By reciting blessings over those things which bring pleasure a person
learns to be happy with his lot. The Sages teach that “jealousy,
greed, and honor remove a person from the world” (Avot 4:21). Here is
not the place to give a detailed explanation of this teaching,
however, in general, we can say that these negative traits stem from
the fact that a person is not satisfied with his own life, believing
instead that his happiness depends upon exterior factors.
Even if a jealous person attains riches and honor, he is unable to be
happy with his portion, for, in his eyes, so long as his fellow has
more than he, all of his attainments are worthless. A greedy person
always wants that which he has not, and therefore he is not happy with
what he has. And a person who seeks honor always wants to hear praises
and compliments from others, and he is unable to be satisfied with his
own portion, with the good deeds he performs.
Now it is easier to understand why “jealousy, greed, and honor remove
a person from the world.” People who have these traits are unable to
live their true lives, and so they forfeit their lives in both this
world and the World to Come. Such people are advised to bless with
intention. By doing this they will learn to see the good which God has
given them and to be happy with it, and as a result they will begin to
live their lives for real.
A Good Recipe for Dieting
Blessing with added intention is also good advice for one who wishes
to lose weight. The blessing makes a person aware of the inner value
of the food. It reminds us that God created it and gave it its own
unique taste and its nutritional characteristics. By recognizing the
value of the food it is possible to be satiated with less. However, if
a person is not aware of the inner value of the food, he needs to eat
much more in order to satisfy his appetite and tame his hunger, and
only when he has filled his stomach completely is he able to stop
It would appear that reciting Grace After Meals with proper intention
can even benefit a person who has eaten too much, for it is bound to
cause him to be satisfied in the future with no more than what he
needs in order to remain healthy and happy (this idea is hinted at by
Rabbi A.I. Kook in “Middot HaRa’aya,” Ha’alat HaNitzotzot 6).
By acknowledging all the kindness which God has showered upon
creation, one becomes capable of understanding how great is our
responsibility not to destroy it. Just look at Adam. He was given the
Garden of Eden, yet he brought hardship upon himself and upon all of
creation; he was rendered mortal and sentenced to hard labor, and
because of him the earth’s soil began to produce thorns and thistles.
Great kindness was also bestowed upon Cain – he received half of the
earth. Yet, he was not satisfied; he rose up and struck down his
bother, and in so doing brought destruction upon both of them.
And just consider how fortunate the generation of the Flood was, yet
they too sinned and brought destruction upon themselves and all of
Furthermore, consider the good fortune revealed through the
settlements of Gush Katif and Northern Shomron. The Jewish people
merited reclaiming and repopulating these areas after a two-thousand
year absence, and the land began yielding its fruit bountifully for
its children who returned from afar. In an act which demonstrated
total lack of appreciation for this great blessing, wicked people rose
up and destroyed these settlements causing misfortune to the entire
Jewish people. The result will no doubt be a rise in terrorism, and
those responsible for this tragedy will bear the guilt.
If they had recognized the enormity of the blessing of each new house,
each new seedling, and each new-born child in Gush Katif and Northern
Shomron, leaders would have understood that their responsibility was
to strengthen and encourage these settlers. However, they did not
recognize this goodness and instead “they despised the pleasant
land” (Psalms 106:24). They attempted to achieve what at present is
impossible to achieve, and in doing so brought about a situation
wherein even that which we once possessed is no longer ours.
Some of the translated biblical or talmudic sources in the above
article may have been taken from, or based upon, Davka’s Soncino
Judaic Classics Library (CD-Rom).