Unfamiliar Invite!

Although it might come as a surprise to some people, there are only two blessings mandated by Torah Law. One blessing is the one we recite each morning on Torah and its study, and the other is Birchas Hamazone ― the group of blessings we recite after we eat bread.

All other blessings are a Rabbinic mandate, for example, the blessings we make before we eat, smell organic fragrances, see lightning and hear thunder; the blessings that are interspersed within our daily prayers and when we perform Mitzvos – Shofar, Lulav, Shabbat candles etc.

The source for reciting Grace after a meal appears in this week’s Parsha. “And you shall eat and you shall be satisfied and you shall bless Hashem, your G-d…”

The question raised, is why does the Torah specifically command us to thank and bless G-d only after we have eaten? Wouldn’t it seem more logical for the Torah to obligate us to recite a blessing before we eat, when we are hungry and in need?

One way to understand this is because when one is in need of something, whether it is food, health or anything they lack, their automatic response is to call out to the Almighty and beseech Him. However, the real test is after one has eaten and is full, or when things are going well, then a person is in the situation that he might say, “What do I need to pray for? After all, I have everything I need.”

Therefore G-d specifically commanded us to thank Him and bless Him after we are the recipient of His blessing, because it is a time when we have the tendency to forget G-d.

During a recent conversation I had with someone, he mentioned that when he was growing up in the early sixties, it was difficult for him to ask questions concerning our belief and faith, “If I asked anything, I was told not to ask and to just do, without any further explanation. This left me wanting and confused.” He continued, “Today, when my children have questions, their Rabbis listen to them, take them seriously and have excellent answers. We have definitely come a long way in the development of Jewish education which resonates with our children and with us as well.”

I read a story of a person who was doing research in a University library in Israel and after he ate his lunch sandwich at his table he began reciting grace after meal in a mildly audible tone. After he was finished, the librarian approached him and asked him about some words that he had added into his text, which she had never heard.

He told her he would research to find the source of this tradition. Sure enough, he found the source and circled the words and sent it to the library to the attention of the librarian.

A half year later, he received a wedding invitation and could not figure out why he was invited; none of the names were familiar to him or to any family members. Out of curiosity, he decided to attend the wedding.

He walked around a bit and still didn’t recognize a soul. As he was leaving someone came over to him and asked his name, and was told that the Kallah – bride would like to see him.

When he met the bride he still didn’t recognized her. She told him that she was the librarian who he had corresponded with the variation of the Birchas Hamazone. He still couldn’t understand why that warranted an invitation to the wedding.

She continued, “I was raised in an observant home and drifted away and I began dating an Arab. He very much wanted to marry me, but I was deeply conflicted with giving up my family. He suggested we move to the US and marry to avoid any tension. He gave me a deadline to make a decision.

On that very day, I received your letter with your response and the words that I had questioned, “Do not falter,” were circled. I viewed this as a sign from Heaven not to go along with the marriage, and it prompted and inspired me to return back home and re-embrace my roots and observances.

I reacquainted with a friend from a similar background and here we are at our wedding!

I invited you because your response and respect to my question – triggered a turnaround in my life, and for that I thank you!”

The second portion of the Shema prayer is listed in this week’s parsha. It begins with G-d guaranteeing us that if we listen to His commands we will be the recipients of His boundless blessings. In regards to the commands it states it in the present, “That I command you today.”

Our Sages tell us that this teaches us that one’s outlook of the Torah and commands should be as if it was given today.

The Skolya Rebbe explains that the nature of the Divine Torah is different than material acquisitions. For when we acquire something new, the initial thrill wears off after time. This is not the case when one diligently and respectfully studies the Torah; it is so expansive and extensive that each time one examines and researches it there is something new and novel. This makes it continually refreshing as if it were given today!