Abarbanel on the Parsha

For the week ending 31 October 2020 / 13 Heshvan 5781

Ascending the Stairway to Heaven: The Grand Finale

by Rabbi Reuven Lauffer
Library Library Library

We made it! Last week we reached the fifteenth and final blessing in the series of the Morning Blessings. We recite these deceptively innocuous blessings each morning. In fact, they are the “opening salvo” in our daily prayers. Due to the pressures of the morning and our rush to begin our day, it is possible that they might sometimes be recited without the required intent. But, for the last few months we have been travelling together on a voyage of exploration. It has been a voyage, which has delved not just into the fifteen Morning Blessings, but, perhaps more significantly, has delved into all of us as well.

We have learned that each blessing is integral to the structure of the Morning Prayers. Not only that, but each blessing is also essential to my own understanding of myself, and my understanding of my responsibilities in our physical world. For this reason we need one last article to arrange all the blessings according to their deeper meanings, and in this way be aided in scaling the Stairway to Heaven.

  • It all began with the very first blessing. A blessing that delineated the fact that the concepts of good and evil are universally innate within every person, Jew and non-Jew alike.
  • The second blessing begins the triumvirate of blessings that all begin with the words, “Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, for not having made me…” The first of these three blessings starts our journey in earnest, as it acknowledges the most fundamental characteristic of all — that we are Jews and that we belong to G-d.
  • The third blessing thanks G-d for having given us our freedom. Not freedom in the conventional, secular sense and understanding. But freedom to serve G-d the way that G-d wants us to.
  • Blessing number four introduces us to the commandments and our obligation to keep them.
  • The fifth blessing “opens our eyes” to the fact that the opportunity to perform the commandments is ubiquitous.
  • The sixth blessing brings us to the next stage, where we are actively performing the commandments.
  • Blessing number seven teaches us that by living our lives according to the commandments, we are able to release ourselves from the negative influences in this physical world that distract us from our spiritual obligations.
  • The eighth blessing shows us that we have a purpose in this world. That we can stand up straight, safe in the knowledge that we have a defined objective that is waiting to be achieved.
  • The ninth blessing is pivotal, as it takes us into the realm of building a relationship with G-d, which is founded on belief as well as actions.
  • Blessing number ten is the astonishing declaration that I have all that I need (not necessarilywant!). This blessing truly reflects my complete conviction that G‑d is with me in all my endeavors.
  • The eleventh blessing is the certainty that I will be able to “march” to the beat of the Torah and the commandments.
  • Blessing number twelve expresses the assurance that I have been granted the strength to succeed in the tasks that have been allocated to me by G-d.
  • The thirteenth blessing reflects my spiritual growth until now. I am now crowned with a spiritual aura that is discernable to those around me.
  • The penultimate blessing spells out the obligation of all of my spiritual development — that I have a responsibility to assist and support those who are weaker than me.
  • And the fifteenth and final blessing is the resounding affirmation that the only way that I can truly accomplish what I need to do in this world is by internalizing the absolute knowledge that without G‑d’s permanent presence in my life I cannot succeed.

What a journey! Fifteen blessings recited each morning that are our means of identifying our true selves. Fifteen blessings that raise us up and introduce us to a startling new vista of spiritual potential. They are so fundamental to our ability to serve G-d properly that these fifteen blessings should be said slowly, with pleasure and delight. Every morning we should savor each blessing, appreciating its depth and its clarity. By doing so, each day we will ascend the Stairway to Heaven anew.

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