For those of you who could not be with us on the Posnack School campus this past Thursday evening, you missed a truly fulfilling event. This event not only marked the beginning of the 41st year in the storied history of the Posnack Jewish Day School, it served as the official opening and ribbon cutting ceremony for the new, state of the art Paul and Maggie Fischer High School and Gymnasium.
Just before the ribbon was cut and the Posnack School High School Band, under the direction of its renowned Zohar Shachar, struck up a lively rendition of “Siman Tov and Mazel Tov,” a special blessing was pronounced. No doubt most people were expecting the blessing of שהחינו “Shehecheyanu” to be said. However, that blessing was not the one recited. Why not? Let me answer in typical Jewish fashion with another question. What is the motto of all educators? This is a teachable moment! That moment certainly was. Let me explain.
The blessing of שהחינו was created by our great sages for the individual. The שהחינו gives expression for our personal thanks to Hashem that we are alive to fulfill seasonal commands. So for example, we will soon say the שהחינו at Kiddush on Rosh Hashanah night, on Yom Kippur night after the Kol Nidrei prayer, when we hear the shofar, when we take the lulav on Sukkot, and when we light candles for the first time on Hanukkah. We are grateful to God that we are alive at these special times throughout the year to fulfill and thereby gain the perfection afforded us by doing these annual commands.
The שהחינו is also recited when a person wants to express personal gratitude for enjoyment and satisfaction in attaining material possessions. So for example, if I buy a new suit or my wife purchases a new dress, a שהחינו should be said as soon as payment is made. Even if it is used or old but new to me and I am happy about having it, the שהחינו should be said.
However, what if more than one person is happy and benefits from the new acquisition? Tractate Berachot, 59b, deals with that issue. There we learn that if more than one person is the beneficiary of the object, the appropriate blessing is הטוב והמטיב, “Blessed are You Lord our God, King of the universe, the One who is good and bestows goodness.” The dedication of our new Paul and Maggie Fischer High School and Gymnasium is, no doubt, the paradigm situation for reciting this blessing.
But why the change in the wording of the blessing? Hashem, of course, is the source of all goodness. Goodness comprises His essence, not a quality super added to His existence. The goodness that He bestows to mankind is given generously even if we are undeserving. It is bestowed upon us out of His love and concern for all mankind. The שהחינו only acknowledges my personal thanks to God. הטוב והמטיב is more. It also acknowledges God’s will in the universe for the good of all mankind.
We, as Jews, are commanded to “walk in His ways.” We are to emulate God as humanly as possible. In this case that means we are to use our material and intellectual wherewithal not only benefit ourselves but as importantly to share our successes and accomplishments with others. By doing so, we demonstrate our commitment to God’s will, participating in building a world that expresses genuine love and concern for the welfare of our fellow human beings.
So the blessing of הטוב והמטיב, is said when the acquired object helps more than one person. Nothing exemplifies this idea more than the building of a new facility to further Jewish education. Literally thousands of Jewish youth and young adults will be the direct beneficiaries of the largess and generosity of so many. Lead by our Head of School, Dr. Richard Cuenca, supported by the Board of Trustees of David Posnack Jewish Day School, and with the continued assistance by Hashem, the new Paul and Maggie Fischer High School building and Gymnasium, will become the jewel of Jewish life and education in Broward County.
With abounding gratitude to Hashem and to all those too numerous to name here, who donated their money, ideas, and energy, working tirelessly over the last couple of years turning their vision of a modern, state of the art Jewish high school into a reality, we recited the blessing הטוב והמטיב with full and grateful hearts.
May Hashem continue to bless our endeavors at the Posnack School, and may He continue His protecting care over Israel, Jews, and God-loving people the world over.
Rabbi Robert Kaplan