Birchos HaShachar: Who Clothes the Naked
מלביש ערומים …Who clothes the naked.
I once attended an aufruf where the chasan spoke. Although he is a true talmid chacham and had plenty of Torah that he could have related (and perhaps did), what I recall is his uniquely (this occurred many years ago and I can’t recall another such occurrence) detailed and very specific thanks to his parents. It wasn’t the “thanks for everything” that is customary.
Hakaras ha’tov does NOT mean saying “thank you”; rather, it literally means “recognizing the good.” The “thank you” that we add at the end is only after the realization of the good bestowed upon us, and it should be the natural expression of that recognition.
To truly recognize the tremendous and constant chesed of Hashem in our lives, we need to invest the time to contemplate all the good that we have in our lives on both a macro and micro level. Yes, we all have our difficulties, which may take up more of our brain space, but even secular books on happiness list gratitude as the number one road to happiness. The more we contemplate specifics of what Hashem has done for us up to this point and even just the day before, the more we will recognize His constant and awesome chesed.
HaRav Avigdor Miller zt”l was a master and unique in this area. It is beyond the scope of this segment to even scratch the surface of his avodah of contemplation and recognition of Hashem’s loving kindness. He thought about it and expressed it when he ate, walked, and breathed, and he taught many shiurim on how ultimately this contemplation and recognition led to more awareness and love for Hashem and d’veikus with Hashem. When he ate an apple, he thought about the beautiful color, the miracle of how it got to his table, the fragrance, and the delicious taste. He taught us to actively and consciously enjoy what Hashem gives us (not to lust after desires but to appreciate and enjoy what Hashem does give us). The more we enjoy Hashem’s gifts, the more we appreciate them, the more we recognize Hashem’s love, the more we thank and praise Him, the more we increase the revelation of Hashem’s Honor in the world, the more we impact the world favorably through this closeness with Hashem, the greater our eternal world will be, the more Hashem’s purpose for creating the world will be realized.
As someone who often feels cold when others are comfortable, I have a special appreciation for this week’s brachah of Malbish Arumim. Every article of clothing can be appreciated, especially when one is cold. Sweaters, jackets, raingear, gloves, scarves, etc. each protect us in a different way. My favorite is an extremely warm, very expensive coat that my son bought for me as a gift. While I was very touched by his thoughtfulness and generosity, I must admit that, at first, I was hesitant to wear it, due to its obvious symbol on the sleeve, which alerts all as to how expensive the coat must be. However, thanks to HaRav Miller, once I began wearing it and felt the warmth in the most freezing of days and felt totally insulated even in snowstorms, I quickly began appreciating and recognizing Hashem’s amazing chesed. Not only did He bless me with such a thoughtful and generous son who bought me the coat, and not only did He gift to me warmth and comfort in the most extreme weather conditions, but He granted me the awesome opportunity to contemplate and thank Him each time I wear the coat (not that I take advantage of that opportunity every single time, but I should).
For some, it may be the beautiful Shabbos clothing, for others – warm clothing, and for others – lighter clothing that keeps one cooler when it’s hot. Whatever your specific preference and pleasure is, use it to tangibly feel that pleasure that Hashem is granting you, and use that pleasure as an opportunity to reach an extremely elevated form of service to Hashem. Contemplate and express to Hashem your appreciation and joy. He created mankind so that He could give us pleasure. The ultimate and primary pleasure is in the next world, but the pleasure He grants us in this world is a vehicle to foster and increase our awareness and love for Hashem, which will bring us to fulfill Hashem’s purpose in the world of providing goodness to us for eternity.