Blessed are You Hashem, our G-d, King of the Universe, Who straightens the bent.
Each morning we thank Hashem for keeping our back straight. If our spine were not in working order so many of life’s daily tasks would be a colossal struggle. Tying our shoes would be as tiring as a three mile run. We would barely get anything accomplished.
Rabbi Arush teaches us that it is essential to thank Hashem for all of the physical abilities He gives us each day. Rabbenu Bachye ibn Pakuda in his Duties of the Heart, describes our functioning nervous system, digestive organs that can transform any edible substance into energy, and the brain which utilizes 10 trillion electrical connectors to enable us to think.
Everyone has a brain, a heart, and a liver. Not everyone has back problems. Why do we all recite this prayer? It was inserted into the morning blessings by the Sages who wrote the Talmud. That means we all are bent somewhere, and Hashem is straightening us right at this very moment.
Jewish Law is called halacha, or walking the path. The highest standards of personal conduct are called derech Eretz, or the way. We call Israel, yashar Al: straight with G-d, or straight to G-d.
The law, our attitude towards following it, and the people charged with guarding it are all commanded to always choose the straight and narrow road. That’s the path that leads to Hashem.
Being bent means we have deviated from it.
Straightening the bent is the realization that G-d actively encourages us to return to Him at every moment. Everything that happens to us is stimuli from Him to keep us on course – or get us back there. That makes everything in life, pleasant or unpleasant, truly good.
All of the challenges we face today have a G-dly purpose to it. Every reason we feel down, whether because of something that happened to us recently, something that has been weighing on our minds for decades, or even a personal disposition towards a particular emotion – was sent directly from Hashem to guide us in the right direction!
There is nothing in our lives that is hopeless. No matter how twisted our current situation is, every day we remember that G-d is hard at work untangling us from the mess.
Even those situations in life we feel are beyond our control are really an integral part of our mission. There is no randomness to our moments. They all form the specific journey He laid out for us. The destination is Paradise. The Navigator is G-d.
The Ramchal, in his Path of the Just, wastes no time in teaching us that there is no greater enjoyment on earth than to be connected to G-d. In chapter 1, page 1, he begins as follows:
The bedrock of piety and the root of flawless Divine Service lies in man’s effort to clarify and verify what his duty is in his world. He must determine what he is aiming for and how to achieve this – in all his labors throughout his lifetime. .. . Delighting in the Divine Presence, this being the ultimate joy and the greatest of all pleasures in existence. . . The path that helps us reach our desired objective is this world.
Hashem sends us all sorts of sharp turns and roadblocks to help us along the way.
Why does He do it through tribulations? For us to endure there must always be a material or emotional dilemma that protects us from complacency.Emunah in this process transforms our suffering into a Divine treasure. It becomes a source of joy. Like King David, we thank Hashem for the painful, yet very beneficial way He points us in the right direction.
Even if we don’t take the opportunity to improve, we celebrate that the suffering itself is a tremendous repentance. The endurance moves us forward.
Suffering is uncomfortable. We don’t want it. We work a lot harder to fix a bad situation than to prolong a good one. Hashem knows this. That’s why He sends us the best method of preparation to earn the greatest rewards in His existence.
A blessing is an acknowledgment. Baruch is a passive tense verb that states: You are blessed. G-d wants our blessings, but does not need them. We need them. Making the daily declaration each morning that G-d is actively trying to improve our lives by straightening us out is a constant reminder that G-d loves us. It is the ongoing acceptance that there is nothing bad that happens to us in this world. The question is never whether or not something was bad. It is always what is the good within ourselves G-d wants us to discover today?
* * *
Dovber Halevi is the author of Sex, Religion, and the Middle East, a book about personal holiness and happiness. He lives in Israel with his wife and three children.