What should a person think when looking at a bridge?
Now, it’s not a foolish question. The Chovos Halevovos tells us a very important point which we should make use of all the time. He says that one of the first functions of the oved Hashem is to see what Hakodosh Boruch Hu has done for him. טוב להודות לה׳ – What’s good in this world? To thank Hashem. You must spend time thinking about what He did for you. And so, the Chovos Halevovos starts telling about all the things Hakodosh Boruch Hu is doing for us. Pages and pages.
Then we he gets through all these things he adds an important point. He says that we also have to thank Hakodosh Boruch Hu for the נימוסי האומות, for the things that the nations of the world instituted. When you see certain things that the gentile did and they are good for us you have to thank Hashem who gave them the idea to do it.
And so we see traffic lights; it’s only a light after all but it adds so much convenience to our lives. I remember once upon a time when there were no traffic lights; no traffic lights. In busy places a policeman stood and he said, “Go, go.” But on other streets, nothing. When traffic lights were invented we appreciated it no end. It was a wonderful thing. But it wasn’t like these traffic lights. It was plain stop and go sign that turned around. Stop, go, stop, go. No lights. But now there are lights everywhere. Boruch Hashem! Lights are life savers! And you’re supposed to thank Hashem for the lights, yes! You never thanked Hashem for the traffic lights?! Get busy now. Think about that. Because an oved Hashem must thank Hakodsh Boruch Hu for the things that the goyim invented.
You should thank Him for the traffic laws too. How do you know that the person driving the car will stop and let you pass by when there is a red light? Maybe he’ll speed through. No, you have confidence that they are afraid of the police; that’s they’ll get a traffic summons for a violation. You rely on that. As you cross, there is a rasha, an antisemite, and he’s looking at you. He has a big yetzer hara but he’s afraid to do it, and so he sits still. So you thank Hakodosh Boruch Hu who put this idea into the head of the goyim to create traffic lights and traffic laws. It’s a wonderful thing!
And so when you see a bridge, so you think about how the bridge is a reason why you can go over it and go to good places. I once learned in a yeshiva in Manhattan. Way back, sixty eight years ago, I went to a yeshiva in Manhattan. And I lived in Brooklyn, in Williamsburg, and we had to cross the bridge. The bridge was made to bring me to the yeshiva! The Rambam says that. Forget about all the goyim that travel on the bridge; that’s just agav urcha. The bridge is made for you! For going to learn torah by crossing the bridge. So the bridge is a gift from Hakodosh Boruch Hu. That’s how you should look at a bridge.
And all the things that the umos ha’olam invented are the same. You have to thank Hakodosh Boruch Hu that He gave us artificial lights. By the way, people don’t know that every week we thank Hashem for lights. Every day we thank Hashem for the natural light of the sun, but for artificial light we thank once a week, on motzei Shabbos. בורא מאורי האש. What’s that? Did you ever think about that? We’re thanking Hashem for artificial lights. Some people think its just a ceremony, a frumkeit. No! We’re makir tov for electricity and all other forms of artificial light. After all, in the olden days when it was night time, what could you do? You could sit down and learn ba’al peh if you remembered but if you didn’t have such a good memory you couldn’t learn. And now boruch Hashem, Hakodosh Boruch Hu gave lights.
And He also told a certain German named Gutenberg, “Get busy Mr. Gutenberg and invent the art of printing.” And so Gutenberg, in the 1400’s, invented printing. And as soon as Gutenberg invented printing, the Jews seized hold of it – they began printing the Shas immediately. Among the first ones who utilized the invention of printing were the Jewish people. Such a wonderful thing! And so, we thank Hakodosh Boruch Hu for that. In the olden days a sefer cost as much as a farm. To write a sefer could cost as much as a farm! The ba’alei tosfos didn’t have the whole shas. Who could afford a whole shas?! And boruch Hashem people have a shas in every home today. We have to thank Hakodosh Boruch Hu that he told a goy in the 1400’s to go ahead and invent printing. So all the things that the goyim did were instigated by Hashem. Traffic light and traffic laws and light bulbs and printing and bridges, it’s all a part of the chasdei Hashem. And it’s up to us that besides for all the things we thank Him for, we have to thank Him for these things as well.
TAPE # E-8 (May 1995)