There are always things to be thankful for. But we don’t always take the time to acknowledge them. At the heart of Jewish living is the command to stop and recognize the gifts that we have been given. We do so through the recitation of b’rachot – blessings. The Talmud teaches us that we should say 100 blessings every day. Together we will explore how this is possible. We will study the “blessing formula” in depth and then survey some of the hundreds of blessings that we have the opportunity to say each day.
תניא היה רבי מאיר אומר חייב אדם לברך מאה ברכות בכל יום שנאמר (דברים י, יב) ועתה ישראל מה יקוק אלהיך שואל מעמך
It was taught in a baraita, Rabbi Meir used to say: A Person must bless one hundred blessings every day, as it says (Deuteronomy 10:12): "Now Israel what (mah) does God as of you" - don't read "mah" rather "meah".
Our sages in Menachot 43 use the words 'מה ה' to derive from here the requirement for each person to recite 100 benedictions daily. They read the words מה ה' שואל as מאה ה' שואל, “HASHEM asks for one hundred (benedictions)”.
Rabbeinu Bahya, Devarim 10:12:4
ויש בפסוק זה צ"ט אותיות ועם אל"ף שתשים במלת מ"ה ישלמו למאה אותיות ותחזור המלה מאה, כדי לרמוז בדרך אסמכתא שחייב אדם לברך בכל יום מאה ברכות. וכן יש אסמכתא לזה מפסוק (תהלים קכח) הנה כי כן יבורך גבר ירא ה', כי ירא ה' יש לו לברך מנין כ"י כ"ן. עוד (שמואל ב כג) נאם הגבר הוקם על, קיים ע"ל ברכות. ואמרו כי דוד ע"ה יסד מאה ברכות, ואח"כ שכחום וחזרו אנשי כנסת הגדולה ויסדום.
The verse contains 99 letters. If you add the missing letter א to make up the word מאה, you will have 100 letters. We have another verse in Psalms 128,4 הנה כי כן יבורך גבר ירא ה ', “this is the way a God-fearing man is to bless HASHEM.” The numerical value of the combined words כי כן is 100. David introduced the rule to recite 100 blessings a day. It had been forgotten in the course of centuries until the Men of the Great Assembly reintroduced the practice.
עַל הַזִּיקִין, וְעַל הַזְּוָעוֹת, וְעַל הַבְּרָקִים, וְעַל הָרְעָמִים, וְעַל הָרוּחוֹת, אוֹמֵר בָּרוּךְ שֶׁכֹּחוֹ וּגְבוּרָתוֹ מָלֵא עוֹלָם. עַל הֶהָרִים, וְעַל הַגְּבָעוֹת, וְעַל הַיַּמִּים, וְעַל הַנְּהָרוֹת, וְעַל הַמִּדְבָּרוֹת, אוֹמֵר בָּרוּךְ עוֹשֵׂה מַעֲשֵׂה בְרֵאשִׁית. רַבִּי יְהוּדָה אוֹמֵר, הָרוֹאֶה אֶת הַיָּם הַגָּדוֹל אוֹמֵר בָּרוּךְ שֶׁעָשָׂה אֶת הַיָּם הַגָּדוֹל, בִּזְמַן שֶׁרוֹאֶה אוֹתוֹ לִפְרָקִים. עַל הַגְּשָׁמִים וְעַל הַבְּשׂוֹרוֹת הַטּוֹבוֹת אוֹמֵר בָּרוּךְ הַטּוֹב וְהַמֵּטִיב, וְעַל שְׁמוּעוֹת רָעוֹת אוֹמֵר בָּרוּךְ דַּיַּן הָאֱמֶת:
One who sees shooting stars, earthquakes, lightening, thunder or storm-winds says, "Blessed is the One whose might fills the world." One who sees mountains, hills, seas, rivers or deserts says, "Blessed is the One Who creates material existence." Rabbi Judah says, One who sees the great sea (i.e. the ocean) says, "Blessed is the One Who creates the great sea." This is when he has not seen it for some time. Regarding rainfall and good tidings one says "Blessed is the One Who is good and does good." Regarding bad tidings one says, "Blessed is the true judge."
This Mishnah instills a sensitivity to the wonder of material existence, and links that sense of awe to a Jewish vocabulary of prayer. The stimulus to prayer is not simply physical beauty or the emotion of gratitude. Rather, our Mishnah includes terrifying spectacles and horrifying news as cause for prayer, reflecting the sentiment expressed by Job to his wife, "Shall we accept the good from God, and not the bad?"(2:10) This is not so much a heroic form of piety as a strategy for viewing the universe as orderly and firmly within God’s control.
ברכות ל״ה א
ת"ר אסור לו לאדם שיהנה מן העוה"ז בלא ברכה וכל הנהנה מן העוה"ז בלא ברכה מעל מאי תקנתיה ילך אצל חכם ילך אצל חכם מאי עביד ליה הא עביד ליה איסורא אלא אמר רבא ילך אצל חכם מעיקרא וילמדנו ברכות כדי שלא יבא לידי מעילה אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל כל הנהנה מן העוה"ז בלא ברכה כאילו נהנה מקדשי שמים שנא' (תהלים כד, א) לה' הארץ ומלואה ר' לוי רמי כתיב לה' הארץ ומלואה וכתיב (תהלים קטו, טז) השמים שמים לה' והארץ נתן לבני אדם לא קשיא כאן קודם ברכה
The Sages taught in a Tosefta: One is forbidden to derive benefit from this world, which is the property of God, without reciting a blessing beforehand. And anyone who derives benefit from this world without a blessing, it is as if he is guilty of misuse of a consecrated object. The Gemara adds: What is his remedy? He should go to a Sage.The Gemara is puzzled: He should go to a Sage; what will he do to him? How can the Sage help after he has already violated a prohibition? Rather, Rava said, this is how it should be understood: He should go to a Sage initially, in his youth, and the Sage will teach him blessings, so that he will not come to be guilty of this type of misuse of a consecrated object in the future. Similarly, Rav Yehuda said that Shmuel said: One who derives benefit from this world without a blessing, it is as if he enjoyed objects consecrated to the heavens, as it is stated: “The earth and all it contains is the Lord’s, the world and all those who live in it” (Psalms 24:1). Rabbi Levi expressed this concept differently. Rabbi Levi raised a contradiction: It is written: “The earth and all it contains is the Lord’s,” and it is written elsewhere: “The heavens are the Lord’s and the earth He has given over to mankind” (Psalms 115:16).
The B’racha Formula
Praised are You
(God and me)
HASHEM, our God
(God and Jews)
Ruler of the world
(God and humanity)
Miracles Every Day
Baruch Ata ADONAI, Eloheinu Melech ha’olam,
...asher natan l’sechvi vinah l’havchin bein yom u’veil laila.
...she’asani ben/bat chorin.
...rokah ha’aretz al hamayim.
...she’asah li kol tzorki.
...hameichin mitzadei gaveir.
...ozer Yisrael big’vurah.
...oter Yisrael b’tif’arah.
...hatonein layaeif koach.
נסים בכל יום
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
...אָשֶר נָתַן לַשֶכְוִי בִינָה לְהַבְחִין בֵּין יוֹם וּבֵין לָיְלָה.
...שֶעָשַנִי בֶּן/בַת חוֹרִין.
...רוֹקַע הָאָֽרֶץ עַל הַמָּיִם.
...שֶׁעָשָׂה לִי כָּל צָרְכִּי.
...הַמֵּכִין מִצְעֲדֵי גָבֶר.
...אוֹזֵר יִשְׂרָאֵל בִּגְבוּרָה.
...עוֹטֵר יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּתִפְאָרָה.
...הַנּוֹתֵן לַיָּעֵף כּֽחַ.
Blessed are You ADONAI, our God, Ruler of the Universe…
...for giving the rooster the knowledge to discern between day and night
...for making me in Your image
...for making me a Jew
...for making me free
...for opening the eyes of the blind
...for clothing the naked
...for freeing the captive
...for lifting up those who are bent over
...for spreading out land over the waters
...for providing for all of my needs
...for guiding my steps
...for giving Israel strength
...for crowning Israel with glory
...for giving strength when we are tired
Rabbi Avigdor Miller on Counting Blessings:
You should make a career of counting your blessings, it should be a career! Unfortunately it's not done… There's a tremendous list, because we have so many privileges. If you look around and see people who are unfortunately deprived of what we possess.
In general there are blessings that everybody enjoys, there are blessings, natural things that all mankind has. There are certain things that only American people have, certain things only the middle class, well-to-do people have, so we have so many blessings…
You must spend time on that. So next time, if you're in the country and a mosquito sneaks into your room and gives you a prod, so you're up scratching for a little while, don't waste that time, it's precious time. Or if you're in the city and you can't sleep at night, sometimes for an hour or so, it's a pity to waste that time, start counting your blessings…
If you have a lot of good accounts, good customers, as you're lying in bed enumerate them. If you're healthy in your eyes, if you have a lot of natural teeth, or you have a good set of false teeth, if you're able to hear, a lot of people can't hear. If you don't have migraines, if your stomach is normal, a lot of people cannot eat a good many things because their stomach reacts. If you don't have allergies, so many people are plagued by allergies. Then of course, if you have a good set of lungs which almost everybody has, and if you have a stout heart, there's no end of good things. You must constantly talk about it. And with your mouth.
Therefore it's a wonderful program, it's a lifetime program and it'll repay you with happiness in this world and it will repay you with happiness in the world to come.
The Power of Gratitude
Britain's Former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
In the early 1990s one of the great medical research exercises of modern times took place. It became known as the Nun Study. Some 700 American nuns, all members of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in the United States, agreed to allow their records to be accessed by a research team investigating the process of ageing and Alzheimer’s Disease. At the start of the study the participants were aged between 75 and 102.
What gave this study its unusual longitudinal scope is that in 1930 the nuns, then in their twenties, had been asked by the Mother Superior to write a brief autobiographical account of their life and their reasons for entering the convent. These documents were now analysed by the researchers using a specially devised coding system to register, among other things, positive and negative emotions. By annually assessing the nuns’ current state of health, the researchers were able to test whether their emotional state in 1930 had an effect on their health some sixty years later. Because they had all lived a very similar lifestyle during these six decades, they formed an ideal group for testing hypotheses about the relationship between emotional attitudes and health.
The results, published in 2001, were startling. The more positive emotions – contentment, gratitude, happiness, love and hope – the nuns expressed in their autobiographical notes, the more likely they were to be alive and well sixty years later. The difference was as much as seven years in life expectancy. So remarkable was this finding that it has led, since then, to a new field of gratitude research, as well as a deepening understanding of the impact of emotions on physical health.
What medicine now knows about individuals, Moses knew about nations. Gratitude – hakarat ha-tov – is at the heart of what he has to say about the Israelites and their future in the Promised Land. Gratitude had not been their strong point in the desert. They complained about lack of food and water, about the manna and the lack of meat and vegetables, about the dangers they faced from the Egyptians as they were leaving and about the inhabitants of the land they were about to enter. They lacked thankfulness during the difficult times. A greater danger still, said Moses, would be a lack of gratitude during the good times. This is what he warned:
When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery … Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gained me this wealth.’ (Deut. 8:11-17)
The worst thing that could happen to them, warned Moses, would be that they forgot how they came to the land, how God had promised it to their ancestors, and had taken them from slavery to freedom, sustaining them during the forty years in the wilderness. This was a revolutionary idea: that the nation’s history be engraved on people’s souls, that it was to be re-enacted in the annual cycle of festivals, and that the nation, as a nation, should never attribute its achievements to itself – “my power and the might of my own hand” – but should always ascribe its victories, indeed its very existence, to something higher than itself: to God. This is a dominant theme of Deuteronomy, and it echoes throughout the book time and again.
Since the publication of the Nun Study and the flurry of further research it inspired, we now know of the multiple effects of developing an attitude of gratitude. It improves physical health and immunity against disease. Grateful people are more likely to take regular exercise and go for regular medical check-ups. Thankfulness reduces toxic emotions such as resentment, frustration and regret and makes depression less likely. It helps people avoid over-reacting to negative experiences by seeking revenge. It even tends to make people sleep better. It enhances self-respect, making it less likely that you will envy others for their achievements or success. Grateful people tend to have better relationships. Saying “thank you” enhances friendships and elicits better performance from employees. It is also a major factor in strengthening resilience. One study of Vietnam War Veterans found that those with higher levels of gratitude suffered lower incidence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Remembering the many things we have to be thankful for helps us survive painful experiences, from losing a job to bereavement.
Jewish prayer is an ongoing seminar in gratitude. Birkot ha-Shachar (The Morning Blessings), ‘the Dawn Blessings’ said at the start of morning prayers each day, form a litany of thanksgiving for life itself: for the human body, the physical world, land to stand on and eyes to see with. The first words we say each morning – Modeh/Modah ani, “I thank you” – mean that we begin each day by giving thanks.
Gratitude also lies behind a fascinating feature of the Amidah. When the leader of prayer repeats the Amidah aloud, we are silent other than for the responses of Kedushah, and saying Amen after each blessing, with one exception. When the leader says the words Modim anachnu lakh, “We give thanks to You,” the congregation says the a parallel passage known as Modim de-Rabbanan. For every other blessing of the Amidah, it is sufficient to assent to the words of the leader by saying Amen. The one exception is Modim , “We give thanks.” Rabbi Elijah Spira (1660–1712) in his work Eliyahu Rabbah explains that when it comes to saying thank you, we cannot delegate this away to someone else to do it on our behalf. Thanks has to come directly from us.
Part of the essence of gratitude is that it recognizes that we are not the sole authors of what is good in our lives. The egoist, says Andre Comte-Sponville, “is ungrateful because he doesn’t like to acknowledge his debt to others and gratitude is this acknowledgement.” La Rochefoucald put it more bluntly: “Pride refuses to owe, self-love to pay.” Thankfulness has an inner connection with humility. It recognizes that what we are and what we have is due to others, and above all to God. Comte-Sponville adds: “Those who are incapable of gratitude live in vain; they can never be satisfied, fulfilled or happy: they do not live, they get ready to live, as Seneca puts it.”
Though you don’t have to be religious to be grateful, there is something about belief in God as creator of the universe, shaper of history and author of the laws of life that directs and facilitates our gratitude. It is hard to feel grateful to a universe that came into existence for no reason and is blind to us and our fate. It is precisely our faith in a personal God that gives force and focus to our thanks.
 See Robert Emmons, Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2007.
 Danner, Deborah D., David A. Snowdon, and Wallace V. Friesen. “Positive Emotions in Early Life and Longevity: Findings from the Nun Study.”
 Much of the material in this paragraph is to be found in articles published in Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life @ http://greatergood.berkeley.edu.
 Eliyahu Rabbah, Orach Chayyim 127: 1.
 André Comte-Sponville, A Short Treatise on the Great Virtues: The Uses of Philosophy in Everyday Life. London: Heinemann, 2002.