A Thirst to Quench by Rabbi Steven Finkelstein


In Parashat Eikev, Moshe Rabbeinu prepares Bnei Yisrael to enter Eretz Yisrael by informing them that they will cross the Yardein and invade strong, fortified cities to conquer the Bnei Anakim, who are considered unbeatable. This isn’t exactly the way to motivate an army before going to war.

Moshe then comforts Bnei Yisra’el, telling them to have no fear because Hashem will lead them in, destroying the nations standing between them and their inheritance of the land.

The Midrash (Devarim Rabbah 3:8, citing Mishnah Berachot 6:8) uses a seemingly random idea while discussing this section of Parashat Eikev. The Midrash quotes a Halacha that a Jew must recite the Beracha of “Baruch … SheHakol Nih’yeh BiD’varo when drinking to quench his thirst. Another opinion, that of Rabi Tarfon, holds that one should recite “Borei Nefashot Rabot VeChesronan.”

The Chatam Sofer elaborates on the connection between Bnei Yisrael’s overwhelming challenges in their conquering of Eretz Yisrael and the debate between the Tanna Kamma and Rabi Tarfon. He explains that the Midrash was bothered by the following question. If Hashem was the one who led the obliteration of the various nations for Bnei Yisrael, why did He put them there in the first place? Why did He allow them to grow so strong? Would it not have been easier for Bnei Yisrael had Hashem placed weaker nations in Eretz Yisrael?

The Midrash connects this question to the case of drinking water to quench thirst. Why does Hashem go to such great lengths to provide us with water? Why not just create human beings as creatures that are always satiated? By creating human beings that require water then providing them with the water that they desperately need, we become aware of Hashem’s kindness and concern for us. This compels us to acknowledge our dependence on Hashem and to appreciate all that He does for us. Had we not been created with needs, we wouldn’t have the same appreciation toward Hashem. Therefore, the Beracha made after drinking is “Borei Nefashot Rabot VeChesronan,” “Creator of innumerable lacking souls.” The Chatam Sofer explains we express our gratitude that we were created with necessities in order to appreciate when Hashem fulfills our needs, bringing us closer to Him.

In this week’s Parasha, Parashat Terumah, numerous Mefarshim note that the Pasuk is worded “VeYikchu Li Terumah,” instead of VeYitnu. We aren’t ‘giving’ Terumah to Hashem, as he is the source of our belongings. Hashem is the One who gives, not us. Rather, we ‘take’ from Hashem and only then are we able to give. By providing us with the opportunity to give Terumah, Hashem creates a system whereby we are constantly reminding ourselves and acknowledging that Hashem is truly the source of everything we own.

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