Rav Kook Torah

Psalm 68: Each Day's Blessings

“בָּרוּךְ אֲדֹ-נָי, יוֹם יוֹם. יַעֲמָס לָנוּ, הָאֵל יְשׁוּעָתֵנוּ סֶלָה.” (תהילים ס"ח:כ)

“Blessed is the Lord, day by day. He provides for us, the God Who delivers us, always.” (Ps. 68:20)

Many years ago, a small-town rabbi confessed to me his system of reciting blessings over food. The Sages established special blessings to be recited before eating different foods. Bread, wine, fruit, vegetables, cake, — each has its own blessing. ‘If I happen to know the blessing – good,’ he told me. ‘But if not, I just say Shehakol,’ — the default blessing recited over all other foods.

Why should saying a berachah over food be such a complicated affair? Why not make things simple, and establish one blessing recognizing God as the Source for all things?

Day and Night

The Talmud noted the words of the psalm, “Blessed is the Lord, day by day,” making the following insight:

“Are we to bless God only by day and not by night? Rather, this teaches that each day we should give Him the blessing appropriate to the day. So too, for each type [of food] we should give Him the appropriate blessing.” (Berachot 40a)

We need to understand this idea of acknowledging each day’s — or each type of food’s — particular blessings.

The Zohar contrasts the service of a servant and that of a child. The servant-master relationship is not a complicated one. The servant does not need to know his master intimately. He performs his master’s wishes out of a general motivation, because he was employed to carry out his orders.

The child-parent relationship is much deeper one. The child knows his parent well. He knows his strengths and accomplishments, his aspirations and desires. When the child fulfills his parent’s wishes, he is motivated by an informed love. He does not perform the parent’s directives like an unthinking robot, but takes into account the parent’s various needs and wishes.

These two paradigms of serving God — as His servant or as His child – parallel the difference between night and day. At night we have only a general awareness of God’s greatness as Creator of the universe. “When I see Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars that You have formed...” (Ps. 8:4).

The day, on the other hand, is a time when we are able to see each detail, every color and shape, of a wondrous creation. We are able to reflect on the profound Divine wisdom found in the intricate workings of the universe.

This is why the Sages took note of the psalmist’s use of the word ‘day’ — “Blessed is the Lord, day by day.” This phrase indicates that we should be aware of the specific nature of each of God’s blessings in the world, like the daytime when creation’s Divine wisdom is most revealed. This is a higher level of serving God than the general recognition of the world’s creation at night. It is comparable to the service of the child, aware of his parent’s specific strengths and accomplishments.

Therefore the Sages taught that one should acknowledge God’s blessings in the world in a detailed fashion. We should contemplate the amazing workings of the world around us — including insight into the special wisdom and benefit to be found in each type of sustenance that we enjoy. “For each type of food, we should give Him the appropriate blessing.

(Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. II, on Berachot VI:38)

End note: Recent studies have documented the relationship between gratitude and well-being, noting the mental health benefits that come from ‘the habitual focusing on and appreciating the positive aspects of life’ (‘Gratitude and Well-being,’ Clinical Psychology Review, Nov. 2010).

Sign up for weekly Dvar Torah!

Get Rav Kook’s Torah unplugged!