by Rabbi Natan Halevy, BSD
This week’s parasha states: “And it will be for the sake of your listening to these commandments… and you will eat [bread] and be satiated and bless Hashem for the good land He has given you.” The Zohar comments on this verse and reveals the tremendous significance and meaning of the brachot, or blessings, that we recite.
The Zohar shares these ideas: “This is the commandment from the Torah to bless [levarech] Hashem for everything we eat, drink and derive pleasure from and enjoy in this world. Our blessings [brachot] are so crucial, that omitting brachot is considered tantamount to stealing from Hashem…Why are our brachot so strong? Since with our sincere recitation of these brachot, we physical beings are able to bless Hashem.”
We’ve been endowed with the ability to draw down life and sustenance from the source of life, the infinite aspect of Hashem, to Hashem’s holy ‘names’, which enliven all of creation. In this way, all spiritual and physical realms are filled with Hashem’s brachot and light. The words of our brachot connect to the highest spiritual levels and descend through all realms (until they reach our world) blessing them all.
For this reason, refining the intention of our brachot is so vital. By blessing Hashem, we are blessed. We have the power to bless everyone connected to us. By taking a proactive part in the blessing process, we also receive the brachot at the beginning of their journey towards the material world. Hashem has shared that ‘Wherever I allow My name to be mentioned, I will come to you and bless you.’
When the community recites these blessings together, they are even more powerful. Holy matters fulfilled by the masses have tremendous power. When we answer amen, to brachot, we act and affirm Hashem’s glory and kingship. Amen, written in Hebrew consists of the letters alef, mem, and nun. These letters form an acrostic for the Hebrew phrase ‘El Melekh Ne’eman’ which translates as ‘HaShem is faithful in fulfilling his promises.’ Answering amen affirms our belief in HaShem’s power and sovereignty over all realms, especially over the lower realm in which we live.
Indeed the success of our nation rests, in part, on this hidden aspect of prayer. When we pray, we tap into supernal sources of blessing, and we have done so on many occasions throughout our history. Usually, times of crisis draw out strong resources from deep inside of people. So it is with us, the people of Israel.
How many times have we been uprooted from our homes, only to begin somewhere else anew and flourish? This is Hashem’s blessing to us. Throughout times of darkness, we shine like the stars. We illuminate the world around us. We set an example for the world through our exemplary behavior as a nation.
There is a story told of Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach who acquired a donkey from an Ishmaelite. His disciples found a precious stone hanging from the donkey’s neck. Rabbi Shimon said, ‘I purchased a donkey, not this stone’. He returned the stone. The man exclaimed ‘Blessed is the Lord of Shimon Ben Shetach’! From the faith, honesty, and integrity of holy people, we learn about Hashem.
In a similar vein, this week’s parasha discusses the observance of Shabbat. In the parasha Hashem suggests, ‘You might think that Shabbat is to your disadvantage (since you are unable to work), but I have surely given you Shabbat for your own benefit… By sanctifying the Shabbat with good food and drink, donning nice clothes, and enjoying physical pleasure, you will receive a reward, as stated “and you will call the Shabbat ‘a delight.”’ This delight is equivalent to having delight from Hashem.
The Prophet Yeshayahu (Isaiah) says:
Then, you shall delight with the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the high places of the land, and I will give you to eat the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Hashem has given us the key to unlocking all that we desire to be blessed with. He has shown us the path of fulfillment. May we continually bless, and continue to be blessed, amen.
Shabbat Shalom U’mevorach