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Thanks.. But No Thanks

Friday, 30 July, 2010 - 4:00 pm

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


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 what is commonly referred to as Birkat HaMazon or “bentching” (Grace After Meals).

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? True, the Sages infer from Psalms that it would be akin to thievery if we did not ask G-d permission before partaking of his bounty. But, nonetheless, the Torah chose to highlight the blessing after the meal by stating it explicitly, but only hinting to the obligation to recite a blessing before eating (see Pslams 24:1).


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 its spot 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 physical food, 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 recession. We got the message. Now, please allow us to thank you in times of plenty.

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