In this week’s Torah reading, Parshas Ekev (8:10), we have the Mitzvah (commandment) of Birchas Hamazon – saying grace after a meal (of bread). The Sefer Hachinuch (Mitzvah 430) says that this Mitzvah was given to us out of God’s desire to bestow goodness upon us. The act of us expressing appreciation to Him for that which He has given us, makes us worthy of receiving more blessings. Praising God and showing gratitude for what we have already is the catalyst for being showered with even more blessings from Above.
As the Ruzhiner Rebbe once put it, when one praises God for his lot, God says, “Oh, you think you have it good?! I’ll show you what good really is!” If we utilize our blessings as a means to voice praise to our Creator, we generate more blessings to come our way so that we will be able to praise God even more.
There was once a man in Israel who woke up one morning to a strange sensation in one of his eyes and could not see properly. He got an emergency appointment with an eye doctor that very morning, and the doctor examined him. It did not look good. The doctor sent him immediately to an eye specialist. As the specialist conducted the exam, he grew concerned. He referred him to yet another doctor, the top in the field in the country. He spared no time in meeting the top eye doctor and was quickly ushered into the specialist’s office for examination. Like the others, he did not have very positive news to share with his patient. The man was told that only a handful of eye surgeons in the world could help him and he must act immediately.
Right away, he got together his belongings and flew to America. He was successful in procuring an emergency appointment, and the expert in America proceeded with his own rounds of exams. At the end, the doctor informed him, “I’m sorry to tell you this, but the situation is very dire and requires a complex surgery to be done immediately in order to save your eyesight.”
“Let me think it over and I will get back to you shortly,” said the man. The man exited the office and made his way over to a synagogue. He intended to pour out his heart, pleading to his Creator to save his eyes, but instead, it was something else that came forth. He found himself praising God for all that he was blessed with. He stood there for three hours thanking God forhis wife, his children, and all the other blessings God had bestowed upon him, big and small. He ended off his prayer with a short plea, “Please save my eyes so that I will be able to praise you for this as well.”
He returned to the doctor and asked him if he could examine him once more before forging ahead with the surgery. The specialist consented and proceeded to examine him again. At the end of the second round the doctor announced, “I see something that I missed the first time. Your eyes are not in danger as I originally thought, and the surgery is not urgent. I have to confer with my colleagues how to proceed, but you’ll be all right.”
This is a powerful insight, and there are more stories out there of the like. Man by nature is focused on what he wants. We constantly think about things we don’t have yet and would like to attain. When we have a problem, we get involved in the pain and it takes over our mind. But what about all the things which are going well? If someone has a heart problem, it might be a serious concern, but what about the fact that his eyes are perfectly fine? What about the fact that his lungs are healthy? The fact that there is a serious concern we have to deal with does not negate all the other blessings that we are experiencing simultaneously.
Instead of being completely absorbed with what we hope to attain, we ought to take at least a few minutes to express our appreciation to God for all the blessings we have already and all the many things in our lives which are running smoothly. By remembering the good that we have and sincerely thanking God for the blessings we have already, we are paving the way to receive more blessings. Filling our hearts and mouths with gratitude to our Father in Heaven will certainly be much more conducive to getting our wishes fulfilled than filling our minds with pointless anxiety.
Parshas Ekev By Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber (firstname.lastname@example.org)