Cigarette smoking is now quite rare. When I was a boy things were different. Smokers who were trying to wean themselves off the habit used to boast, “I’m down to being a ten-a-day person”. Judaism of course has a strong tradition of declaring smoking to be a major risk to life and health, and some people say they got off the habit by not smoking on Shabbat and extending the no-go zone by a day at a time.
There actually is a Jewish daily count, 100 a day, not of cigarettes but of blessings. In this week’s reading, the Torah says,
“Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you?” (Deut. 10:12),
and Rashi follows the Talmud in reading “mah”, “what”, as “me’ah”, “a hundred”. 100 times a day a person should make a b’rachah – not such a difficult exercise if you start with the thrice-daily Amidah, add the b’rachot before and after food, and of course the early morning blessings at the beginning of the Siddur.
It is not really necessary to keep a score card and tick off how many blessings you say, but what each of us should be doing is to fill the day with moments when we think of God and His boons, moments when we do good deeds, moments when we deliberately quell the temptation to do the wrong thing.
As we make decisions throughout the day, we should ask ourselves,
“Is this action a b’rachah? Am I bringing credit to myself, my parents, my community, and my God?”
May we all fill our days with making blessings – and being a blessing.
NOT ON BREAD ALONE.
The sidra has a famous verse,
“Not by bread alone does a person live” (Deut. 8:3).
Marie Antoinette – who had no idea how ordinary people lived and struggled – used to say,
“If they don’t have bread, let them eat cake”.
The rabbinic sages had more sense. Not only did they know that getting bread on the table is already an achievement, but they recognised that the bread is enhanced by eating something with it – oil, condiments, cheese, whatever – as well as having something to drink at the same time – water, wine, milk, whatever.
They had many thoughts about the Torah verse, and one of them was that a crucial word was “and” – “bread *and* butter, bread *and* jam, bread *and* water”.
“And” is a great word in every part of life. Just as bread alone is not enough, so man is not enough if he is alone, which is why the Torah says early on,
“It is not good for man to be on his own” (Gen. 2:18).
Man’s life is made meaningful by company, especially marriage – man *and* wife, man *and* friend. The greatest “and” is in the spiritual sphere – man *and* God.
PEOPLE WHO DON’T THINK.
The Book of Isaiah contains a verse that has tragically often come true:
“Your destroyers and those that lay you waste come forth from you” (Isa. 49:17).
No wonder there is a saying,
“God save me from my friends; I can look after my enemies myself”.
Sometimes there are Jews who, usually out of thoughtlessness, harm their own people’s good name and undermine its stability.
It is a fact of life that we are all part of one another, responsible for each other, holding the fate of our whole people in our hands. Let one Jew act foolishly and we are all blamed. Let one Jew make an unwise decision and we all suffer the consequences.
Hence it is always good to consult before acting, speaking or publishing. There is no shame in admitting that you do not know everything, and in seeking the advice of people you respect. The sages say that even God did this when He contemplated creating the world. He took counsel with the ministering angels – not that they knew more than He did, but He wanted to get a reaction to what He proposed.
Perhaps when given advice you will decide not to follow it, as God decided not to heed the angels who warned Him against creating man, but to take advice on board is always a sensible thing to do.
Rabbi Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, and was Australia’s highest profile rabbi and the leading spokesperson for Jews and Judaism on the Australian continent. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem. Rabbi Apple blogs at http://www.oztorah.com