Proper attention to washing and reciting the blessings after a meal sensitizes the soul. In the portion of the Torah read this week, Moses gives the Jewish people the commandment to recite Grace After Meals: "When you have eaten and are full, you shall bless G‑d your Lord for the good land He has given you." (Deut. 8:10) There are many laws surrounding the proper performance of this commandment, and the Arizal discusses the mystical dimension of them in great detail.

One of these laws is that of "mayim acharonim", "water after [the meal]". Before reciting grace, the individual is required to rinse his fingertips.

Know that the "other side" hovers over the table, as is described in the Zohar (II:154ab) and can gain control over an individual then more than it can at other times.

As described in the Zohar, eating and drinking by their nature bolster a person's material orientation, thereby desensitizing him to spirituality and experience of divinity. A person is thus, after having eaten his full, particularly susceptible to the power of evil.

This is particularly true if he has eaten by himself and there are not three to recite Grace together. For the Invitation to Recite Grace drives away the "other side" from there, as is mentioned in the Zohar (III:186b) regarding the incident of the young child.

The Invitation to Recite Grace…weakens the power of evil present at the table….

According to Jewish law, if three or more men have eaten bread together, they must recite Grace together. One of the party acts as the leader and formally invites the others to join him in reciting Grace.

In the Zohar, it is recounted that the young, orphaned son of Rabbi Hamnuna the Elder possessed great spiritual perception and mystical knowledge of the Torah. One of the teachings he shared with his guests, two students of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, was that when the Invitation to Recite Grace is recited, it weakens the power of evil present at the table.

The collective power of the three individual's divine souls and the positive energy generated by their camaraderie overcomes the negative power of evil. This occurs, however, only when they consciously join their individual energies together to recite Grace, that is, to focus on the spiritual dimension of the meal rather than simply the sensual pleasure of eating. Hence the power and importance of the Invitation to Recite Grace.

A person must therefore be very careful to have the proper intentions when rinsing his fingertips after the meal, in order that [the "other side"] not prosecute against him.

Whenever a person succumbs to the temptations of evil, the sin he performs acts as a "prosecutor" against him at the heavenly court.

For by giving it this gift, as is known, the "other side" departs, leaving [the person alone]. In the beginning [of the meal] it is just a guest, but if the individual does not recite Grace with the proper intention and concentration it becomes the host and prosecutes against him. As we said, this is particularly true if one dines by himself, without the [protection offered by the] Invitation to Recite Grace.

If evil receives this minimal sustenance, it is satisfied….

Rinsing the remains of the meal off the fingertips is seen as "throwing the dog a bone". Evil possesses no intrinsic power; it derives its power solely by virtue of man's misdeeds. However, in the present order, it must be present to at least some minimal extent in order for there to be free choice. If evil receives this minimal sustenance, it is satisfied, and, realizing that it has nothing more to expect from this meal, departs.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Shaar HaMitzvot, parashat Ekev; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Reprinted with permission from Chabad of California. Copyright 2004 by Chabad of California, Inc. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, without permission, in writing, from Chabad of California, Inc.