Counting Blessings… and Calories! Part 1

The Importance of Thanking God

When a person thanks God, he gives actual expression to his faith.
Many people are aware of the fact that there is a Creator; however, as
long as a person does not thank God for all of His goodness, he
remains unconnected to faith itself. If one fails to express
appreciation, the knowledge that God created the world lacks content
and bears no constructive significance.

One who does thank God, however, becomes filled with faith, and it
follows that he is able to cling to the ways of God and rectify the
world. It is thus written in the story of creation (Genesis 1:31):
“And God saw all that He had created, and behold it was very good.”
This verse teaches us how we ought to relate to creation.

There are those who see the worst in everything, and sometimes they
think that such an approach indicates depth of perception. However,
this actually evidences ungratefulness, an inability to see all of the
good which God has created in the world. Therefore, the Torah teaches
us at its very outset that the world which God created is good.

Therefore it is very important for a person to thank God and recite
blessings over all of those things from which he derives pleasure.
This principal is so obvious, say the Sages, that the Torah did not
need to command us regarding it (Berakhot 35a). That a person must
thank God for such things can be easily arrived at through simple
reasoning: whoever has faith gives thanks. This apparently is the
reason that the first tractate in the Talmud in
“Berakhot” (blessings): blessing and praising God for all of the good
which He has given us is the foundation of everything.

Adam’s Sin Began with Ungratefulness

This was Adam’s sin: he failed to thank God for all of the good in the
world. As a result, he directed his thoughts toward figuring out how
he could use creation for his own advantage rather than concentrating
on elevating the world and being elevated with it. Were he to thank
God as he should have, he would have rejoiced at all of the fruit on
the trees of the Garden of Eden, and he would not have set his eyes on
the Tree of Knowledge.

Yet, at this point, Adam still had the opportunity to admit his sin
and repent for what he had done. If he had followed such a path he
would have been able to remain in the Garden of Eden. Yet, he chose to
deny God’s goodness, saying (Genesis 3:12), “The woman which You gave
me, she is the one who gave me of the tree to eat.” Instead of
thanking God for the woman he had been given, the most wonderful gift
he could possibly have received, Adam denied this goodness and refused
to give thanks.

As said, had Adam expressed regret at this point, he apparently would
have been forgiven and would have been permitted to remain in the
Garden of Eden. However, as is to be expected of the ungrateful,
instead of admitting his guilt and taking upon himself to repent, he
accused God and the woman for his own sin, and was therefore exiled
from the Garden of Eden. And so, everything began with the fact that
he did not know how to thank God for all the good which He had given
him.

A number of years later, when Adam finally wished to repent and return
to the Garden of Eden he was not able to do so, for his repentance at
this time resulted from the hardships which befell him after he was
expelled.

Meticulous About Blessings

In light of this we can understand why the Sages were so exacting when
it came to the laws of blessings. They instituted special blessings
for each type of pleasure and delineated precise amounts of food which
would call for blessings. They did this so that thanks be given to God
for every kind of pleasure in the most praiseworthy and becoming
manner. And when a person recites blessings with proper intention he
rectifies, in a way, the sin of Adam.

The Sages also teach that it is forbidden to derive pleasure from this
world without reciting a blessing, and whoever derives pleasure from
this world without reciting a blessing is seen as having made unlawful
use of consecrated property.

Furthermore, blessings must be recited in a respectable manner, and it
is forbidden to perform labor while reciting them (Shulchan Aruch
191:3). (To be continued)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.