In his classic work, Chovos Halevovos, Rabbi Bahya ibn Paquda of Saragossa, Spain, describes the human phenomenon whereby people do not appreciate how good their lives really are. He explains the matter with the following metaphor: “If a baby is rescued from a wild jungle and nurtured, raised, protected and educated in a traditional home, the child will eventually expect the good life he has become accustomed to. However, if an adult hostage would be rescued from captivity and then be advanced even a fraction of the amenities the child receives each day, the freed prisoner will feel thankful and indebted to his liberators forever.” Everyone should ask himself if he more like the child who takes it all for granted or like the thankful freed hostage who saw no future and was miraculously saved.
Until one, G-d forbid, faces stressful challenges that threaten his quality of life, he may take his daily blessings for granted. This is specifically why our sages have instructed us to recite blessings on the seemingly usual aspects of life. “פוקח עורים – G-d opens our eyes (in the morning)” and “מלביש ערמים – He clothes the naked (as we get dressed)” are the next two ברכות in our morning prayers.
On a basic level these ברכות enable us to acknowledge the divine gift of sight that we use at every waking moment and the clothing with which we dress ourselves. Of course there are deeper implications of the blessings as well. The Radak in Tehillim remarks that “Pokayach Ivrim” means much more than vision and sight. It is also understood as relief from the darkness of anguish. We thank Hashem every day for allowing us to discover insight(s) that enable and empower us to function and deal with our everyday challenges. He is the ” פוקח עורים -He gives us sight as well as the capacity for insights that help us build and rebuild our lives.
Rav Shimon Schwab zt”l remarks in his book on Prayer that in addition to thanking G-d for our clothing, saying ” מלביש ערמים ” alludes to our superiority over animals. Every human being contains an animalistic nature, which is called the “Nefesh Habahami”. One of our tasks in life is to rise above this nature and behave with the human dignity that the Torah prescribes. When we do achieve a higher level, in essence we are clothing our animalistic nakedness i.e. our spiritual nakedness.
Take Home Tip: Although the deeper implications of these two blessings are fascinating and stimulating, the simple meanings must not be overlooked. Gratitude engenders feelings of joy; and we have so much to be grateful for. Reciting blessings allows us to express that gratitude every day.
Rabbi Ephraim Epstein, Congregation Sons of Israel, Cherry Hill, New Jersey for Tefillah Tips
Orthodox Union Department of Community Services
Frank Buchweitz, National Director
Hannah Farkas, Program Associate
Adina Tabak, Administrative Assistant
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