Yoni Mozeson
Yoni Mozeson

God favors those who know that life is a divine illusion: Midrash Tanchuma Tzav

Midrash Tanchuma question’s God’s fairness in the way God deals with the Jewish People vs. the other nations of the world. It seems that God shows favoritism towards the Jews because they offer the זֶבַח הַשְּׁלָמִים – Shlamim (peace) sacrifices. However,  it’s not really fair because God does not accept these sacrifices from any other nation. The Midrash does not hesitate to ask the question outright:

וְאֶפְשָׁר שֶׁהַקָּבָּה נוֹשֵׂא פָּנִים לִבְרִיָּה

“Is it possible that God would show favoritism?”

The first answer – God cannot favor nations that are idol worshipers. 

It certainly makes sense that God cannot favor those who reject his existence and assign His powers to an inanimate object. However, the Midrash offers a  second approach that is puzzling. God favors the Jewish People because they favor Him. The following is offered as proof  that the Jewish People favor God: 

אָדָם מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל עָנִי, יֵשׁ לוֹ חֲמִשָּׁה בָּנִים אוֹ שִׁשָּׁה, וְהוּא נוֹטֵל כִּכָּר אֶחָד, וְהֵן יוֹשְׁבִין כֻּלָּן וְאוֹכְלִין אוֹתוֹ הַכִּכָּר וְאֵין שְׂבֵעִים מִמַּה שֶּׁהֵם אוֹכְלִין, וּמְבָרְכִין

“A poor Jew has five or six children. He takes one loaf of bread and they all sit and eat from that one loaf. They are not satiated from what they ate yet they recite the Grace After Meals.”  

Technically, (although not Halachically) one need not recite the בִּרְכַּת הַמָּזוׂן – Birkat Hamazon (Grace After Meals) unless you are satiated – as the verse states וְאָכַלְתָּ וְשָׂבַעְתָּ וּבֵרַכְתָּ : “And you shall eat, and you shall be satiated and you shall bless (God).”  (Deuteronomy 8:10)

This impoverished family went above and beyond. They thanked God by reciting the בִּרְכַּת הַמָּזוׂן – ‘Grace After Meals’ on their measly portion of bread without being satiated. This is indicative of the way the Jewish People favor God. 

The ultimate act of gratitude.

 The attitude expressed by this indigent family can, according to the commentary, ,אברהם אזכיר Avraham Ezkor, be summed up in a verse that we recite in the the בִּרְכַּת הַמָּזוׂן – Birkat Hamazon (Grace After Meals). According to the Talmud, it is also the central line of our beloved daily prayer – אשרי  “Ashrei.” This phrase also contains a reference to “ eating until satiation.” 

פּוֹתֵחַ אֶת יָדֶיךָ וּמַשְׂבִּיעַ לְכָל חַי רָצוֹן “You open your hands and feed (until they are satiated) all living creatures according to their will.”  This is either a praise, or a supplication, or both.

The last three words of the phrase hold the key to understanding this curious Midrash:  לְכָל חַי רָצוֹן is commonly translated as “according to their will.” However, it actually represents a heroic philosophy which a Jew can adopt in life. Many commentators see in the word  “רָצוֹן– will,” as referring to the will to accept, with gratitude, whatever God gives us. If we have to make due with less, we accept God’s decree. While, at the same time, we ask God to open His divine channels of material and spiritual blessings.

Acknowledging the illusion of material success

This phrase also captures the central theme  in our prayer for sustenance.  We bend our רָצוֹן ‘will’ to Gods רָצוֹן “will.” We acknowledge that God designed the world with the appearance that our financial success is from our superior intelligence, talents and persistence. When actually it is all a manifestation of God’s רָצוֹן “will.” 

The Hebrew word for world is עוֹלָם comes from the Hebrew נֶעֱלָם which means hidden. In order to promote man’s “free will.” God hides the fact that He runs the world. In reciting בִּרְכַּת הַמָּזוׂן – Birkat Hamazon – the large family making due on a small loaf of bread was declaring their faith in both meanings of the word רָצוֹן “will: They accept with gratitude whatever they have and affirmed that everything comes from God.

It seems clear that the two answers offered by the Midrash as to why God can’t favor other nations, are really one. God cannot favor an idol worshiper who denies God’s existence. However, even if you are not an idol worshiper (as was prevalent in the ancient world) ascribing your wealth to your own accomplishments is another form of idol worship. God indeed favors those who favor Him by living their life in a state of constant  recognition that God runs the world and everything happens according to His Divine plan.

God favors those who know that whatever you read in the paper is part of a massive, divine, cover up.

About the Author
After college and Semicha at Yeshiva University my first pulpit was Ogilvy where I wrote TV commercials for brands like American Express, Huggies and Duracell. My passion is Midrash Tanchuma. I am an Architect of Elegant Marketing Solutions at www.mindprintmarketing.com. We are living in (where else) the Nachlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem.
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