middot frugality mesorah blessing of gratitude

blessing of gratitude

Written by  rabbi benjamin ehrenfeld

art-mortgage“Please, Lord our God, do not make us dependent on the gifts or loans of other people, but only on Your full, open, holy and generous hand…” -- The Koren Sacks Siddur, p.982

It is a mitzvah to bless God before and after meals. The order of Birkat HaMazon takes us on a journey through various modes of thanksgiving as we see above from the third blessing, the blessing for Jerusalem.

The p’shat of this prayer is that we desire to be dependent only on God. There is another layer however, one that makes this supplication particularly practical. When we owe money to other people, whether through loans or received gifts with reciprocal expectation, we face the potential for enormous stress and damaged relationships. As a young man who took out a significant amount in loans to pay for undergraduate school, I am painfully aware of the former.

Excessive loans damage our ability to be frugal. In an ideal world, we would have an awareness that we owe everything to God and should therefore be grateful for all He has given, and give Him all of ourselves as a response to His love. When we insert the owed debt to fellow human beings, we run the risk of serving “two masters.”

When we bentch Birkat HaMazon, we enter a space of thanksgiving for God’s provision and for all that has come into our lives to enable us to have enjoyed the food we received. Simultaneously, we pray that we would continue to be blessed with sustenance from God and our labor without the need to owe many to another.

There are times to take out loans. Mortgages aren’t inherently evil! The world of prayer points us to an ideal world, however. We needn’t see this ideal as totally disconnected from the reality we can live in. Therefore, may we pray this prayer with full kavanah, so that we would soon be free of debts stemming from our failures in frugality.

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