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Blessings One Thousands Times!

By Rabbi Jonathan Tawil

Attending big events can be exceptional. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, you want to make sure that the whole world shares in your enthusiasm and feelings.

How can you express sentiment to them? If only they too would have been there to see it. Words do not do justice to the event.

On the first of Shevat of the year 2488 from creation Moshe (before his passing away) convened the Jewish people and began the 37-day “review of the Torah” contained in the Book of Devarim. The Bnei Yisrael were on the outskirts of Israel all the generation that left Egypt had perished and a new generation was eager to enter the promised land. We can imagine Moshe Rabenu’s feeling at the time.

Whilst speaking to them he blessed them;

“May Hashem, the G-d of your forefathers, add to you a thousand times yourselves, and bless you as He has spoken of you.” (1:11)

Rashi informs us that the Bnei Yisrael were not very happy with the blessing Moshe gave them.

They said to him: Moshe, you gave a limit to our blessing!

You are blessing us a thousand fold, but Hashem has already promised Avraham that we should be blessed to be ‘like the dust of the earth that is too numerous to count.’”(Bereishit 32:13)?!

He said to them: This [blessing] is from me, however, He [Hashem] will ‘bless you as He has spoken of you’.

How did Moshe’s response mollify them? Even if Hashem did indeed promise them an unlimited blessing, Moshe’s bracha was still limited! Also, Moshe could have said ‘May Hashem… add to you a thousand times’, why was it necessary to add the word ‘kachem’ – ‘yourselves’?

The SiftaiChachamim further explains that Hashem’s Bracha is conditional – only if the Jews keep the Mitzvot will they multiply to that extent. But Moshe’s Bracha was an unconditional Bracha. No matter what level the BneiYisrae are at, they will receive the Bracha of, “Hashem should multiply you 1000 times.”

There is a further way of understanding this blessing.

It is related that the Ibn Ezra once travelled through Persia. He was a simple traveller and on his journeys he was wrongly accused of stealing by an anti-Semitic officer. He was brought in front of the Persian ruler. The ruler was a fond expert in chess and as he arrived he saw that the ruler was playing a game. After giving his defence and showing his innocence he was acquitted. He asked that due to his inconvenience and false claim he be given the following from the claimant.

“There are 64 squares on the chess board. I would be satisfied if he would put a grain of wheat in the first square and double in the next, and so forth.” The king laughed about this meagre request, and ordered that the claim pursue this course of action immediately. The officer too seemed happy and eagerly accepted before the ruler changed his mind.

After a short while he soon realized that he would not have enough wheat in the whole vicinity to fill the request. In the second square there would be two grains, in the third square there would be four. In the tenth square there would be 512, in the twenty-first there would be over a million, and in the thirty-first there would be over a billion!

Rabbi Akiva Eiger answers that even the ‘limit’ that Moshe put on the blessing that he bestowed on the Jews, was not diminishing of the Bnei Yisrael at all.

How so? Initially, Moshe blessed ‘May Hashem… add to you a thousand times yourselves’, meaning, double yourselves. If today you stand at six hundred thousand strong, double that figure, and you will equal 1.2 million. Now, go back and double that figure – 2.4 million. Again, 4.8 million. Now do that one thousand times!

It turns out that Moshe’s blessing was not that they should increase in number one thousand-fold, rather, that they should double their population one-thousand times. That figure is truly a massive number, far too great to even calculate.

That is what Moshe meant when he said, ‘May Hashem… add to you a thousand times yourselves’- to double yourselves 1000 times!

Last week we had the privilege of hosting the RishonLeTsion Rabbi BakshiDoronShlita in London. The last time he was here was five years ago. He had a busy schedule and from erev Shabbat until Tuesday morning, the Rabbi visited and inspired as many communities as possible. At the end the rabbi mentioned how impressed he was with the growth of the community – it had multiplied exponentially and Bezrat Hashem should achieve 1000 times!

Taking a snapshot of a community isn’t easy. But when a great rabbi visits the community after five years he is able to see from the outside the inherent growth.

We all understand the great challenges ahead, and the difficulties within the community, but let us take pride in the great accomplishments we have achieved over the years.

The schools are flourishing, the shuls are being frequented, the sound of torah is strongly being sound and the youth are reconnecting to their roots.

Sometimes it takes an outsider to help us understand where we are holding.

Let us be proud of our accomplishments and continue to build a vibrant community serving Hashem with vigour and praying for the rebuilding of our Bet Hamikdash BimheraBeyamenu Amen.

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