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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tavo 5771

Ein Ayah: The Connection Between Thanking Hashem for Physical and for Spiritual

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 7:35)

Gemara:  [After bringing a source for Birkat Hamazon, the gemara looks for a source for Birkat Hatorah.] I only know about a beracha on food. How do I know about a beracha on Torah? Rabbi Yishmael said: It is learned from a kal vachomer: if one makes a beracha on that which gives him temporary life, is it not more clear that he makes on life in the World to Come?


Ein Ayah:  It is fitting that the obligation of a beracha on Torah’s goodness is derived from the appreciation we show Hashem with Birkat Hamazon. A person is not able to recognize directly the essence of a matter of true, spiritual and eternal goodness. It is beyond his level, as his life and feelings are fleeting. They are directly related to his temporary, present life, which he knows through his natural side. Torah, with its greatness and its eternal nature, is beyond a person’s level, and its full value will only become clear to him in the future.

Therefore, the best approach is to make an unequal comparison between food and Torah and say that if he is grateful for a fleeting enjoyment in one’s temporary life, certainly he should be grateful to no end about that which brings him to the World to Come. If a person wants to be grateful for Torah without comparing it to worldly benefit, then although he knows that Torah has great value, he still will not have the same feelings of thanks that he could have. That is why we specifically learn the source of the beracha from this kal vachomer in order to involve also his physical side, extrapolating from the less important to the more important.

This furthers the connection between involvement in temporary life and eternal life. The greatest purpose of actions that give temporary life is to enable one to function so that he can acquire eternal life. Even one’s spiritual element, which elevates him to the point that he appreciates his Maker's gifts, including his physical world, is aligned with the “gateway” leading to the highest level of appreciation for eternal life. Along the same lines, the soul is sustained by the internal element of food, as the Arizal explains on the pasuk, “For man does not live on bread alone, but on all that which emerges from Hashem’s mouth man shall live” (Devarim 8:3).


Hashem’s Part in What Looks Bad

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 7:36)


Gemara: From where [do we know] that as we bless Hashem for the good, we do so for the bad? For this the pasuk (in the context of Birkat Hamazon) says: “… that Hashem, your G-d, gave to you” (Devarim 8:10) – He is your judge with every judgment He makes, whether He uses the “good” approach or the harsh approach. 


Ein Ayah: To fully appreciate Hashem’s manner of leading the world, one needs to know that Hashem has total power to act, in which case He could prevent any situation which we know as bad. Therefore, we know that everything we consider bad is and will eventually be recognized as totally good [according to its situation].

This is different than the philosophers’ approach that there is, by necessity, a physical element that cannot allow good things without bad ones. While they thereby “clear” Hashem of responsibility for the bad, according to them, one cannot bless Him for it either. However, the Torah approach posits that Hashem does all He desires, in which case, everything stems from a good and just judgment. In that way, He is referred to as our judge, who has the power to rule with straightness and wisdom. Therefore “bad” deserves a beracha just like “good” does.

This idea is written in the context of Birkat Hamazon because the need for food and connection to the material seems negative. However, this is what the entirely good Hashem decreed, and, therefore, all its elements must be good. We learn specifically from that point that everything that looks bad is actually part of a deep Divine plan.

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