"Scoring a Hundred"
There is a pretty popular verse found in this week's parsha which says, "And now Israel, mah (what) does Hashem your God ask of you except to fear the Lord your God?" (Parshas Eikev, 10:12). Rebbi Meir says that from this verse we learn that one is supposed to recite one hundred blessings a day (Menachos, chap. 4, "Hatecheiles", pg. 43b).
Rashi (ibid, Divrei Hamaschil "Mah") explains that this teaching is derived from the word "mah" which is spelled mem hey. If one changes the vowels in this word, it reads as "mei'ah" (one hundred). With this new reading, the verse is not asking a question, rather, it is making a statement; "And now Israel, mei'ah (a hundred blessings) does Hashem your God ask of you in order to fear the Lord your God."
The Tosafists (ibid, Divrei Hamaschil "Shoel") quote Rabbeinu Tam who adds a beautiful hint from the verse itself which supports this idea. He points out that this verse has ninety-nine letters in it. However, since Rebbi Meir changes the word "mah" (spelled mem, hey) to "mei'ah," we must add the letter aleph to this word because that is the way the word "mei'ah" is spelled (mem, aleph, hey). With the added letter aleph, the verse now has one hundred letters in it, representing the one hundred blessings one must recite daily.
The recitation of one hundred blessings a day can serve as a huge spiritual benefit to a person. We can see this by analyzing the first person who was created.
Adam Harishon was created so tall that his body stretched from the Earth to the Heavens (Sanhedrin, chap. 4, "Echad Dinei Mammonos", pg. 38b; Parshas Va'eschanan, 4:32; Rav Yehuda in the name of Rav). However, after Adam sinned, Hashem caused him to shrink down to the height of just one hundred cubits (Chaggigah, chap. 2, "Ein Dorshin", pg. 12a, Rebbi Elazar; See Yalkut Shimoni, Va'eschanan, Remez 827; See Zohar, Parshas Bereishis, pg. 53b).
The Ramah (Sanhedrin, pg. 38b) explains that the reason why Hashem created Adam so tall to begin with was so that man would have the capacity of connecting all earthly matters to heavenly heights. This would elevate the lower world to the higher one. However, once Adam sinned, he "fell short" of this ability.
The Zohar (Parshas Bereishis, pg. 35b) and the Arizal (Sha'ar Hapesukim, Parshas Vayigash) say that Ya'akov Avinu was a reincarnation of Adam. As such, it was Ya'akov's job to fix the damage that he did when he was Adam Harishon. Ya'akov was given the task of connecting the lower physical world with the higher spiritual one.
This explains Ya'akov's dream of a ladder that stretched from the Earth up to the Heavens (Parshas Vayeitzei, 28:12). Ya'akov's dream was to be blessed with the strength to bridge the gap between the lower and upper worlds by connecting the materialism of this world with the spirituality of the world above.
Perhaps we could add that this was the reason why Hashem shrunk Adam down to specifically one hundred cubits. It was to hint to him that through the recitation of one hundred blessings a day, he would be able to accomplish this goal of connecting the lower and upper domains. The way this works is as follows.
When a person concentrates on the words of his blessings, he will begin to realize that Hashem, from the higher world, created the objects found on the lower world. Additionally, when a person pays attention to the utterances of his blessings, he will be reminded to direct all items below towards a higher purpose, which is to serve the One Above. This bridges the gap between the two worlds.
When one prays daily and recites the appropriate blessings when necessary, one will automatically articulate at least one hundred blessings a day. When these blessings are said with concentration and with feeling, and not mere "lip service," they will have this desired effect.
Practically speaking, let us choose just two blessings a week that we are going to focus on, no matter what. In this way, one hundred blessings will have been said with emotion throughout the year.
So, may we all be blessed to "score a hundred" by climbing the spiritual ladder of success and infuse holiness into the mundane.
Good Shabbos, Warmest wishes, Aba Wagensberg