For an explanation of the methodology of this series, see the introduction.

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

Peshat (basic meaning):

Targum Yonatan: And you shall take care, that when you will eat and are satisfied, you thank and bless G‑d your G‑d for all the fruit of the praiseworthy land that He has given to you.

Remez (hinted meaning):

Baal HaTurim: This refers to the after-blessing for eating bread. We must also say a blessing before eating. So the verse means: "You will eat and you will be satisfied and you have already blessed. For it is forbidden for a person to benefit from this world without reciting a blessing, as indicated by the verse, "The earth and its fullness belong to G‑d." However, after one has recited a blessing, one eats of one's own, as it says, "but He has given the earth to mankind". This is also the implication of the verse, "You have said to G‑d, You are my Lord, I have no claim to Your benefit". Thus once I have acknowledged You G‑d as my Lord, the benefit no longer comes from You since You have granted it to me.

V’achalta/and you will eat" has a numerical value of 457, the same as “k’zayit/like an olive”, the minimum size portion [of bread which when eaten requires one to say Birkat HaMazon].

"One may recite Birkat HaMazon in such a way that it becomes a spiritual path to Divine realization."

Derash (interpretive meaning):

The Kotzker said: "One may recite Birkat HaMazon in such a way that it becomes a spiritual path to Divine realization." To which the Chiddushei HaRim replied, "There is a way that the simple act of eating by itself becomes a spiritual path to Divine realization." (Me’otzar HaChassidut)

Tiferet Shlomo: The Arizal says that when one eats food, one's mind should be concerning with the freeing of the souls and sparks (the consciousness and energies) which are enveloped, swallowed within the food. The Radomsker adds to this, "The food is not being lost to the world through your eating it." Your eating of this food adds blessings and sanity to the world. You are like a consciousness producing machine. Your eating is itself a blessing.

Baal Shem Tov: In this verse, G‑d is not just asking you to perform a grace-after-meals type of blessing. The commandment also directs you to eat. What does it mean that G‑d commands you to eat? That means that when you sit down, with the food steaming on the plate in front of him, one should wait until one feels G‑d's command to eat before touching the food. (Sefer Baal Shem Tov Al HaTorah)

He also said: "The Talmud says that all who want to fully receive the yoke of heaven must empty their minds of thoughts. (Berachot 14b) This includes eating and drinking, to empty one's self of internal mental comments on the nature of the food. (Keter Shem Tov)

R. Shlomo of Karlin: It is not the eating that brings you to satiety. You can eat and eat and never feel full. It is only through blessing that you will ever feel full.

Man's efforts merely create a "vehicle" into which G‑d places His blessings...

Lubavitcher Rebbe: Why was the text of Birkat HaMazon written by Moses incorporated into the text we use nowadays, when Moses was thanking for Manna and not our bread from the earth?
Moses’ words are applicable now too, because it is not the physical efforts of working the land alone that cause the land to yield produce. Man's efforts merely create a "vehicle" into which G‑d places His blessings, and it is the Divine blessing which provides us with sustenance. So even the food which grows from the ground is in fact "food from heaven", so it is indeed appropriate even nowadays to thank G‑d for our nourishment with a text which was composed in praise of "bread from heaven."

R. Shimshon-Rafael Hirsh: According to our tradition down through the centuries, the antecedent of the command to bless G‑d is the bread mentioned in the verse that precedes ours. The mitzvah of Birkat HaMazon therefore, is limited to meals that include bread. This is counterintuitive to many people, who find it easier to thank G‑d for receiving something special and out of the ordinary, than for the bread that enables our very existence. We cannot live, they argue, without subsistence nutrition. As long as we are alive, He owes us the basic enablers of life. Our effusive praise in Birkat HaMazon should be occasioned by gifts without which we could survive. Those are the blessings that show His Providence. Halacha, however, dictates a very different mindset. We bless G‑d precisely when we understand that everything comes from Him, that we are entirely powerless to provide ourselves with our most basic needs like bread, and that existence itself is His gift of love for us.

If every bite of bread is like the Manna, and if it symbolizes existence itself, then Birkat HaMazon is not a simple ”thank you,” but a reorientation of our lives and our selves towards His service. When we stand in profound realization of our absolute dependence upon Him? No different, really, from the unnatural way our forebears were sustained by Him in the wilderness - and our indebtedness towards Him, we are able to dedicate ourselves completely to His mission and expectations of us. In that dedication we find the ”blessing,” as it were, of G‑d: it is the pledge to work towards the fulfillment of His Will that is the blessing.

In the hands of our Sages, Birkat HaMazon became the raw material out of which they would construct the entire institution of blessings. Through them, we would learn to look beyond what we were about to enjoy, and focus upon the One Who gives us that enjoyment. Our Sages ordained for us a set of blessings not only after eating, but before benefiting from many earthly pleasures. Through these blessings, we hope to become worthy of those pleasures, and to pledge to turn them into greater vigor and energy in turning His Will into reality.

Through these blessings, we hope to become worthy of those pleasures...

Sod (esoteric, mystical meaning):

Zohar Teruma 152:
Rabbi Yitzhak opened by saying: "When you have eaten and are replete, then you shall bless G‑d your G‑d..." (Deut. 8:10) How fortunate are Israel that the Holy One, blessed be He, favors them and brings them close to Him from among all the nations. Because of them, He gives His sustenance and satisfies the whole world. If it were not for Israel, the Holy One, blessed be He, would not give sustenance to the world. Now that they are in exile, surely the whole world receives doubly.

As long as Israel were in the Holy Land, sustenance would descend to them from a high place, and they would give a portion of the remnants to the idol worshipping peoples. All the nations were sustained only from the remnants. But now that they are in exile, the situation has changed into a different manner.

For example, a king prepares a meal for his household. As long as they do his bidding, they eat together with the king, and they give the dogs a portion of bones to chew. But when the household does not do the bidding of the king, he gives the entire meal to the dogs, and he gives the bones to them.

Similarly, as long as the children of Israel do the bidding of their Master, they eat at the table of the King and the entire meal is prepared for them. Because of their joy, they give the bones, which are the remains, to the idol worshippers. As long as the children of Israel are not doing the bidding of their Master, they go into exile and the meal is given to the dogs, while they are given the remains. "Thus shall the children of Israel eat their bread, unclean, among the nations." (Ezekiel 4:13) They eat the remnants of their abhorrence. Woe is to the king's son who sits and waits at the table of the servant, and eats what is left of his table.

King David said, "You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies: You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over". (Ps. 23:5) "You prepare a table for me," namely the King's meal; "in the presence of my enemies." They are the dogs that sit under the table and wait for the portion of bones while he sits with the King at His table with the delight of the meal.

"You anoint my head with oil": This is the beginning (head) of the meal, for all the oil and fats and the prepared items of the meal are given at the beginning to the friend of the king. Whatever is left over is given afterwards to the dogs and those who serve at the table. "My cup runs over" means that the cup in front of the king's friend is always full and he does not have to request. Upon this secret, the children of Israel were consistently with the other nations.

BeRahamim LeHayyim:
We should "eat to live" rather than "live to eat."
We should "eat to live" rather than "live to eat."
The basic mindful meditation is that all food, whether luxurious Shabbat repasts or a snack of a piece of candy, all food's energy is to be used to learn Torah, do mitzvot, or increase deeds of loving-kindness. What is not used is to be given to the outside forces and is excreted sometime later.

Hey, wait a second! It seems that we are eating so that others—namely the “external forces” too can survive. Exactly. Not only is our eating for the purposes of (1) sifting the sparks of holiness that fell with the shattering of the primordial vessels and (2) elevating the reincarnated souls present in the food and (3) healing the blemish of the sin of the First Adam, but also to give the Other Side its fair share.

For there to be balance in self and world, we need to recognize that there is indeed a Dark Side. Just ignoring or repression of our Shadow Other, while perhaps useful for short time, in the long time leads one frankly to fight against it so much that we empower it. As a teacher of mine once said: like your Yetzer Hara doing pushups in the parking lot where you attend your AA meeting.

Rather, we need to use our Shadow to aid our light; in the first paragraph of the Shema Yisrael prayer –- from last week’s Torah Reading — we say "b’lavavecha" and we say "b’lavavechem" in the second paragraph, from this week's portion, both with a double letter Beit in the Hebrew word for “heart”, hinting to use of both sides of our heart for the service of good.

The Zohar above tells us that we should leave the residue of our food to the dogs. These dogs are not of the realm of Holiness, but rather the scavengers of the Dark [i.e. Kelipot]. We are commanded to feed them food that we can't eat or assimilate spiritually, such as those beasts killed in the field rather than properly slaughtered.

And that was the reward for those dogs, traditional vehicles of negativity, who assisted us in holy mission when we left Egypt at night, and went against their nature by refraining from barking. Hey, Other's your meal, come and get it!

In this way we assist in the balancing of the worlds, giving required strength to G‑d, as well as to the powers of negativity needed to keep the world going.

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