Parshas Eikev: Why We Bless

ואכלת ושבעת וברכת את ה' אלקיך על הארץ הטבה אשר נתן לך  (ח:י)

And you will eat and be sated, and you shall bless the HaShem, your God, for the good land He has given you (8:10)

In this week’s parsha, we learn about the mitzvah of birchas hamazon. Although one of the basic tenets of humanity is to know how to say thank you, and for the reason of building our character alone it would have been enough to obligate us to say thank you, there needs to be more to bentching than this. In fact, there are many opportunities in this world to show hakaras hatov to the One who is meitiv us. But does HaShem really need our thanks? Are we doing this for Him? Does the fact that HaShem commands us to bentch lessen what we are doing?

In a monumental discussion of birchas hamazon, Rabbeinu Bachye sheds light on this and on the entire concept of making brochos. He writes that the purpose of brochos was not at all meant for HaShem. HaShem has no need for our brochos. HaShem needs nothing; He has everything, and He is the mekor habrocha. Ratherthe purpose is twofold and it is for us. We are actually the winners when we make brochos.

Firstly, we are testifying to the direct involvement of HaShem in this world. We are proclaiming our recognition that it is HaShem that provides all the sustenance in this world, and without HaShem’s involvement, we would cease to exist. HaShem wants us to recognize the chessed that He does with us, and that He is the Supreme Being.

Furthermore, Rabbeinu Bachye continues, HaShem set up the world in a manner that when one makes a brocha, it brings about an equal and counterpart reaction from HaShem. When we make a brocha on a fruit, it triggers an outpouring of blessing on that particular item in the world. We are the true beneficiaries of our brochos.

The gemara in Masechta Brochos (35b) tells us that if someone has enjoyment from this world without making a brocha, he is actually stealing from HaShem and from Knesses Yisroel. He steals from HaShem by denying Him that necessary recognition that HaShem is involved in every facet of our lives. Furthermore, he steals from the people because he withholds the blessings and bounty that would have been triggered as a result of making the proper brocha.

The Dubno Maggid takes this a step further. The Gemara (ibid) teaches that this person is actually compared to, and is considered a partner of, the terrible Yaravam ben Nevat, who caused Klal Yisroel to do aveiros and ruined the relationship between us and HaShem. The Maggid explains this Gemara as follows: Assuming that the purpose of the brocha is to acknowledge HaShem, why are we particular about which brocha is the correct one? If one says the wrong one, he has not fulfilled his obligation. But why should it make a difference, after all, he is still expressing honor to HaShem? Quoting the Shelah HaKadosh, the Maggid explains the same yesod that we mentioned above: brochos bring down to this world further power of growth. When making a brocha on an apple, all the apples of the world are improved. But when making the incorrect brocha, the trigger for those foods is not “pulled”. Accordingly, we now understand the gemara. We are stealing from HaShem the potential of giving further blessing and bounty to the world. We are stealing from knesses Yisroel because next year the apples will not grow as well as they could have, lacking the blessings from HaShem. Furthermore, this compares to Yeravam because not only are we not making our own brocha, but we are ruining it for everyone else as well. This can be compared to one that borrows and does not pay back. The lender no longer wants to extend credit, to him or to anyone else. So too, when we make brochos, HaShem “wants” to give us more in the future. Conversely, when one doesn’t make the bracha, HaShem won’t give to this person or to the others.

No man is an island! We all have a responsibility to one another. With all the emphasis in the world on “Tikkun Olam”, perhaps one of the greatest, if not “the” greatest, thing that we can do in doing our part is to make a brocha on the great bounty that HaShem continuously bestows upon us. By giving HaShem that brocha, we are actually giving to ourselves.

Good Shabbos, מרדכי אפפעל