The Zohar on parashat Eikev discusses the verse, “You will eat and be satisfied and you shall bless Havayah, your God for the good land that He has given you” (ואכלת ושבעת וברכת את הוי’ אלקיך על הארץ הטובה אשר נתן לך). The Zohar reveals the importance of making blessings, with particular reference to the blessing formula established by the sages, “Blessed are You Havayah, our God, King [of the universe]” (ברוך אתה הוי’ א-להינו מלך). In the Talmud, Rabbi Meir teaches that this verse not only commands us to make a blessing after eating but that we learn the injunction to make all blessings before and after eating, including even the blessing before Torah study, from this verse.
We need to eat in order to be healthy, as the Rebbe’s father commanded his son to stop his habit of fasting until Minchah every day. But before a Jew eats he needs to bless God for the food he is about to eat and he also needs to bless God after he has eaten. This order of blessing-eating-blessing is similar to the order of the words in the Shema, “Havayah, our God, Havayah [is one]” (הוי’ א-להינו הוי’). God bestows His sustenance upon us between two blessings.
The Zohar reveals that the first words of the customary blessing formula, “Blessed are You, Havayah our God, King [of the universe]” relate to the essence of drawing down blessing from Above. The first word, “Blessed” (ברוך) is the source of blessing, while the next four words (אתה הוי’ א-להינו מלך) correspond to the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and to King David. We connect to the source of blessing with the word “Blessed” (ברוך), and fill all worlds with God’s Divine light via these four archetypal souls.
The first word following “Blessed” (ברוך) is ”You” (אתה), which corresponds to Abraham, who was the first to reveal God’s light in the world through his loving-kindness. Loving-kindness is the first emotive sefirah and it lies on the right axis of the “Tree of Life.” The next word in the blessing, “Havayah” (הוי’), corresponds to Jacob and to the sefirah of beauty, which lies on the middle axis. “Our God” (א-להינו) corresponds to Isaac and to the sefirah of might, on the left axis. Finally, “King [of the universe]” (מלך), corresponds to the sefirah of kingdom, which contains the Divine blessing from above.
According to the regular Kabbalistic order, we would expect the axes to be represented in the order of right-left-center. However, the normal order applies to a state in which the right and left represent opposite extremes, while the center can only be reached by each side compromising its original position to a certain degree. Examples of such a state can be found in society and in politics. This is also how Maimonides teaches us to refine our character; if one’s natural inclination tends to one extreme, he should refine it by forcefully adopting the other extreme, until after time, his nature will settle at the middle. For example, if an individual is naturally miserly, he should begin giving profusely without any limits for a period of time and then gradually his nature will approach the middle ground, called the Golden Path, where his tightfisted inclination is tempered by his willingness to give without regard. In these cases, the center can only be defined after the extreme left and the extreme right have been identified.
However, in the case of the blessing formula, the order right-center-left assumes that the center axis exists independently of right and left. It is not merely a compromise between them, and can be located even before the left has been defined as the extreme opposite to the right. Such a situation implies that the left is not opposed to the right at all, but rather both represent valid paths in serving God’s will, the right path representing a path of loving-kindness, the left path representing a path of might and strength. In such a case, in order to reach a state of inter-inclusion of left and right, we move from the right to the center where God’s Essential Name of compassion (הוי’) lies, making it possible to sweeten the harsh judgments of the left, where God’s Name of judgment (א-להינו) lies. In this way, when we make a blessing with the correct intentions in mind, we perfect the flow of abundance brought down into the lowest world, the sefirah of kingdom, represented by the word “King” (מלך).