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Rabb's Blog - Eikev: Eat, Pray, Love

08/04/2023 11:30:18 AM



Greetings from Netanya,

This week’s Torah reading contains two of our most common daily Mitzvot, to pray and to bless God after eating. The essence of prayer is to recognize God’s majesty and to acknowledge God as the source of the fulfillment of all our needs.

Benching after food is an expression of gratitude for what we just ate, as well as for everything we have. God certainly does not need our blessings, but our daily acknowledgments recognize how blessed we are. This is why we recite blessings early in the morning to show appreciation for our ability to see, stand up straight and walk, and to enjoy the basic abilities to function in our daily activities.

The Gemara considers that we can derive the Mitzva to make blessings on food before eating from a kal v’chomer. If we are commanded to bless God when we are satiated (after we eat),
then surely we should bless God when we are hungry ( before we eat).

The Gemara uses inverted logic when discussing the blessings on learning Torah. The Mitzva is to make a Bracha before learning or getting an Aliyah, and the Gemara derives a Bracha afterwards from logic. If a Bracha is warranted before we have been enlightened by God’s word, how much more so must we make a Bracha after we have been so enlightened.

We may wonder why eating and learning warrant such dichotomous logical deductions.

When we expect to fulfill a material need like eating, sometimes the anticipation is even more exciting than the event itself. We can spend weeks or even months in exciting anticipation of an event that lasts but a few hours.

The opposite is true of spiritual pursuits. Most people don’t raise the similar anticipation for such activities. They are more difficult to inculcate and don’t come as naturally. However, the rewards can be so much greater especially if we become accustomed to performing them. The prospect of completing another Masechta leaves one with lasting joy that is represented by the after-Bracha.
The same is true for one who performs Chesed, a Hatzala member who saves a life, or someone who brightens the life of a lonely person. In these cases the event itself may take a short time, but has lasting effects for weeks, months or even years.

When we make a Bracha before eating we imbue a material act with a spiritual component that raises the level of daily activities. This becomes second nature when we make Brachos on thunder, lightning, rainbows, or on hearing good or bad news, or buying new clothes.

We combined these yesterday when we made the special Bracha upon seeing the Mediterranean Sea, known as Yam Hagadol. It gets this name by bordering the greatest country on Earth.
(I am looking at it as I’m writing this.)

Where else would the mayors of three of the country’s largest cities be Meir, Aliza and Miriam?
(We heard that Miriam went to Beis Yaacov!).

I have special regards from Yehudit and Rikki Cohn at Beit Elazraki. They just took in 37 new children. This Shabbos is the graduation Shabbatone. It’s amazing how they mold these children into well-adjusted happy and confident adults. It’s a zechus to be here.

Have a great Shabbos.

Stay well and healthy.

Rabbi Allen Schwartz

Sat, September 30 2023 15 Tishrei 5784