Mishnah Insights: Berachos 6:2

Mishnah Berachos 6:2 – The Shehacol Blessing

The shehacol is the “catch-all blessing,” made before partaking of food. Although, the blessing specifically applies to certain foods such as eggs, cheese, and milk that would not fall under other categories, like prei ha’adamah (fruit of the earth) and prei ha’etz (fruit of the tree). So, if there is an understanding that by default, the shehacol blessing (shehacol nihiyeh b’dvarot – who creates all things through His word) seemingly covers all foods, then why are there so many particulars?

By analogy, the question may be asked, that if blue is blue, why are there so many shades of blue, or any other color? The rich diversity of G-d’s creation, whether His beautiful artwork, a tapestry in the sky, or a canvas at sunset, is such because of its inclusion of so many diverse elements that blend in harmony with His creation, and abide in accordance with His will. To ignore the various shades of the color spectrum, or fail to differentiate between so many types of foods is to diminish the grandeur of G-d’s creation. These are only my thoughts and not a halachic answer.

Aside from any discussion on the proper blessing to make before partaking of food, consider the following: proper awe, reverence, and respect towards the Creator Who provided the food. There is a story of a peasant who would like to thank the baker for the bread he ate. Upon thanking the baker, the baker said not to thank him, thank the miller who ground the wheat. The miller said to thank the farmer who harvested the wheat. The farmer said thank the earth. The earth said to thank the rain that replenished the earth. The rain said to thank the clouds that made the rain. The clouds said to thank the sun, because, without sunshine, the wheat could not grow. The sun said to thank G-d who made all celestial beings. And so that is one way to understand why we praise G-d with blessings over food and show gratitude towards Him for the food on our table.

Pleading for an Undeserved Favor

“And I besought [implored] H’Shem at that time, saying: ‘O L-rd G-D, thou hast begun to show Thy servant Thy greatness, and Thy strong hand; for what god is there in heaven or on earth, that can do according to Thy works, and according to Thy mighty acts?  Let me go over, I pray Thee, and see the good land that is beyond the Jordan, that goodly hill-country, and Lebanon.'”

– Deuteronomy 3:23, JPS 1917 Tanach

Moshe was considered the humblest man alive; yet, he spoke in anger, and transgressed at the waters of Meribah when he struck the rock instead of speaking to it as H’Shem had commanded; therefore, he was not permitted to enter Canaan.  Moshe pleads for H’Shem’s mercy in an attempt to ask Him to annul His decree that he would not enter the Promised Land.  However, he is only permitted to view the Promised Land from the top of a mountain (see Deuteronomy 3:26). According to Rashi, even though Moshe was denied entrance into Eretz Yisrael, he was received into Olam Haba .

Vaeschanan – I implored.  Rashi further comments that the verb chanan, signifies a gift given out of kindness or grace. “Although the righteous might make a claim to reward depend upon their good deeds, yet they solicit from the Omnipresent only an ex gratia gift” – a gift given out of kindness, not dependent upon merit (Rashi on Deuteronomy 3:23, sefaria.org). In looking at ourselves, we should acknowledge our lowliness, and our own need to seek G-d’s mercy. If we were to consider all of the ways that we offend H’Shem, how can we even stand before Him? “Not in the merit of our righteousness do we cast our supplications before you, but in the merit of Your mercy” (morning prayers).     

 

Turn Again

“What is meant by, ‘Surely he scorneth the scorners, but he giveth grace unto the lowly’ [Proverbs 3:34]? If one comes to defile himself, he is given an opening; if one comes to cleanse himself, he is helped.”  – Talmud Shabbos 104a

The Sages teach, based on the above Talmudic passage, and the configuration of the Hebrew letter, “hei,” that H’Shem will “give grace unto the lowly” to do teshuvah (repentance) through the narrow way.  This is represented by the small space towards the top of the letter hei – ה – the narrow gate that leads towards teshuvah (repentance). On the other hand, “surely he scorneth scorners” can be understood to mean that G-d will also give occasion to those whose way is stubbornly opposed to following G-d’s word. The scorners are bent on following their own way that leads to “defilement;” for them, the way is broad, symbolized by the broad space at the bottom of the letter hei: ה.

“Know whence you came and to where you are going and before Whom you are destined to give a final accounting.” – Pirkei Avos 3:1

“The whole wide world is a very narrow bridge.”

– R’ Nachman of Breslov