Counting Our Blessings

For the week ending 13 April 2024 / 5 Nissan 5784

Birkat Hamazon: Blueprint of Jewish Destiny (Part 21)

by Rabbi Reuven Lauffer
Become a Supporter Library Library

“Anyone who recites Birkat HaMazon is blessed through it.”

(Zohar HaKadosh to ParshatTerumah)

Birkat HaMazon continues: The Compassionate One, may He make us worthy of the days of the Mashiach and the life of the World to Come.

On Weekdays we say:He Who makes great – magdil – the salvations of His king

On Shabbat, Yamim Tovim and Rosh Chodesh we say:He Who is a tower – migdal – of salvations to His king and does kindness for His anointed, to David and to his descendants forever. He who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace among us and upon all Israel. And let us say: Amen.

Both magdil (used during the week) and migdal (used on days when Mussaf is recited) appear in Tanach. Magdil appears in Tehillim (18:51) and migdal is found in the Book of Shmuel 2 (22:51). The midrash on Tehillim, Shocher Tov (ibid.) explains in the name of Rabbi Yudin the difference between the two versions. The Final Redemption will not happen suddenly rather, it will be a gradual process. The inference of the word magdil is that it is something that grows steadily until it reaches its goal. According to Rabbi Yudin if the redemption were to happen instantaneously it would be too much for many people and they would not survive the enormous upheaval and trauma that would immediately precede it. That is why the Jewish People have experienced troubles throughout this seemingly endless exile. Each persecution, each pogrom, each ruthless decree, each barbaric massacre that has been inflicted upon us brings us one step closer to the moment when the Mashiach will reveal his identity to the world – may it be very, very soon. That is why the Final Redemption is compared by the prophet Yeshayah (58:8) and our Sages to the breaking of the dawn. In the same way that the dawn occurs gradually and steadily so, too, the path to the Final Redemption is unfolding gradually and steadily.

But there is another factor as well, as our Sages teach, the darkest moment of the night is immediately prior to the dawn. So, too, immediately before the advent of the Messianic Era our reality will look its bleakest. However, slowly but surely, the “dawn” will break and the world will be flooded with the purest most exquisite light ever – the light of the Mashiach. As Rabbi Shulem Moskowitz (1877-1958) the Shotzer Rebbe was wont to say, “When it is dark, that means there is light behind the darkness. The thicker the darkness, the greater the light.”

If so, if the word magdil has such powerful connotations, why is the word migdal used on Shabbat and Yom Tov? Why isn’t magdil used every time we recite Birkat HaMazon? The commentaries explain that King Shlomo in Mishlei (18:10) refers to Hashem as a Migdal, “The Name of Hashem is a Tower of Strength.” Subsequently, on Shabbat, it is more fitting to use the word migdal because Shabbat is “Me’ein Olam Haba’ah – a taste of the World to Come.” On Shabbat we connect to Hashem in a more direct and obvious way and, therefore, experience dimensions that belong to the Messianic Era. That is why the word migdal and not magdil is used, because it alludes to the eternal closeness that we feel to Hashem

The Avudraham offers a beautiful insight by pointing out that the word magdil and the word migdal are both used by King David but at very dissimilar junctures in his life. When King David composed chapter eighteen of Tehillim he was describing the seemingly insurmountable difficulties and struggles that he experienced throughout his life. He uses the word magdil to convey the idea that his monarchy was not always accepted. That there was a need for it to grow and to be accepted by everyone. Later in his life, after his monarchy was established, King David uses the regal term migdal. Hence, it is very fitting that we also use the word migdal on Shabbat because Shabbat is the ‘king’ of all the days of the week.

And finally, we ask Hashem to bless us with peace. Rabbi Moshe Met (1550-1606), in his brilliant and indispensable work Mateh Moshe, writes that Hashem declares (Vayikra 26:6), “I will provide peace in the land…” Rashi cites the midrash, Torat Kohanim, that it is possible that a person will say, “Behold there is food and behold there is drink; but if there is no peace, there is nothing.” Therefore, explains Rabbi Met, the last request that we make before we conclude Birkat HaMazon is that there be peace. Peace so that we can appreciate all of the wondrous blessings that Hashem has bestowed upon us. And to thank Him accordingly.

To be continued...

© 1995-2024 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved.

Articles may be distributed to another person intact without prior permission. We also encourage you to include this material in other publications, such as synagogue or school newsletters. Hardcopy or electronic. However, we ask that you contact us beforehand for permission in advance at and credit for the source as Ohr Somayach Institutions

« Back to Counting Our Blessings

Ohr Somayach International is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation (letter on file) EIN 13-3503155 and your donation is tax deductable.