SALT - Tuesday, Rosh Chodesh Sivan 5776, Omer 45 - June 7, 2016

  • Rav David Silverberg

            The Torah in Parashat Naso presents the text of birkat kohanim, the special blessing with which the kohanim are to bless Benei Yisrael, which includes, “Yisa Hashem panav eilekha” – which is generally translated as, “The Lord shall show you favor.”  The implication of this blessing is that God should grant us even more than what we strictly deserve, out of His special affection for us.

            The Gemara, in a famous passage (Berakhot 20b), tells that the angels approached God and asked how this blessing could be reconciled with Moshe’s proclamation in Sefer Devarim (10:17), “asher lo yisa fanim” – that God does not show favor to anyone.  Moshe there affirms that God judges in strict fairness, without granting any special dispensations due to a person’s status.  How, then, can the kohanim bless us, “Yisa Hashem panav eilekha”?  The answer which God gives the angels, the Gemara says, is that the Jewish People deserve special favor in the merit of the mitzva of birkat ha-mazon – reciting a blessing after meals.  Specifically, we make a point of reciting birkat ha-mazon even after eating just a ke-zayit of food, despite the fact that the Torah obligation requires reciting the blessing only after experiencing satiation, as indicated in the text of the command of birkat ha-mazon: “You will eat and be satiated, and you shall bless the Lord your God” (Devarim 8:10).  Since we thank God for even small amounts of food, we are deserving of His special favor, even though He generally does not show favoritism.

            Rav Simcha Bunim of Pashischa explained that when a person receives a gift from a person of prominent stature, he treasures it, regardless of its size or value.  Even the simplest object becomes a cherished possession if it was given by somebody important or distinguished.  This, Rav Simcha Bunim explained, is the significance of reciting birkat ha-mazon over even small portions of food.  If we truly view everything we own, have and enjoy as a gift granted to us by the Creator and King of the universe, then we would value and treasure it all, even if we do not experience “satiation.”  Regardless of whether we have all we want, we are nevertheless capable of feeling grateful and joyous over every small “ke-zayit” if we recognize that everything has been given to us as a gift from the Almighty.

            On this basis, Rav Simcha Bunim explained the Gemara’s comment.  If we value even the unsatisfactory assets that we have due to the greatness of the One who gave them to us, then God will, in turn, value even our unsatisfactory level of Torah devotion in consideration of who we are.  He will recognize that we are flawed and limited human beings, whose inclinations often lure us away from fulfilling the divine will.  He will recognize that even the small amounts that we achieve reflect a strong and sincere desire to observe His commands and draw close to Him.  If we appreciate and treasure the small gifts we receive in consideration of who it is who gave them, then God will appreciate and treasure our small “gifts” in consideration of who we are – complicated, deficient beings who struggle against internal and external pressures, often unsuccessfully, out of a genuine desire to fulfill His will.