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What is the purpose of reciting a blessing?

Many of the classic commentators explain that it is a praise of G-d. Accordingly we can ask, what are we praising Him for?

The Talmud records a dispute amongst the Sages as to what the main component of a blessing is:

Rav said, “Any blessing that does not include the mention of G-d’s Name is not considered to be a [proper] blessing”. – Rabbi Yochanan said, “Any blessing which does not mention the kingship of G-d is not considered to be a blessing.” (Berachot 40b)

According to the conclusion of the above-quoted gemara, Rabbi Yochanan doesn’t argue with Rav; rather his intent is to further require G-d’s kingship to be mentioned.

The Deeper Meaning of a Blessing

The nature of this world is to cover up G-d’s presence. The human eye sees the laws of nature as absolute. The truth, however, is that nature is only a mask which shields G-d’s presence from us. Despite this concealment it is necessary to acknowledge that G-d’s presence in the world is real, even though it may not be apparent.

Based on this idea the Kabbalists explain that the gematria (numercal value) for the word “nature” is the same as G-d’s holy name Elokim. The Name Elokim, represents G-d’s attribute of severity and judgment, which measures and conceals the revelation of G-dly light in this world. This is why the human eye perceives nature and G-d’s presence as a contradiction.

One may ask: “Why does G-d hide Himself from His world?”

The true purpose of G-d’s concealment within nature is in order for us to see through the illusion of the natural order, realizing that G-d is in total control of everything that occurs in our lives. Those who make an effort to realize the truth will merit G-d’s blessings in this world, and will also be rewarded in the World-to-Come.

There are two basic levels for this:

1) To acknowledge G-d’s presence, but not to except His kingship over us. 2) To except His presence as well as His kingship.

According to the above we can understand why Rabbi Yochanan requires both the mention of G-d’s name as well as His kingship, for what kind of praise would it be to say that G-d is present, but that He is not in total control. However, when we acknowledge the fact that G-d is King of the World we properly praise Him with our blessing.

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