Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Simple Equation

(Picture courtesy of

I confess, before I opened up Degel Machaneh Ephraim this morning I fell into the "gotta" not the "getta" category.


Cognitive dissonance.

Although I understood the explanations and read commentaries on the meaning of Birkas Hamazon, I still viewed it as an obligation rather than a privilege.

This morning that all changed when I saw the Degel's explanation. He wrote that quite simply bread is parnossa.

I know that to many of you who are more learned than myself that this does not sound like such a earth-shattering revelation. Well, it was enough to shatter my cognitive dissonance.

Making this connection between my livelihood and the bread that I eat finally helped me understand that by bentching after I eat bread helps to ensure that the channel of blessing that enables me to support my family is unobstructed.

This insight also helped me understand the "rationale" behind the prohibition of throwing bread (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 42:9), the disposal of left-over bread crumbs (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 42:11), and why it is important to follow the minhag of only eating Pas Yisroel bread during the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 130:2).

Thanks to the Degel's simple equation, I view bread and bentching in a whole new light.

Now, you can count me in the "getta" category.


At February 27, 2008 at 8:51:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ASJ - Your simplistic bread = parnossa equation makes me recall the episode of the Simpsons when the cult was trying to recruit Homer and get him to follow their leader by humming the Batman theme replacing the word "bat man" with "lea-der".

At February 27, 2008 at 2:20:00 PM EST, Blogger DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...


"Simplistic"??? I think there's a difference between "Simple" and "simplistic," and I'm afraid you may have confused those two words. It reminds me of a phrase I heard somehwere.

"A question a child might ask, but not a childish question."


It gratifies me that the "Gotta Bentch vs. Getta Bentch" paradigm has stayed in your mind. May you continue to be inspired by everything you learn!

-Dixie Yid

At February 27, 2008 at 2:33:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Jertain in the Curtain. How could you NOT have already made this connection??

Sometimes ASJ's postings are incredibly deep and then sometimes he throws out fluff like this. Come on people...don't you agree with me?

At February 27, 2008 at 2:47:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

KSA 42:11 even ties the concepts of mishandling bread crumbs to poverty - how interesting.

At February 27, 2008 at 6:43:00 PM EST, Blogger DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

foo foo,

(Speaking of simplistic, why does everyone here have Dr. Seuss names?)

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the deepest. This is because there are many things which almost everyone knows, but that knowledge is limited merely to the brain, but it does not extend to the constant consciousness and the heart. IT is known but not felt. ASJ is talking about a connection between the mind and the heart, which is exceedingly rare.

He also reminded me that it was Reb Baruch of Mezibitz, who returned after years studying with the the Magid of Mezirich. When he was asked what he learned (by his father in law, I think), he said that while he was by the Magid, he learned that there is a Hashem who runs the world.

His outraged father in law, asked him, "What? Even the simplest non-Jewish maid already believes that!" But Reb Baruch responded, "She may believe it. But I *know* it." (Da'as/knowledge refers to the presence of intellectual knowledge in the consciousness of the person in actual, daily life.)

Let's not be simplistic when thinking about the "obvious" things, thereby forgetting how deep they really are when really absorbed into the consciousness.

-Dixie Yid

At February 27, 2008 at 11:32:00 PM EST, Blogger Neil Harris said...

You post brought to mind an idea that the letters for lechem, lamed-ches-mem, are also found in the hebrew word for war, milchama. The idea, as I remember, was that eating can also be a war between what we want and what we need.

This idea might apply to one's parnassah, as well, in terms of it being a struggle, but ultimately in Hashem's hands (much like B'nai Yisrael's initial battle with Amalek after leaving Mitzrayim.
Great post.

At February 28, 2008 at 6:56:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Along the lines of what you are saying, Neil, Sefer HaMiddos, Achila B:2 says, "Reciting the Birkhat HaMazone brings the country's government relief from dispute and wars."

At February 28, 2008 at 7:02:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

On the topic of being simple, I recently saw a survey to find out how many people wear their yarmulkes to work. Instead of just splitting it up into "yes" and "no" categories, there were a number of other qualifiers.

To me this seemed ridiculous. Either you do or you don't. Anything else is a rationalization.

The simple person breaks it down into these two categories and the sophisticate breaks down a simple question into numerous components and then add extraneous footnotes.

At February 28, 2008 at 11:20:00 PM EST, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Isn't there a Reb Nachman story about that? :)


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