We hope you enjoy this selection of short divrei Torah, presented to family and guests at our Shabbos table as a springboard for discussion. Each one is followed by a question. The responses shared at our table are enlightening, entertaining, and always thought-provoking.
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Parshas Pekudei # 1
“And Moshe saw all the work, and behold, [the people] had done it [exactly] as Hashem commanded Moshe, so they did. And Moshe blessed them” (Shmos 39:43).
The construction of the Mishkan, a work of unparalleled beauty imbued with great Divine sanctity, was complete. The Jews in the desert had given generously to supply the gold, silver, and other costly materials used, and followed Hashem’s instructions to the letter concerning every step of the complicated labor involved. When Moshe saw the magnificent finished product, He blessed them.
The people had done their job, and Moshe acknowledged their efforts. This raises a question. Hashem had commanded them to build the Mishkan and its sacred Vessels. By obeying, they had only fulfilled their obligation. Why were the Jews deserving of any special recognition and acknowledgement?
Their Job, Our Gain
An insight on this passuk from Rav Aharon Lewin (1879-1941), the rav of Reisha and president of the Agudas HaRabbanim of Poland, helps answer this question. He cites a Midrash: “Say to one who does a good job, ‘yasherkochacha’ (Shmos Rabbah 20:10).Apparently, even when someone simply does his job we should thank him, showing our appreciation by saying yashar kochacha (“well done”).
The Rashash derives this same principle from a mishnah concerning the laws of Shemittah, the Sabbatical year in Eretz Yisrael. Every seventh year, we are commanded to allow the land of Eretz Yisrael to lie fallow. The crops of the seventh “Shemittah” year are considered ownerless, and anyone is permitted to take them. The owner of a field has no choice in the matter – like it or not, he must leave his crops in the field for whoever wants to take them. Even so, those who take the produce are permitted to thank the owner of the field, without detracting from the fact that during Shemittah, the produce is not considered his (Sheviis 4:2).
The Rashash writes that this is the rationale behind the custom of wishing the Kohanim “yasher kochachem” after Birkas Kohanim (the Priestly Blessing). In this instance too, the Kohanim are only doing their duty. The Torah commands them to bless the Jewish people. If they are present in a shul at the time for Birkas Kohanim, they are required by halachah to bless the congregation; it is no more than their job as Kohanim. And yet, we express gratitude and appreciation when they fulfill their obligation by blessing us (HaDerash V’HaIyun, Parshas Pekudei 314).
We all encounter many people who do us favors, help us, or provide us with a variety of services. It is easy and perhaps more comfortable to shrug off the value of such actions, saying, “But he was only doing his job,” or, “Isn’t that what he is paid for?” Our focus should not be on what they are required to give, but on what we have received. If we have benefited, thanks and appreciation are always in order.
Question for Discussion:
Who is someone who deserves an expression of gratitude for a benefit he provides, even though he is only “doing his job?”
“And one hundred kikar of silver were used… for the pillars of the Sanctuary and the pillars of the paroches, one hundred pillars for the one hundred kikar, a kikar for each pillar” (Shmos 38:27).
The Jews in the desert had donated the materials for the Mishkan and sacred Vessels. Once all the work was done, Moshe presented the people with a detailed account of where all the gold, silver and other precious items had gone, listing how much of each had been used for different parts of the Mishkan. The adanim, one hundred pillars supporting the structure, had required one hundred kikar of silver.
The Baal HaTurim writes that this passuk provides Scriptural support for the obligation to recite one hundred brachos (blessings) every day. The adanim were the foundation of the Mishkan, and the brachos we recite are the foundation of our lives as Jews. With the brachos we make when we eat and drink, wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night, and learn Torah, we acknowledge that all we have and do is from Hashem (Shmos 38:27).
The Chiddushei HaRim explains that the Hebrew word adanim (“pillars”) is related to Adnut, the state of being a master (Adon). A Jew’s hundred daily brachos correspond to the hundred adanim in the Mishkan, testifying that Hashem is the Adon of all Creation.
Every Day’s Blessings
“One hundred brachos a day” has ancient origins. In Dovid HaMelech’s time, a plague devastated the Jewish people, claiming one hundred victims every day. In response, Dovid instituted recitation of one hundred brachos daily, and the plague came to a halt (Bamidbar Rabbah 18:21). Chazal derive the principle from the passuk, “And now, Israel, what (mah) does Hashem your G-d ask of you, but to fear Hashem your G-d?” (Devarim 10:12). Rashi writes that the word mah (“what”) can be read as me’ah (“one hundred”). This is what Hashem asks of us: one hundred blessings a day.
We should not underestimate the importance of one hundred brachos a day. The Chidda writes that those who say them are guaranteed a place in the World to Come (Birkei Yosef, Orach Chaim 46:5).
The poskim discuss whether or not we need to keep count of every day’s brachos. Rav Yaakov Emden concludes that on weekdays, with the prayers, including Shemoneh Esrei three times a day, and the other routine brachos, we are certain to get to one hundred, and need not count. On Shabbos and Yom Tov, when the Shemoneh Esrei consists of fewer brachos, and on Yom Kippur, when we are not making brachos before and after eating and drinking, we are likely to fall short of one hundred, and should count to make sure we reach the required number (Siddur Yaavetz, p. 579).
Rav Moshe Sternbuch writes that making one hundred brachos a day has the power to help us achieve yiras Shamayim, as we learn from the passuk that is the basis of Chazal’s teaching: “And now, Israel, what (mah) does Hashem your G-d ask of you? Only to fear Hashem your G-d.” The word mah is a reference to the mea’ah brachos. Through the “me’ah,” we come to fear Hashem (Taam V’Daas, Shmos 38:27).
Question for Discussion:
Which brachah is particularly meaningful to you, and why?
My brother-in-law Ben underwent his second liver transplant when he was thirty-five. Following the lengthy surgery, his wife Giela wrote that every restored bodily function was cause for celebration. Ben’s first time reciting the brachah of Asher Yatzar, and his Borei Minei Mezonos on the very first food he ate in sixteen days, were clearly big moments of intense gratitude to Hashem. Earlier, when Ben was recovering from his first transplant, Miryam, Giela’s sister, had encouraged others to recite Asher Yatzar as a merit for his recovery. Years later, many people continue to tell Giela that they still think of him when they make this brachah.
Giela writes, “The beautiful words of Asher Yatzar, recited each time we go to the bathroom, perfectly describe the delicate balance of acknowledging that if even our smallest organ would not function properly, we could not survive, and at the same time, expressing gratitutude for all the many organs that do function, day after day and hour after hour. Especially after surviving two liver transplants, a biliary drain in between, a trip to the operating room on Day 3 for a hematoma compressing major blood vessels, and a third surgery on Day 7 for an air bubble in the portal vein that could have destroyed Ben’s newly transplanted liver....the words of this brachah take on powerful personal relevance.
“Two women from the hospital housekeeping staff cleaned Ben’s room daily. One day they noticed me reciting Asher Yatzar, my face covered by my hands so that I could concentrate better. When they asked if I was okay, I explained that I was thanking G-d for the wondrous way He made our bodies. They were in awe... They wanted me to write out the words of the prayer for them, and I was proud to do so. Working in the ICU, these women were able to appreciate its signficance; we can all recognize that the delicate balance of our organs and their functions is no less than a wonder of wonders!
“Ben was transferred from the ICU to a hospital ward. There is still a long road ahead, but we thank Hashem for His unbelievable chesed, and continue to pray for a refuah sheleimah for Yisrael Nosson Nata ben Gittel Leah, together with all those in need of a complete reovery.”
Ben spent a month in the hospital, much of it in intensive care, followed by several more months recuperating at home. B’chasdei Hashem, he is now back at shul and at work, and even back to playing baseball!