Parshas Eikev-Likkutei Torah-Purpose of Birchas Hamazon

This article is an excerpt from the above Sefer

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from  qualifying purchases.


 “Veachalta Vesavata Uveirachta…”

[Likkutei Torah p. 14]

This Mamar speaks of the verse in this week’s Parsha that discusses the command to bless Hashem after eating a satiating meal. This is the source for the Mitzvah of Birchas Hamazon. Birchas Hamazon contains a number of individual blessings. The Mamar delves into the need and differences between these blessings. Why do we say them and what affect do they have. The eating of a Jew is not just a fact of life in order to survive but is actually a form of service of G-d in its own right. A Jew through his meal is able to elevate the Divine sparks, and by doing so he causes refinement to the world. We know that in the times of the desert the Jews survived off eating Mun, the heavenly bread. The Mamar discusses the difference between the refinement affected through this heavenly bread and its contrast to regular earthly bread.


Explorations of the Mamar

1.      What is the difference between the first three blessings of Birchas Hamazon and what do they correspond to?

2.      What was the meaning of the Mun that we ate in the desert and how does it still relate to us today.

3.      What affect does our after blessing have and how does it help elevate the world?

The Question:

The verse states “Veachalta Vesavat Uveirachta Es Hashem Elokecha Al Haaretz Hatovah Asher Nasan Lach”. The Sages state in Tractate Brachos[1] that the requirement to recite three different blessing in Birchas Hamazon is learned from each one of the extra words in the above verse. From the word “Uveirachta” we learn the first blessing of “Hazan Es Hakol”. From the word “Al Haaretz” we learn the second blessing of “Al Haaretz Veal Hamazon”. From the word “Hatovah” we learn the third blessing of Boneh Yerushalayim. The Gemara there questions[2] that according to Rebbi one may not conclude a blessing with two different matters of praise. Hence why does the second blessing conclude with praise for both the land “Al Haaretz” and also for the food “Al Hamazon”. The Gemara answers that it is really all one blessing, as it refers to the land that grows food, and is hence referring to food. It remains to be understood however why is there a need at all to mention the concept of food in the second blessing if it was already mentioned in the first blessing? The entire first blessing was dedicated to this purpose, what necessity is there to add an additional Bracha on this matter?

Who authored the blessings and why?

The Gemara[3] states that Moshe was the one who authored the first blessing of Birchas Hamazon. It was instituted at the time that the heavenly bread called Mun fell for the Jewish people in the desert and served as their main food staple throughout the forty years. When the Jews entered into Israel, Yehoshua established for them the second blessing of Al Haaretz. When the Jews established Jerusalem and built the Temple, Dovid and Shlomo instituted the third blessing of “Al Yerushalayim and Al Habayis Hagadol”. The Rashba asks on this Gemara how one can say that Yehoshua established the second blessing if all the three blessings are a Biblical requirement from the times of Moshe? He answers that the idea of all three blessings existed even in the times of Moshe however the specific dialect was authored by different people. Moshe authored the dialect of the first blessing, Yehoshua authored the dialect of the second blessing and David and Shlomo authored the dialect of the third blessing. Based on this we can understand the necessity for mentioning food in both the first and second blessing, as the food in the first blessing refers to the heavenly bread-the Mun. The food in the second blessing refers to earthly bread. What remains to be understood however is why we are now still obligated to recite a blessing for the Mun if it no longer exists? To understand this we must first introduce the concept of the Mun.

The Heavenly bread called “Mun” versus earthly bread:

On the Mun it states “That you did not know and that your forefathers did not know”. This means that the Mun was rooted in such a high level that even our forefathers could not comprehend its source and root and only Moshe could do so. That is why the Mun descended in the merit of Moshe. Now, the root of the foods that we eat come from the world of Tohu. The G-dly Sefiros in the world of Tohu were unable to exist in companionship with each other due to their intense opposing aspects which eventually caused the destruction of their vessels. When the vessels shattered, the G-dly sparks found within the vessels fell below into the physical items of this world. When one eats food in this world he refines these sparks and elevates them back to their source. The actual refinement of the food is called “Shem Ban” or the Divine name of Ban which represents the refined item. The Divine sparks of Tohu found in the food are referred to as Shem Sag. Man comes from the world of Tikkun which is Shem Mah. Hence man which is from the level of “Mah” refines the food which is from a lower level of “Ban” and receives vitality from the Divine sparks that come from Sag. This is all regarding physical, earthly bread. The Mun however is above the level of Tohu and Tikkun and comes from the level of Akudim. It comes from the level of Tal that is invested within the level of Mochin Setima which is above Chochmah of Atzilus. It is pure holiness and contains absolutely no waste or negative aspects. It is for this reason that the Mun was completely absorbed within the body and did not create any human waste within the abdomen of the eater. The Mun is above the concept of Birurim-refinement. On this the verse states “Not on bread alone will man live” that not only on the bread of man which is Ban and is rooted in Sag does man receive vitality but also from the Mun which is above the level of Tohu and Tikkun. It is for this reason that it states regarding the Mun “That your forefathers have not known” as the forefathers were from the level of Chagas of Atzilus [the emotions of Atzilus] while the Mun is above Atzilus. It is also for this reason that Moshe affected for the Mun to come down in his merit as Moshe was from the level of Mah and the root of Mah is Chochmah Setima which is the level of the Mun.

The blessing over Mun:

The first blessing we recite in Birchas Hamazon represents the Hamshacha [the drawing down of Divinity] from the level of Mochin Setima-Or Ein Sof- into Chochmah of Atzilus. When we say the words Baruch Ata Hashem we draw down the Infinite Ein Sof light represented by the Mun into Chochmah of Atzilus. This is the reason why the first blessing of Birchas Hamazon is said over the Mun even today, as it refers not to the physical Mun [which we no longer have today] but the level of the Mun which exists at all times, and it is this level that we draw down through the blessing. The Mun represents the level of Yichuda Ilaah which is the higher form of unity of G-d. This means that everything in the world is completely nullified to G-d and does not even share existence. This is called Bittul Bemetzius. A complete subservience of the creation to His master. This is in contrast to Bittul Hayeish in which although one forces himself to be subservient, his inner wishes and desires are to indulge in physical pleasures.

Requires clarification

What is this spiritual level of Mun that we draw down? How does it practically affect us today?

Every single Jew in this world experiences a battle between his two souls. The G-dly soul reminds him and pushes him to do the right thing and follow the path of truth, the path of G-d. The animal soul tells him to follow his emotions, his desires and needs and not to constantly control himself and prevent his self gratification. A difficult battle indeed. The heart is pushing you one way and the head is pulling you a different way. Many times even when we succeed in enforcing rule over the heart and following in direction of the head and the G-dly soul, our heart fails to follow us and we feel emotionally distant from the Mitzvah that we have managed to perform. This is called Bittul Hayeish. The level of the Mun which is represented in the first blessing of Hazan draws down this revelation to allow a Jew’s heart to also follow his head and help soften its emotions and desires that it too become subservient to G-d’s will and enjoy following his decrees.

The blessing over earthly bread:

Yehoshua established the blessing over manmade bread. This corresponds to the level of Malchus, a lower level of Divinity. It is for this reason that this blessing refers to G-d as “You”, such as in “Nodeh Lecha”, as it refers to a lower level of G-dliness that is more apparently revealed. The meaning of the closing blessing “the land that produces food” means to say that the land, which is Malchus, refines the food, which is the sparks of Tohu found within it. This then draws vitality for man to live. This blessing also gives power to the Sefira of Malchus to be able to refine the food and sparks of Tohu. This power that is drawn down into Malchus comes from the G-dliness drawn down in the first blessing of “Hazan”. Hence, the first blessing allows the fruition of the second blessing, and must be recited as a prerequisite for it. This is similar to the dew that falls on the earth each morning and gives the earth its ability to grow all forms of produce. It is also similar to the sun rays that beam on the earth and through photosynthesis allows the growth of plantation. Although the earth contains its own power of growth given by G-d in His command of “Grow plantation”, it nevertheless requires the dew and sunrays from the heavens in order to do so. Similarly above, although the level of Malchus, which is the Divine name of Ban, refines the 288 sparks of Tohu ,it nevertheless requires revelation from a much higher level, which is the level of Mun. 

Requires clarification

What is the significance to us of the spiritual power that Malchus receives?

Above was explained the difference between the Bittul Hayeish and Bittul Bemetzius. While the first blessing gives us the potential to refine the animal soul, it is the second blessing of Al Haaretz that actually affects the Bittul Hayeish into the animal soul, that we can fight and overcome our animalistic desires.

The words “Shehinchalta Laavoseinu Eretz Chemda”:

In the second blessing of Nodeh Lecha we recite the words “Shehinchalta Laavoseinu Eretz Chemda Tova Urichava” [“The land you have inherited us, a good beloved land”]. These words praise the greatness of the land of Israel below, which refers to the Sefira of Malchus above which refines the Divine sparks of Tohu. However based on above, the following question is asked: If the first blessing of Hazan is of a higher level, the level of Mun, why are we praising specifically the lower level of the land below? The answer to this is because in truth the entire purpose is for the land below, that we create for G-d a dwelling place in the lower realms, and hence while the level of Mun certainly contains its advantages, it is because of the level of Eretz, manmade bread, that we are here. This is why the land is called Eretz Chemda, as Chemda comes from the word Chefetz which means desire, as G-d desired specifically the land below to perform the dwelling place he wants.

The main purpose is the Bittul Hayeish:

As explained above, every Jew experiences a battle between his two souls, with the G-dly soul telling him to do the right thing and the animal soul telling him to follow his emotions and desires. One would think that the Jew that was born a Tzaddik, without these animalistic and bodily thoughts, is in truth greater than the normal Jew that has these two sides of battle within him. This is similar to the Mun which is all holy and contains no waste. However on this it says “The land you have inherited us, a good beloved land”. The battle Hashem has given us here below between our two souls is the purpose and meaning of creation; that there be an opposing side which is uninterested in G-d and spirituality, and we subjugate it and educate it to love G-d with all of our being and fiber.


Mentioning food-Mazon-also in the second blessing:

Based on above it is understood why we repeat our thanksgiving for food also in the second blessing, as the entire purpose of the food mentioned in the first blessing, the heavenly food of Mun, is for the manmade food mentioned in the second blessing. That it give us ability to perform Bittul Hayeish and subjugate our desires for the sake of G-d.


The times of Moshe versus the times of Yehoshua:

In the times of Moshe they only recited one blessing of Birchas Hazan, which corresponded to the Mun, as although they also mentioned the concepts expressed in the other three blessings, nevertheless it was all included in this one blessing. This is because they did not have a battle with worldly matters while in the desert and hence were living more of a spiritual lifestyle, similar to the purity of the Mun. However, when we entered into Eretz Yisrael and began dealing with the world, Yehoshua established a separate second blessing over the food, the earthly food, in order to draw down to us the power to perform Bittul Hayeish and battle our inclinations.  

The great refinement of the world affected by eating food and reciting the after blessing:[4]

It is brought in Poskim that fasting during Aseres Yimei Teshuvah is an act of piety. Nevertheless it states in Sefarim of Kabala the main Tikkun during these days is actually fulfilled through eating. The fasting is only done due to the requirement to achieve atonement for sin however the main Tikkun is through eating. It is therefore written in Sefarim that one must eat bread every night of Aseres Yimei Teshuvah in order to recite the blessing of Birchas Hamazon. From this we learn the great Avoda of eating and the affect of Birchas Hamazon.


Lessons of the Mamar:

·         Have greater concentration upon reciting Birchas Hamazon with the understanding of how each blessings has a different affect and purpose.

·         Know that the entire idea of Birchas Hamazon is the traveling of G-dliness throughout the worlds to help you win your battle over your inclination and help you refine it. Concentrate on this experience while reciting the after blessing.

·         Understand that the entire purpose of creation is specifically the battle you experience and use that for your advantage to help subjugate the animal soul.


[1] 44b

[2] Brachos 49a

[3] Brachos 48a

[4] Ben Ish Chaiy Netzavim 24; Kaf Hachaim 581/60

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles

Leave A Comment?

You must be logged in to post a comment.