Thursday, August 21, 2008

141 - Eikev

"R' Meir would say, 'A person is obligated to make one hundred blessings every day as the pasuk states, 'What (mah) does Hashem ask of you except that you should fear Him (Devarim 10, 12)?' Do not read the pasuk 'mah' - what, rather 'me'ah' - one hundred'" (Menachos 43b). The Torah is informing us that the purpose of our avodah is to bring us to fear Hashem. Our Sages revealed a specific way to reach this objective: the recitation of brachos on a daily basis. How exactly does one's recitation of blessings bring him to fear Hashem?

Rav Wolbe explains (Alei Shur vol. II pg. 314) that for one to fulfill his obligation, he must mention both Hashem and His Kingship in every single bracha. Moreover, if he said "Melech" - the King, but left out the word "ha'olam" - of the world, he has also not fulfilled his obligation, for a king without a kingdom cannot be considered a king. Therefore, every single blessing contains recognition of the Heavenly Kingship. Additionally, many brachos continue, "the Creator of " which gives us another opportunity to strengthen our emunah with the knowledge that He is the One Who created the universe and all it contains. If a person would reflect on the blessings instead of blurting them out of his mouth, one hundred blessings a day would be a more than sufficient means of bringing him to yiras shamayim.

Rav Wolbe continues, revealing the depth behind the blessings. The Gemara (Yerushalmi Brachos 6, 1) states, "It is written, 'To Hashem belong the land and its contents, the earth and its inhabitants.' One who partakes of pleasure from this world before the mitzvos (i.e. brachos) permit it, is guilty of m'eilah. Rav Avaho said, 'The world is similar to a holy vineyard [which requires one to redeem its grapes]. What must be done to redeem the world's pleasures? One must make a bracha."

This gives us a new outlook on the entire world. According to the first explanation in the Gemara, the world is comparable to a sacrifice which requires the sprinkling of its blood in order to permit the kohanim to partake of the animal. Likewise, the world is holy and, therefore, we are forbidden to indulge in its pleasures before making a bracha which permits us to enjoy them (despite the fact that they still retain their holiness - just like the analogous sacrifice). According to the second explanation, the bracha acts as redemption for the pleasure. We 'give', so to speak, the bracha in return for the pleasure (thereby removing the holiness from the pleasure, just as the holiness is removed from the vineyard after the redemption process). However, both explanations are based on the idea that this world is in reality kodshei shamayim and it was given to us as a catalyst to bless Hashem. One hundred brachos a day gives us one hundred opportunities to arouse ourselves toward the realization that we live in a holy world and we must not indulge before we bless the Creator.

As with all aspects of growth, one can't work on too much at once. Let us try to concentrate on the bracha of "hamotzi lechem min ha'aretz." Instead of blurting it out, picture stalks of wheat swaying in the breeze and acknowledge the fact that the bread came to you from the hand of the Creator.

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