May 30, 2024
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The Opportunity of Prosperity

There is a word that is found in the Torah a total of four times, three of them in this week’s Parsha (8:10, 8:12, 11:15), and once in last week’s (6:11). The word is “v’savata, you will be satiated.” In three instances the word is used in a dire context, making us aware and warning us of the risks of arrogance and complacency that come along with material prosperity. The most familiar of these occurrences is in the second paragraph of the Shema (Devarim 11:15), where we read, “you will eat and be satiated, be careful lest your hearts be seduced…”

Rashi there shares the concern sharply: “Once you have eaten and are satiated be careful not to rebel, as a revolt against God arises only from a state of material satisfaction, as it is written (Devarim 8:12), ‘Lest you eat and be satiated … and your sheep and cattle will increase…’ What does it then say? ‘Your hearts will swell and you will forget Hashem your God…’”

There is however one occurrence of the word that is both familiar and very positive, in the verse that teaches us the mitzvah of Birkat Hamazon (8:10). “You will eat and be satiated and you shall bless Hashem your God.” Whereas the other verses present the challenge of prosperity, here the Torah lays out its opportunity. When we have been blessed, we have the chance to reflect and turn to the source of that blessing, acknowledging and thanking God for His plentiful gifts. In this context our success becomes a source of firm connection to G0d (see Meshech Chochma, Devarim 8:12).

We live in a time of great blessing, perhaps unprecedented in the history of our galut. That prosperity can certainly be cause for concern, leading us to both arrogance and complacency, and most basically to forgetting the source of our blessing, ultimately disconnecting us from God. The Torah’s very practical guidance for us—for our time—is to double down on gratitude. We must take every opportunity to recognize His hand in bringing us the incredible national gifts of our time; a flourishing Jewish homeland, the prosperity and security that have characterized the American Jewish experience, and the ability and resources to build a thriving community after the devastation of the Shoah. In addition, we must be deeply grateful for the personal and familial blessings we have been granted.

Prosperity can be an unmitigated blessing, bringing us peace of mind and connection to God. But only if we respond to it with full-throated gratitude to the Source of all blessing: “Thank You, Hashem!”


Rabbi Moshe Hauer is executive vice president of the Orthodox Union (OU), the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization.

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