Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 17 January 2015 / 26 Tevet 5775

The Shemoneh Esrei - The Ninth Blessing - Prosperity

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
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“Bless on our behalf (“Barech aleinu”)... this year…”

The theme of the ninth blessing of the Shemonah Esrei is “parnassa” ― sustenance. In it we ask that G-d bless us with a year of bountiful agricultural produce. In winter, the text has a slight variation. We ask for “rains of blessing” —beneficial rain. Sefardic worshippers begin this blessing during the summer months by saying, “Bless the work of our hands.” During the winter months all begin the same way, with the request as stated above.

Around the time of the Common Era, when the text of this prayer was formulated, business was for the most part based on agriculture ― buying and selling crops. For this reason its language directly relates to agriculture. Nowadays, however, most people are not farmers. Today, when we ask G-d to bless our year, we are asking Him to bless our work and grant us success in whatever field of business we are in. Our Sages (including Prophets) organized the prayers so they would include in a deeper sense all of the situations a person could find himself in. The intent of this blessing can even include requesting from G-d to send an innovative thought related to one's business which will enable his success.

Bless on our behalf

This is the only blessing in the Shemoneh Esrai that begins with the word “blessing.” Starting with this word hints to an essential connection between blessing and wealth, which we find in Proverbs 10: 22, a verse that also starts with the word “blessing”. There it is stated: “(Birkat) The blessing of G-d provides wealth.” This verse relays a deep and fundamental message regarding earning a livelihood.

For most people there are tremendous pressures involved in running a household: the cost of a home, the responsibility to take care of children — which includes schooling and health concerns, and much more. The burden of taking care of all of this may cause a person to worry excessively. For this reason, the verse teaches us that if a person merits Divine blessing his efforts to earn a living will be successful — no matter what. He need not worry at all. This is not a guarantee that everyone will become a millionaire. Rather, each person will receive what he needs from G-d. In fact, wealth is a relative term. Some will receive more, some less. We all, however, have the opportunity to merit G-d's blessing.

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