Seven Mystical Species

From the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria; translated and edited by Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky

Kabbalah expounds upon the mystical roots of Israel's seven holy fruits.

In this week's Torah reading, Moses tells the Jewish people,

"G‑d is bringing you into…a land of wheat, barley, grape-vines, figs, and pomegranates; a land of oil-olives and honey." (Deut. 8:7-8)

These are the seven species for which the Land of Israel is praised. [In other words,] Nukva, which is termed "the Land of Israel", needs to be praised, i.e. blessed from [Zeir Anpin's] seven [lower sefirot].

The phrase "the Land of Israel" means "the land that belongs to Israel": "the land" is an appellation of Nukva d'Zeir Anpin, the mate of Zeir Anpin, one of whose appellations is "Israel".

These are the six [sefirot] that remained above plus her malchut, equaling seven. It thus becomes a male-principle relative to her, as we have explained.

This may be proven by the fact that all types of fruit issue from the earth and are thus not from the male domain but from this feminine domain.

Wheat is from the right axis, that of chochma. As our sages have said, "the unripe version of the supernal chochma is the Torah [we know in this world]," (Bereishit Rabbah 17:7) and the Torah is made up of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, this being the numerical value of the word for "wheat" [in Hebrew, "chita"].

"Chita" is spelled: chet-tet-hei = 8 + 9 + 5 = 22.

Every entity that exists in the realm of holiness has a corresponding entity in evil….

Of the realm of evil, it is said, "Instead of wheat, may nettles grow there." (Job 31:40) The numerical value of the word for "nettles" [in Hebrew, "choch"] is also 22; "G‑d created the one thing opposite the other." (Ecclesiastes 7:14)

"Choch" is spelled: chet-vav-chet = 8 + 6 + 8 = 22.

In general, every entity that exists in the realm of holiness has a corresponding entity in evil. This provides the opportunity for man to have free choice.

Barley is from the left axis. You will find that the numerical value of the word for "barley" [in Hebrew, "se'ora"] is twice that of the combined numerical values of the five final letters plus the unit value [1] for each of the ten letters [of the two sets of final letters] plus five unit-values for each of the five states of gevura.

"Se'ora" is spelled: sin-ayin-reish-hei: 300 + 70 + 200 + 5 = 575.

Hei, the second letter of the name Havayah, signifies the sefira of bina, the top of the left axis of the sefirot. Directly under bina is gevura, signifying restraint or withholding. Similarly, the final forms of the letters indicate a stopping of the flow of speech. The five letters with final forms are kaf, mem, nun, tzadik, and pei.

Kaf-mem-nun-tzadik-pei: 20 + 40 + 50 + 90 + 80 = 280; 280 x 2 = 560; 560 + 10 + 5 = 575.

For this reason, the suspected adulteress brings a barley-offering, for barley embodies the power of gevura.

The suspected adulteress (sotah) is brought to the Temple to submit to a rite of judgment.

The ink of judgment originates in this inkwell, which [G‑d] uses to mark all [the righteous of] humanity….

The archangel Gabriel also derives from this aspect of spirituality; therefore he has "the inkwell of the scribe at his waist." (Ezekiel 9:2,3) The numerical value of the word for "inkwell" [in Hebrew, "keset"] is also twice that of the combined numerical values of the final letters. The ink of judgment originates in this inkwell, which [G‑d] uses to mark all [the righteous of] humanity, as it is written, "And you shall draw a line [on the foreheads of the men…]." (ibid. 9:4)

These verses are taken from a vision in which the prophet Ezekiel is shown how G‑d plans to destroy Jerusalem. Delivering the consequence of sin is certainly an act of gevura, and is therefore executed by the archangel Gabriel. However, G‑d also tells Gabriel to use the ink to "mark a sign on the foreheads of the men who sigh and moan for all the abominations done within [the city]" and not to "approach any man upon whom is the sign." Thus, the ink-sign is also evokes gevura, here in the sense of "restraint" of the execution of G‑d's wrath.

"Keset" is spelled: kuf-samech-tav = 100 + 60 + 400 = 560.

Also, of the time when evil is ascendant it is written, "Instead of barley, may stinkweed grow." This is the principle of the name Elo-him spelled out with the letter yud plus unit-value for the eight letters of the spelling-out.

The name Elo-him signifies G‑d's attribute of judgment. When the name Elo-him is spelled out using a yud to spell out the hei, we have:

alef – alef – 1 – lamed – 30 – pei – 80 = 111

lamed – lamed – 30 – mem – 40 – dalet – 4 = 74

hei – hei – 5 – yud – 10 = 15

yud – yud – 10 – vav – 6 – dalet – 4 = 20

mem – mem – 40 – mem – 40 = 80

total = 111 + 74 + 15 + 20 + 80 = 300

There are eight letters used to spell out the name itself; these are Alef – Lamed – Pei – Mem – Dalet – Hei – Yud – Vav.

The numerical value of the word for "stinkweed" [bashah] is beit-alef-shin-hei: 2 + 1 + 300 + 5 = 308. "Stinkweed" is thus the opposite for barley in the realm of evil, signifying gevura of evil.

The grape vine originates in the middle axis….

The grape vine [originates] in the middle axis, between the right and the left. The word for "vine" [in Hebrew, "gefen"] alludes to the numerical values of the spellings-out of the four ways of spelling out the name Havayah [46, 37, 19, 26], 128, plus the 4 letters of the name itself and the kolel.

chanoch adds: These 4 spellings – 46 – 37 – 19 – 26 – are the milui of the spelled out Names. The Milui is the concealed letters when one looks or reads an individual letter. An exmple is the letter yud. The concealed letters are vav and dalet while the revealed letter is yud.

"Gefen" is spelled: gimel-pei-nun = 3 + 80 + 50 = 133.

As we have seen previously, there are four standard ways of spelling out the name Havayah, giving numerical values of 72, 63, 45, and 52. The total of these four values is 232. To consider only the numerical value of the letters used in the spelling-out process, we simply subtract 4 times the value of the name itself, 26. 4 x 26 = 104; 232 - 104 = 128. When we add 4 unit values (4 x 1) for the four letters of the name plus the kolel, we have 128 + 4 + 1 = 133, the numerical value of "gefen". This demonstrates the association between the grape and the name Havayah, which is the channel for tiferet, the central sefira on the middle axis.

[These three] are the mental states that enter Zeir Anpin from chochma-bina-daat, and Zeir Anpin imparts some of their energy to malchut.

Wheat and barley were associated above explicitly with chochma and bina. While the grape was not explicitly associated with daat, it was demonstrated that it relates to the central axis, on which daat is situated, directly above tiferet.

However, there are differing levels of how he imparts them to her. When she is situated [entirely] below him, he gives them to her in one way; when she is level with his netzach-hod-yesod, he gives them to her in a superior way; when she is level with his chesed-gevura-tiferet, he gives them to her in a yet more subtle way; and when she becomes the crown of his head, she receives them on a par with him.

We have described the union of Zeir Anpin and Nukva to be necessary in order to preserve the balance of consciousness between abstract inspiration and active inspiration, between the desire to leave the world and become absorbed in divine consciousness and the desire to make the world into a fitting setting for divine consciousness to flourish. These are the male and female aspects of consciousness (of both men and women), respectively. The male must couple with the female in order to be properly oriented toward the purpose of life, while the female must couple with the male in order to preserve her perspective and not fall prey to the forces of non-divine-consciousness ("evil"). These couplings can occur on various levels, depending on the mental state of Nukva.

The Sages said that in the [messianic] future, "The righteous will sit with their crowns on their heads." (Berachot 17a) Know that on the Shabbat, when Zeir Anpin ascends to the level of Abba and Imma, only its inner dimension ascends, whereas its outer garment remains below [at its normal level of consciousness]. [Nukva] then ascends to be level with his inner dimension, becoming a crown over the head of his garment, which remained below in its [usual] place. It is then that she receives all these spellings-out [of the name Havayah] on par with him.

The ideal state, of course, is for Nukva to be fully matured, postured as the crown of Zeir Anpin, receiving insight and inspiration on par with him. This state will be fully realized only in the messianic future, when the task of elevating and refining the world into a home for G‑d will have been accomplished and it will no longer be necessary for Nukva to descend into contracted states of consciousness in order to elevate the lower realms of reality on/from their level.

The Shabbat is a taste of the World to Come, and therefore this state is semi-realized on the Shabbat.

The fig takes [its consciousness] from netzach. This is the principle of the three spellings out of the name Eh-yeh, giving numerical values of 161, 151, and 143.

Eh-yeh spelled with the letter yud

alef – alef – 1 – lamed – 30 – pei – 80 = 111

hei – hei – 5 – yud – 10 = 15

yud – yud – 10 – vav – 6 – dalet – 4 = 20

hei – hei – 5 – yud – 10 = 15

Total = 111 + 15 + 20 + 15 = 161

Eh-yeh spelled with the letter hei

alef – alef – 1 – lamed – 30 – pei – 80 = 111

hei – hei – 5 – hei – 5 = 10

yud – yud – 10 – vav – 6 – dalet – 4 = 20

hei – hei – 5 – hei – 5 = 10

Total = 111 + 10 + 20 + 10 = 151

Eh-yeh spelled with the letter alef

alef – alef – 1 – lamed – 30 – pei – 80 = 111

hei – hei – 5 – alef – 1 = 6

yud – yud – 10 – vav – 6 – dalet – 4 = 20

hei – hei – 5 – alef – 1 = 6

Total = 111 + 6 + 20 + 6 = 143

The sum of these three values plus the kolel gives 456, the numerical value of the word for "fig" [in Hebrew, "te'eina"].

161 + 151 + 143 + 1 = 456.

"Te'eina" is spelled: taf-alef-nun-hei = 400 + 1 + 50 + 5 = 456.

These [iterations of the name Eh-yeh] are the mental states of Imma that enter Zeir Anpin, included in which are the mental states of Abba, which are [three] names Havayah. It is thus written, "He who guards the fig will eat its fruit." (Proverbs 27:18) "He who guards the fig" refers to the mentality of Imma; "…will eat its fruit" refers to the mentality of Abba.

The Arizal now shows how the phrase "will eat its fruit" refers to the mentality of Abba.

[The mental states of Abba] are, numerically, three times 72, which equals 216.

As we have noted previously, of the four ways of spelling out the name Havayah, that whose numerical value is 72 is associated with chochma, the partzuf of Abba, and the yud of the name Havayah itself. Three such names Havayah give 3 x 72 = 216.

The combined numerical values of the original names Havayah themselves are 78. When to these is added the kolel, the sum is 295, the numerical value of the word for "its fruit" [in Hebrew, "pirya"].

3 x 26 = 78.

216 + 72 + 1 = 295.

"Pirya" is spelled: pei-reish-yud-hei = 80 + 200 + 10 + 5 = 295.

The reason why all this is associated with netzach is because anatomically, netzach and hod are associated with the two male testicles in which the male seed develops, the male-male seed in the right [testicle] and the female-male seed in the left [testicle].

We see that the sperm that develop in the right and left testicles are, relative to each other, "male" and "female".

The pomegranate originates in hod….

This is the meaning of the statement in the Zohar: "He is in netzach and she is in hod." (Shaar Erkei HaKinuyim, Chanukah 1; Mevo She'arim 3:1:2, 5:1:1)

The pomegranate originates in hod, and thus numerical value of the word for pomegranate ["rimon", plus the kolel] is the same as that of the angel Nuriel.

"Rimon" is spelled: reish-mem-vav-nun = 200 + 40 + 6 + 50 = 296; 296 + 1 = 297.

"Nuriel" is spelled: nun-vav-reish-yud-alef-lamed = 50 + 6 + 200 + 10 + 1 + 30 = 297.

This word ["rimon"] is also the same as the name of the angel Metatron when we remove the two letters tet in its middle - these being the numerical value of "alive" [in Hebrew, "chai"], referring to the inner life-force of the pomegranate - leaving a mem to the right and reish-vav-nun to the left.

"Metatron" is spelled mem-tet-tet-reish-vav-nun. Thus, it can be seen that removing the two tet's in the middle leaves the letters that are used to spell "rimon". The mem is to the right, etc., since Hebrew is read right to left.

tet-tet = 9 + 9 = 18; chai: chet-yud = 8 + 10 = 18.

These [remaining letters that spell "rimon"] are the outer shell that we call the pomegranate, while the inner [life-force] is the sefira of tiferet. This is alluded to in the verse "lest he eat it and live forever" (Gen. 3:23, referring to the fruit of the Tree of Life). And so it is said of Rabbi Meir: "He ate its core and discarded its shell." (Chagigah 15b1) The forces of evil cannot suckle from the inner life force, but they can suckle from the garment, i.e. the pomegranate.

In this way we may also understand the mystical meaning of the verse "And the [angelic] beasts were running and returning." (Ezekiel 1:14) The numerical value of the word for "running" [in Hebrew, "ratzo", plus the kolel] is the same as that of the word "rimon".

"Ratzo" is spelled: reish-tzadik-vav-alef = 200 + 90 + 6 + 1 = 297.

The word for "running" ["ratzo"] may also be permuted to spell the word for "neck" ["tzavar"].

"Tzavar" is spelled: tzadik-vav-alef-reish.

This refers to the neck of Imma, i.e. her throat; Imma extends as far as hod.

The inner life force [in contrast,] refers to the words "and returning", inasmuch as the numerical value of the name "Sha-dai" [314] is the same as that of this phrase "and returning".

In Hebrew, the phrase "and returning" is one word: "veshov", spelled vav-shin-vav-beit = 6 + 300 + 6 + 2 = 314.

"Sha-dai" is spelled: shin-dalet-yud = 300 + 4 + 10 = 314.

In any case, "running" is associated with the pomegranate, the shell, while "returning" is associated with the inner life force.

…. Olives originate in yesod

Oil-olives originate in yesod. [Since yesod is a relatively "male" sefira,] we may ponder why the verse does not read simply "a land of honey?"

As we know, "land" is feminine, an appellation for malchut. And honey, as we shall see presently, is also associated with malchut. It thus seems inappropriate that the word for "land" should be repeated just before a masculine-associated modifier.

Know then, that yesod never separates from her [i.e. malchut], and is embodied in the upper tip of the dalet. Of it, it is written, "Better a close neighbor than a far brother." (Proverbs 26:10) "A close neighbor" refers to yesod, which receives the 370 lights corresponding to the numerical value of "neighbor" [in Hebrew, "shachen"]. It remains close to her and does not part from her.

"Shachen" is spelled: shin-kaf-nun = 300 + 20 + 50 = 370.

The "far brother" refers to tiferet, which is occasionally distant [from malchut], as opposed to the neighbor [yesod] who is always close.

He [i.e. Zeir Anpin] therefore possesses the facial beauty accompanying the beard, for all facial beauty depends on [the purity] of this limb [i.e. that of yesod, the reproductive organ], because it is the receptor of the 370 lights that shine on the face.

This is alluded to in the verse, "And Joseph had beautiful features and a beautiful face." (Gen. 39:6)

Joseph is associated with the sefira of yesod, and successfully resisted sexual temptation.

The reason why the Torah says "…of oil-olives and honey" instead of simply "…of oil and honey" is because, according to the Zohar, (II:92a) the divine names that issue from the letters yud-hei-vav are Elo-him, E-l, and mem-tzadik-pei-tzadik. The combined numerical value of these names is the same as that of the word for "olive" [in Hebrew, "zayit"].

Mem-tzadik-pei-tzadik is the name Havayah permuted through the system known as Atbash, in which the first letter of the alef-bet (alef) is replaced with the last letter (tav), the second letter (beit) with the second-to-last letter (shin), and so on.

"Elo-him" is spelled: alef-lamed-hei-yud-mem = 1 + 30 + 5 + 10 + 40 = 86.

"E-l" is spelled: alef-lamed = 1 + 30 = 31.

Mem-tzadik-pei-tzadik = 40 + 90 + 80 + 90 = 300.

86 + 31 + 300 = 417.

:"Zayit" is spelled: zayin-yud-tav = 7 + 10 + 400 = 417.

The word for "oil" [in Hebrew, "shemen"] when permuted in Atbash, becomes beit-yud-tet, the same numerical value as the letters yud-hei-vav. The name yud-hei-vav is associated with the sefira of yesod.

Beit-yud-tet = 2 + 10 + 9 = 21.

Yud-hei-vav = 10 + 5 + 6 = 21.

[Date-]honey [in Hebrew, "devash"] derives from malchut, and is the shin-vav of "shofar", its malchut.

"Devash" is spelled: dalet-beit-shin = 4 + 2 + 300 = 306.

"Shofar" is spelled shin-vav-pei-reish. Shin-vav: 300 + 6 = 306.

Thus, malchut, which must descend into the world of Beriya, is blessed from these seven [fruits].

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim and Likutei Torah, parashat Ekev; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

By the Sweat of Your Brow

Kabbalah states that by eating, we elevate the holiness found in the food.

From Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz

Concerning challa, i.e. bread, the Torah tells us, "Man does not live by bread alone, rather on all that emanates from the mouth of G‑d." (Deut. 8:3) I have explained at length elsewhere, in the name of the Arizal, that this verse solves the riddle that has long puzzled scientists regarding how the intake of certain foods enables the soul to remain attached to the body, although the soul, by definition, does not need to eat.

Food is something both physical as well as spiritual….

The answer is that food is something both physical as well as spiritual. There simply is nothing on this earth that does not contain some spiritual input from the "higher" regions. Heavenly forces cause that spiritual potential to be activated down here on earth. This is why the soul can also benefit from those spiritual ingredients in food, just as the body derives strength from the foods' nutrients. Because of this, the soul remains attached to the body as long as the body receives sufficient food of the right kind. This is what is meant by the above quoted statement that man does not live by bread alone.

It means that the body is maintained by the physical composition of the food, i.e. bread, as one can see. Over and above that, life is maintained, i.e. the soul is kept going, by the invisible spiritual elements in food, i.e. G‑d's command, for those spiritual elements to become active within the person.

The Torah therefore commanded us to set aside the challa, the portion to be given to the Kohen, or priest, "From the first portion of your dough you shall give a gift to the Lord in [all] your generations." (Num. 15:12); by fulfilling this commandment, the spiritual element in the bread should be "awakened" and contribute its share to maintaining our souls. Since the Kohen represents holiness, he is given this "holy" part of the bread. Since, ideally, this challa is set aside when the bread has not yet been baked but is merely dough, it is a method of refining our bread by adding sanctity to it before it is even baked. The bread thereby acts as a refining agent for both body and soul.

Adam, was considered as the challa of the universe….

The first man, Adam, was considered as the challa of the universe. (Jerusalem Talmud Shabbat 2) He was perfect in mind and body until he sinned and caused the curse: "[the earth] will sprout thorns and thistles for you…by the sweat of your brow will you eat bread." (Gen. 18-19) The net effect on the bread after challa has been set aside and has been given to the Kohen, is for a person to qualify for the blessing inherent in the verse, "bread will sustain man's life". (Psalms 104:15)

The commandment of tzitzit fulfills a similar function. It is directed to all four directions of the globe, and the total numerical value of the word, adding the eight threads of the actual fringes plus the five knots we tie when attaching them to the garment, give us a total of 613, reminding us of all the commandments of the Torah. They also act as a reminder of the Celestial Regions, a reminder of the soul which originates immediately beneath the "throne of G‑d". Our Sages have phrased it thus: "The blue wool resembles the ocean, the ocean resembles the color of the sky, the sky resembles the purity of the sapphire, and the sapphire resembles the throne of G‑d." (Chullin 89) We find therefore that this commandment is an instrument designed to refine the non-material, spiritual part of man, his Nefesh. The two prohibitions then are designed to prevent mental and physical excesses, to ensure that the Jew has a pure mind and body.

Translated and adapted by Eliyahu Munk. From Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz

From Heaven and Back

You can eat and eat and never feel full. It is only through blessing that you will ever feel satiated.

Translated and annotated by Rahmiel-Hayyim Drizin from PaRDeS HaBahir

This series is translating the Sefer Bahir.. The translator has chosen to utilize different commentaries from different Sages and categorize these comments according to the 4 levels of Torah referred to as Pardes = Garden. The Pshat level is the Pei of Pardes. Pshat refers to simple or naked energy level. The Raish is the Remez = hints in the Torah. The Dalet is the drash level of Torah. This is the ethical level. The Samech is the Sod level or secrets of the Torah.

"And you will eat and be sated, and you shall bless G‑d, your G‑d, for the good land He has given you." (Deut. 8:10)

Peshat (basic meaning):

Targum Yonatan: And you shall take care, that when you will eat and are satisfied, you thank and bless G‑d your G‑d for all the fruit of the praiseworthy land that He has given to you.

Remez (hinted meaning):

HaTurim: This refers to the after-blessing for eating bread. We must also say a blessing before eating. So the verse means: "You will eat and you will be satisfied and you have already blessed. For it is forbidden for a person to benefit from this world without reciting a blessing, as indicated by the verse, "The earth and its fullness belong to G‑d." However, after one has recited a blessing, one eats of one's own, as it says, "but He has given the earth to mankind". This is also the implication of the verse, "You have said to G‑d, You are my Lord, I have no claim to Your benefit". Thus once I have acknowledged You G‑d as my Lord, the benefit no longer comes from You since You have granted it to me.

“V’achalta/and you will eat" has a numerical value of 457, the same as “k’zayit/like an olive”, the minimum size portion [of bread which when eaten requires one to say Birkat HaMazon].

"One may recite Birkat HaMazon in such a way that it becomes a spiritual path to Divine realization."

Derash (interpretive meaning):

The Kotzker said: "One may recite Birkat HaMazon in such a way that it becomes a spiritual path to Divine realization." To which the Chiddushei HaRim replied, "There is a way that the simple act of eating by itself becomes a spiritual path to Divine realization." (Me’otzar HaChassidut)

Tiferet Shlomo: The Arizal says that when one eats food, one's mind should be concerning with the freeing of the souls and sparks (the consciousness and energies) which are enveloped, swallowed within the food. The Radomsker adds to this, "The food is not being lost to the world through your eating it." Your eating of this food adds blessings and sanity to the world. You are like a consciousness producing machine. Your eating is itself a blessing.

Baal Shem Tov: In this verse, G‑d is not just asking you to perform a grace-after-meals type of blessing. The commandment also directs you to eat. What does it mean that G‑d commands you to eat? That means that when you sit down, with the food steaming on the plate in front of him, one should wait until one feels G‑d's command to eat before touching the food. (Sefer Baal Shem Tov Al HaTorah)

He also said: "The Talmud says that all who want to fully receive the yoke of heaven must empty their minds of thoughts. (Berachot 14b) This includes eating and drinking, to empty one's self of internal mental comments on the nature of the food. (Keter Shem Tov)

Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin: It is not the eating that brings you to satiety. You can eat and eat and never feel full. It is only through blessing that you will ever feel full.

Man's efforts merely create a "vehicle" into which G‑d places His blessings...

Lubavitcher Rebbe: Why was the text of Birkat HaMazon written by Moses incorporated into the text we use nowadays, when Moses was thanking for Manna and not our bread from the earth?

Moses’ words are applicable now too, because it is not the physical efforts of working the land alone that cause the land to yield produce. Man's efforts merely create a "vehicle" into which G‑d places His blessings, and it is the Divine blessing which provides us with sustenance. So even the food which grows from the ground is in fact "food from heaven", so it is indeed appropriate even nowadays to thank G‑d for our nourishment with a text which was composed in praise of "bread from heaven."

Rabbi Shimshon-Rafael Hirsh: According to our tradition down through the centuries, the antecedent of the command to bless G‑d is the bread mentioned in the verse that precedes ours. The mitzvah of Birkat HaMazon therefore, is limited to meals that include bread. This is counterintuitive to many people, who find it easier to thank G‑d for receiving something special and out of the ordinary, than for the bread that enables our very existence. We cannot live, they argue, without subsistence nutrition. As long as we are alive, He owes us the basic enablers of life. Our effusive praise in Birkat HaMazon should be occasioned by gifts without which we could survive. Those are the blessings that show His Providence. Halacha, however, dictates a very different mindset. We bless G‑d precisely when we understand that everything comes from Him, that we are entirely powerless to provide ourselves with our most basic needs like bread, and that existence itself is His gift of love for us.

If every bite of bread is like the Manna, and if it symbolizes existence itself, then Birkat HaMazon is not a simple ”thank you,” but a reorientation of our lives and our selves towards His service. When we stand in profound realization of our absolute dependence upon Him? No different, really, from the unnatural way our forebears were sustained by Him in the wilderness - and our indebtedness towards Him, we are able to dedicate ourselves completely to His mission and expectations of us. In that dedication we find the ”blessing,” as it were, of G‑d: it is the pledge to work towards the fulfillment of His Will that is the blessing.

In the hands of our Sages, Birkat HaMazon became the raw material out of which they would construct the entire institution of blessings. Through them, we would learn to look beyond what we were about to enjoy, and focus upon the One Who gives us that enjoyment. Our Sages ordained for us a set of blessings not only after eating, but before benefiting from many earthly pleasures. Through these blessings, we hope to become worthy of those pleasures, and to pledge to turn them into greater vigor and energy in turning His Will into reality.

Through these blessings, we hope to become worthy of those pleasures...

Sod (esoteric, mystical meaning):

Zohar Teruma 152:

Rabbi Yitzhak opened by saying: "When you have eaten and are replete, then you shall bless G‑d your G‑d..." (Deut. 8:10) How fortunate are Israel that the Holy One, blessed be He, favors them and brings them close to Him from among all the nations. Because of them, He gives His sustenance and satisfies the whole world. If it were not for Israel, the Holy One, blessed be He, would not give sustenance to the world. Now that they are in exile, surely the whole world receives doubly.

As long as Israel were in the Holy Land, sustenance would descend to them from a high place, and they would give a portion of the remnants to the idol worshipping peoples. All the nations were sustained only from the remnants. But now that they are in exile, the situation has changed into a different manner.

For example, a king prepares a meal for his household. As long as they do his bidding, they eat together with the king, and they give the dogs a portion of bones to chew. But when the household does not do the bidding of the king, he gives the entire meal to the dogs, and he gives the bones to them.

Similarly, as long as the children of Israel do the bidding of their Master, they eat at the table of the King and the entire meal is prepared for them. Because of their joy, they give the bones, which are the remains, to the idol worshippers. As long as the children of Israel are not doing the bidding of their Master, they go into exile and the meal is given to the dogs, while they are given the remains. "Thus shall the children of Israel eat their bread, unclean, among the nations." (Ezekiel 4:13) They eat the remnants of their abhorrence. Woe is to the king's son who sits and waits at the table of the servant, and eats what is left of his table.

King David said, "You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies: You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over". (Ps. 23:5) "You prepare a table for me," namely the King's meal; "in the presence of my enemies." They are the dogs that sit under the table and wait for the portion of bones while he sits with the King at His table with the delight of the meal.

"You anoint my head with oil": This is the beginning (head) of the meal, for all the oil and fats and the prepared items of the meal are given at the beginning to the friend of the king. Whatever is left over is given afterwards to the dogs and those who serve at the table. "My cup runs over" means that the cup in front of the king's friend is always full and he does not have to request. Upon this secret, the children of Israel were consistently with the other nations.

BeRahamim LeHayyim:

We should "eat to live" rather than "live to eat."

The basic mindful meditation is that all food, whether luxurious Shabbat repasts or a snack of a piece of candy, all food's energy is to be used to learn Torah, do mitzvot, or increase deeds of loving-kindness. What is not used is to be given to the outside forces and is excreted sometime later.

Hey, wait a second! It seems that we are eating so that others—namely the “external forces” too can survive. Exactly. Not only is our eating for the purposes of (1) sifting the sparks of holiness that fell with the shattering of the primordial vessels and (2) elevating the reincarnated souls present in the food and (3) healing the blemish of the sin of the First Adam, but also to give the Other Side its fair share.

For there to be balance in self and world, we need to recognize that there is indeed a Dark Side. Just ignoring or repression of our Shadow Other, while perhaps useful for short time, in the long time leads one frankly to fight against it so much that we empower it. As a teacher of mine once said: like your Yetzer Hara doing pushups in the parking lot where you attend your AA meeting.

Rather, we need to use our Shadow to aid our light; in the first paragraph of the Shema Yisrael prayer –- from last week’s Torah Reading — we say "b’lavavecha" and we say "b’lavavechem" in the second paragraph, from this week's portion, both with a double letter Beit in the Hebrew word for “heart”, hinting to use of both sides of our heart for the service of good.

The Zohar above tells us that we should leave the residue of our food to the dogs. These dogs are not of the realm of Holiness, but rather the scavengers of the Dark [i.e. Kelipot]. We are commanded to feed them food that we can't eat or assimilate spiritually, such as those beasts killed in the field rather than properly slaughtered.

And that was the reward for those dogs, traditional vehicles of negativity, who assisted us in holy mission when we left Egypt at night, and went against their nature by refraining from barking. Hey, Other's your meal, come and get it!

In this way we assist in the balancing of the worlds, giving required strength to G‑d, as well as to the powers of negativity needed to keep the world going.

Translated and annotated by Rahmiel-Hayyim Drizin from PaRDeS HaBahir

Rahmiel-Hayyim Drizin is a devoted student of many of the leading teachers of Kabbala in English in Israel and the USA. He is a criminal defense lawyer who lives in Oak Park, Illinois with his family.

Seeing Tastes

Our Shabbat tables may be piled high with fine foods but we will remain hungry if we eat without seeing them.

From the teachings of Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azulai

"...To test you, to know what was in your heart…and He afflicted you, and allowed you to hunger and fed you with manna.." (Deut. 8:2,3)

"From this we learn that we are to kindle lights on the Shabbat." (Yalkut Shimoni)

When they ate the manna from Heaven, the Children of Israel could taste in it the flavor of any number of delicacies. Yet they were hungry and said: "But now our soul is dried away; there is nothing at all; we have nothing except this manna to look to". (Num. 11:6)

...whereas they could taste a great variety of flavors...all they could see...was the same manna...

According to the Sages, the reason for the complaint by the Children of Israel was that whereas they could taste a great variety of flavors when they partook of the food from Heaven, all they could see with their eyes was the same manna each day.

Similarly, the blind will not be satisfied, regardless of how much they eat, because they are unable to see what it is they are tasting.

From this we may deduce that we must kindle lights before the Shabbat in order to increase our enjoyment of the Day of Rest, for if we do not have enough light to see our Shabbat dinner, our tables may be piled high with fine foods but we will remain hungry.

Scripture speaks of the manna in terms of affliction and hunger because the Children of Israel could not see the delicacies of which the flavor of the manna reminded them. It stands to reason, therefore, that we should kindle lights in order to make the Shabbat a delight, as it should be, instead of a hardship.

Adapted from: "Wellsprings of Torah" by Alexander Zusia Friedman

From the teachings of Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azulai - Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azulai (the "Chida") 5484-5566 (1724-1806 CE), prolific author of kabbalistic works, and also of Shem haGedolim, a comprehensive guide to Kabbala scholars and works.

All is One

G-d commanded us 613 commandments, each one corresponding to a particular part of our body.

From the Ohr HaChaim commentary by Rabbi Chaim (ben Moshe) ibn Attar

"The entire commandment which I command you this day..." (Deut 8:1)

Precisely which commandment is Moses talking about? Besides, had he not already spoken about the need to perform all the commandments in verse 12 of the last chapter? What reason was there to repeat the same thing again at this point?

Moses was a clever psychologist...

Moses was a clever psychologist, familiar with the workings of the human mind and psyche. He realized that there is a built-in tendency in us to become progressively more lax in our observance, especially if we have performed a number of commandments meticulously and have chosen to perform one or two commandments with special attention to all its details. Once one has done this, he is apt to look upon oneself as a pretty good Jew and thereafter tend to be less punctilious with the performance of other commandments.

People who are preoccupied with Torah study have a tendency to pat themselves on the back and to disregard some of the commandments which they view as being of minor significance. Such neglect is bound to result in such people suffering various kinds of afflictions; they may experience that others do not show them the respect which they feel is their due, etc. Moses therefore admonishes each and every one of us not to forget to perform the whole (range) of G‑d’s commandments. The only effective way Moses found to bring this point across to us was by describing all of the 613 commandments as one single Commandment, "all the mitzvah."

He resorted to a way of illustrating his point which is incontrovertible, based on the Zohar. (I, 170) According to the Zohar, man has 248 bones and 365 sinews. G‑d commanded us 365 negative commandments and 248 positive commandments, one each to correspond to each of these parts of our body. If one suffers a pain or hurt in one of his bones or sinews he should examine which one of the commandments he had neglected so that the pain in question might be due to such neglect. A man will not be satisfied if in response to his cries of pain caused by the afflicted bone he is told by his doctor that seeing that 247 of his bones do not hurt him he should not really be complaining but count his blessings.

We cannot merely pride ourselves on the commandments we do observe...

We must relate to each one of the 613 commandments in a similar fashion. We cannot merely pride ourselves on the commandments we do observe but must be keenly aware of the damaging effect on our spiritual health of any commandment which we fail to observe when we have the opportunity. All of these considerations are included in Moses’ reference to the need for us to observe the whole commandment, both the negative part and the positive part. The reason for this is "so that you will live and multiply and come and inherit the land." Inheritance of the land of Israel is conditional on commandment fulfillment, which in turn is the guarantee of our spiritual and physical wellbeing.

You may query that in the parable we presented the example does not match the subject matter of the Torah. In the parable we described how the hurt experienced by a single organ upsets the entire body’s balance, something that is not the case when applied to mitzvah performance. This is why Moses had to describe the commandments in the singular. He wanted to make it easy for us to appreciate that when the 613 commandments are viewed as a single unit that the non-observance of even a single one of them can destroy the entire balance of the fabric and throw everything off-kilter.

Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of "Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar" by Eliyahu Munk.

From the Ohr HaChaim commentary by Rabbi Chaim (ben Moshe) ibn Attar

Our Private Physician

"Everything is in the hands of heaven with the exception of the common cold."

From the Ohr HaChaim commentary by Rabbi Chaim (ben Moshe) ibn Attar

"You will be more blessed than all the nations." (Deut. 7:14-15)

This can either mean that there will not be a nation which is greater in stature than the Jewish nation, or it could mean: "you will enjoy certain blessings over and beyond those enjoyed by other nations." What are these blessings? "There will be none amongst you that are barren genetically." Beyond that, "if there is someone amongst you who has become barren through sickness, G‑d will remove this sickness from you, etc." It will thus become common knowledge that you have been blessed by the Lord your G‑d.

The words, "G‑d will remove this sickness from you," may also be understood in conjunction with the teaching, "Everything is in the hands of Heaven with the exception of the common cold." (Ketuvot 30)

Inasmuch as the common cold is not a sickness decreed upon man as some form of retribution, G‑d promises to remove it from Jews who suffer from it. Concerning other maladies which are in the nature of afflictions sent by G‑d, the Torah promises that we will not fall victim to them at all if we keep G‑d’s commandments. way of becoming aware of G‑d’s kindness is the fact that He cures Israel of sickness and disease.

Our verse also alerts us that one way of becoming aware of G‑d’s kindness is the fact that He cures Israel of sickness and disease. We should not presume that if we are free from disease this is due to the fact that at certain times it is natural to be in good health, that there simply are no infectious diseases around at such times. To teach us that this in not so, the Torah writes that G‑d will not put upon us any of the diseases which were rampant in Egypt and of which we were aware. In other words, these diseases occurred in Egypt all the time. If the Israelites are not subject to these diseases, this is proof of G‑d’s special providence; it is not coincidence or a natural phenomenon.

In addition, G‑d assures us that even when He afflicts our enemies with these infectious diseases, we will not catch their infections. The world indeed saw evidence of this during the infamous Black Plague, but unfortunately attributed the Jews' good fortune to other ridiculous factors, as is well documented.

chanoch adds: The corona virus is akin to the common cold. Then how or why does it impact the modern state of Israel and Jewish people. The answer relates to not performing a specific Mitzvah associated to the symtoms. This is my opinion.

From the Ohr HaChaim commentary by Rabbi Chaim (ben Moshe) ibn Attar

Food for a Holy Table

Active meditation emanates G-dliness; passivity only reinforces the ego

From Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz

Prayer, i.e. our thanks, praises, and petitions to G‑d is part of what is called "Avodat Hashem", service of G‑d, as is our eating and drinking when it is designed to help us serve G‑d better.

Nowadays, our table fulfills the mystical dimensions of what used to be the Temple service…

Nowadays, our table fulfills the mystical dimensions of what used to be the Temple service. Instead of the sacrificial offerings being consumed at the altar, we consume our meals after and before benedictions expressing our awareness of He Who supplies our needs.

We become like angels when the food we consume is of the right kind and we consume it in a state of sanctity. Just as physical food gives us our continued existence on earth, so do our souls serve as "sustenance" for the angels and assure their continued existence. We know that the angels need to feed on something, as is written, "You provide sustenance for them all." (Nehemiah 9:6)

Human beings' consumption of food, however, can become similar to the spiritual forces released by the offering of sacrifices. This is the reason why the Torah links the saying of Blessing After the Meal to the gift of Eretz Israel and its goodness (Deut. 8:10). The reference is not to terrestrial Eretz Yisrael. [If this were so, why should we have to say the Blessing After the Meal for food consumed in the Diaspora? Ed.] The mystical element involved is that the celestial Eretz Yisrael is perceived as the top of the domains of the emanations, the tenth sefira of Atzilut.The overriding consideration to remember is that sacrificial service was an expression of our reverence for G‑d

The Zohar in the Parashat Ekev (Sulam edition page 18), describes the ten rules governing the way in which we must consume our meals as an allusion to this tenth sefira.

[These rules are based on the Shabbat Eve meal. Ed.] The ten rules comprise:

1) washing one's hands

2) preparing two whole loaves of bread

3) consuming three meals [in the course of Shabbat]

4) lighting a candle on the table to symbolize the candles in the Temple which stood next to the table with the showbreads

5) the benediction of VaYechulu ("…the heavens and the earth were completed…") over a cup of wine

6) speaking words of Torah during the meal

7) ensuring that poor people are invited to the meal

8) washing one's hands prior to reciting Grace

9) reciting the Blessing After the Meal

10) drinking the wine of the cup upon which the Blessing After the Meal was recited.

[The author may have intimated a subsequent part of the Zohar in which ten rules are listed governing eating on weekdays, including such details as which hand to wash first, which hand has to raise the bread, not to eat hastily, etc. Ed.]

Just as there are ten rules, pertaining to eating, there are also the laws governing the way the cup of wine over which the Blessing After the Meals is said is to be held, to be drunk, etc. The important thing to remember is that our eating is the substitute for the sacrifice and our table is the substitute for the altar. The overriding consideration to remember is that sacrificial service was an expression of our reverence for G‑d.

Translated by Eliyahu Munk. From Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz