Eikev 5778

Rabbi Meshulum Yehuda Klugmann

ואכלת ושבעת וברכת את ה’ אלוקיך (דברים ח:י)

You will eat and be sated, and bless G-d (Devarim 8:10)

The Torah commands a Jew to bless G-d after he has eaten his fill. One can assume that he is simply expressing his appreciation over the satisfying meal he had just enjoyed. A deeper examination of the words, however, reveals a much more encompassing blessing. It begins with praise and gratitude not merely for the meal just consumed, but also for the fact that G-d nourishes all of Creation. It then continues with words of thanks for all He has done for Klal Yisrael as a nation: He took us out of Egypt, gave us the land of Israel, Torah, Mitzvos, and Bris Milah. The blessing continues with an appeal for Bnei Yisrael, Jerusalem, and the rebuilt Beis HaMikdash.

The meal is what necessitates a blessing. Why does it not suffice to give thanks for that alone?

One can also wonder about the choice of the word “וברכת”. The word וברכת implies that you will bless on your own. The word “ותברך”, “and you should  bless”, would seem to be more suitable! (See Ramban ibid.).

The Torah spells out the obligation to give thanks after one has been sated. The question arises: must we express our gratitude before we begin eating? Rav Yishmael (Brachos 48b) deduces with a קל וחומר that if one must bless G-d when he is satiated, then he most certainly must do so when he desires to partake of G-d’s food.

In a similar vein, Rav Yochanan then explains that one must make a Bracha when he finishes learning Torah. If one is required to bless G-d for food, for nourishment of a fleeting life, he must also do so for His Torah, the provisions for eternity.

The Meshech Chochma points out that the Gemara (Brachos 21a) seems to conclude that these deductions do not necessarily follow. One is only biblically obligated to Bentch after his meal. Where is the flaw in the קל וחומר?

The Meshech Chochma explains that if the requirement of Birchas HaMazon was simply a requirement to give thanks for what we have received, the קל וחומר would be valid. It would seem, then, that there is more to this commandment than meets the eye.

Examination of the subsequent Pesukim sheds light on the matter. The Torah (Devarim 8:12-17) warns of forgetting G-d and not keeping his commandments, “lest you eat and be satiated, build nice houses, and amass great wealth. You will become haughty and forget G-d who has taken you out of Egypt, who gave you the Manna in the desert and water from a rock. You will say it was your ingenuity which procured for you all that you have.” Rashi (ibid) explains that by nature, one will rebel only when he is satisfied.

In order to save us from this calamity, the Torah gives Bnei Yisrael a lifeline in the form of Birchas HaMazon. We recite Birchas HaMazon to remind us that the contentment we feel is not our own doing. We affirm our appreciation for all the good G-d has done and continues to do for us all. We reiterate this acknowledgement by appealing for Israel, Jerusalem, and the Beis HaMikdash.

The objective of Birchas HaMazon is to be conscious of the fact that everything that exists comes from G-d. When one internalizes this truth, he will automatically break out in songs of gratitude. For this reason, the Torah uses the word “וברכת”, “and you will bless.”

Therefore, there is now no longer a קל וחומר dictating a requirement to bless before the meal. When one is hungry, he is aware of the source of his food. Only after he is satiated is there room for concern. Consequently, he may not be required to bless before his meal, even though he must do so afterwards. (There is a well-known anecdote of a fellow who desperately needed a parking spot. In his desperation he made many promises to G-d, if only he would find a spot. Just then, a car vacates the spot directly in front of him. “Forget it, G-d,” he mutters. “I’ve already found a spot.”)

Similarly, one might not be obligated to make a blessing when he concludes his Torah study. When studied properly, the Torah has the power to protect. We must, however, make a Bracha when we begin, to ensure that it is studied with the proper frame of mind.


Rabbi Shmuel Kleinbart

ואמרת בלבבך כוחי ועוצם ידי עשה לי את החיל הזה… וזכרת את ה’ אלקיך כי הוא הנותן לך כח לעשות חיל (דברים ח:יז-יח)

“…And you will say in your heart, ‘My strength and the power of my hand is what brought me this victory.’ And you shall remember that it is Hashem who has given you the strength to be victorious” (Devarim 8:17-18)

The Pesukim are referring to the time when the Jews will have already settled in Eretz Yisrael and will enjoy the goodness of the land, without even having to have worked for it. The Torah warns that such a situation is prone to haughtiness, and therefore warns the Jews to be circumspect with their feelings and not forget that Hashem is the One who has brought them their success. This prohibition of not forgetting that one’s success comes from Hashem pertains to every aspect of a Jew’s life (Sotah 4b; Sma”g 63), but most prominently to being successful at work.

The challenge arises when this is put into practical terms. When it comes to earning a livelihood, people are faced with a paradox. On the one hand, the Chovos Halevavos says (Sha’ar Habitachon Ch. 3-4) that a man must not rely solely on Bitachon, trust in Hashem, but must intercede on his own behalf with a work activity as well. On the other hand, the Pasuk here clearly states that one must not attribute success to his own actions but to Hashem.

If Hashem is the One bringing the success, why then do people need to go to work? Furthermore, if people do need to work, why then does the Pasuk say, “And you shall remember that it is Hashem who has given you the strength to be victorious?” This connotes that man’s actions are futile!

These issues can be resolved as follows: There are two distinct ideas in this Pasuk. The first idea is the strength needed to be victorious. The second idea is the victory itself.

The two concepts can be better illustrated by the following analogy: There is a simple box fan. One turns it on and gets cooled off by the breeze. Its motor revolves with a simple electromagnetic current. Then there is the NASA Space Exploration’s Pathfinder, performing microscopic testing of rocks on Mars. This device is controlled through extremely intricate computer and satellite systems, together with the most advanced research to date.

What is the common denominator between these two systems? The answer is that they both cannot work when the plug is pulled out. Electricity is needed for a machine to work, be it a simple motor or a state of the art computer and satellite system.

This is what the Pasuk means when it says, “And you shall remember that it is Hashem who has given you the strength to be victorious.” The actual victory is analogous to the state of the art computer system. People are the ones who perform the actual work to the point of success. Naturally, some are better than others. Therefore, when people see themselves victorious, they may become haughty and forget Hashem. The Pasuk therefore teaches that although it is true that it is the people who became victorious, it is Hashem who gave them the ability to be successful. In other words, Hashem is the One providing the electricity. This is the meaning of the “strength to be victorious.” Whether one is more successful or less, he cannot perform even the simplest action without the “plug.”

Therefore, when it comes to getting a job, one must engage in a work activity as the Chovos Halevavos explained and not rely solely on Bitachon. Man’s job is to create a victory, which means (as the Chovos Halevavos explains) setting the path which could lead to a victory, such as being a wise businessman and making good investments. However, how does he know that his plan will be successful? There are many smart businessmen who went bankrupt! This is where Bitachon comes in. One needs to trust in Hashem that He is the One guiding him and giving him the power to be successful in all his endeavors. This idea will save a person from haughtiness and bring him reward in the World to Come for remaining steadfast in his trust in Hashem.