“Ko Sevarchu Es Bnei Yisrael…”
[Likkutei Torah p. 26]
Parshas Naso discusses the Mitzvah of Birchas Kohanim. Every male Kohen is commanded to bless the Jewish people daily with the blessings recorded in this Parsha. This blessing was given by Aharon Hakohen to the Jewish people upon the inauguration of the Mishkan. The blessing of the Kohanim consists of three sets of blessings; Yivarechicha, Yaer, and Yisa. What is the meaning and significance of each set of blessings? The third blessing seems redundant, being a mere repetition of the second blessing, and hence requires clarification as to its meaning. This leads into a discussion regarding the Grace After Meals that we recite after eating bread. The Midrash states that the reason the Jewish people merit to receive the third blessing of the Kohanim is because they perform the Mitzvah of praying Birchas Hamazon, reciting it even after eating a mere Kezayis of bread. Biblically, one is only obligated to recite Birchas Hamazon if he ate to the point of satiation, while if he ate less than this amount, then he is not required to recite Birchas Hamazon. However, the Sages instituted that it is to be recited even after eating a mere Kezayis, and it is the performance of this Mitzvah that gives us the merit to receive the third blessing given by the Kohanim. As there are many matters of observance that we perform due to an institution of the Sages, it remains to be understood why this matter of Grace After Meals specifically stands in our merit for receiving the Divine blessing. What is the connection between this Mitzvah and the blessing received, and why is a merit required at all to receive the third blessing as opposed to the first two blessings of the Kohanim? This leads to a discussion on the meaning of the Mitzvah of Birchas Hamazon and the effect it has on our foods. The Mamar delves into both the meaning of the blessing we receive in Birchas Kohanim, and the meaning and purpose of Birchas Hamazon; their relation, connection, and power in making for Hashem a dwelling place below.
|Explorations of the Mamar:
1. Why did the Sages enact that we should recite Birchas Hamazon after eating a Kezayis of bread?
2. What is the meaning and significance of the blessing of the Kohanim?
3. Why does reciting Birchas Hamazon on bread specifically give us the merit to receive the third blessing in Birchas Hamazon?
4. How does one reveal the G-dliness found within the Divine letters of a creation, hence making it an abode for Hashem?
The verse states, Ko Sevarchu Es Bnei Yisrael. Emor Lahem Yivarechicha Hashem … Yaer Hashem …Yisa Hashem. These words compose the famous blessing recited by the Kohanim when they go up to the Duchan to bless the Jewish people. The Sages [Brachos 20b] expound on this verse: “The Malachei Hashareis [heavenly angels] claimed before Hashem, ‘You wrote in Your Torah that it is forbidden to give favor to one defendant over another, and at the same time You give favor to the Jewish people, as it says ‘Yisa Hashem Panav Eilecha/He shines His countenance upon you?’ Hashem replied, ‘How can I not show favor to the Jewish people, which are so particular that they even recite Grace After Meals after eating a mere Kezayis of bread, while I only required this to be recited after they eat a satiating meal?’” Biblically, one is only obligated to recite Birchas Hamazon if he ate to the point of satiation, while if he ate less than that amount, then he is not required to recite Birchas Hamazon. However, the Sages instituted that it is to be recited even after eating a mere Kezayis, and it is the performance of this Mitzvah that gives us the merit to receive the third blessing given by the Kohanim. It remains to be understood why the extra adherence to this particular Mitzvah specifically merits receiving the extra favor from Hashem. Also requiring clarification is the order of the blessing of the Kohanim, and why the blessing of Yisa follows the blessing of Yaer. To understand this matter, we must first introduce the purpose of Birchas Hamazon and why one is only Biblically required to thank Hashem if he has eaten to the point of satiation. Shouldn’t one be required to give thanks to Hashem for any amount of food he eats, and not only when he has become satiated? [Just as one would not ponder the suggestion that he is not required to thank his host if he did not eat until the point of satiation, a similar question is raised regarding thanking Hashem after eating a non-satiating meal. Why should one be exempt from blessing Him in this case, simply due to not being satiated?] The focal point behind understanding this matter is hidden in the mystical meaning of the name of an item and creation.
Revealing the mystic letters found within the foods that are eaten:
Blessing “Es Hashem”: The verse states, regarding the Mitzvah of reciting Birchas Hamazon, “Uveirachta Es Hashem Elokecha/You shall bless Hashem”. The word “Es” seems superfluous in this sentence, as it adds no further meaning or understanding to the verse, and it is not grammatically required. However, hidden behind this word is the mystical purpose of Birchas Hamazon.
The source of creation-nothing or something? It is explained in length in Kabbalah and Chassidus that every creation was created through Divine letters. Although the novelty of Creation is that it was ex nihilo, something from nothing, this does not mean that Hashem created beings from absolute non-existence of any form, but rather that there was no physical or spiritual entity that served as a foundation for the creations. [This is unlike in the case of man, where everything we create and innovate begins with some matter and foundation.] Essentially, all matter, whether physical or spiritual, was newly created by Hashem. What then served and serves as the foundation of the creations that brought and brings their existence into being? This is the G-dliness found within the creations. Every creation has a form and level of G-dliness specifically measured and nurtured for its precise dimensions, capabilities, powers, and characteristics. Thus, the creations don’t come from nothingness in the literal sense but from G-d’s light, as they derive from the G-dly power and revelation contained within them. What is the form and level of G-dliness hidden in each creation that brings about its existence? This is the Hebrew name of each creation. Although the words of a language are simply accepted terms for the purpose of communication, the Hebrew language of Lashon Hakodesh differs from all other languages in that its names of items are not simply to allow people to communicate, but actually serve as the Divine code for the specific creations. Each letter of Lashon Hakodesh contains a specific form of G-dly revelation, and when these letters are combined to form a word, a specified level and form of G-dliness is created, which then acts to create a creation in accordance with its characteristics.
Adam Harishon names the animals: Based on this, one can understand the great praise involved in the verse mentioning that Adam Harishon gave names to all the animals, as seemingly, giving out names seems to be no great task, and it is simply done for the purpose of language and communication. However, based on the above, it is understood that Adam Harishon did not simply choose random names for the animals, but was able to see the Divine code of each animal, and the specific combination of Divine letters used to create it. Once he revealed this matter, he expressed their Hebrew name in accordance with their Divine combination of creation. This, however, was not the only purpose of Adam’s calling of names [which according to the above explanation simply revealed to the world the names they were already given] as in truth, a great matter was accomplished through Adam naming the animals. According to the above understanding that Divine letters serve as the source of creation, it is not understood why G-dliness is not apparent within the creations, even though it is their very source of existence. This is due to the concealment and shading of the G-dliness of its letters, which allows one to see the creation as an independent existence. It is our task in this world to remove this concealment and reveal the true source of the creations, which is the G-dliness found within their Divine code of letters. This was the precise accomplishment of Adam Harishon through his name giving, as he did not simply reveal to man the Divine codes of each animal, but revealed the G-dliness found within these letters in a way that they are now apparent within the creations and have become an abode for G-dliness. This is why the verse states that immediately after the name giving, all the animals came and proclaimed Hashem as King, Hashem Melech Geios Laveish, as they now became imbued with their source of G-dliness and spirituality.
The purpose of Birchas Hamazon: Based on all of the above, we can now understand the purpose of Birchas Hamazon and the reason behind the superfluous word Es. The word Es in Hebrew is composed of two letters, an Alef and Taf, which are the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This teaches us that through reciting Birchas Hamazon one reveals the Divine letters of the food that was eaten, and hence removes the concealment of G-dliness that it contained prior to its consumption. This is the true meaning behind Avodas Habeirurim and refining the foods that we eat. Nevertheless, the natural ability to refine the foods through Birchas Hamazon is only when we are satiated by the meal, as will be explained below.
Battling the animal soul in prayer:
This ability to reveal the Divine letters within creations has been handed to every Jew and is accessed through one’s Avodas Hatefillah. In order for one to be able to refine the foods he eats, he must first refine himself and his own animal soul. This is accomplished through prayer, in which one reveals a strong love and passion to attach to Hashem and see Him revealed in this world. When one refines himself and desires that the concealment of G-d is removed from his soul, he is then able to also remove the concealment from the foods he eats. This is the reason why it is forbidden to eat before prayer, as prior to prayer one has not yet refined himself and is hence also unable to refine the foods he eats. Based on all of the above, we can now properly understand the meaning behind the blessing of the Kohanim and its connection to Birchas Hamazon.
The blessing of Yivarechicha:
The term Yivarechicha connotes fruitfulness and multiplicity. When a field receives a Bracha, it means that its growth of produce should exceed all measures of success in its proportion of growth, and that from a single seed of grain should sprout forth hundreds of kernels. This is the meaning of the first set of blessings received from the Kohanim, “YivarechichaHashem”, that Hashem should bless us that we will be able to elevate a multitude of Divine sparks from the food we eat, and from our soul, and that the work we perform to refine the world should accomplish beyond that which is normally possible. It is precisely due to this that the Kohanim recite the ending part of this blessing, “Viyishmereka/And he shall guard you”, as since we are blessed to elevate a great amount of G-dliness, this can allow the Kelipos to receive nurture from the exorbitant revelation and joy that comes as a result of the elevation, and we are hence blessed that the Divine revelation brought about by our service should be guarded from being nurtured by the Kelipos.
The blessing of Yaer:
Once our Avoda accomplishes the elevation of many Divine sparks, we receive a reciprocate revelation of G-dliness into our soul. This is the meaning of the second set of blessings given by the Kohanim: “Yaer Hashem Panav Eilecha/Hashem shines His countenance upon you”, that once our Avoda is accomplished, Hashem then turns to us and shines His most inner G-dliness, hinted in the word Panav/face, upon us, into our souls, hence quenching the thirst we aroused in prayer to attach to Hashem. This fulfills the desire of Hashem to dwell with us, and within us, and the blessing thus concludes, “Vichuneka/Dwelling”, as through shining the Divine countenance into our souls Hashem dwells within us.
The effect of Birchas Hamazon when one is satiated:
The recital of Birchas Hamazon corresponds with the second blessing recited in Birchas Kohanim. When a Jew eats a meal with bread to the point of satiation, he has refined and elevated a great amount of G-dly energy, as the G-dly energy that was included in the food of Kelipas Noga has now been incorporated within his soul. The energy of his G-dly soul derives from this food, and hence causes this energy to become Holy and refined. When one then recites Birchas Hamazon, he invites Hashem to reveal His light from above to collect and elevate these new sparks of Holiness that have been incorporated within Kedusha. This is accomplished by Hashem radiating His Divine light into one’s soul, which now incorporates the Divine sparks contained within the foods, and hence when the soul is elevated the Divine sparks are elevated with it. This however only applies if one was satiated from the meal. If, however, one was not satiated from the meal, his Divine soul has not incorporated enough Divine sparks to summon the revelation of above to come down and elevate his soul and the sparks that it contains. It is precisely for this reason that the third blessing of Yisa Hashem is recited.
The blessing of Yisa Hashem Panav Eilecha
The term Yisa means to raise or elevate. In this blessing, the Kohanim bring about that even the minute levels of Divine energies incorporated within our soul after an un-satiating meal become refined; that Hashem comes and lifts each and every Divine spark that we have incorporated in Holiness, even if it only contains a minute amount of Divine energy. The reason why we merit this from Hashem is hinted to in the concluding part of this blessing, “Vayasem Lecha Shalom/And He places peace upon you”, as the Sages are called peacemakers, as those that study Torah bring peace to the higher and lower realms. It is due to this peacemaking that we merit having Hashem come and elevate even the smallest Divine spark that was refined. This is also the reason why the Sages have the power to institute Birchas Hamazon when eating a Kezayis of bread, even though one was not satiated, as the Sages who bring peace to the worlds merit the ability to invoke Hashem to elevate even a minute amount of Divine sparks.
Lessons of the Mamar:
· The blessing of the Kohanim draws down the ability to refine the world and elevate its Divine sparks in a hastened manner. It accelerates the coming of Moshiach and shortens the amount of time necessary for us to remain in exile to perform our Avoda. If you are a Kohen, make an effort not to miss an opportunity to bless the Jewish people. If you are a Levi or Yisrael, make an effort not to miss the recital of this special blessing.
· Birchas Hamazon has the ability to elevate the foods we eat. Place extra concentration into your recital of these blessings, knowing that such an important accomplishment is sitting in your hands.