Brachot, blessings that start with the phrase Baruch Ah’tah (Blessed are You), are recited over many aspects of Jewish life. There are brachot before one eats, and brachot after eating. There are brachot recited when performing a mitzvah (lighting Shabbat candles), and those recited over natural occurrences (such as a thunderstorm). There are also brachot built into the structure of daily Jewish prayer.
Many people are not aware that, ideally, a person should strive to follow the teaching of Rabbi Meir, who said: “A man is bound to say one hundred blessings daily, as it is written (Deuteronomy 10:12), ‘And now, Israel, what (mah) does the Lord your God require of you? [Reading mah as meah, which means 100]” (Talmud Menachot 43b).
One hundred brachot a day may sound like a lot until one realizes how many blessings one recites during daily prayer, how often one eats, that there is a vast array of daily blessings for a healthy body, such as the one recited after one relieves oneself. (On Shabbat and holidays, when there are fewer blessings in the prayer service, “Rabbi Hiya the son of Rabbi Awia endeavored to make up this number by using spices and delicacies – ibid.)
The idea of reciting 100 brachot during the day reflects a need to create a constant awareness of the Divine in this world. By doing so, one allows more Divine blessings to enter one’s life. According to the medieval commentator Rabbi Jacob ben Asher (the Tur), this ordinance was prescribed in the days of King David, when a terrible plague was striking down 100 people a day. When the king and the sages realized that the plague was a spiritual ailment, they called on the Jewish people to recite 100 brachot a day. The plague stopped.