Torah Fax

Friday, August 26, 2005 - 21 Menachem Av, 5765

Torah Reading: Eikev (Deuteronomy 7:12 - 11:25)
Candle Lighting time: 7:19 PM
Shabbat ends: 8:19 PM
Pirkei Avot: chapter 4

A Graceful Ending
Though not everyone is willing to admit it, eating is one of the most important aspects of life. To underscore the centrality of food, the Torah commands us in this week's Parshah to bless G‑d and thank Him for food after each meal. "You shall eat and be satisfied and you shall bless the L-rd your G‑d."
The blessing after a meal ordained by the Torah is known as Birkat HaMazon, Grace After Meals and is actually comprised of four separate blessings.
The first blessing, "HaZan Et HaOlam, He Who Sustains the World," our sages tell us, was instituted by Moses to thank G‑d for the Manna which fell in the desert. We continue to recite this blessing to teach us that whenever we eat food, though it may have been produced or procured by our own efforts, we should realize that in essence it is Manna from heaven. It is G‑d who gave us the strength to plow the field and to bake the wheat into bread. And it is His blessings which helped the grain grow and give us nourishment.
(It is for this reason that G‑d commanded Moses to take some of the Manna and put it in a jar for future generations. Years later, in the time of the prophet Jeremiah, some Jews were lax in closing their businesses Friday night before sundown, claiming they needed to stay open to make enough income to support their families. Jeremiah held up the jar of Manna and proclaimed "Isn't our sustenance in the hands of G‑d? In the end, we are just as dependent on G‑d's blessing for our sustenance as the Jews of the desert were. So if G‑d wants us to close our businesses on Shabbat, why would we think that leaving them open will somehow improve our monetary lot?")
The second blessing of the Grace after Meals, "Nodeh Lecha, We Thank You," was enacted by Joshua after the Jews conquered and settled the Land of Israel. In this blessing, we not only thank G‑d for food, we thank Him for the gift of the Land of Israel in which we were able to grow our food. Notwithstanding the miraculous experience of being sustained in the desert by the "Bread of Heaven" - the Manna - we are grateful for the "lower grade" food, bread of the Earth. The advantage of bread over the Manna is twofold:
Firstly, Kaballah teaches that there are four distinct levels in creation: mineral, vegetable, animal and human. It is not coincidental that each of these levels receives its nourishment from the levels which are lower than it - plants grow from water and minerals in the soil, animals drink water and eat plants, etc. The reason for this, the noted Kaballist known as the Arizal says, is based on the mystical principle that that which is higher, falls lower. The spiritual energy that is in a plant, for example, is more potent that the energy humans have themselves. It is only through ingesting food (in a G‑dly manner, by saying a blessing, making sure it is kosher, etc.) that we can tap into that higher level of energy and grow in our spirituality. The spiritual energy contained in earthly food is even more potent than the spirituality which was derived directly from the heavenly Manna.
A second advantage that came from eating physical bread in Israel over receiving Manna from heaven is based on the saying in the Talmud that "a person prefers a small portion from his own [toil] than a much greater measure to be received from the hands of others." As great as it was to receive Manna from G‑d in the desert, the Jews appreciated being able to work for their own bread, with their own sweat and effort in the Land of Israel. Thus, the second blessing of the Grace is our way of thanking G‑d for giving us the opportunity to expend our own efforts in sustaining our lives.
Indeed, a fundamental principle of Judaism is that G‑d gave us the ability to enhance and fix the world with our own power and efforts - ultimately bringing about the state of perfection in the Era of Moshiach.
This may explain why the third blessing of the Birkat HaMazon speaks of the building of the Third Temple. In order to reach the desired goal of ushering in Moshiach, the Jewish people needed to leave the desert, enter the Land and begin to fulfill the Mitzvot - most of which can only be fulfilled in Israel. After we thank G‑d for giving us the Land in the second blessing of the Grace, we can begin to perfect the world with our Mitzvot and ask G‑d to send Moshiach, the theme of the third blessing.
The fourth and final blessing of the Grace is known as "HaTov VeHaMaitiv, He Who Is Good And Does Good." It reminds us that we must thank G‑d for everything in life, from the most momentous events to the smallest, seemingly most insignificant occurrences. Indeed, even when Moshiach comes, we will have to thank G‑d and bless Him for that event. In the era of total goodness and kindness, thankfulness and appreciation will certainly play a central role.
Moshiach Matters
"He has redeemed my soul with peace..." The Talmud teaches that this verse alludes to the person who occupies himself with the study of Torah, does deeds of kindness and prays with a minyan; through this he redeems the A-mighty (so to speak) and the Jewish people from exile. Chassidut explains that the study of Torah here refers specifically to the mystical parts of Torah, the "peaceful" part of the Torah, for it includes no argument or difference of opinions; and only then is the Redemption with peace. (Hitvaaduyot 5726)
Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit
© 2001- 2005 Chabad of the West Side