Friday, March 10, 2023



Beware when you lift up your eyes to the heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, even all the host of heaven, don’t be drawn away to worship them, and don’t serve them; because worshipping these things, is something that the Eternal God has allotted (Chalak) unto all the peoples under the whole heaven (Devarim 4:19).

Now therefore, if you listen and pay attention to My voice, and keep My covenant (Briti), and be My Segulah from among all peoples; because the whole earth is Mine (Exodus 19:5).

... and so you shall be unto Me a kingdom of Kohanim (priests), and a holy nation.


"Yesod Ve'Shoresh Ha'Avodah

"The Foundation and Root of Divine Service"

Taken from the work of R' Alexander Ziskind z"l.

The number one theme of this work is to improve our Kavanah or concentration in prayer. In Sha'ar Ha'Ashmoret, Chapter 4, the author discusses the blessings recited upon awakening.

He writes: Know this rule: All of the blessings that the Anshei Knesset Ha'Gedolah, Men of the Great assembly of sages at the beginning of the Second Temple Period enacted; whether they be Brachot (blessings) on Mitzvot, Brachot of praise or blessings on pleasure; they have as their straightforward purpose, aside from the lofty Kabbalistic or Supernatural secrets that they contain, to cause man to remember the Creator and His Dominion at all times (For the whole earth belongs to God). This reason is expressed by Rambam in Hilchot Tefilah, chapter 1, paragraph 3.

Accordingly, one must certainly take care that every one of the Brachot (blessings) of praise that leaves his lips, for example the Birchot Ha'Shachar meaning Blessings recited in the Morning , be recited while concentrating on the praise of the Eternal. This is what these blessings relate to. In other words, we need to know what each one of these blessings means. Because if we do not think about praises of HaShem that relate to the subject of each blessing, how will he come to love and be in awe of His Dominion?

Now R. Alexander Ziskind writes, I will begin to explain the simplest meaning of each of the blessings, for a blessing recited without such an understanding is equivalent to Piggul (An invalid korban offering).

Furthermore, such a recitation cannot be called a "Berachah," for that word connotes blessing and praising the Creator.

The blessing of "He give the "Sechvi Bina" (Understanding to the rooster) refers to the heart's ability to distinguish between night and day. Because a rooster can distinguish between night and day, it also is called a "Sechvi." While others concentrate in that in the actual blessing reference to the rooster; but we are actually thanking HaShem for creating roosters to wake us up. 

When we recite this blessing, we should feel great joy for the fact that the Eternal has created such creatures. Moreover, one should feel great joy that man was given the understanding to be able to recognize HaShem's wonders.

In the blessing of "He did not make me a Goy, meaning He didn't make me to be an idolator". This seems to be the version recited by R' Alexander Ziskind, the phrase "He did not make me" refers to the circumstances of the individual's birth. Presumably the author means to avoid the question, "How can I thank the Eternal for not making me an idolator, when it is within my free will to choose to become an idolator?". Well, I would say, because God first gave us the ability to know him beforehand, and then He commanded us not to be one of the Ovdei Mazalot; which in other word, is a reminder from the Creator, telling us that we indeed have freewill to choose.

One should feel immense joy, and keep Deuteronomy 4:19 in mind, acknowledging the fact that he was created with the ability to know the Eternal rather than being created as an idolator (Oved Mazalot) who knows nothing about the Creator and His Torah. If a person would truly reflect on this gift, how could his heart not burn with joy when he recites this blessing? Specially when he reflects on this Pasuk that says:

"Beware when you lift up your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, even all the host of heaven, don’t be drawn away and worship them, don’t serve them; because worshipping these things, is something that the Eternal God has allotted (Chalak) unto all the peoples under the whole heaven (Devarim 4:19)". 

In other word, although we have freewill, this verse seems to imply that God made the nations to be idolators, so to speak; by they not knowing God and his Torah first before choosing.

"But you the Eternal has taken ... to be a people of inheritance to Himself, (To be a Segulah) as you are until today." 

So how can someone not recite this Blessing with joy, knowing that the Creator didn’t Cholek (allot), that He didn’t created you to be one of the Ovdei Mazalot (the host of heaven). But gave you the choice to know him; so that you can choose, as the first part of the Pasuk clearly implies by the word "Beware not to", that means, Chas Ve'Shalom, that you could choose otherwise. 

The other thing that proves the point that even the idolatrous nations have freewill to choose, is that God both complains and uses them as an example about the fact that the nations after choosing to be Ovdei Mazalot, they never abandon their Idols, as God tells us via Yirmiahu Ha'Navi Ben Chilkiahu, the Prophet Jeremiah:

"Has a nation ever changed its gods; although, their idols are no gods at all?... "

But (you) My people have changed your Kavod (your glory) for that which does not bring benefit (Jeremiah 2:11).

This fact should be understood from this saying from the Oral Torah, that says like this in Makkot 10b: The Gemara reminds us 

"that we learn from the Torah, from the Prophets, and from the Writings (Ketuvim) that along the path a person wishes to go, he is lead and assisted to go."


May we always have the zechut to listen and to pay attention to the voice of Ha'Kadosh, Baruch Hu, and to keep His Brit (His Covenant), and to be and remain a Segulah from all the nations on earth. And may we always have the Zechut to remember with Kavanah that the whole earth belongs to HaShem. May we alway appreciate with great joy that Ha'Kadosh Baruch is our Kavod, He is our glory and our Tehillah.