Question:

I once heard that there is a certain amount of blessings we should attempt to say each day. How many is it, and what is the source of this idea?

Answer:

There is indeed such a teaching. We are to recite 100 blessings each day. The Talmud1 extrapolates this from a verse in Deuteronomy:2 "Now, Israel, what does G‑d, your G‑d, ask of you? . . . to walk in His ways . . . and to serve Him."

The Hebrew word for "what," mah (מָה), is phonetically similar to the word me'ah (מֵאָה), which means 100. In other words, the verse can be understood as saying: "Now, Israel, a hundred does G‑d, your G‑d, ask of you"—one hundred blessings.

There's a story behind this tradition. During the reign of Kind David, there was terrible plague that took the lives of exactly 100 people each day. The rabbis at the time perceived the plague's spiritual cause and instituted the practice of reciting 100 blessings per day. The plague immediately stopped.3

Saying 100 blessings is easier than you think. By just praying three times a day and reciting blessings before and after you eat, you will reach that total. Looking for the breakdown? You'll find it in the Code of Jewish Law.4

Reaching the total on Shabbat is a little trickier. The Shabbat Amidah consists of only seven blessings, as opposed to the nineteen that comprise its weekday counterpart. Several other blessings are also absent on Shabbat, such as the blessing over tefillin. Even counting the Musaf Amidah and the Grace after Meals for two Shabbat meals, somewhat of a deficit remains. (Four Shabbat Amidahs = 28; three weekday Amidahs = 57...)

The solution? Eat some extra snacks throughout the day. The blessings before and each snack will add up.5

Yom Kippur is even harder. With the shorter amidahs, and without any food blessings, the only solution is to make blessings over fragrant spices, fruit or herbs.6 In some communities, spice boxes are passed around the synagogue on Yom Kippur for this very reason.7 We compensate for the remaining blessings by answering Amen to the blessings on the Torah.

Let me know if this helps.

Yours truly,

Rabbi Yisroel Cotlar