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By Rami Alloni
Each day Jews make one hundred blessings. When we make the blessings, we know the meaning of the words just from the sheer weight of repetition but we are not aware of the deeper meaning that is embodied in the words. It is only through the revelation from our great Chassidic masters that we can come to a deeper meaning that is in our prayers.
All brachot begin following the same general basic structure:
Baruch Atah A-donai, E-lokanu Melech Ha-Olam
Let us now examine each word individually so that we may understand the deeper connotation hidden in each of them:
Baruch is commonly translated as "blessed". If we contemplate on this word, we see that the translation "blessed" does not make sense. What does it mean to say someone is "blessed"? Perhaps it means that he has a lot. Are we saying that G-d has a huge amount of everything?
A better translation of baruch is obtained by relating this word to other similar words in Hebrew. When Eliezer, the servant of Abraham, brought his camels to the well where he met Rebecca, he caused his camels to bend their knees. The word used there is, "Vi'yavrach" (a derivative of "baruch") which means to make the camels kneel down. (Genesis 24:11)
The word baruch is also related to the word in Hebrew "berach" which means knee. Another use of the root of baruch is the Hebrew word "L'havrich" which refers to taking a vine and putting part of the growing branch under the ground so that it may sprout roots. Baruch is also related to the Hebrew word barak, which means lightning. Barak is of a similar, although different root.
What we see by comparing the word baruch to all the various forms of the root of the word is something that has to do with a downward motion: the lowering of the camels, bending, planting of the vine, and lightning, all have in common a downward motion.
What we now understanding is that the definition of baruch means coming down. In the standing silent prayer, the Amidah, we bend our knees when mentioning the word "baruch" in the first blessing. This is indicative of our newfound meaning of the word baruch meaning going in a downward direction.
More specifically in the general context of a "blessing", it means that G-d is bringing something down to the earth. What could it be that He is bringing down? To answer this question, let us proceed to the next word.
Atah means "you" in Hebrew. If baruch means coming down, we can connect the two words and "Baruch Atah " to mean "You ( G-d ) are coming down"! The real intent of a blessing is causing G-d to come down to us.
The word Atah is indicative of the second person present state. It means that at this point we are talking to G-d directly! Therefore in the first blessing of the Amidah we must bow since we are directly facing the Almighty King of Kings, G-d. We have already bent our knees when we mentioned the word "baruch" and now we are speaking directly to G-d, so we must be in the most humble manner of prostration.
A-donai is the next word in a blessing. It is the only word that is not pronounced as it is written. It is the unutterable four lettered name of G-d, YHVH, but because of Its great holiness, it is pronounced as A-donai. The real meaning of the name YHVH is can be understood based on a compilation of several Hebrew words with deal with the time states, past, present and future.. The first is the verb meaning "was" HiyaH, the next verb is "is" HoVeH, and the third verb is the future tense, "will be" YeHeyeH. These three verbs when put together mean "was, is and will be" an expression of eternity, which is an appropriate description of G-d's relation to time. Or is simpler terms: Eternal.
This name of G-d, A-donai, is in the third person. We have switched from the second person of "Atah" in which we bow to Him, to the third person of A-donai, in which we revert to the upright position.
The reason is that we can not relate to G-d as He is since He is completely beyond our realm of experience and of our mental ability to comprehend Him. Therefore when we refer to Him in the second person present form, Atah, we must bow. We are completely without any ability to comprehend or relate to Him at this stage. But the name, A-donai, although it is the holiest name, is only a name in comparison to the essence of G-d, Atah.
E-lokanu, the next word in the blessing, is a name of G-d that differs from the name A-donai. A-donai, as we explained above, really is in place of the name YHVH which means the eternal or even more exact, the infinite. This refers to G-d as He is in his essence, beyond the boundary of worlds.
E-lokanu, we are told by the sages, has the numerical equivalent of "the nature". This means that E-lokanu or E-lokim refers to the powers of G-d which are manifest in the world, i.e. nature. What is nature? When we try to find out why something is the way it is using scientific methods, we can trace things back just so far. When we reach a limit to which we cannot probe the matter any deeper, we say this is nature. Therefore "nature" is the medium that G-d uses to conceal Himself from our apprehension of Him and at the same time it is a manifestation of His powers to run the world.
But why do we need to mention this name at all? If we have mentioned G-d's essence, Atah, "you", why do we mention in the blessing E-lokanu, translated as "our G-d"?
The answer is in the next two words:
Melech Ha-Olam are two words that must be understood. The second word, "Ha-Olam" is translated as "the world". It is related to the word helem, meaning hidden or concealed. Both helem and olam are made from the same three Hebrew letters, but have different pronunciations. Those who have studied mystical thought know that the world is a concealment which hides the reality of G-d from us and at the same time permits us to see the world as an entity that exists unto itself. Through this helem of the olam, G-d is able create and sustain the world with out being revealed.
This means that if we were actually able to perceive G-dliness with our own eyes, not only would we not be able to comprehend what we are seeing, but we would no longer be able to functions as independent beings in the world. We would merge into the G-dliness and our separate existence would disappear like a flame would vanish into the sun.
It is only because of the concealment of G-d in the world, (olam = helem) that we are able to continue to exist. However that does not mean that we must relate to the world as a separate entity from G-d. Just the opposite, we must relate to the world as an extension of G-d. Since we would cease to exist if G-d were to reveal Himself to us in His essence, Atah, both He and we need the intermediary of the world as a concealment. In this manner, we can exist as independent individuals and G-d can interact with the world with out being revealed.
The word immediately preceding "ha-olam", melech", means simply "king". But the deeper meaning of the word "melech" is "ruler".
A king is indicative of a ruler, which G-d surely is. But he is more that merely a ruler of the world who may rule the world in what ever manner he desires. G-d is the true "master" of the world, (or in terms of our understanding:) He is the Master of Concealment! He has concealed Himself to such a degree that it is close to impossible to discern Him.
Let us now re-examine the beginning of a blessing to see what our new meanings have opened for us:
Baruch Atah A-donai, E-lokanu Melech Ha-Olam means "You have come down from being identified as the Infinite/Eternal One to conceal Yourself as the Force of Nature in the world " This is the meaning of a "blessing" or "bracha" - The goodness and pleasure of G-d which is normally manifest as the Infinite and unrevealing Eternal One is now alive in the entire world. Via this understanding, there really does not exist any distance between us and G-d. G-d delights in our mention of His secret hiding place, the world, and waits for us to uncover Him. Through the simple utterance of a "bracha" we have brought about a revelation that we, together with the world, in a most a sublime expression of Oneness with G-d.
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