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Gratitude for an Interdependent World:


This mailing is dedicated to my beloved teacher, Mrs. Evelyn Grossman, who lived in Far Rockaway, New York. When I attended H.I.L.I. – the Hebrew Institute of Long Island –she was my sixth-grade teacher in the English Department, and when I attended the junior high school, she was my science teacher. There was a spiritual quality to her approach to science, and she instilled in her students a sense of wonder and appreciation for all aspects of creation.

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"One immense bond of love - of receiving and giving - unites all beings. None exists by itself and for itself; there is a constant striving of each creature through and for the others, on behalf of the whole, and of the whole on behalf of every creature." (Nineteen Letters, Letter 3, by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch)

Dear Friends,

We have a tradition to say a blessing of thanksgiving to Hashem – the Compassionate One - both before and after eating or drinking. In this letter, we shall refer to blessings that we say "after" eating and drinking. There are some food items which are considered to be very special; thus, each of these items has its own unique blessing which is said after consumption.  Examples of such items are bread, wine, certain grains, and certain fruits from the seven species for which the Land of Israel is praised. (The seven species are listed in Deuteronomy 8:8.) All other forms of food and drink have a general blessing. For example, after eating or drinking any of the other items, we say the following blessing which expresses our gratitude to the Compassionate One, the Life of all the worlds:  

"Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, Sovereign of the universe, Who creates many beings with their deficiencies; for all that You have created with which to maintain the life of every being. Blessed is the Life of the worlds."

In the above blessing to Hashem, we express our gratitude for "all that You created with which to maintain the life of every being." Why, however, do we thank Hashem for creating many beings "with their deficiencies"? In what way do these deficiencies benefit the world? A number of years ago, I discovered the following answer which was cited in the name of the Chofetz Chaim, a leading sage of the late 19th and 29th centuries:

Since each being is deficient in some ways, it needs other beings to give it what it is missing. The awareness that all beings in the world need each other can lead to world shalom – harmony, wholeness, and peace. We therefore express our thanks to the Compassionate One for creating an interdependent world. 

Have a Good and Sweet Shabbos,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen  (See Below)

A Related Teaching:

In the Torah portion which we chant this Shabbos, we find the following instructions on how to take a census of the Children of Israel: "This they shall give - everyone who passes through the census - a half shekel of the sacred shekel" (Exodus 30:13). Why is each person to give a "half" of a shekel?  Rabbi Elie Munk, author of "The Call of the Torah," writes:
"The most common explanation for the fact that the Torah demands one-half of the unit of currency from rich and poor alike is that this is a hint to every individual, rich or poor, that he continually depends on others to accomplish the  task expected of him on earth. He is but a part of a whole, and his contribution represents only a fraction of the total picture. Each person needs others to achieve his spiritual goals." 

Hazon - Our Universal Vision: www.shemayisrael.co.il/publicat/hazon/