D’var Torah for August 11, 2017

In Parshat Eikev, Deuteronomy 8: 10, we read, “When you have eaten your fill [other translations – eaten and been satisfied], give thanks to the Eternal your G-d for the good land given to you.” This sentence is part of the birkat hamazon, the traditional blessing recited after meals. The rabbis asked, “how much do you have to eat in order to be considered ‘satisfied.’” The answer is “k’zayit,” an amount the size of an olive. An olive! Can you imagine being satiated by a quantity of food the size of an olive? It is so easy to look at what we have and say, “this is not enough.” The Torah asks that we declare even a morsel to be sufficient and worthy of prayer and blessing.

In the United States, we live in a culture of plenty. We are invited to constantly shop, purchase, eat, and acquire ever more. Interestingly, we are also advised to declutter, lose weight, and live a clean, minimalist lifestyle. Caught in an endless cycle of acquisition and minimization, it is hard to find balance. The Torah teaches us that balance is in awareness, mindfulness, and gratitude. We aren’t commanded here simply to recite a blessing after we eat, but rather we are also commanded to be satisfied with what we have (even an amount the size of an olive), to open our awareness to those who have less, to the blessing of harvest, and to all that must happen before the food appears on our plates.

As the poet, Leah Goldberg wrote:
Teach me, O G-d, a blessing, a prayer
On the mystery of a withered leaf,
On ripened fruit so fair,
On the freedom to see, to sense,
To breathe, to know, to hope, to despair.

Teach my lips a blessing, a hymn of praise,
As each morning and night
You renew Your days,
Lest my day be today as the one before;
Lest routine set my ways.

Shabbat Shalom,
Cantor Sally Neff