This D’var Torah should be a Zechus L’Ilui Nishmas my sister, Kayla Rus Bas Bunim Tuvia A”H, my maternal grandfather Dovid Tzvi Ben Yosef Yochanan A”H, my maternal grandfather Dovid Tzvi Ben Yosef Yochanan A”H, my paternal grandfather Moshe Ben Yosef A”H, my uncle Reuven Nachum Ben Moshe & my great aunt Rivkah Sorah Bas Zev Yehuda HaKohein.
It should also be in Zechus L’Refuah Shileimah for:
-My father Bunim Tuvia Ben Channa Freidel
-My grandmothers Channah Freidel Bas Sarah, and Shulamis Bas Etta
-MY BROTHER: MENACHEM MENDEL SHLOMO BEN CHAYA ROCHEL
-Mordechai Shlomo Ben Sarah Tili
-Noam Shmuel Ben Simcha
-Chaya Rochel Ettel Bas Shulamis
-And all of the Cholei Yisrael, especially those suffering from COVID-19 and the Meiron tragedy.
-It should also be a Z’chus for an Aliyah of the holy Neshamos of Dovid Avraham Ben Chiya Kehas—R’ Dovid Winiarz ZT”L, Miriam Liba Bas Aharon—Rebbetzin Weiss A”H, as well as the Neshamos of those whose lives were taken by terrorists (Hashem Yikom Damam), COVID-19, and the Meiron tragedy.
-It should also be a Z’chus for success for Tzaha”l as well as the rest of Am Yisrael, in Eretz Yisrael and in the Galus.
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עֵקֶב ● Eikev
“The Real Reason for Bentching”
Parshas Eikev is the headquarters for the Mitzvah of Bentching or Birchas HaMazon (Grace after Meals) [Devarim 8:10]. The question is why exactly we Bentch.
You are most likely to immediately dismiss this question as a no-brainer and offer one of two obvious answers:
(1) because it’s a Mitzvah; the Torah said so, or
(2) to express gratitude to Hashem for having provided us food.
While neither of these answers is incorrect, as we’ll demonstrate, neither one is complete either.
Which One is it?
We might even argue that the two are almost contradictory; if the point of Bentching is to display gratitude, why does the Torah have to command us to do it? And if, indeed, we are obligated, by law, to Bentch, then what kind of gesture of gratitude is that?
Not Just a Mitzvah/Thank-You
Moreover, if we look at both the formula of Bentching and the Torah’s presentation of Bentching, it is clear that it could not just be a typical Mitzvah or a gesture of thanksgiving.
Starting with the formula, although the Torah only mentions “blessing Hashem for the good land,” Bentching itself contains so much more. There are three Biblically mandated Brachos, one for the food, one for Eretz Yisrael, and one for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim. And for some reason, Chazal teach that in the blessing upon Eretz Yisrael, one must also mention “Bris” and “Torah” [Brachos 48B], and that in the blessing for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim, one must mention Malchus Beis Dovid [Ibid.]. The question is why this is all necessary? If it is just about gratitude, why can’t we just say, “Thank You, Hashem, for the food (or grub)” and call it a day? Why must I recite such a complicated text and mention Bris, Torah, and the Davidic Dynasty every time I eat a slice or two of pizza for lunch?
The Torah’s Presentation
Why the formula is so complex, we could begin to understand if we look back at the Torah’s presentation, because that too isn’t as simple as a reminder to “say ‘Thank You.'” Although there is one verse in which Moshe Rabbeinu instructs us to bless Hashem after we eat to our satiety, surrounding that verse, Moshe presents an entire history lesson as an introduction [Devarim 8:1-9] and issues forewarning as a follow-up [Ibid. 8:11-20].
As a premise to the discussion, Moshe Rabbeinu commands us to keep the entire Torah. What this has to do with eating is not immediately clear. With that though, Moshe segues to the historical piece. Here, Moshe reminds the B’nei Yisrael to remember Hashem and the journey He led us on through the desert; how He fed us the Mann, hydrated us with water from a rock, and kept our clothes intact. Now, this is all wonderful, but why do we need this history lesson? It should not be that complicated. You shouldn’t have to review the entire history of a friendship every time your neighbor does you a favor. Just say, “Thank you.” Hashem gives you food, just say “Thank You.”
But, that’s not all. After Moshe reminds us to bless Hashem, he begins to simulate what might happen if, instead of blessing Hashem, we forget Him and all of the history He has led us through, how we will perish if we forsake Him. But, again, if this is just a Mitzvah, why does Moshe need to go to these lengths?
The Basis of Bentching
If look closer at Moshe’s words, we will start to understand why the historical context and the warnings are not only significant, but the basis of Bentching.
Moshe makes a point to demonstrate that Hashem made us rely on His Mann as a way of gauging whether or not we’d keep His Torah and keep to our side of the covenant. This may begin to explain the relevance of Bris and Torah.
Moreover, Moshe Rabbeinu makes a point to contrast the miraculous desert life to normal life in Eretz Yisrael. Moshe highlights how, in Eretz Yisrael, bread will not be tough to come by; in fact, the land will issue forth so much produce. With this, we can begin to understand why we recite, not just a blessing for the food, but a blessing for the land. That is because even though it may have been easy to acknowledge Hashem in the wilderness, it will be easy enough to forget him in the natural world. The blessing is a reminder that even in the natural world, we thank Him because He gives us the land which produces the food! Thus, we have a Birchas HaAretz.
But even that was not enough. Moshe needed to add that if we do forget to bless Hashem then, we are doomed to forget our obligations to Him. What is his point?
What is clear is that, gratitude is not all that’s at stake here; because if we forget Hashem and all the good He did (not just does) for us, we will neglect to fulfill our responsibilities which are based on the good He had historically done for us. Those responsibilities are the reason for our physical existence, the reason why Hashem maintained us in the desert. Thus, because of the goodness He had done for us by maintaining us in the desert, a simple “Thank You,” is not enough. You say “Thank you,” when someone does you a favor; when the pizza man passes you the pizza or when someone holds the door open for you. But, for every noticeable kindness Hashem does us, upon all the countless ones that go unnoticed, we owe Him our lives! That is “Ki L’Olam Chasdo”-“because His kindness is endless” [Tehilim 118:1, 136:1].
Hashem is the reason we’re alive. In this exact vein, Moshe emphasizes that Hashem fed us the Mann so that we understand “that it is not merely by bread alone that man lives; but by the mouth of Hashem” [Cf. Devarim 8:3]. If we would understand that, then we would realize that we do not merely owe Hashem thanks, but we owe Him everything. In other words, we’re obligated to Him by an eternal covenant, to adhere to His Torah. That is why the history matters. That is why we recite and review it in our Bentching.
In this way, Bentching is not just a Mitzvah or a “Thank You,” but like bread itself, it is a staple for life. It is a reality check, a reset, and a reminder of the reason for the continued existence of our entire material life. It’s a statement that we cannot just eat lunch and be sustained by the world and go on with our day. It’s a wake-up call, urging us not to forget neither our history nor our destiny. That is why we not only talk about all that Hashem has given us, but about rebuilding Yerushalayim, the final destination, the only reasonable end goal of our entering “the Land,” the place where we’re meant to fulfill Hashem’s Torah. That is why we mention Malchus Beis Dovid, because it is only under that kingdom with the Melech HaMoshiach that we can properly fulfill Hashem’s Torah in “the Land.”
Once again, this Mitzvah of Bentching is not just a Mitzvah, nor is it just a “Thank You” for food. Yes, it is both of these things, but it is so much more. It is about what was, is, and will be. It’s about the lifetime we owe Hashem at all moments, something that cannot be forgotten during our mundane lunch break. We may know the words by heart, but next time we recite them, let’s think about their meaning as we review the history and yearn for our final destiny.
And in that Zechus, we should be Zocheh to not only continued good from He Who is Tov U’Meitiv, but for the ultimate good along with Binyan Yerushalayim, Bimheirah BiYomeinu! Have a Great Shabbos!
– Yehoshua Shmuel Eisenberg