"And you will eat and be sated, and you shall bless the Lord, your God, for the good land He has given you." (Deut. 8:10)

A young child explains to two of the students of Rebbe Shimon, Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Yitzchak, the secret of saying Grace After Meals over a cup of wine.

They said to him "Come and bless" [the opening call to make the blessing of Grace After Meals over a cup of wine when three or more eat together]. He said to them: What you have said is very good because the Holy Name [the Shechina] is only blessed in Grace After Meals by an invitation [to those present to say grace].

The Sephardi ritual, that is closest to the wording of the Zohar, is: "Hav lan venavrich leMalka Ila-ah" - "Come and bless the Supernal Queen". The Ashkenazi ritual starts with the words; "Rabossai nevarech" - "Gentlemen, let us come and bless".

He opened his discourse with the verse: "I will bless G‑d at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth." (Psalms 34:2) What was it that King David saw that made him say "I will bless G‑d at all times"? [If he wanted to bless G‑d why not do so straight away?] Rather David saw that Grace After Meals requires an invitation [to the Shechina and to the company to respond to the blessing].

The Rabbis determined all the blessings we make to G‑d except for one. Grace After Meals is specifically mentioned in the Torah in the verse: "When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the Lord your G‑d for the good land which He has given you." (Deut. 8:10)

He said: "I will bless" [in the nature of an invitation] because at the time when a person is seated at his dinner table the Shechina is also standing there.

"Standing" waiting to receive the sparks of holiness that are included in the food and released by the blessings and which give a person power to learn Torah and perform mitzvot.

The "Other Side" is also standing there.

The physical food and the pleasure the diners have in eating it are all from the physical world, removed from holiness and hence called "the Other Side". Invitation to the diners to say Grace is therefore required to show that the diners are intending to bless the spiritual source of the food and not the Other Side!

When a person invites himself [and others] to bless the Holy One blessed be He [Zeir Anpin], then this invitation fixes the Shechina upwards to receive blessing [from the sefira of bina]. Then the "Other Side" is rendered docile. The invitation…causes unity between the spiritual and physical worlds…

The invitation raises the consciousness of the diners to bless the source of all blessing and in so doing causes unity between the spiritual and physical worlds. The source of blessing is in the consciousness of the Divine represented by the sefira of bina of Zeir Anpin called the Higher Mother as in the Sephardi invitation mentioned above. All of this leaves the physical pleasure of the food and the desires associated with the yetzer hara behind in second place. Put another way, without the sparks of holiness to feed off of, the "Other Side" is deprived of all power.

And if a person didn't make this invitation to bless the Holy One blessed be He, the Other Side hears and wags its tail and pushes itself in to get part of that blessing.

If three ate together at a fancy restaurant and don't bless, then the Other Side takes the holy sparks from the food and uses them to build their own feelings of self-aggrandizement. Thus, the person is pushed further away from any sense of the Holy.

Now if you ask why the other blessings don't also require "invitation", the answer is that the blessing that the person makes is in itself an invitation. Come and see and understand that it is like I have said. When a person blesses on a piece of fruit, the fruit itself is the invitation to bless. When he [holds it in his hand] and blesses on it, he gives no part to the Other Side, and before this [when the fruit could not be eaten] it was in the control of the Other Side. [A fruit that is from a tree less than three years old is forbidden to eat.] We don't make a blessing on such a fruit as is written: "And when you come into the land, and shall have planted all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count its fruit as uncircumcised [in Hebrew, "orla"]; three years shall it be orla to you; it shall not be eaten." (Lev. 19:23) It is not to be eaten so as not to cause blessing for the Other Side. When it has gone out from its control, it is fitting to eat and we bless on it, and this [includes] the invitation to bless.

The very word "orla" can be rearranged to spell "ra la", meaning "it has bad in it"! After three years the fruit passes out of the category of forbidden and is permitted to be eaten; it is therefore fitting that a blessing to be made on it. Everything in the world belongs to G‑d, and before it can be enjoyed a person must make a blessing. Before a blessing is made, the item must be grasped in the hand. This holding of the fruit is the invitation to bless. It establishes this cup as representing a vehicle for the elevation of the Shechina

So it is with everything in the world that we make a blessing on. They all include an invitation to bless [because they must be held first], and there is no part for the Other Side.

Now if you ask why the grasping of the cup [to call the others to bless] in itself isn't an invitation, why say, "Come and bless"? It is because previously [during the meal] before the wine was drunk they blessed "Who creates the fruit of the vine". Indeed at that point, grasping the cup was itself an invitation to bless. Now, when Grace After Meals is to be said, there needs to be a different invitation to show that this cup is for the Holy One blessed be He and not part of the meal.

This is the reason for [the additional] verbal invitation [since it establishes this cup as representing a vehicle for the elevation of the Shechina].

And if you say that the latter parts of the invitation "blessed is He from whose food we have eaten" is also an invitation [I would say] that this is actually a blessing. Rather the first phrase "Come and let us bless" is a different form of invitation [to the Shechina that is called "a cup of blessing"]. First is the verbal invitation that is an invitation solely to the cup of blessing. And this cup, once it is held, gives a different invitation with the words to bless in respect of the higher world [bina] since all sustenance and blessing flows from there.

The cup is a vessel to receive wine. This represents the Shechina that is a vessel to receive the blessing, represented by the wine. When wine enters, secrets come out…

The Zohar always likens wine to the sefira of bina. It makes a person happy, like bina, "understanding", which is the source of happiness. It also stimulates the mind as in the saying "When wine enters, secrets come out". (Rashi, Baba Batra 90b) The Zohar also comments on the equal numerical values and the implications thereof in parashat Pinchas p. 297b.

Thus wine represents the divine consciousness of bina of Zeir Anpin that comes down to be held by the Shechina. This is also the reason why the lady of the house should be the first to receive the cup after it has been blessed upon. She represents the Shechina and so receives the wine before the rest of the company.

This is why [the words of invitation] are mentioned in a hidden way, because the higher world is hidden.

The Shechina is relatively more revealed in the physical world. That is why grasping the cup is a sufficient hint. This is not so with the higher, more hidden levels of the spiritual world. Just as our own consciousness and thought process is not visible, so is the consciousness of the Divine "hidden". We therefore say "Blessed is He from Whose food we have eaten". "He" is hidden, but not His food!

There is no specific invitation to Him other than the cup of blessing.

The Zohar is stating a general rule that is not the accepted Halacha. It requires that the invitation to bless be over a cup of wine because of the secrets that it represents. The accepted Halacha however allows us to make the "invitation" without a cup of wine, unless there are ten or more male Jews participating. An interesting footnote is that when a cup of wine is used in the Sephardi ritual, the invitation starts, "Malka Ila-ah" (representing bina) and the response is "Shamayim", meaning "Heavens", referring to Zeir Anpin.

Zohar, parashat Balak, p.185a; translation and commentary by Simcha-Shmuel Treister

Copyright 2003 by KabbalaOnline.org. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.