AMIDA, NINTH BERAKHA: The Benefits and Risks of Material Abundance

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ברך עלינו…את השנה הזאת
 
Bless HaShem our God, [the harvest] of this year and all the produce [of the earth] for good.
Grant the dew and the rain for blessing, on the whole face of the earth.
Satiate [with rain] the face of the planet, [so] that everyone may be satisfied, thanks to Your goodness.
Fill our hands with Your blessings and with the abundance of the gifts of Your hands.
Protect it and save it, [the crop] of this year, from all kinds of pests and all kinds of [natural] disasters.
Help it [our harvest] arrive to a good term and allow us to conclude our year in peace.
Have compassion and mercy on it, [this year’s crop] and on all its produce and fruits.

And bless it with desirable rains; [rains] of blessing and abundance

And may the end of this year be [beneficial] for life, prosperity and peace, like the best years of blessing.
Because You are a kind and a generous God, who blesses the crops.
Blessed are You, HaShem, who blesses the harvest.
We are exploring the ninth berakha of the Amida, barekh alenu, which is the blessing in which we ask HaShem to grant us our sustenance (parnasa). In today’s Halakha we will analyze the Sephardic version of this blessing (the Ashkenazi version is much shorter. but its ideas are somehow implicit in the Sephardic version). We will also focus on the text that is said during the winter, when we ask for  rain.
As we can see, this blessing focuses explicitly on requesting rain (or “dew” in summer); a good harvest (the Hebrew word “shana”, which is usually translated as “year”, meaning “annual harvest” or “crop”) and a successful production of fruits of the earth. In other words, we ask HaShem to grant us sustenance, so that we do not suffer poverty or starvation.
In particular, we ask God to send rain. One of the most disastrous scenarios for Israel’s economy, still true today, is a year of drought. Rain, in due time and in good measure, is the blessing of HaShem for His people Israel, as it is explicitly stated in the Shema Israel, where we also affirm that the rain in the land of Israel is conditional upon the Jewish people keeping its covenant with God. The Tora describes an interaction of cause and effect  between the behavior of the people of Israel and the behavior of the heavens of Israel. Divine Providence rewards Israel’s loyalty with rain in abundance (and vice versa).
Although this Berakha refers exclusively to the agricultural aspects of the economy, because it was formulated at the time the Yehudim lived in Israel, when we dedicated ourselves to work the land, it also alludes to our economic success in general. When we say this blessing we should think, or we can explicitly ask HaShem,  to bless our businesses, our endeavors and our professional life, and not allow us to suffer economic hardship.
Something very important that we learn in this Berakha is implied in the word “leToba” (bless [the harvest] of this year and all the produce [of the earth] “for good”). Sometimes the abundance of money can have a negative effect on a person, for example, causing him or her to be arrogant or to move away from the Tora  (וישמן ישורון ויבעט ). Sometimes abundance can be counterproductive. Material excess can become a psychological or moral disorder, popularly known in English as “Affluenza”, consisting of: (1) The feeling of permanent dissatisfaction and frustration when trying to keep up with the Joneses. (2) Excessive dedication to work, not to have what we need but to elevate our material social image,  at the expense of our spiritual dedication and growth. And (3) a compulsive addiction to consumerism.
May HaShem bless us all materially, providing us with everything we need, and protecting us from “Affluenza” .