“Take care lest you forget the Lord, your God,
by not observing his commandments, ordinances, and decrees, which I command today.” (Deuteronomy 9:11)
Parashat Eikev commands “You will eat and you will be satisfied and bless the Lord your God, for the good Land that He gave you.” (Deut. 8:10) This is the prooftext for the mitzvah, or commandment, to recite birkat hamazon, the blessing for food, after a meal. Jewish custom dictates honoring the most significant person present with the zimun, or invitation to recite the blessing.
The Talmud raises an interesting question: who will God invite to offer the zimun at the banquet ushering in the messianic age? Abraham declines the honor, claiming being Ishmael’s father disqualifies him. So does Isaac, saying being Esau’s father disqualifies him. Jacob follows suit, asserting marrying two sisters, forbidden in the Torah (to be given) disqualifies him. Then Moses says no, explaining if he wasn’t worthy to enter Canaan, he’s not worthy to lead the blessing. God finally offers the zimun to King David, who accepts, saying it is fitting for him to do so (Babylonian Talmud Pesachim 119b).
Rabbi Judith Abrams (1958-2014; award-winning Talmud scholar) observes David is no more righteous than the others (and many would say far less so!). But Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses each focus on a single perceived failing, rather than on their significant lifetime achievements, to disqualify themselves. It is good to be modest, but it is also important to have a complete, balanced, and honest sense of self. No one is perfect, but the Talmud reminds us it is nonetheless permissible and appropriate to be honored for the good you have done.
Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom