This Shabbat we will be reciting the Blessing of the new Jewish Month of Elul – the month of preparation for the High Holy Days. Rosh Chodesh Elul will be a week from now – beginning on Friday night, August 26th, and continuing on the following Saturday and Sunday. This Shabbat, a full week in advance of Elul, we are reminded that our month of intense spiritual preparation is about to begin….
What is this preparation, and preparation for the preparation, all about?
A hint is found in this week’s Torah portion of Ekev where we read [Deuteronomy 8:10]: “V’achalta, v’sa’va’ta u’veyrachta et Adonai Elohecha” – You shall eat and be sated and bless the Lord Your God. This verse is the basis for the mitzvah [commandment] of Birkat HaMazon – the Blessing After the Meal. And, it is a wonderful and beneficial spiritual practice in which we constantly remind ourselves of the power of gratitude even for the most basic of our needs – even for our food. We express our gratitude to God each and every time right after we eat and are sated!
Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch remarks that God gives us food to eat so that we will have the energy to redefine ourselves anew each day in light of God’s vision for us. When we recognize that the food we eat is a gift from God, it helps us to be our best selves.
Simply knowing, intellectually, or believing, theologically, that God is the source of our life, and of our food, is not as helpful as reminding ourselves of this at every opportunity. By adopting the spiritual practice of expressing our gratitude in Birkat HaMazon, we reinforce a broader practice of gratitude in life – gratitude to God, to family, to friends, and to community. And, we are able to better discern who we are, who we have become, and who we want to be as we move forward throughout our lives.
May our moments of preparation and our spiritual practice of gratitude lead us to moments of greater blessing and inner peace in life.
Rabbi Gilah Dror
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