The holy Reb Aharon from Karlin was once eating an apple when one of his chassidim brashly asked him, “Rebbe, I don’t understand! You eat apples and I eat apples. You make a bracha and I make a bracha. What’s the difference between me and you”? The Rebbe answered him as follows: “When I wake up in the morning, I’m awe-inspired by creation and the lovingkindness of our Creator. I feel humbled and have an urge to say ‘Blessed are you God’ but I’m not allowed to bless unless I eat something. So I eat the apple. You wake up in the morning with the urge to eat an apple. Because you’re a religious Jew you make the blessing and eat it. The difference is that you make the bracha to eat the apple and I eat the apple to make the bracha”!
The Talmud asks, “Why don’t the sons of torah scholars follow in their ways? Because their fathers didn’t make the blessing on the Torah before they learned it”. Rebbe Nachman (Torah 14) explains quite esoterically that when we learn Torah we need to shine light through our blessing into our root-soul. Meaning to say, it’s not that the scholars didn’t make the blessing before they learnt, but rather they didn’t bless THE BEFORE when they learnt. Our soul is the before, because it was conceived in God’s mind before creation (Zohar Chadash).
Sometimes after going all-out for our kids, in a way that only a loving parent can, they say thank you. I know there’s nothing more they can do than express their thanks verbally, but I think to myself, “do you know how much it entailed to do this for you? I’m happy you’re thankful but there’s no way you can appreciate all the sweat and time I put into this for you”!
The same is true with our brachos, except that God does know if and how appreciative we are. We religious Jews strive to make 100 blessings per day. I know how hard it is to change our concentration level in our blessings. (You’re not the only one who can’t remember if they made an after-bracha)! But maybe we can choose just one blessing a day where we take a moment and appreciate all the preparation that God is constantly doing for us, all the way back to the creation of our soul? Our Jewish soul is what we should be most grateful for. We can never thank Him enough for it! Similar to the chesed we do for our small children, our soul is much greater than we can ever appreciate. I know it’s not that easy. By now we do things almost robotically. But we certainly can make a small change. All we can do is try a little-bit more to recognize and visualize the fine details of His love and with those stronger blessings shine light into all of our holy souls!