Rabbi Yesa opened and said about the verse, "You shall make a Table of acacia wood..." (Exodus 25:23) This table stands inside the Tabernacle and a supernal blessing dwells upon it. From it emerges food for the whole world, and this table should not be empty even for one moment. There should be food on it, because the blessing is not present in an empty place. Therefore, bread must constantly be on it, in order that the supernal blessing shall always be present in it. And from that table, blessing and food come out to all the other tables of the world, for they are blessed due to it.

The table of every person has to be before him at the time that he blesses G‑d in order that the blessing from above should dwell upon it and should not appear empty. For the blessings from above do not dwell in an empty place, as it is written: "Tell me, what have you in the house?" (II Kings 4:2) which our colleagues have already provided.

Of a table upon which words of Torah were not spoken, it is written: "For all
[such] tables are full of vomit and filth, so that there is no place clean"1 (Isaiah 28:8) It is forbidden to bless over such a table. What is the reason? Because there is a table and there is a table. A table should be set above before G‑d and be always ready so that words of Torah may be spoken on it and that it should include letters of the words of Torah. It gathers them unto G‑d above, who includes all of them in Himself and [the table] becomes perfected through them, and He [G‑d] is happy and has joy. About this table, it is written: "This is the table that is before G‑d" (Ezekiel 41:22) and not 'from before G‑d.'

There is another table that has no part in Torah and has no part in the holiness of Torah, and that table is called 'vomit and filth'. "There is no place," since it has no part in the side of holiness at all. Therefore, a table upon which no words of Torah were said is a table of vomit and filth, and this is
[like] a table of another deity. This table has no part in the secret of Supernal L-rd.

G‑d takes a table upon which words of Torah were said , and places it in His portion. Surya, the appointed prince, takes all these words and places the image of that table before G‑d. All the words of Torah that were said on it come over that table, and it is adorned before the Holy King. This is understood from what is written: "This is the table that is before G‑d," meaning that it is adorned before Him. The table of a person exists to purify the person from all his sins.

Happy is he who has these two things present on his table: 1) words of Torah and 2) a portion for the poor from that table. When they elevate that table before the person, two holy angels are waiting there, one on the right and one on the left. One says: This is the table of the Holy King that so-and-so arranged before Him, and it shall be set with supernal blessings and supernal oil and supernal greatness, which G‑d causes to dwell upon it. And the other says: This is the table of the Holy King that so-and-so set before Him, which is a table that those of above and those of below bless. This table shall be set before Atik Yomin in this world and in the World to Come.

Rabbi Aba said: They would remove the table from before him and cover it, and would say, Remove it modestly so it should not be embarrassed before the messengers of the King. The table of a person gives him merit in the World to Come and attains him food in this world. It merits him to be known for good before Atik Yomin and merits him to add strength and greatness where necessary. Happy is the portion of that man in this world and in the World to Come.

BeRahamim LeHayyim:

This is the table that is before G‑d" (Ezekiel 41:22)

Some say this verse after washing "mayim acharonim," before starting Birkat Hamazon.

According to the Ben Ish Hai, it is also said by the wife when she places the Challahs on the Shabbat table. It was one of the first Hebrew phrases taught to my daughters. It serves as the ultimate intention for all of our eating—that our eating is very, very, important, in a way much more than nourishing our body, but rather by helping the elevation of soul sparks and assisting the reincarnation of souls trapped in the food.

Why does food taste good? It is not just so that we will eat; we could stifle our hunger by eating plain raw oats just as well. The food tastes good because even the most simple combustible has infinite value. The reason why we are in this world is to turn the secular/mundane/profane into the sacred and Holy. Which is why the Beit Yosef says we should eat meat—and sparingly at that- only on Shabbat and the Festivals. [Ben Ish Hai adds days like 25th of Elul2, Rosh Chodesh, Purim, etc.] When we eat meat we eat an animal that once was alive, and may have been a reincarnation of a human. Yes, you heard that right. One of the fundamental principles of traditional Judaism as expressed by the Rambam is (#13) I believe in the resuscitation of the dead whenever the wish comes from the Creator. That includes reincarnation. For the mystic path illuminates that what you see is just a fraction of what you get, that there are infinite worlds upon worlds beyond our greatest imagination.

What does this have to do with eating? Everything, and anything.

Your late night snack, your morning bagel on the run, your coffee break at Starbucks, your popcorn with your pitcher of beer with the guys or gals, your Gatorade/powerbar before/after your aerobics class, your sandwich in your car during rush hour traffic, all these, believe it or not, are holy opportunities to take the act of nourishing yourself and transforming it to a sacred occasion. The blessings said properly and sincerely before and after can assist this process, and so the Baal Shem Tov taught is the deep lesson of the verse, "You shall serve the L-rd your G‑d, and He will bless your bread, and your water. (Ex. 23:25). When you speak words of Torah during your meals, the words become the soul for the physicality [of the food] that is on the table. You should always speak a lot of Torah over your meals - during the week, and all the more so, on Shabbat.

Bracketed annotations from Metok Midevash and Sulam commentaries
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