How many blessings a day are sufficient? The Torah teaches us that saying at least 100 blessings per day is the way to go for a healthy body, mind, and spirit!
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is “Eikev” (Deuteronomy 7:12–11:25) and it contains the source for one of the most constant practices in a Jew’s life: reciting blessings–100 blessings per day to be exact.
Jews have lots and lots of blessings to recite. We recite a blessing before and after eating almost anything. We say a blessing when coming out of the bathroom. We say a blessing on thunder, lighting, the ocean, earthquakes, and other natural phenomena. We say a blessing when hearing good news and a blessing when hearing bad news. The list is virtually endless.
It is interesting to note, however, that the only blessing (yes, the ONLY blessing) that the Torah itself requires us to recite is the Grace After Meals (“Birkat Hamazon”). Hence, as one can imagine, the Grace After Meals is an extremely important prayer that one must not take lightly. All other blessings were instituted by the rabbis.
What is the significance of 100 you may ask?
The Talmud tells us that during the reign of King David there was a plague in the Land of Israel that killed 100 people each day. Many remedies were tried to stop the plague, but nothing worked. King David then suggested that each Jew recite 100 blessings per day in order to counteract the 100 deaths. And it worked!
This week’s Torah portion contains the verse in which Moses intones, “And now, Israel, what does God ask of you?” The Hebrew word for “what” can also be read as “one hundred,” as if to say, “And now, Israel, what does God ask of you? He asks for 100 [blessings]!”
King David sought a source for his new enactment and it was he who interpreted the above mentioned verse as a requirement to recite 100 blessings each day. The practice continues to this very day.
On most days it is actually rather easy to recite 100 blessings. This is because in the course of the daily prayers, plus mealtimes, plus snack times, and plus bathroom visits, one will usually reach or exceed 100.
On Shabbat and holidays (and especially on Yom Kippur when there are no meals!) it is a little trickier to reach the required 100. This is because, surprisingly perhaps, there are less blessings in the course of the Shabbat and holidays prayers than there are on weekdays.
Various solutions are given to this “problem” on how to reach 100 blessings on Shabbat and holidays, but that’s a topic beyond the scope of this article.
This week’s Torah portion gives us an opportunity to strengthen our commitment to reciting blessings and connecting with God throughout the day. So too, we see from King David’s initiative that it might just be that blessings, to some extent, have the power to prevent death and disease! Not only must we “count our blessings” we must also “recite our blessings!”
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below:
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