The meaning of “Blessing HaShem”

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Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik

by R. Aharon Ziegler

Halacha requires that we recite a Bracha, a blessing to HaShem, every time we eat, drink or enjoy anything we desire.  But what does it mean that we bless Gd? What could we, mortal human beings offer the everlasting King of Kings? The answer is that while the Divine Presence resides with us on earth, as the Torah states, “For I am the Lord who dwells with them in their impurity” (VaYikra 16:17)- Gd is not clearly revealed to us.  As a matter of fact, He is hidden from view: “Behold  I come to you in a cloud” (Shemot 19:9). Gd has chosen not to reveal Himself in human events, but to remain the “One who dwells concealed….in the shadow” (Tehillim 91:1)

The underlying meaning of all our blessings is the spreading of Kedusha, by revealing Gd’s presence in this world.  When we recite a Beracha, we are in essence saying, “Master of the Universe, You are hidden behind a cloud, no one sees You.  Yet, as we drink this glass of water, we reveal Your presence. The very fact that we can eat, that our body absorbs food, that we can digest, indeed the entire biological process behind food consumption and the creation of food itself, is a testimony to Your presence. Through this recognition we are removing the obscuring cloud- we are revealing You.

For this reason, Berachot are addressed to Gd in the second person: “Blessed are You”, rather than “Blessed is He”, to affirm Gd’s presence before us, as if to say, You, Gd, are right here with us! How do we know? Because Your presence is evident in the water that we are about to drink!”.  The purpose of a Beracha is to transform the Hidden into Presence, and through the use of the second person singular we reveal the Divine Presence that is directly in front of us.

(Source: Derashot HaRav, p.8)

About Aharon Ziegler

Rabbi Aharon Ziegler is the Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Agudath Achim of Boro Park and the Dean and Rosh Kollel of Kollel Agudath Achim. He is the author of six volumes of Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

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