Rabbi Dr Zvi Aviner
IDOLATRY-3/Coin of Blessings
In the First of the Ten Commandments, we’ve said, the Speaker-G-d – presents Himself in a special way as follows
- I Am (Self)
- YHVH (Lord) your ELHM (G-d) (Attributes)
- Who has taken you out of Egypt land (His actions, Kingship)
Line 1 presents the SELF, which has no other description
Line 2 presents the Attributes – of MERCY and JUDGEMENT
Line 3 presents the CREATORS’ deeds or actions, called KINGSHIP.
Kingship presents the idea that the CREATOR is NOT aloof and detached from us, as many people and scientists believe, but rather the opposite – that He conducts and interferes in human history and sustains the world.
The Attributes are presented in details in Genesis Chapter One. His Kingship, Deeds, are the Six Days. Hence Chapter One of Genesis is built according to the above presentation of the Speaker in the Ten Commandments.
Let’s focus on the third line, His Kingship. It could have been: “The One Who Created the World.” This would have been a very solid presentation of His Kingship. But here in the Ten Commandments, speaking to the former salves Israel whom He had just redeemed, presenting His Kingship as their Redeemer, was more impressive and effective.
We can derive form here that although His Kingship can be presented in many ways, the best way is to choose a deed that is very relevant to us. After all, we enthrone Him not only on the Universe but rather on US
We’ve also said that by choosing this particular presentation, the Speaker expects us to KNOW Him and ADDRESS Him in these three lines, for our benefit. It would assure that our prayer or blessings ascend straight to the right address, to the Heavenly Court.
To comply with this expectation, the sages in Ezra time (550 BC) established the “coin of blessings” along the platform created by the First of the Ten Commandments.
Thus, for blessing G-d for our bread, we say
- Blessed are You,
- YHVH (AaDoNai, Lord) our ELHM (G-d)
- The King of the Universe, who has brought us bread from the ground
This “coin of blessings” is used for almost all of our prayers and blessings.
Where is the source for blessing?
Blessing G-d for anything good that He has given us, is a way of thanks giving. The Torah prescribes Blessing G—d only after eating bread or fruits from among the seven species that the Land of Israel is blessed with. But the Rabbis have extended the Blessing for many other items that we enjoy.
Blessing G-d gives us an opportunity to get close to HaShem throughout the day. We “see HaShem in front of us all day long.”
The idea of giving thanks to G-d, is related to Abraham.
It is said that Abraham erected an “E-Shel” tree, which in Hebrew stands for the Acronym “Food, Drink, Sleep”. Thus, he built kitchen and hotels or crossroads where he provided Food, Drink and Sleep to the poor for free. In the morning before they departed, they wished to thank him, so he said to them the famous words: “Let Us Bless our G-d Whose Food We Eat.” Those words are famous since we say them before blessing G-d after our meals.
Abraham introduced a new idea, a new perception of G-d that was unknown before. He saw G-d not only as a CREATOR, but also the OWNER of the Universe by the virtue of creating it. He therefore was the first to call G-d “AaDoNai” which means “My Master” or better “My OWNER” or “My LORD” meaning “My LANDLORD”. The Hebrew name AadoNai retains the specific meaning of My OWNER” which is lost in the English LORD.
For instance, when the King of Sodom, the master of thieves, offered Abraham to share with him the loot, Abraham rejected him saying “I lift my hand (in swearing) in the name of YHVH, the Supreme El, Who Owns the Heavens and the Earth, that I shall not share with you from a thread to a shoeless”.
Abraham believed that since G-d OWNS everything, stealing is a transgression against His property. In the same token, EATING WITHOUT GIVING THANKS TO THE OWNER OF THE WORLD, IS TANTEMOUNT TO STEALING HIS PROPERTY.
Abraham extended that notion of G-d as an OWNER into daily life. G-d not only owns the Universe, He owns us, owns our bodies so that we are His slaves. The eighth Commandment of Abraham, the Circumcision, presents “The Emblem of Our Master in Our Flesh.”
That notion brought Abraham to bless G-d for our food and homes and for everything good that He has given us.
The Rabbis, in Ezra time, expended that idea to anything good that has happened to us, like the bread we eat, the water we drink, the beauty of nature in which we live, getting over a sickness, and so on.
Are Noahides Obligated?
Since Abraham was a Noahide, it comes out that all Nations are expected to give thanks to G-d for everything good that He has given us.
“I shall bless you and make your name great,
And you will become a blessing (to the world)
And all the families of nations will be blessed in you” (Genesis 12: 3)
The term “families of nations” refers to the Seventy Families of the Children of Noah.” The verse asserts that all nations will be blessed “in Abraham” or in the blessings of Abraham.” This infers that all mankind can and should bless G-d the way Abraham did.
Noahides can and should join Israel in blessing G-d for everything good He has given us. They would say “Blessed You, HaShem (AaDoNai) our ELHM for giving us bread from the ground.” Noahides can bless HaSHeM for smelling something good, for seeing a beautiful natural scene, for hearing the thunder, for seeing lightening, for seeing an important person etc.
But Noahides should be careful not to bless HaShem for the Commandments He has given to Israel. Kingship of HaSheM is personal.