By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried
I’ve begun learning and reciting some of the daily blessings, like when waking up and on some foods. On one hand it seems like a nice thing, but it is also rather cumbersome to have to bless before and after everything you eat, and even after using the facilities. It seems a bit much — perhaps you can help me out with this.
The concept of reciting daily blessings is derived in the Talmud from the verse where Moses queries the Jews, “Now, Israel, what does G-d ask of you? Only to fear G-d, to go in all His ways and to love Him, and to serve your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul…” (Deuteronomy 10:12). The word “what” in the verse, which in Hebrew is “mah,” suggests a similar word, “meah,” or one hundred. The Torah is hinting that the way to serve G-d to the utmost is to recite 100 blessings every day.
The simple understanding of this is as an expression of appreciation to G-d for all the gifts He bestows upon us. On a deeper level, it brings one to recognition of G-d in every aspect of our lives.
A late, elderly sage in Jerusalem once explained this to me with the following analogy: Imagine you’re driving down the street and it starts raining, and you begin seeing drops of rain on the windshield. As it rains harder, you see more drops. Soon there are so many, you don’t see any individual drops; all you see is a sheet of water. As you turn on the windshield wipers which wipe away the sheet of water, you momentarily see drops again, until once more you see a sheet of water and no drops, and this process continues.
We receive so many blessings in our lives from the Al-mighty that, at times, it’s hard to even discern them at all. A cursory visit to a nearby ICU will force us to realize that every breath we take on our own is a blessing. Every heartbeat, our blood flowing properly through our bodies, our digestive system functioning, our eyes seeing and ears hearing, are all tremendous blessings — not to mention having food to eat, air to breathe, roofs over our heads, clothing to wear, etc. These constant blessings come at us with such rapidity that they become like the sheet of water, and we don’t notice them at all.
The hundred blessings a day are like the windshield wipers which momentarily wipe away everything else and allow us to focus on the one “drop” we are about to enjoy or have just benefited from, such as food or drink. When one successfully uses the facilities, they have an incredible opportunity to focus in on all the amazing bodily systems that are correctly functioning and thank G-d for that. If one does this a hundred times a day, the blessings of life are no longer an imperceptible sheet, but rather a cause for constant joy, ecstasy and appreciation.
On a deeper level, the Hebrew for blessing is “brachah,” which is related to the word “braichah,” a flowing stream. When one recites a brachah, they recognize G-d’s Presence in that mundane object and unlock the spirituality therein. This opens the gates for wellsprings of bounty and blessing and loving spiritual connection to flow from heaven to earth, especially through the object being blessed and all its kind. In this way, the Jew uttering the blessing and the physical world become partners with G-d in His connection to the world, making it a source of blessing for all.
Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried, noted scholar and author of numerous works on Jewish law, philosophy and Talmud, is founder and dean of DATA, the Dallas Kollel. Questions can be sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried