Brachot and Building a Better World: Parshat Eikev
1א

Blessings in Parshat Eikev

2ב
(יג) וַאֲהֵבְךָ וּבֵרַכְךָ וְהִרְבֶּךָ וּבֵרַךְ פְּרִי בִטְנְךָ וּפְרִי אַדְמָתֶךָ דְּגָנְךָ וְתִירֹשְׁךָ וְיִצְהָרֶךָ שְׁגַר אֲלָפֶיךָ וְעַשְׁתְּרֹת צֹאנֶךָ עַל הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ לָתֶת לָךְ.

(13) and He will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee; He will also bless the fruit of thy body and the fruit of thy land, thy corn and thy wine and thine oil, the increase of thy kine and the young of thy flock, in the land which He swore unto thy fathers to give thee.

3ג

(י) וְאָכַלְתָּ וְשָׂבָעְתָּ וּבֵרַכְתָּ אֶת ה׳ אֱלֹהֶיךָ עַל הָאָרֶץ הַטֹּבָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לָךְ.

(10) And thou shalt eat and be satisfied, and bless the LORD thy God for the good land which He hath given thee.

4ד
(טז) הַמַּאֲכִלְךָ מָן בַּמִּדְבָּר אֲשֶׁר לֹא יָדְעוּן אֲבֹתֶיךָ לְמַעַן עַנֹּתְךָ וּלְמַעַן נַסֹּתֶךָ לְהֵיטִבְךָ בְּאַחֲרִיתֶךָ. (יז) וְאָמַרְתָּ בִּלְבָבֶךָ כֹּחִי וְעֹצֶם יָדִי עָשָׂה לִי אֶת הַחַיִל הַזֶּה.

(16) who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that He might afflict thee, and that He might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end; (17) and thou say in thy heart: ‘My power and the might of my hand hath gotten me this wealth.’

5ה

Birkat HaMazon

TB Mashechet Brachot 35a
6ו

רבי לוי רמי כתיב: "לה‘ הארץ ומלואה" וכתיב "השמים שמים לה‘ והארץ נתן לבני אדם." לא קשיא! כאן קודם ברכה כאן לאחר ברכה...

אמר רבי חנינא בר פפא כל הנהנה מן העולם הזה בלא ברכה כאילו גוזל להקב“ה...

Rabbi Levi contrasted two verses. One states,“The world and all that is contained within it belongs to God.” Another verse says, “The heavens belong to God, but the earth He gave to man.” He resolved the contradiction by stating that one verse refers to the status of the world before reciting a Bracha and the other to after its recitation.


Said Rabbi Chanina Bar Pappa: When someone derives enjoyment from this world without a Bracha, it is tantamount to stealing from God…

7ז

(א) ואמר ואכלת ושבעת וברכת - כי תזכור עבודת מצרים ועינוי המדבר, וכאשר תאכל ותשבע בארץ הטובה תברך עליה את השם.

...as it is written, "and thou shalt eat and be satisfied, and bless"--because you will remember the slavery of mitzrayim and the difficulties of the midbar, and when you eat and are satisfied in a Good Land you will Bless Hashem's name.

8ח

The Power of Brachot

9ט

"Indifference to the sublime wonders of living is the root of sin"

Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism, 43

10י

האי מאן דבעי למהוי חסידא לקיים מילי דנזיקין רבא אמר מילי דאבות ואמרי ל מילי דברכות:

One who wishes to be pious, should fulfill the words of "damages". Rava said: [This refers to] the stuff of Avot. And some say, The stuff of Berachot.

11יא

הברכה הנאמרת קודם האכילה מבטאת את קבלת ההתחייבות שתוספת הכח שנזכה בה ע“י האכילה תנוצל לעבודת ה‘, ורק בזכות התחייבות זה נהיה ראויים לאכילה.

R' Samson Raphael Hirsch, Deut. 8:10

A Bracha said before partaking of any pleasure expresses the resolution that we will employ any renewed vital energy gained from this pleasure, to serve God’s purposes. Only if we make this resolution will we become worthy of enjoying that pleasure.

12יב

איך ובמה רואים את ה‘ ממש? בהכרת טובתו ובהודאה. מנפלאות תקנות חז“ל להעמידנו תמיד על יד היצירה. אין כלל עולם מגובש ועתיק לפנינו. אלא יום יום,
שעה שעה, בריאה חדשה. כל אשר עינינו רואות וכל הנאה שאנו טועמים- בריאה חדשה אשר הושיט לנו הבורא מהאין כדי שנכיר חסדו עלינו וחכמתו... עולם
כזה המתחדש לפני עינינו יום יום אינו מעלה חלודת שיגרה.

Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe

Alei Shur Vol. I, p.112

How does one come to “see” God? Through recognizing His goodness and praising Him for it. One of the wondrous achievements of the Sages was to ensure the continued awareness of the “Hand of Creation.” The world before us is neither fully developed nor completed. Rather, day by day, hour by hour, creation is renewed. All that our eyes see and every pleasure we taste is a new creation which God has created from nothingness to

bestow upon us, so that we realize His kindness and His wisdom… A world like this, which is renewed before our eyes day in and day out, ensures that we do not become rusty [in our acknowledgement of God] due to monotony.

13יג

וממה שיוסיף לו עריבות על עריבות שיברך תמיד...ההזדמנות להנאה והרגשתה ושיחשוב בהעדרה קודם לכן כופל ההנאה. וזה מתועלת הברכה למי שהוא רגיל בהם בכונה והכנה... כמו שאתה אומר ”שהחיינו
וקיימנו“ וכבר היית מזומן למות... ויקל בעיניך החוליוהמות כאשר יבא מפני שכבר חשבת עם נפשך וראית... שאתה ראוי להעדר ממך כל טוב בטבעך...ותהיה נהנה כל ימיך.

Kuzari, 3:13,17

The constant practice of Brachot will add
sweetness to sweetness…Readiness for receiving pleasure, as well as imagining its absence, together result in doubled pleasure. This is one of the benefits for those who are accustomed to saying Brachot with thought and mental preparation…For example, the Bracha “Who has given us life and sustained us” automatically entertains the possibility of the absence of life…and therefore illness and death are easier to bear,
because they have already been considered…and you will ultimately realize that by rights you deserve no goodness…and then you will enjoy all your days on earth.

14יד

(ו) וכל הברכות כולן נאמרין בכל לשון והוא שיאמר כעין שתקנו חכמים ואם שינה את המטבע הואיל והזכיר אזכרה ומלכות וענין הברכה אפילו בלשון חול יצא.

All the blessings may be recited in any language, provided one recites [a translation of] the text ordained by the Sages. [A person who] changes that text fulfills his obligation nonetheless - since he mentioned God's name, His sovereignty, and the subject of the blessing - although he did so in a ordinary language.

15טו

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Blessings and Prayers on Social Justice

Given the wide range of blessings included in the Jewish liturgy, we might be surprised that there are no blessings for performing ethical commandments, such as giving tzedakah, freeing hostages, or feeding the hungry. There are a few traditional explanations for this absence. First, poverty is understood to involve degradation. Since blessings are meant to celebrate the positive, there is a disinclination to recite blessings over degradation. Second, we generally say blessings over actions that we intend to complete immediately. Once we have lit Shabbat candles and recited the appropriate blessing, we have completed the mitzvah of lighting candles. We say a blessing over eating matzah on Passover and immediately fulfill the mitzvah of eating matzah. But we almost never discharge our obligations in regard to ethical mitzvot. No matter how muchtzedakah we give, we will probably never succeed in fulfilling the obligation to provide for all of the needs of the poor. Even if we feed the hungry this week, we have not solved the problem of hunger.

Rabbi David ben R. Yosef Aboudraham, a fourteenth-century Spanish liturgical scholar, offers one additional reason for not saying blessings before giving tzedakah. The poor person, he writes, has the option to accept or to reject the gift. Reciting a blessing indicates an assumption that the action will be completed. Since the recipient may reject the offered assistance, a person who gives tzedakah can never be sure that he or she will, in fact, complete the deed. This explanation acknowledges the agency of the poor in the practice of tzedakah….

16טז

"Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement… get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed." --Abraham Joshua Heschel

17יז

Questions for Discussion:

How can we strive to fill our physical world with blessings--inside and outside of the structure we have in our liturgy?

How does verbalizing a blessing help to create a better world?

Is there such thing as an "incorrect" blessing? Why? Why not?