Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 24 January 2015 / 4 Shevat 5775

The Shemoneh Esrei - The Ninth Blessing - Part 2

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
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“Give blessing across the land, and satisfy us from Your bounty.”

The Rabbis explain that the events that took place in the desert serve as a lesson applicable in every generation. Let us ask, how were the Jewish People sustained while in the desert? During their years of wandering, the only effort they had to make in order to find food was to take an empty vessel and go out to the field and collect the manna which descended from Heaven.

In a deeper sense this is true today as well. G-d sends us from Heaven all that we need. We just have to approach Him with a “vessel” and He will fill it. We must make ourselves into an empty vessel, depending on G-d to deliver our success. The effort one invests in trying to earn his livelihood is this vessel. Once one has done his part, he should trust that G-d will take care of the rest.

A foundation of Jewish faith is that G-d governs, by Divine providence, over all that occurs under the sun pertaining to man. Everything is in His hands. In fact, it is only as a result of Adam’s sin do we have to work at all. As it is written, "By the sweat of your brow you will eat bread." However, personal efforts are only one component of making a living. The most important component is G-d’s blessing. And so we pray, “May G-d bless the work of our hands”, for without G-d's blessing all of our efforts would be useless.

Our Sages point to the episode of the Heavenly bread that rained upon us in the desert to illustrate that a person can — through his faith and trust in G-d — merit earning his livelihood by putting out minimal effort. They teach that each person’s manna was sent to him according to the degree of his faith in G-d. If one’s faith was impeccable, then his manna fell just outside of his tent. If he was lacking in complete faith he would have to go out to the field to gather his portion. Everything was arranged according to the person and his relationship to G-d.

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