Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller
One of the challenges we encounter while we study Sefer Devarim is to understand the thread, the sequence of topics in any given parsha. In Parshas Eikev, the Torah instructs us to bless Hashem after we eat, the mitzvah of Birchas HaMazon. Immediately after that, the Torah admonishes us, “Do not forget Hashem your God. Lest you eat and become satisfied, and you will build fine houses and occupy them. Your heart will become proud, and you will forget Hashem.” Here, the Torah is warning us against becoming arrogant when we succeed in life. Unfortunately, it is human nature when a person becomes successful, they tend to become cocky and self-arrogant, the equivalent of forgetting Hashem. When a person attributes his success to his own wisdom and skill, he is forgetting that all good originates from Hashem. This includes a man’s ideas and inspirations which leads to his success.
Rav Shamshon Rephael Hirsch, z”l, explains the continuity of these two mitzvos. We bless Hashem for our food, and we should not become arrogant from our success. He says that that the whole idea of blessing Hashem every time we experience something good, whether it is the food we eat, happy experiences, opportunities to connect with Hashem through mitzvos, special times and special days and holidays, our response is to make a bracha. This duty, to always acknowledge Hashem’s kindness in real time, keeps us grounded. It helps ensure that we will always attribute these positive experiences and achievements to Hashem’s benevolence and generosity and not to our own prowess.
It should be noted that this concern is especially relevant today as society makes great strides in the physical aspects of life such as greater longevity, higher living standards, scientific progress and more. This has, in fact, led to a greater alienation from Hashem and from religion. Many people believe that science and knowledge of the physical world are incompatible with faith. This is exactly what the Torah is predicting here. The antidote to this “slide away from Hashem” is to focus on gratitude and the reinforcement of the recognition that it is all by the grace of Hashem and that we are really not powerful at all.