A common phrase heard amongst Jews is the expression Baruch Hashem-Blessed is God. For example, you may hear someone ask his friend “How are you?” and the response will be “Baruch Hashem fine!” Or “How’s business?” and again, “Baruch Hashem fine.”
Blessed is God! What a beautiful and wonderful phrase. But what does it really mean and where does it come from?
Who was the first to use the expression Baruch Hashem? You might be surprised to learn that it was in fact Jethro, the father in-law of Moses. The Bible tells us that after Moses had told Jethro all that had transpired in Egypt and the great saving, Jethro responded “Baruch Hashem! Who has saved you from Egypt and from Pharaoh” (Exodus 18:8- 10). It is interesting to note that the Jewish Sages are disappointed that neither Moses nor the Jewish people had said Baruch Hashem and it was only now that Jethro blessed God.
If you think about it, it is a little bit difficult to understand what it means to bless God. Does God really need us to bless Him? Isn’t it the other way around? We need blessings from God! We need blessings for good health, success, happiness, healthy children etc. Is God waiting for our blessings?
The Jewish approach to this question is that indeed God does not need our blessings. What Baruch Hashem means is that we acknowledge that God is the source of all blessing! Whenever something good happens we must say Baruch Hashem and acknowledge God as the source of everything. When we say Baruch Hashem we are in effect saying that everything happens because of God. We bring him into our lives by recognizing that He is the source for it all.
With this idea we can understand an unusual statement by the Jewish Sages: “Just as we bless God for the good we must also bless God for the bad.” If we understand blessing God as acknowledging that He is the source for everything, that nothing in this world is random and coincidence, then this makes a world of sense.
Let me illustrate with a story: I am a licensed tour guide here in Israel. It is actually a very difficult license to get. The course started with 42 people and two years later only 16 became licensed guides. After two years of coursework and field trips you must pass a written exam and then an oral exam. After I found out that I passed my oral exam and became fully licensed, I called a good friend of mine to see how he fared. He said to me “Baruch Hashem I failed.”
Sounds a bit strange but if blessing God means that we acknowledge that He is the source for everything that happens to us then we must also say Baruch Hashem—Blessed is God even when things don’t go as we would like.
If we only think God is on our side when good things happen, when things run smoothly, we are sadly mistaken. He is there always. Loves us always. And ultimately, even the ‘bad stuff’ is really just a blessing in disguise.
So let us say every day, no matter what may come our way: “Baruch Hashem,” “Blessed is God!” God wants our blessings—not because He needs it but because we do.