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ב"ה

Thanks... But No Thanks!

Friday, 30 July, 2021 - 7:43 am

Many scholars have observed that the pandemic has taught many a person the true values of life. We no longer take our health, social interaction, or retirement nest egg for granted.  We listen a little more to the sorrows and challenges of others.  Certainly, there is a silver lining to the pandemic.

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In this week’s portion of Eikev the Torah instructs us to thank G-d after we have eaten, as it is written, “And you will eat and be sated, and you shall bless the L-rd, your G-d, for the good land He has given you.”  This is the Biblical command for the Grace After Meals, commonly referred to as Birkat HaMazon in Hebrew or bentching in Yiddish.

The Sages added to this obligation stating, “One should not derive benefit from this world without first reciting a blessing.”  Thus the obligation to say a blessing prior to eating was instituted.

Why, we might wonder, does the Torah instruct us to thank G-d after meals and not before

The Sages later decreed - inferring from Psalms Chapter 24 – that it would be akin to thievery if we did not ask G-d permission before partaking of his bounty.  In short, blessings after eating are of Biblical origin, while the blessings before food (such as Hamotzee lechem min ha’aretz before bread) are of Rabbinic origin (based on a verse in Psalms).

Yet the question remains. Why does the Torah choose to highlight the blessing after the meal by stating it explicitly, yet leaving the Rabbis to unearth the cryptic message of blessing before eating?

***

A businessman was once running late to a very important meeting. He stood the chance of making several million dollars if the deal went through. And now it was just five minutes before his scheduled appointment at 1:00.  He pulls into the parking lot of the office building and – there isn’t a spot in sight.  He circles around to no avail.

“Please,” he calls out to G-d, “if you get me a parking spot in the next two minutes I’ll donate $100,000 to charity.”  A whole minute goes by and still no place to park his car.

“All right G-d, I’ll contribute 10% of profits from the deal.”

No spot.

Thirty seconds go by.  “I’ll give half a million dollars to tzedaka if You get me a parking spot before it’s too late!”

Suddenly a car backs out of the spot immediately in front of him and zooms out of the parking lot. Instantly he pulls in to the spot and calls out, “Thanks anyway G-d, but I found one myself.”

***

It’s easy to thank G-d and to recognize our dependence on him when things are tough.  When we are “hungry” we naturally turn to G-d to ask for food – be it food, physical well-being, material prosperity or spiritual wealth.  But once we are sated, it’s a different story.  When our stomachs (or pockets) are full we often forget about where it all came from.

So the Torah tells us to thank G-d when we are susceptible to forgetting about Him.  If we remember the source of our goodness in times of prosperity, we stand a much greater chance of doing so in times of need.

***

So, my Dear G-d, thanks for the reminder via the current pandemic.  We got the message. Now, please allow us to thank you in times of plenty.

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