“Bless Us from Heaven”

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

“Look from Your holy abode, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel and the soil You have given us, a land flowing with milk and honey, as You swore to our fathers” (Deut 26:15).

One of Judaism's 13 principles is Reward and Punishment: God's blessings in response to our Torah adherence and His corrective measures for our disobedience. Nothing more is needed to earn reward than to live properly. Therefore, we wonder why in Deuteronomy 26:15, Moses tells the Jews that after bringing their first fruits and tithes that they should ask God to "look from heaven and bless the Jews and the land." Fulfilling the first fruit offerings and  tithes alone should earn the Jews reward, without verbalizing this request for God's blessings.

But there's a danger one faces after working the ground for a number of years. A person follows natural law to produce crops. This extended engagement in natural agricultural activities poses the threat of one forgetting about from where his sustenance truly emanates. One might be misled that the harvested bounty is a purely natural phenomenon. Therefore Moses tells the Jews that after this extended involvement in planting and reaping year after year that the Jews should not trust in the land, but in God who resides in heaven. This is why in this verse, "heaven" is contrasted to "land." Thus single verse contrasting heaven to earth, Moses made the Jews compare natural law with God’s providence, their true source of sustenance.

 We conclude that this request is not for the purpose of receiving reward, that we earn by out upright actions. This request is a precautionary measure against the pitfall of viewing everything as natural, without God's providence.