My close friend Howard mentioned a current movement going on throughout the local schools. Children are urged to say, either, “amen” or 100 blessings each day. I don’t recall how he put it. If the latter, there are clear grounds. Menachos 43b states:
“Rabbi Meir said, ‘A person is obligated to bless 100 blessing every day, as the Torah says: ‘Now Israel, what does God ask from you, but only to fear Hashem your God, to go in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve Hashem your God, with all of your heart and with all of your soul. To guard the commands of Hashem and His statutes which I command you today, for your good.” (Deut. 10:12,13)
We wonder from where in his quoted verse does Rabbi Meir derive the obligation to bless 100 blessings, and to do so each day. The Rabbis explain, that the word “what” (“mah” in Hebrew) is to be read not “mah”, but “meah” (meaning 100). So instead of the verse above reading “what does God ask of you” it should be read, “100 does God ask of you.” Meaning, God asks 100 blessings of us. Another method says that by adding the letter Alef equaling 1 into “mah” to create “meah”, the total value of this verse becomes 100. Regardless of the method of derivation, this specific verse was chosen and no other, so I suggest that in its plain meaning, it must somehow relate to this concept. Meaning, Moses’ words “What does God ask…” must in some way convey the idea expressed in blessing God 100 times daily.
To begin, what is the idea behind reciting 100 blessings? What are we trying to say? Of course, it is not the “100” that is our concern, for any number would evoke the identical concern. Had we been told to recite 50 blessings, we would ask again, “why 50?” So let’s leave that question, and concern ourselves with the more central issue: What is the idea of blessing numerous blessings each and every day? How is Moses expressing this underlying idea? Be mindful as well, that Moses ended his address to the people with the words “for your own good”. Does this play any role in understanding this principle? I believe it does. As Howard, Jeff, Lewis and I discussed the questions, we arrived at the following answer.
Moses’ expressed his view of the Torah to the Jews. He said, “What does God ask of you?” This means that to Moses, the Torah system was not something difficult. In another section of Talmud, the Rabbis ask, “Is Torah really a small thing” as Moses expressed? The Rabbis answer, “Yes, to Moses it was a small thing.” We now understand Moses’ plain meaning: he wished to express, and train the Jews in his values. Moses ends with the words, “for your own good”. Meaning, Moses was qualifying why he felt observing Torah was not difficult: since it is for our very good, our relationship to Torah should clearly be one where we run to it, and not from it.
This sentiment, that something for our good should be viewed as a small thing in our eyes, should be expressed in our actions. When something is a burden, we cannot wait until it has passed, or until we have finished that performance. But if something is truly viewed as a good, then we would wish to repeat that good.
This, I believe to be the idea. The Rabbis instituted 100 blessings as an expression of Moses’ sentiment that the Torah is not a burden. By blessing God 100 times daily, we are in fact stating, “even 100 blessings is no burden to me, for I love the system”.
Unfortunately, as in other cases and mitzvahs, people attach more to a command, than what God did. People feel that through this recitation, positive changes come about in the world, like some magical potion. Eve made the same mistake, as Lewis pointed out: the Rabbis say she added to God’s command, and said “we also cannot ‘touch’ the forbidden fruit”, whereas God said only, do not “eat” it. Through her addition to God’s words, together with the serpent pushing her into that fruit, then seeing nothing happened as a result of her touching the fruit, she then ate it, violating the real command. The Rabbis said, “Kol hamosafe, goraya”, “all who add, diminish.” Eve added to God’s words, and thereby diminished the significance of the real command not to eat. This caused man’s downfall. Here too people add, and suggest some additional good will come about. However, God did not say so, nor does reality substantiate their claims: for we see no causal relationship between blessings and our physical good; nor do we see any connection in time between our blessings and the good in our life. But people will believe what feels good, as opposed to what is true. That is sad, for they accept that which is unproven, and then train their children to live in this same, unexamined philosophy.
But some may respond that King David, according to one view, instituted 100 blessings as a response to the plague killing 100 men daily, and the King’s idea was effective: the men stopped dying. However, that was an isolated event, and unless someone is on King David’s level of understanding, it is baseless to suggest that our recital of 100 blessings today will be similarly efficacious.
In truth, the Rabbis’ institution here, as is the case with all of their teachings, must be understood, and not performed absent-mindedly. Torah is for our perfection, and perfection comes about when we engage our minds, not simply performing physical actions.
Returning to Moses’ teaching, we now learn something new: man needs to demonstrate through blessings, that God’s system is a good for us. We need to make this statement in our actions. It is insufficient that we simply agree with this notion: we must act this out daily. And this act of blessing God 100 times…is the final objective, we need not seek to add falsehoods, as did Eve, and assume more than what the Rabbis stated. The act per se is the good of this command. We should be overjoyed in understanding this need, and in performing this act. Nothing more should be sought, for that would indicate that we feel the Rabbis did not act properly: “they missed a point”. But that is nothing but arrogance.
When the Jews left Sinai after receiving the Torah, the Rabbis said they left “as infants fleeing from school.” For this reason, Rabbi Meir stated that we all must recite 100 blessings each day. Our human nature must feel a burden in the laws of the Torah. That must have been the reason that the Torah demanded to include a verse, which alludes to this idea of correcting our flawed and escapist view, replacing it with a corrected attachment to Torah, and expressing this attachment with 100 blessings each day.
Blessing God, then, is a means to realign our thoughts with what is truly for our good. What is also noteworthy, is that the very lesson to bless God 100 times daily, is derived from a man’s sentiments, from Moses, as opposed to God commanding this without a man’s example. Thereby, we learn that the Torah teaches principles in a perfect manner: here, as the lesson is how man should view the Torah system, the lesson is derived from a man’s perfected view of this system, and his reaction, “What does God ask of you Israel?”