Sedra of the Week: Eikev

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Sedra of the Week: Eikev

Hannah Reuben looks ahead to this week's portion of the Torah

There is a law teaching we must recite 100 brachot (blessings) every day. A hint to this can be found in this week’s sedra, “And now, O Israel, what (mah) does the Lord your God demand of you?” (Deut 10:12). The word mah (what) can be read as me’ah, meaning a hundred. 

Shacharit (the morning service) consists of 44 brachot, so it would seem benching (grace after meals) with its four brachot is not that unique.

Yet it turns out that the only bracha we are biblically commanded to recite is benching (Deut 8:10).

Benching contains three original brachot: Hazan commanded by Moses, thanking God for providing manna; Nodeh, decreed by Joshua thanking God for the land; and Rachem, a prayer for Jerusalem decreed by David and Solomon.

We are taught that if one does not say the words “a desirable, good and extensive land” in the blessing of the land and does not mention the house of King David in the blessing “who builds Jerusalem”, one has not performed their obligation of benching. Why is appreciating Israel the focus of thanking God after eating?

 Rav Kook identifies the land of Israel as the place of our nation and we should dedicate our energy to it and the people of Israel to bring redemption.

The building of Jerusalem represents the spiritual foundation to which we should dedicate ourselves. It seems that in Hazan we thank God for life, but in Nodeh and in Rachem we praise God for something greater. 

Although we mention leaving Egypt, the Torah and the covenant, the land of Israel and Jerusalem are above all. They give us life in times of redemption or exile on a practical level and as giving us hope. 

More than anything else, it is the Land of Israel and Jerusalem that give us purpose and meaning.

Hannah Reuben is part of United Synagogue’s Education Team

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