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The Secret of the Word “Blessing”

Topic: Prayer & Meditation | Posted:July 25, 2013

The portion of Ekev is a continuation from the beginning of Devarim when Moses is about to leave this world. In it, he teaches us a very important spiritual lesson.

Moses says that after a person eats or partakes of anything of this physical world, he should bless God - uverachta et Hashem eloheicha. Throughout the prayers - even the kaddish, which is a very powerful prayer - we speak about giving blessings towards the Creator. In religious terms, people understand this concept of blessing as in one way or another giving thanks. But the kabbalists say that the Creator certainly does not need our thanks. So what is the deeper understanding of this concept of blessing the Creator?

There is an explanation given by kabbalist Rabeinu Bachai who tells us that the ancient Hebrew word brachah can mean “blessing,” which is the way it’s literally translated, but it also means “an addition,” or “making more;” meaning, that we, through our blessings and prayers, add or make more power to the Light of the Creator. And that’s the secret here: that through our prayers and blessings, we actually give strength and power to the Light of the Creator.

Rabeinu Bachai quotes a story in the Talmud where Ishmael the High Priest entered into the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem, and the Creator comes to him and says, “Ishmael, my son, give Me a blessing.” What does it mean that the Creator is asking a man to give Him a blessing? What could the Creator possibly need a blessing for? The secret of this interaction, as Moses teaches us in this week’s portion and Rabeinu Bachai tells us, is that when we give a blessing to the Creator, it adds strength and a spirit of holiness to the Upper Worlds. And our blessings therefore cause the world to receive more of the Light of the Creator.

It says also that the Creator desires and yearns for our prayers. However, the Creator already knows what we lack, or what any one of us needs. So then, what is the purpose of praying for something that the Creator already knows? What does it mean that the Creator desires our prayer? Going back to what I mentioned before, the secret is that it comes from the word, brachah, which in itself comes from a word which is like a “well-spring” - creating more. Meaning, that we create more.

This, Rabeinu Bachai says, is the secret of the concept of blessing and prayer. That it is not, again, giving thanks. It is not reminding the Creator what we are lacking. But that we, through our blessings, our prayers, and our spiritual work, actually give the Creator the ability to shine Light and blessings down into our world.

To take this concept a little deeper, the purpose of our spiritual work is not to create Light; it is to create channels by which the Light that exists and wants to be revealed can come down. Imagine if you had a huge water tower filled with water and a city with thousands of thirsty people, but nobody had thought of connecting the pipes through which the water can flow down from the tower into the city. That’s the way our world exists today. The water is like our fulfillment, and what doesn’t exist –or certainly not enough of it exists - are the channels, the pathways that the Light can flow through down into our world.

When we pray, when we make a spiritual connection, what we are doing is creating a new pipeline through which the Light can flow down into our lives and into the world. And so when Moses tells the Israelites that their spiritual work is uverachta et Hashem eloheicha - to give the ability to God - he is saying that the Creator wants to give, but He can’t. Because only we can create those pathways.

It’s such a beautiful and powerful understanding of our spiritual work. The Creator desires our prayers because the Light wants to come down and fill our need or lack, but there’s no pathway for it without them. When a person prays with the right consciousness, what he does is create a new pathway so that the Light of whatever he is praying for has a place to flow down. That’s the purpose of prayer. That’s the purpose of blessings. Every time a person makes a blessing what he does is open up a new pathway.

It’s a very powerful and significant understanding of the purpose of our spiritual work: I’m going to create a new pathway by which the Light of the Creator can come into my life and into this world. And what this understanding does further for us is clarify that our work is not that difficult - we are not creating Light, we are not creating fulfillment; that all already exists. All we have to do is open up the channels. Creating the water is much more difficult than gathering the water. All we have to do is puncture a little hole in the tower and water comes out. With this consciousness, there’s no such thing as a small action. Every prayer, every connection, every action of sharing, every connection to the Zohar opens up that pipeline.

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