Zei Gebentshed!

Rabbi Zvi Teichman

One of the most powerful blessings we have been gifted with is the Birkas Kohanim — The Priestly Blessing.

The very first blessing they are to bestow on us is יברכך — May Hashem bless you. Despite its generic nature the Midrash informs us that this refers to the blessing of עושר — wealth.

Is that the very first thing on our minds and the starting point for all blessing? Peace perhaps, or maybe safety, but wealth?

Why and how is wealth, more than anything else, more closely associated to this general term for ‘blessing’?

Obviously, wealth is never defined by the number of assets one has nor by its value. Even the appellation for a rich person — עשיר, the Maharal teaches is inaccurate since every truly descriptive title must reflect on the very essence of a person, not merely by the number of items stored somewhere externally.

The brother of the Maharal, Rav Bezalel, tells us that the word עשיר is an acronym for עיניים, שינים, ידים, רגלים — eyes, teeth, hands, and feet. 

Simply, it would seem to be teaching us that feeling ‘fortunate’ that we are blessed with the faculties that give us the ability to engage in life is our greatest treasure. In the spirit of that famous adage in Avos — Who is wealthy: One who is happy with his lot, it is not what we own that defines us as ‘enriched’, but rather the attitude of feeling privileged with what we have. That sense genuinely describes a person. One who feels ‘gebentshed’ — blessed, with what he was been given in life, as meager as it may seem, is truly ‘wealthy’.

He adds that the second word in the phrase שמח בחלקוhappy with one’s lot, stands for חם לח קר ויבש — hot, moist, cold, and dry, alluding metaphorically to the exposure to the various ‘elements’ of life that cause us discomfort, both physical and emotional, that often defeat our noblest ambitions, that we must overcome and happily accept as part of our ‘lot in life’.

Among the list of the forty-eight ways necessary to acquire Torah are both the trait of שמחה — joy, and the attitude to be שמח בחלקו — happy with our lot.

Isn’t the mindset to be ‘happy with our lot’ merely the formula by which to attain true ‘joy’ in life, and thus included in the notion of being in a ‘joyous’ state of being, so that we may study and acquire Torah with a focus and uncluttered mind? 

Why is it listed separately into a category unto itself?

The Torah lists the various sacrifices and utensils that were donated by the נשיאים — leaders of each tribe, on the day the Mishkan was erected, that were brought for the next twelve consecutive days.

The last of the leaders to bring his offering was אחירע בן עינן. The Holy Ohr HaChaim interprets each of the leaders’ names as alluding to their personal character traits. He says that אחירע breaks down into two words, אחי רע — my brother is malignant. This is not a reflection on his brother, but rather a statement attesting to one declaring that what is suitable and most appropriate for my brother is taboo for me. 

Often, we bemoan our spiritual lot in life, aspiring for different circumstances in life so that we may grow more in spirituality. If only we lived in a better community; if only we had fewer challenging children; if only I had a better mind; if only I had more time; if only I had the wealth; if only I got the upper shiur, could I devote myself to achieve and grow in ‘ruchniyos’.

If only I didn’t always come in last!

Achira mastered an appreciation for who he was, where he was planted, with whom he associated, and devoted himself to the task of serving Hashem — happily — with his talents and circumstances, looking askance from what the next guy was doing.

He was בן עינן — son of an eye, focusing fully and exclusively on his precise and unique mission as outlined specifically for him, without apology for not being head of the class, doing the best he could with the tools he was given.

Alternately this may reflect on his superior ‘eye’ that was generous towards others, untainted from any iota of jealousy. (בשם הרבי מאלכסנדר) 

It was Achira’s ‘brothers’, the tribe of Naftali, who were characterized by Moshe in his blessing to them with the attribute of שבע רצון — totally satisfied. No wonder Yaakov prophesied in his blessing how this tribe would merit to deliver אמרי שפר — beautiful sayings, which the Midrash says refers to the Torah this tribe of Naftali promulgated while devoting themselves to the study of Torah despite the challenges they faced.(שהש”ר ח י) 

The legendary Mashgiach of Mir and Ponovez, Rav Yechezkel Levenstein writes:

How much more so must one be happy and accept his spiritual situation. Certainly, one must demand and seek for himself greatness and never be complacent with what he has achieved, but that is not contradictory to his obligation to be pleased and satisfied with what he has accomplished.

The latter imperative, listed in the forty-eight ways the Torah is acquired, to be שמח בחלקו — happy with one’s lot, is addressing specifically one’s spiritual assets and directing us to pursue our path towards closeness with the Torah and Hashem with satisfaction, not frustration. Regale in what you have accomplished and rejoice in your personal relationship that no other can match or vie for, no matter what level you may be on.

My dear friend, Rabbi Akiva Fox, recently related a touching story about a student of one of his colleagues who heads a Yeshiva. This young man struggled intellectually and had a hard time comprehending the material, and even reading took enormous effort. His middos were exceptional and, despite his challenges, he came to every seder and every davening. The Rosh Yeshiva wanted to confer some honor on him in appreciation of his diligence, commitment, and sterling character. But due to his weak skills, he feared asking him to daven from the amud, or even give him an aliyah, lest he stumble over the words, causing him embarrassment. He decided to honor him with pesicha, opening the aron and taking out the Torah. The talmid was deeply moved by the gesture and fulfilled his duty with glowing pride.

The Rosh Yeshiva observed his beloved talmid remove the sefer Torah for leining and return it afterward to its sacred place. As the boy lovingly replaced the sefer Torah in the aron, my friend heard him whispering softly, to the cherished Torah in his hands. “See you on Thursday,” he said, exuding a tangible sense of how truly ‘gebentshed’ he felt! (HaModia Shavuos Edition, An American in Yerushalayim)

We must feel ‘gebentshed’ in both our material status as well as our spiritual one.

That is the launching pad from where authentic happiness, and future healthy and mighty achievement begins.

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