Some people seem to be unsure of the meaning of one of the brachos we say every morning.
When putting on shoes say [the bracha] she’asah li kal tzarki, Who has made for me all of my needs. (Brachos 60b)
What does putting on shoes have to do with providing all of my needs? All I need is a pair of shoes? That cannot be why the gemara associated this bracha with shoes.
The Avudraham says, the reason for this bracha [being said when putting on shoes] is that as long as one is barefoot he cannot go out to attend to his needs and the needs of his household. Therefore, when one puts on shoes it is as if all of his needs have been attended to. (Avudraham haShalem, Dfus Usha, Yerushalim, 5723, Page 41)
How, then, can it be that so many children repeatedly come to their parents to tell them they need things? Baruch Hashem all of the children in our community walk around with shoes on their feet. How can they be so needy? Don’t they understand the meaning of this bracha?
The short answer is that they apparently misread the teaching of Ben Zoma. He taught that a person will feel wealthy when he realizes that he has everything he needs. A person who is sameach b’chelko is content with what he has. This is someone who understands the bracha she’asah li kal tzarki properly.
Some children seem to misread Ben Zoma and think that when the Mishna says b’chelko it means his, third person, someone else’s, chelek. I’ll be happy when I have what someone else has. Whatever I have is never good enough if someone else has something else.
Correctly understood, Ben Zoma said that each person’s chelek is unique to him and is kal tzarki, it is everything he needs.
Everything he needs for what? Does that mean he’s done, he can just sit back and enjoy his portion?
No. We see from the Avudraham that kal tzarki is the necessary potential to take care of yourself and your household. You now have the responsibility to fulfill your potential, one step at a time.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow was interested in human potential, and how we fulfill that potential. He described self-actualized people as those who are fulfilled and doing all they are capable of.
Hillel taught us that if you do not continue to grow, you will shrink.
Maslow, too, considered the need for personal growth and discovery to be present throughout a person’s life for a person is always 'becoming' and never remains static. Maslow began not with shoes, but with a broader list of prerequisites to growth. He then outlined the needs underlying each level.
Our most basic need is for physical survival. Parents begin by providing their children with food, drink, shelter, clothing, warmth, and sleep.
The next level is much harder for many parents to consistently provide. This level includes the needs for security and safety. Children need order, predictability and control in their lives. When a child doesn’t know how an unpredictable parent will respond and fears harsh criticism or punishment she becomes anxious and “shuts down.” This makes it hard for her to proceed to the next level, the level of belongingness, being an accepted and respected part of a family or group. A child who is belittled or disrespected in other ways struggles with gaining a sense of self-worth and dignity. This can lead to acceptance of abuse from others because the parents did not show this child that she deserves better.
Children who are taught that they deserve compassion and support when they fail and acknowledgement when they succeed gain a strong sense of worth and self-confidence. This gives them the courage to take the risks necessary to achieve their potential by seeking personal growth. Maslow described this level as the desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that one can be.
Maslow intuited the yesod of chinuch we call al pi darko. He pointed out that individuals may focus on self-fulfillment in different ways. For example, one individual may have a strong desire to become an ideal parent. In another, the desire may be expressed economically, academically or athletically. For others, it may be expressed creatively, in paintings, pictures, or inventions.
How can you tell that your child is becoming a self-actualizer? What are the characteristics to look for? Self-actualizers:
perceive reality efficiently and can tolerate uncertainty; accept themselves and others for what they are; are able to look at life objectively; are concerned for the welfare of others; establish deep satisfying interpersonal relationships with a few people; have strong moral and ethical standards; take responsibility and work hard.
(based on McLeod, S. A. (2020, March 20). Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html)
Over the past four decades, I have often worked with families in their homes. When I work with families, it is always, to some degree, about their shalom bayis. It is my impression that every family I have worked with has had a decorous light fixture in their dining room.
Before I became a therapist, my wife and I were Shabbos guests in the home of a family that did not have a decorous light fixture in their dining room. They had a fluorescent shop light. The more time we spent with these neighbors the more impressed we became with the shalom bayis we always experienced in their presence.
Perhaps the closer to pas b’melech we stay, the less daaga we have from our nechasim.
And one more thought. Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, points out that while many brachos are in the plural, this bracha is not sh’asah lanu kal tzarkeinu. He explains that when saying this bracha, I should think of myself as having everything I need, and looking to see what others may need.
Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Ackerman is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with specialties in marriage, dating, and parenting.
He is the author of Confident Parents, Competent Children, in Four Seconds at a Time Available at bookstores and on Amazon.
He can be reached at 718-344-6575.