Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Eikev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25)Acknowledge When You Go to College

You will eat and be satiated and bless G-d, for the Land that He gave you.(ibid. 8:10).When we eat a meal with bread, we recite special blessings afterward, the source of which is found in the verse above. Two questions: (1) Does G-d really need my blessing? (2) Many world religions have blessings connected to food, but they make them before eating, why do we Jews make ours afterward?The nine verses following the verse above warn the Jewish people not to forget the Almighty. Take care lest you forget G-d…And you may say in your heart, “My strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth…(ibid. 11-20). The Midrash points out the significance of the Torah’s juxtaposition of the mitzvah to bless G-d after eating and the mistake of forgetting Him. When we are well fed and satisfied, we are more disposed to forget G-d due to being comfortable and content after consuming a lavish meal. Question: who is more likely to recognize G-d, a starving farmer waiting for rain (and therefore praying for it) or a prosperous business person finishing a feast in a pricey restaurant? One of life’s challenges is to have a meaningful relationship with G-d amid prosperity. Does G-d need our blessings? No, we need those blessings to keep us focused. We have to constantly realize that He is the Source of all of our health, wealth, and everything else we enjoy in life. Granted, you work out, eat well, and are a smart businessperson, but be careful about attributing your success solely to yourself by saying My strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth. Many strong, fit, and intelligent people have lost money and health. We try as hard as we can but ultimately the Almighty is the Source of all blessing. We bless Him (after a meal) when we’re satiated to reinforce the idea that He, not we, is the cause of it all. We don’t like to credit anyone other than ourselves for the good fortune we’ve had in life but the verses we’re discussing tell us we need to think beyond ourselves.Anyone can bless G-d before eating because it’s logical to think of and thank Him when you are hungry. The challenge is to think of Him when you’re full and that’s why the Torah mandates a blessing to be said after eating.Imagine the following scenario. A college student receives a monthly deposit from her parents in her bank account to cover her debit card. She never thanks them or even mentions it when she speaks with them. Eventually, she gets so immersed in her newfound campus freedom that she stops emailing, texting, or calling. The parents are perturbed and come up with a plan; they skip their monthly deposit.   There’s an immediate phone call asking what happened. They explain that from now on, they will deposit the money only after they receive an email from her each month. Suddenly, the monthly emails begin to arrive. This isn’t the ultimate relationship but at least there is acknowledgment of largess being done on the daughter’s behalf.  However, no one wants a relationship where money is the only thing that generates communication.A far healthier relationship would be one in which the daughter thanks her parent regularly for paying for her tuition, giving her spending money, and everything else they do for her. Due to her having been granted the gifts of freedom and abundance, she wasn’t able to confront the challenge of acknowledging who her providers were.Years ago, I came across the following story-I can’t vouch for its veracity and I don’t remember which magazine it was in. It told the story of a clever woman. She cooked dinner every night for her family, but no one ever thanked her or even commented; they just ate. One night she had an idea; she served dog food. They looked at it and smelled it and said, “this is dog food!”  She commented, “finally, someone has something to say about dinner.”If we can’t acknowledge the Almighty for our health, family, and other blessings, we ultimately won’t be able to acknowledge the people in our lives who do good things for us. Some people have the tendency to take credit for the good things in their lives because they can’t admit that they need others. Although we strive to be as independent as possible, we must acknowledge that our independence comes as a result of many factors, some of which are beyond our control.  When a sudden ‘break’ comes your way in the form of a job opportunity, relationship or good fortune, it’s important to realize that many times it had nothing to do with you. You had nothing to do with a market change or your boss’s position being open due to a job transfer.  If you can’t take credit for these phenomena, whom should you credit, mere coincidence?Whether it’s an ungrateful college student or a family at the dinner table, appreciating what we have requires work; the effort of focusing our attention on the gifts we possess. Once we do that, it’s follows that we will want to express our appreciation. Jews bless after eating to because we need to ingrain this idea as often as possible into our brains. A simple thanks (the blessing after a meal) can help to make us aware of the abundance we receive every single day. Next time you eat a good meal, take a moment to think about how fortunate you are to have teeth to chew it, a tongue to taste it, a working digestive system to receive and ultimately expel it. These gifts were granted to you at birth and are they worthy of a bit of thanks every time you benefit from them. Good Shabbos.  
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 Good Shabbos
Rabbi Oppenheim
Charlotte Torah Center