have ensures that we remember that all that we have is not ours, but His.
In last week’s haftorah, we read: שְׂאוּ-מָרוֹם עֵינֵיכֶם וּרְאוּ מִי-בָרָא אֵלֶּה, הַמּוֹצִיא בְמִסְפָּר צְבָאָם; לְכֻלָּם, בְּשֵׁם יִקְרָא, מֵרֹב אוֹנִים וְאַמִּיץ כֹּחַ, אִישׁ לֹא נֶעְדָּר – Lift your eyes on high and see Who created these, Who takes out their host by number; all of them He calls by name; because of His great might and because He is strong in power, not one is missing (Yeshayahu 40:26).
In regard to Avraham Avinu (our forefather), the pasuk says: וַיִּטַּ֥ע אֶ֖שֶׁל בִּבְאֵ֣ר שָׁ֑בַע וַיִּ֨קְרָא־שָׁ֔ם בְּשֵׁ֥ם ה’ קל עוֹלָֽם – and he (Avraham) planted an Eishel in Be’er Sheva, and he called there in the Name of Hashem, the G-d of the world (Bereishis 21:33).
Rashi (ibid) teaches: ויקרא שם וגו’. עַל יְדֵי אוֹתוֹ אֵשֶׁל נִקְרָא שְׁמוֹ שֶׁל הַקָּבָּ”ה קל לְכָל הָעוֹלָם, לְאַחַר שֶׁאוֹכְלִים וְשׁוֹתִים אוֹמֵר לָהֶם בָּרְכוּ לְמִי שֶׁאֲכַלְתֶּם מִשֶּׁלּוֹ, סְבוּרִים אַתֶּם שֶׁמִּשֶּׁלִּי אֲכַלְתֶּם? מִשֶּׁל מִי שֶׁאָמָר וְהָיָה הָעוֹלָם אֲכַלְתֶּם – Through this Eishel, the Name of Hashem was called ‘G-d of the whole world.’ For after Avraham’s guests would eat and drink, he would say to them: Bless He from Whom you have eaten! Do you think you have eaten from what is mine? You have eaten from the One who spoke and created the world!
The institution of giving thanks for our food was introduced by our first forefather, and later enacted as Torah law in our parsha.
Woe to he who forgets the Source of all that nature offers us; woe to he who denies his Provider and Sustainer; woe to he who erroneously believes his success is wrought by his own hands. Each and every morsel of food is a wonder of nature, a miracle of G-d Himself, Who, in His Infinite Kindness, sustains us with the bounty of this world. Blessing Hashem (before and) after we eat is an ever-present reminder that we live only by the grace of G-d.
In regard to the recitation of brachos over natural phenomenon, R’ Soloveitchik teaches, “We are commanded to utter a benediction over every cosmic phenomenon: over the afterglow of the fiery sunset and the purple of the sunrise trickling along the mountaintops; over the rising moon sprinkling its pale light; over the stars in their course and the comets leaping from clear space; over the sight of the rainbow in the clouds; over the thunder and lightning arising from mist; over the budding trees and the sweet-smelling exquisite flowers; over the murmur of the ocean and the rushing of the surf; upon eating water and bread, the fruits of the trees and the crops of the fields; over the healthy body, created with wisdom, with its muscles and nerves; over the ability to move and to stand erect.
“In short, we utter a benediction over everything man encounters that demonstrates the power of creation. What is a benediction – whether birkas hanehenin, a blessing over something we imbibe, or birkas re’iyah, a blessing over something we behold – if not praise and thanksgiving to G-d for the nature of the world, a nature that changes, in the instant that the benediction is uttered, into a supernatural, miraculous universe; if not the redemption of nature from its muteness, deprivation, and solitude…
“What does the benediction attest to if not the strange fact that – in spite of the psychological law that habit and custom dull the subtleties of feeling, dim the alertness of the intellect, and extinguish the flame of ecstasy – the Jew is enthusiastic about each and every phenomenon?” (Chumash Masores HaRav, Devarim, p.38-39)
One wintry evening, the Malbim (Meir Leibush ben Yehiel Michel Wisser, 1809-1879, Ukraine) told his family that they should get an early night, as he would be waking them up early in the morning to greet a special guest. The next morning, while it was still dark out, after waking his family, the Malbim told them to dress in their Shabbos clothing. Intrigued, they dressed in their Shabbos finest and listened, as their father spoke about the special visitor who was coming.
He led them out of the house where they were to wait patiently for the guest to arrive. After a short while, the Malbim pointed and said, “Look, look, over there!” His family looked ahead, but did not see anyone coming. The Malbim pointed again and said, “Look up there, don’t you see the sun rising!? Just look how beautiful and amazing that is. What a majestic sight to behold!”
After a few minutes of watching the sunrise, he brought his confused family back inside. He explained to them that just because the sun can be relied on to rise every single morning without exception, we must still make sure to appreciate it and not take it for granted. We must appreciate just how much we gain from the sun on a daily basis; and we must never take Hashem’s kindness, wonders, miracles, and world, for granted (Portraits of Prayer, by R’ E.L. Abish, Israel Bookshop, p.262-263).
וְאָכַלְתָּ֖ וְשָׂבָ֑עְתָּ וּבֵֽרַכְתָּ֙ אֶת ה’ אלקיך עַל־הָאָ֥רֶץ הַטֹּבָ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר נָֽתַן־לָֽךְ – We should eat, and we should be satiated, and we should enjoy the wonders, beauty and miracles of this world. And for all of this, we must be sure to give thanks and bless He Who spoke and created the world.
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,