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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Eikev, Devarim 10:12. Mah Hashem Sho'eil- 100 Brachos a Day

וְעַתָּה, יִשְׂרָאֵל--מָה ה' אלהיך, שֹׁאֵל מֵעִמָּךְ: כִּי אִם-לְיִרְאָה אֶת-ה' אלהיך לָלֶכֶת בְּכָל-דְּרָכָיו, וּלְאַהֲבָה אֹתוֹ, וְלַעֲבֹד אֶת-ה' אלהיך, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשֶׁךָ.

Mah Hashem sho’eil mei’imach, what does Hashem ask of you, only to fear Him....

תניא היה רבי מאיר אומר חייב אדם לברך מאה ברכות בכל יום שנאמר (דברים י) ועתה ישראל מה ה' אלהיך שואל מעמך

Menachos 43a– 'mah' is a remez to Mei’ah, (one hundred,) mei’ah brachos bechol yom, that a person should see to it that he says one hundred Brachos every day.

The Baal Haturim explains that this drasha is not just based on the similarity in pronunciation of Mei'ah to Mah, but also on a Gematria, because in the Aht Bash system, mem hei equals yud tzadi, and the gematria of yud tzadi is 100.

But why is this idea alluded to specifically in this passuk? What is the connection between the literal meaning of the passuk, which is that one must develop his Yiras Shamayim, and the idea of mei'ah brachos?

The answer has to be that saying brachos brings to Yir’as Shomayim. Why is this true? Because hakoras hatov is the key to yir’as shomayim, and brachos teach hakoras hatov.

Along the same lines:
The Baal Haturim in 8:6 says the following:
וְשָׁמַרְתָּ אֶת-מִצְו‍ֹת ה' אלהיך לָלֶכֶת בִּדְרָכָיו וּלְיִרְאָה אֹתוֹ. .
כִּי ה' אלהיך מְבִיאֲךָ אֶל אֶרֶץ טוֹבָה אֶרֶץ נַחֲלֵי מָיִם עֲיָנֹת וּתְהֹמֹת יֹצְאִים בַּבִּקְעָה וּבָהָר.
The first pasuk says you should have yir’ah. Then, "ki ...." What's the Ki about? What is the "because?" He explains that if you learn to recognize that the good things in your life are God's gifts to you, and you will not be kofui tov, this will bring to yir’ah.

Coincidentally, the Ohr Hachaim in this Parsha, in 8:18, uses exactly this idea: the passuk says
וְזָכַרְתָּ אֶת ה' אלהיך כִּי הוּא הַנֹּתֵן לְךָ כֹּחַ לַעֲשׂוֹת חָיִל לְמַעַן הָקִים אֶת בְּרִיתוֹ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ כַּיּוֹם הַזֶּה.
The Ohr Hachaim says (free translation):
Be sure to take to heart all the good things you experience, and remember that this all comes from God. This will awaken you to the recognition of your Creator and His constant involvement in your life. The first step in the strategy of the yeitzer hara is to desensitize a person to this, ultimately bringing his destruction. Perhaps this is why the following passuk says
וְהָיָה אִם שְׁכֹחַ תִּשְׁכַּח אֶת ה' אלהיך וְהָלַכְתָּ אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים וַעֲבַדְתָּם וְהִשְׁתַּחֲוִיתָ לָהֶם
because if you forget that Hashem is your benefactor, eventually you will forget God entirely and finally follow other gods, not just in thought, but in deed as well.... Learn from here that remembering God's graciousness to you is a great wall that protects a person's service of God, and its absence invites the Satan to push him down from level to level to his ultimate perdition.

Similarly: the Chovas Halevavos, introduction to Shaar Avodah– avodah is ke’ni’ah (Hach'na'a, recognition of the debt of gratitude,) of the beneficiary to the benefactor.

And to put an exclamation point on this idea, see the Baal Haturim in Vayeilech, 31:16–
וְקָם הָעָם הַזֶּה וְזָנָה אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהֵי נֵכַר הָאָרֶץ
The Ba'al Haturim points out that there is a tahg, an anomalous crown, on the letter 'kuf' of ve'kam; This, he says, is meramez that they will come to do avoda zarah because they will be mevateil the mitzvah of mei’ah (kuf) brachos bechol yom. The one strong shemira that protects us from falling into the trap of Avoda Zara is the Crown of the Kuf, the mitzva of Mei'ah Brachos.

Elul is around the corner. Elul, the lead-up to and preparatory period for the Ye'mei Hadin, ought to be symbolized by fear, a lion, a frightening thing. But the most famous siman of Elul is "Ani Le'dodi Ve'dodi Li," I am my beloved's, my beloved is mine. That's a broad span, isn't it? What’s the shaichus of love to the yom hadin? The answer is that the key to yir’ah is recognizing Hashem’s love. That’s why Moshe said “mah...” and the Gemora asks, mili zutrisa, etc. Pshat is that Moshe was giving us the key to the treasure. Mah Hashem sho'eil mei'imach? Ki im le'yir'a oso. Be aware of Hashem’s chesed, the opportunity to make a malach of yourself, to do good in this world. Once you learn to do that, once you learn to thank Hashem for the gift of life and all that life entails, and for all the things He does for us, then yir'as shamayim will be 'ki im,' it will be easy to come to yir’as shomayim, it'll be practically inevitable. As my son Harav Mordechai Shlita once said, after Vayosha Hashem es Yisrael, then Vayir'u ha'am es Hashem. Seeing the yeshua brought them to Yiras Shamayim. (Mordechai's pshat was that when you love someone, and certainly when you love them and realize all they have done for you, you are afraid to do something that will hurt them.)


After posting this, I got the following email message:
Nope...sorry..... Don't think so............take a look at the headlines..........XXXXXXXXX arrested in Israel on Tax Fraud..how many Brachos you think he said every day.............Talk is CHEAP.......even Brachos........ONLY actions count...........

He has a point. I welcome your opinions, especially constructive criticism; have I become a pileous monotreme that vents both life and waste from the same portal, and broken my promise to not post superficial platitudes? And if I did, is this because I didn't understand the deeper meaning of the Baal Haturim and the Ohr Hachaim? For the sake of argument, let's assume for a moment that the alleged malefactor is guilty, that the relevant person is an Orthodox Jew who is mekayeim mitzvos assei and lo sa'aseh to any standard that defines Orthodox Jewish behavior, and that his actions express an anti-social and anti-Torah world view. Does his, and the proliferating similar cases, prove that religious behavior doesn't prove holiness? Is there any reliable indicator that a person is doing mitzvos out of yiras shamayim as opposed to simply maintaining a religious lifestyle as the course of least resistance out of habit or indoctrination?

One person suggested an answer connected to the Magen Avraham in OC 1:sk7. The Magen Avraham brings from Rabbeinu Bachay that Chazal's dictum "whosoever recites Ashrei thrice daily is surely a Ben Olam Haba" doesn't mean mere recitation. It means deep meditation on the meaning of the words and the truths they relate. Similarly, he said, there's no benefit from merely reciting the hundred brachos. The benefit comes from awareness of hashgacha pratis and reinforcement of hakaras hatov. Without these elements, it's just, as the letter writer put it, talk, and talk is cheap.

But I think there is another answer, and this answer highlights the interesting connection of this vort specifically to this week's parsha.

Ba'alei Mussar say "Adam nivdak be'kal," that you can only tell what a person is like from his attitude towards things that are not considered important. Doing the big things proves nothing. But if you do the little things, the things that you could avoid without your conscience bothering you, that does prove something about your sincerity.

And that is precisely what the first words of this week's parsha teach us: Eikev tishme'un, the mitzvos that adam dash be'akeivav. Mei'ah brachos is a way to generate and maintain yir'as shamayim; but only as long as it is a davar kal. Once it is made into a Mivtza, a Mei'ah Brachos cult, like, with all due respect, the amein society, it will prove nothing and accomplish nothing.

NOTE:
Assuming that Mei'ah Brachos is obligatory, is it a Biblical or Rabbinic mandate? And general information for the inquiring mind.
  • According to the Bahag and Rav Shlomo ibn Gabirol, the fact that the Gemara in Menachos (cited above) derives the obligation from the passuk here proves that the mitzva is Biblical in nature.
  • The Rambam and Ramban hold that it is mi'derabanan, and the drasha in Menachos is an asmachta (like Shnayim mikra ve'echad Targum hinted at in the word 'Shemos.') This opinion is accepted le'halacha.
  • Rabbeinu Bechaye and the Sefer HaManhig write that this was one of the earliest Rabbinical ordinances, (like Kri'as Hatorah Shabbos afternoon,) dating back to the times of Moshe Rabbeinu. However, it was essentially forgotten over time until, in response to a plague in Yerushalayim which was R'L killing 100 Jews a day, (Medrash Rabba Bamidbar [Korach] 18:21) David HaMelech reemphasized the takana. (The Medrash there also associates this with the passuk in II Shmuel 23:1,נְאֻם דָּוִד בֶּן-יִשַׁי, וּנְאֻם הַגֶּבֶר הֻקַם עָל, since עָל is Gematria 100. Others see it in the Passuk in Tehilllim 128:4 הִנֵּה כִי-כֵן יְבֹרַךְ גָּבֶר יְרֵא ה since כִי-כֵן is also gematria 100. )
  • Women have no such obligation. Sources: Lechem Mishna 2 Taanis 5 and Reb Shlomo Zalman Aurbach in Halichos Shlomo page 272 based on very different reasons. (Reb Elyashiv and Rav Ovadia Yosef Sheyichyu hold that women should say mei'ah brachos, but this is my blog, and I can be soseim the way I want to.)
  • Does the night go with the following or preceding day? This question is too OCD for me* to deal with, like where are you supposed to stop and do Targum by Shnayim Mikra? At each perek, or only at the psuchos, or at the aliyos? Just decide in your mind which makes more sense to you and stick with it.
  • The Bach in OC 46 says that this still works as a shmira from sickness and things like that.
*Someone pointed out that this is another example of Adam nivdak be'kal. Thank you very much.
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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

ילמדנו רבינו how could it be min hatorah when there are, at maximum, a handful of torah brachot.

Anonymous said...

במחילת כבוד תורתו i wish to ask why you find it necessary to write the Shem out in full. This might be a subject for another post, if mechikas haShem is relevant on a computer or not, but regardless, in my humble opinion it displays a certain lack of respect, and coming from a talmid chochom, עס פאסט נישט

Barzilai said...

Reb 1:36 PM--
Blindsided again. BUT I saw a marvelous Pnei Yehoshua in the beginning of Keitzad Mevorchim that answers that question, and I brought it down here
http://havolim.blogspot.com/2008/08/update-brachos-that-are-mideoraysa.html

Reb 2:30 PM--
במחילת כבוד תורתו, you know the Gemara in BB 41 and BM 66 klers whether mechila beta'us is mechila or not. Anyway, I agree with you. The reason I did it is because I hate to type in Hebrew, so I go to one of the online libraries (like TselHarim) and cut and paste the relevant passuk. Having done that, I don't feel right deleting the sheim. As for writing the word God, that doesn't bother me. It's not really writing, it's not shayach lo sa'asun kein, and it just doesn't feel inappropriate. I can understand, though, that there are people who print out the divrei torah, and who therefore are stuck with sheimos. I wish I could accomodate them, but I can't think how. Anyway, I like to think that the divrei torah are sheimos in any case.

Barzilai said...

I just replaced the yud kei vov keis with hei's. I think that's better.
And a link to one of the libraries I use for pesukim and gemaros is
http://www.tsel.org/torah/