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Shabbat Yom Kippur 5772

Ein Ayah: Thank for What?

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 7: 39-40)

Gemara:  From a person’s berachot it is clear whether he is a Torah scholar or not. In what way? Rebbi says: If he says [in zimun], “… and in His goodness we have lived,” he is a scholar. If he says, “… and from amongst His goodness we have lived,” he is ignorant. Abayei asked Rav Dimi: Doesn’t the pasuk say: “and from amongst Your blessings may You bless your servant’s house forever” (Shmuel II, 7:29)? A request is different. But regarding requests, as well, the pasuk says: “Widen your mouth and I will fill it” (Tehillim 81:11)!? This is talking about [requests for] matters of Torah.

 

Ein Ayah:  All that exists in the world is Hashem’s goodness, as the Rambam writes (Moreh Nevuchim 1:54) regarding the pasuk, “I will pass all of My goodness before your face” (Shemot 33:19). The proper way to look at the world is that all of its physicality and spirituality is connected, like a person who has various limbs.

Therefore, one who recognizes deeply Hashem’s greatness should not say that we “live from amongst His goodness,” which implies that he is thanking Hashem only for the part of Hashem’s goodness that affects him. This is because the flow of life is connected to all of existence, which is, in turn, all of His goodness. That is why a scholar says “in His goodness,” implying all of it.

In contrast, even one who is not on the level of a scholar and naturally views matters on a simpler level should go beyond his normal feelings and contemplate the grandeur of the more complete outlook on the world. While it is hard for him to express himself like the scholar, he should not limit himself by talking explicitly about only that which affects him personally. One who so limits himself is considered ignorant. If he cannot express matters like a scholar, he should have the scholar bentch and upon hearing his mode of proper expression, respond in kind. The ignorant person will not be able to even contemplate something beyond him and will stress the goodness that comes to him individually.

Rav Dimi says that there is a distinction in this regard between expressing gratitude and making requests. Gratitude comes from a lofty element of one’s soul, which is awakened to the propriety of recognizing the good one has received. He should pursue this feeling in regard to Hashem’s goodness in the broadest possible manner. Requests, in contrast, emanate from that which a person identifies as being missing within himself. Focusing on one’s own needs does, to a moderate degree, entrenches in himself a self-love, which is not actually bad, as this is needed for a person to be able to contribute to the collective. After all, if a person lacks basic self-love, he will not have the foundation upon which to build the higher levels of justice and correct behavior.

Therefore, in regard to requests, one should allow the focus on the personal to come out. When it comes to giving thanks, he should go beyond the personal and use his intellect to focus on that which is good in the entire world. This approach is a natural progression from a proper life of Torah and mitzvot, which is the secret of life for everything in the world. This is hinted in the pasuk, “the goings on (halichot) of the world are His” (Chabakuk 3:6). The Rabbis expound: “Do not read it as halichot but as halachot (the laws of the Torah). That is why David asked, “and from amongst Your blessings may You bless your servant’s house forever.”

This, though, is in regard to requests of physical needs. When one elevates himself to request spiritual improvement, it is proper to focus on the true, broader perspective. When the related pasuk mentions widening one’s mouth to ask, it is not merely in regard to a quantitatively large request, but a qualitatively more significant request, which relates to the collective more than to the individual.

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