By Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss
Recently, I started a new series of lectures on the ancient sefer, Orchos Chaim l’HaRosh, which details in 154 (the gematria-numerical value of olam haba-the afterlife!) concise segments the Rosh’s, Zt”l, Zy”a, advice on how to live one’s life. My dear readers can view these shiurim free of charge by going to TorahAnytime.com and going to the section ‘mussar/self-improvement.’ There are already thirty shiurim archived there, each about fifteen minutes in length – perfect to watch during a coffee break or while eating lunch. You can also hear these lectures on the KolHaLoshon Network by dialing 718-906-6400, selecting ‘1’ for English, ‘4’ for mussar, then ‘4’ for Orchos Chaim l’HaRosh.
In this incredible sefer, the Rosh teaches us all kinds of disciplines such as: to minimize a person’s accomplishments in his or her own eyes so as not to become full of oneself and also to avoid resting upon their laurels. He advises us to think often of the day of death thereby ensuring that we always have our priorities straight and that we avoid procrastination. He recommends always considering the consequences of our actions carefully before embarking on any ventures. He cautions us to utilize the counsel of others and not to rely solely on our own opinions which are adulterated by self-interest and the whisperings of our Evil Inclination. Much, much more profound advice awaits the student of this marvelous study.
In today’s article, I’d like to zoom-in on one ‘little’ piece of advice that the Rosh suggests which I found to be a ‘game-changer’ in my own life. The Rosh teaches in Number 38 that one should close one’s eyes when saying a bracha. This recipe of shutting one’s eyes to activate concentration is suggested by the commentators when davening the Shemone Esrei and, of course, we know that we close our eyes when accepting the yoke of Heaven in the all-important proclamation of Shema Yisroel. The Rosh takes this a step further and suggests that all our blessings should be intoned with our eyes shut.
As I started to practice this, I found that there is a clever advantage concealed in this recommendation. Many people, when saying for example an Asher Yotzar when coming out from the restroom, say it while they are booting-up their computers or making a cup of coffee. Thus, they are distracted from concentrating on the blessing. Furthermore, it is disrespectful to clean your desk or put the clothes away while talking to Hashem. But when your eyes are shut, you can’t very well do anything else. So, besides helping you to hone-in better on the meaning of “Shehakol nihiyeh bidvaro – That everything comes about because of His words,” closing the eyes also forces us to stop what we are doing when talking to Hashem.
It’s interesting that the Manchester Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Segal, Zt”l, Zy”a, also grappled with the challenge of proper concentration when making our blessings. He used to have index cards which he carried with all of the different blessings printed upon them and he would read from the card when making a particular blessing. This method has an added benefit for it includes one’s eyes in the mitzvah of making the blessings. But, if you don’t have a set of bracha cards available, the Rosh’s method will add much more meaning to your bracha experience.
This is not a small thing. In a very real way the expression, “Give a blessing, get a blessing,” applies to our brachos.For the posuk says, “Bechol makom asher askir es Shmi Avo eilecha ooberachticha–Any place that you mention my Name, I will come to you and bless you.” So, we can greatly enhance the amount of Divine blessing that we have in our lives by increasing the quality of the way we bless Hashem.
May it be the will of Hashem that we succeed in making 100 quality blessings every day and in that merit may we be blessed by Hashem with long life, good health and everything wonderful.
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.
Start the new cycle of Mishna Yomis with Rabbi Weiss by dialing 718.906.6471. Or you can listen to his new daily Shiur on Orchos Chaim L’harosh by dialing 718.906.6400, then going to selection 4 for Mussar, and then to selection 4. Both are FREE services.
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