How Wonderful That: A D'var Torah for Parshat Eikev

At a temple meeting on 20 August 2008, Neil gave the following D'var Torah.

Think about when you were a child away at summer camp –playing Frisbee, baseball, and tennis, doing arts and crafts, and maybe even going boating. Remember back to what is was like to sleep in the cabins with all your friends? Staying up too late, playing flashlight tag, and making too much noise… And of course, who can forget the meals --- they were terrible. Oddly enough, it's the meals that I remember the most. It's not that I can recall how the chicken tasted or that the bug juice was diluted. I remember sitting with my friends after the meal, and singing Birkat Hamazon. We sang with tremendous energy. We created so much Ruach. It wasn't that we understood exactly why were saying the prayer --- we had just eaten to our hearts content and we were satisfied.

Parshat Eikev commands us to carry out the Miztvah of Birkat Hamazon - To quote Deut. 8:10: "And you will eat and be sated, and you shall bless the Lord your G-d, for the good land that He has given you."

Birkat HaMazon includes four blessings.

  1. Birkat Hazan (the blessing for providing food), which thanks G-d for giving food to the world,
  2. Birkat Ha-Aretz (the blessing for the land), which thanks G-d for bringing us forth from the land of Egypt, for making His covenant with us, and for giving us the land of Israel as an inheritance,
  3. Birkat Yerushalayim (the blessing for Jerusalem), which prays for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the coming of the messiah; and
  4. Birkat Ha-Tov v'Ha-Maytiv (the blessing for being good and doing good), was added after the destruction of the Temple, although it existed before that time. It emphasizes the goodness of G-d's work, that G-d is good and does good.

Birkat HaMazon goes well beyond a thank you for the food that has been consumed. At its core, Birkat HaMazon provides a model for us to express our appreciation for life's blessings. What are these blessings? Perhaps they are our spouses and partners, our children, parents, or siblings. While all of these are truly blessings, and many of us can say that we have these blessings, having these blessings is not enough. How could we want more? It's not so much a matter of wanting more as it is a matter of appreciating the blessings that you have. As singer and songwriter Sheryl Crow tells us, "It's not having what you want, it's wanting what you've got."

In addition to Sheryl Crow's simple words of wisdom, my father offers his own words of wisdom which also inspire me. My Dad starts off all family gatherings, meals, and conversations with a very simple phrase: How wonderful that. He hasn't always viewed the world with such amazing optimism. His life hasn't been easy and he didn't always have food to eat. In fact, he survived the Holocaust as a twenty-two year old weighing a mere eighty pounds. What makes his outlook so amazing is that he was able to overcome all his hardship, provide for his family and community, and then ultimately acknowledge it's how he perceives all aspects of his life that make him blessed. How wonderful that he can really take such joy in all that surrounds him.

That pretty much sums it up; we can only truly be satisfied when we can reflect and appreciate everything wonderful around us.

A week and a half ago, Debbie and I had the opportunity to experience Birkat Hamazon camp Newman style, with our children at the PTS Family Shabbat at Camp Newman.

How wonderful that we can celebrate Shabbat and say Birkat Hamazon with our children at Camp Newman

And ... How wonderful that we've been entrusted by our congregation to provide the leadership to enable the Temple to flourish.

Please join me as we say the blessing for community service together.

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