Rabbi's Weekly Message

A Message from Rabbi Wexler ~ Thursday, August 2

Judaism celebrates saturating behavior with meaning. The performance of daily mitzvot infuse routine behavior with the sacred. By transforming a deed into a mitzvah, we deepen its history and enrich its meaning. This kind of transformation is beautifully exemplified in this week’s Torah portion, Ekev. This week, we read in the Torah that after a meal, “when you have eaten your fill, give thanks to the Lord your God for the good land which he has given you,” (Deuteronomy 8:10).

Why is it necessary to thank God after a meal? It makes sense to pray before a meal, when we have a need to be met. However, after a meal we are satisfied and full -- it does not seem like an appropriate time to make a request. Yet, there is more to prayer than simply focusing on our needs. Prayer has an even greater purpose of sensitizing us to the greatest gift of all: our lives. Prayer helps to shock us into awareness that life itself is a gift and worthy of the deepest sense of gratitude.

To go through the motions of eating without blessing cheats us of an opportunity for wonder and an occasion for celebrating the magnificence of life. As the Talmud states: “one who benefits from this world without saying a blessing, it is as if he has stolen from God,” (Berakhot 35a).

Furthermore, the Talmud tells us that Abraham used cause for his guests to praise God. How? He would serve a delicious meal and at the end of the meal, his guests would stand up to praise him. Before they could say a word, Abraham would exclaim: “did you eat what was mine? You ate what belongs to God. Praise and bless the One who spoke, causing the world to be,” (Sotah 10a).

Every meal that we eat provides us with an important opportunity to give thanks for our lives and for the bounty of our world. It offers us an opportunity to turn towards God. By summoning us to show gratitude for our food, Judaism reinvigorates our sense of wonder and restores our ability to experience life more deeply.