By Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss
One of the highlights of the Ten Days of Repentance is the saying of HaMelech HaKodosh in our Shemoneh Esrei. This insistence on describing Hashem as the Holy King defines the expected mood of the time, which is our heightened awareness that we are humble subjects of the King Who appoints all kings. As we go about the business of pleading and petitioning our King for a better year, we search for ways to demonstrate to Hashem that we will be better subjects to Him. I’d like to offer a humble suggestion.
In a vital verse in the Torah, Moshe Rabeinu proclaims “Mah Hashem Elokecha sho’el mei’imoch, ki im l’yirah – What does Hashem Your G-d ask from you but that you should be aware of Him.” While this is rather a broad demand, the Gemora in Menachos crystalizes this expectation in a more concrete fashion. The Gemora states, “Al tikrei mah, ela mei’ah – Don’t read it [as] what, but rather [as] one hundred.” This refers to the one hundred blessings that a Jew is supposed to say every day. So, when we are thinking of pleasing our King, here we have the recipe: Hashem wants from us one hundred blessings every day.
At this point, I can almost hear my readers thinking: One hundred blessings, hhmm. We do that. After all, the three times we say Shemoneh Esrei alone make fifty-seven blessings. Add to that the fifteen daily blessings in the morning, the blessings on tzitzis and tefilin, Boruch She’amar and Yishtabach, the blessings that accompany Krias Shema in the morning and the evening. All that’s needed after that is to add the blessings on the Torah, a meal or two, and a collection of times saying Asher Yotzar, and I’ve scored one hundred with ease.
But, let me ask you, dear reader, how many of those blessings do we say with feeling? How many of them are recited meaningfully or, to be honest with ourselves, how many of them are swallowed together with the orange juice or Pepsi? So let me give you some ideas to sink your teeth into.
If you get out of bed in the morning and you don’t think that you need to make an appointment with your chiropractor, then fervently thank Hashem in the blessing of Zokeif k’fufim, “He Who straightens out those who are bent.” And if your knees are operating fine, you don’t struggle with a torn meniscus or a ripped ACL, if you don’t suffer from corns and bunions, then you can surely say with feeling, HaMeichin mitzadei gover, “He Who sets the steps of man.” If you are able to pay the mortgage or the rent and you’re not embarrassed to go into your local proprietor because you owe him too much money, if your children already received an admission card from their respective schools because you were able to pay the tuition, and your monthly credit card payments are manageable, then you can say with gusto the blessing of She’osa li kol trarki, that Hashem takes care of all my needs. If you are creeping towards sixty years of age and you still remember where you parked your car and you don’t forget in the middle of talking what you were about to say, then it is certainly a good idea to say, “Boruch Atah Hashem Chonein HaDaas, Blessed are You Hashem, Who graces us with knowledge,” with great appreciation.
Here’s another thought. Where do you thank Hashem for the miscellaneous pleasures and luxuries that don’t have an obvious blessing of their own like, for example, the air conditioning in your house, the navigator in your car, the pleasures of a hot shower, a down comforter, a good umbrella, the conveniences of your smart phone? One answer, of course, is in the blessing of Modim, Thanks, in the Shemoneh Esrei, for it incorporates all one hundred blessings. (The word modim is conveniently one hundred in gematria.) But, there’s another place to thank Hashem for the heated seats in your car and your sunglasses. It’s in the longest blessing in davening, the first blessing we say before Krias Shema in the morning. There, we say, Yotzeir ohr u’vorei choshech, Oseh shalom u’vorei es hakol – Hahsem creates the light fashions the darkness, makes peace and creates everything. There you have it! We thank Hashem for creating everything. That’s the spot where we can plug in anything for which we want especially to thank Hashem. Perhaps we had an invigorating game of tennis that put us in a good mood or an enjoyable session of swimming. This is a great place to thank Hashem for the great blessing of good friends as well.
So, as we think of how to please our King, let’s start becoming better Yehudim, which means people who give thanks. In that merit, may Hashem bless us all with a seal of life, good health, happiness and everything wonderful.
Sheldon Zeitlin transcribes Rabbi Weiss’ articles.
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