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Thought for the Day: Thanking HaShem Each and Every Day for Solid Land Near Water

Each and every morning, a Jew is supposed to view himself as a new/renewed creation, ready for a new day of building his eternal self through Torah and mitzvos.  We begin the day with 16 brachos to praise/thank/acknowledge HaShem for giving us all the tools we need to succeed.  We have a body, soul, and intellect.  We have vision, mobility, and protection from the elements.  Among those brachos, we have one that perhaps seems a bit out of place: רוקע הארץ על המים/Who spreads out the land on/over the water.  After all, it's nice to have a dry place to walk, but does that compare to the gratitude I have for a working body and vision?  As it turns out, I should; as explained by the R' Rajchenbach, rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu (aka, Peterson Park Kollel).  Your best bet is to listen to the shiur; very distant second is to continue, which I hope will whet your appetite for the real thing.

First... since we have dry land, I don't have to slog to work through even a foot or two of water.  Does that convenience really qualify to be in the list of vision, mobility, and protection from the elements?  Uh... yes, it does.  If you have any doubt, I suggest you visit Amazon Rising at the Shedd Aquarium.  No, it is not about the success of a web portal company turned virtual compute server.  Rather, it is a very realistic look at the lifestyle and culture of people who experience months of flooding (up to several feet) each year.  Besides the fact that their houses are bare structures built on stilts and gather food is the main occupation... there is also the fact that water is filled with nasty creatures like piranhas and the trees with anacondas.

But there is much more than that.  The bracha doesn't just mention dry land, it also note that the land is על המים/adjacent to bodies of water.  Imagine a dry land that is not adjacent to a body of water; say, for example, the Sahara desert.  Ask a young child from whence we get food and they'll likely answer, "from the store."  Those of us a bit older realize, of course, food comes from the land.  Even those of you who feel that vegetables are not food, but is food for food (you know who you are!), still realize the importance of having plentiful water for ourselves and to grow that food for our food.  So having dry land with plentiful water close at hand allows us to have booming economy that frees us up from just gathering food for subsistence to being able to have a wonderfully high standard of living.

The phrase על המים can also, of course, mean literally "on the water".  Dry land by nature sinks in water, yet we are here on dry land that is remaining above the water!  In fact, the entire world was originally completely covered with water; until the Creator order the water to gather into the seas, lakes, and rivers.  Did you ever wonder where all that water went?  In case you never did, try this experiment: put some sand, rocks, and plants (maybe a plastic diver and mermaid or three), then fill an aquarium completely with water.  I'll wait.  Ok, ready?  Now make room for rocks and divers and mermaids on dry land without removing any water.  So, again... where did all that water go?  Chazal have several answers, two of my favorites are; (1) the dry land also gathered to make room for seas and then automatically appearing above the water (2) the water had air absorbed which made it less dense, so HaShem squeezed the air out to make the water actually take up less volume.  Note that both of those processes are reversible; so our very lives actually depend on the fact that HaShem keeps the water at bay. (Of course the pun in intended!)

That's one "little" bracha out of the 16 morning brachos and the expected 100 or more brachos that we say each day.  We have barely scratched the surface of all that this bracha covers... and this bracha was one we thought was almost out of place among those other "big" brachos.  If one really thought about all that is included in even the "least" of the manifold blessings we receive from the Creator each and every day (each and every moment), then we would have no time for anything else.  At least, therefore, we should do more than "daven up"  (I cringe every time I hear that expression) our morning brachos and at least give a brief, fleeting thought to actually thanking our Creator.

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