Prayer Insights

Morning Blessings # 11: "Striding to Destiny"

Rabbi Shaul J. Leiter

This series has focused on the connection between the morning blessings and the individual's daily renewal of spiritual energy and purpose. This installment discusses the eleventh blessing.

"Baruch ata …hamaichin mitzadei gever."

"Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe,
who directs the steps of man."

At the simplest level, this blessing, like all the other morning blessings, reminds us of the great kindnesses G-d does for us every day. Walking is a good example of something easily taken for granted. Think of how many muscles must work together for a person to walk smoothly, or how difficult walking is if your feet or any part of your body are not well.

Of course, like all the others, this blessing also can be understood on a much deeper level. The Ba'al Shem Tov emphasized that regardless of what a person thinks he is accomplishing in his day to day activities, or even when one takes a trip to a distant place or foreign country, he is in fact doing that activity or going to that place because G-d wants him to accomplish a spiritual purpose for Him.

When a person realizes that it is G-d who is directing his footsteps, he (the person) derives strength and confidence from the knowledge that he is doing G-d's will, while He (G-d) gains satisfaction from that person's deeds. This is the meaning of the verse from which the blessing is taken, with all its ambiguities: "The steps of man are directed by G-d, and He (he) delights in his (His) way" [Psalms 37:26].

This all-embracing Divine Providence does not exclude free choice. "All is foreseen, yet free choice is maintained" [Avot 3:15]. At the same time that we have free choice, G-d guides us in all we do. The Talmud says that without G-d's help, we would not accomplish anything. This is true even when we defy or disregard G-d's will (as, for example, Pharoah, who needed G-d to "harden his heart"). How much more do we draw down divine aid and blessing when we intentionally do G-d's will.

Rabbi Shaul Leiter is the executive director of Ascent-of-Safed.

This series is translated and adapted from Meah Shearim and other sources

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