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Parashat Ekev

by Rabbi Yitzchok Luria

Apples from the Orchard

  

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Rinsing the Fingertips

“When you have eaten and are full, you shall bless G-d your G-d for the good land He has given you.”
This is the commandment to recite Grace After Meals. 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.

Sha’ar HaMitzvot, parashat Ekev
Know that the “other side” hovers over the table, as is described in the Zohar, 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 Divinity. He is thus, after having eaten his full, particularly susceptible to the power of evil (the “other side” of reality).

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 the “other side” away from there, as is mentioned in the Zohar regarding the incident of the young child.
According to Jewish law, if three or more men or three or more women 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 student 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. 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.

This is what you should meditate on when rinsing the fingertips:

The initials of the words for “after-water” (mayim acharonim) are mem-alef, as are the initial and final letters of the word for “after” (acharonim) itself. The numerical value of mem-alef is forty-one. Align the first mem-alef with the forty-one letters in the Name Ekyeh spelled-out with the letter yud, and the second mem-alef with the forty-one letters in this Name spelled-out with the letter alef. The Name Ekyeh [alef-hei-yud-hei] can be spelled-out either with yud’s or with alef’s. Two iterations of the spelling-out process yield a total of 41 letters in each case (4 for the Name itself, 10 for the first spelling-out, and 27 for the spelling-out of the spelling-out):
alef
alef
alef
alef
alef
alef
lamed lamed
pei pei
lamed
lamed
lamed
lamed
mem mem
dalet dalet
pei
pei
pei
pei
alef alef
hei
hei
hei
hei
hei
hei
yud alef
yud
yud
alef
alef
vav lamed
dalet pei
yud
yud
yud
yud
yud
yud
vav vav
dalet dalet
vav
vav
vav
vav
yud alef
vav vav
dalet
dalet
dalet
dalet
lamed lamed
tav tav
hei
hei
hei
hei
hei
hei
yud alef
yud
yud
alef
alef
vav lamed
dalet pei


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RELATED CATEGORIES

Torah
Torah » Kabbalah
Torah » The Bible

Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
Zohar
The most basic work of Jewish mysticism. Authored by Rabbi Shimeon bar Yochai in the 2nd century.
Grace After Meals
Biblically mandated prayer, consisting of four blessings, recited after eating more than an ounce of bread.
Mishnah
First written rendition of the Oral Law which G-d spoke to Moses. Rabbi Judah the Prince compiled the Mishna in the 2nd century lest the Oral law be forgotten due to the hardships of the Jewish exiles.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
Arizal
Rabbi Isaac Luria, the 15th Century founder of Modern Kabbalah.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.