Rav Daniel Kohn (left) and Eli Schwebel

Eli Schwebel: Hi, everybody. We had to take a break because of COVID—I had it! I’m so grateful to be back. Very lucky to be back with my rebbe, Daniel Kohn from Bat Ayin. I am modeh, mamish. We’re continuing this series of Siddur Alive for a 20-minute morning meditation. And we’ve been out of it since corona. But lucky to be back here. Hi, Rebbe!

Rav Daniel Kohn: Hi, Eli, how you doing over there in New York?

Eli: It’s crazy. I would never have believed it, but it’s happening.

Rav Daniel: Yeah. It’s just so global and so massive that there’s no way that there’s not something that’s in this for us that’s going to break through with a new light. But in the meantime, it’s hard.

So today, I want to explore the biggest routine that people who are in Torah do—more often than anything. To say a berachah. We’re told to do it 100 times a day; there’s nothing else like that. And I think it’s really an amazing opportunity. In terms of Siddur Alive we’re moving on to the Birkot HaShachar. So, what I want to do with you today, Eli, is connect to what is happening when you and I say a berachah. What can open up for us? What sense of my self is a berachah? The rabbis learn to say them 100 times from a pasuk in Parashat Eikev: “What does G-d want from you?” They say don’t say “what”—“mah,” say “me’ah”—“100.”

Unbelievable. What is G-d looking for here? So, this is a big deal. Here’s the thing: The first berachah that G-d gives in the Torah (and, you know, first times are the root for every other time, so this is going to give us the main meaning) is when He blesses “p’ru u’r’vu”—“be fruitful and multiply.” So that is what berachah is—berachah is expansion, berachah is growth, berachah is becoming more. “Baruch atah” is saying: G-d loves the fact that life is expansive, full of variety that we are growing, that we’re developing, becoming more expanded human beings, and that we bring more life into the world. Amazing … that 100 is the gematria of the words “lech lecha,” which He says to Avram: “Go for yourself”…and be a berachah! Go for yourself…100 times a day. Why? Because it’s what I, Hashem, love!

So when we say to G-d, “Baruch atah,” we’re awakening to His love for the fact that we’re here. And His desire for all these amazing and great things that He’s made. It’s like, I want to touch that today, I just can’t resist showing you guys all the great and beautiful things growing outside my window [pointing the camera to the view]. Every morning when I say Birkot HaShachar I look out this window and just get a sense of how vast the differences between all the different things are … all those roses down there with olive trees next to them. I don’t know if you can see this towering cedar. And there’s a spring out there where people are dunking. I want everyone who’s watching to really appreciate the feel and let it enter their hearts over there in New York. You need this, all of us need it!

Eli: Yes, yes…what a berachah to look at it all. Here, too, all the different kinds of people, all the things people made…in the city.

Rav Daniel: Definitely! And so, like anyone has a view to look out at when he says a berachah—that’s just a gevaldig thing. We’re celebrating the fact that G-d just loves the variety of things. The word “bereishit” also starts with beit and reish, because, well, like the pasuk said, “What does G-d ask of you?’ What did He make this whole crazy thing called “bereishit” for? For growth, expansiveness, creativity! And so we say: “Baruch atah,” this is what You do, what You are! Expansiveness, lover of life, bringer of fertility, creator of variety!

Eli: Wow…wow! Like in Modeh we are grateful, now we connect to the powers that make us, that really want us here.

Rav Daniel: Totally. So get this: The word “berachah” is a beautiful word. Not only what it means, which we’ve been talking about, but because it’s a beautiful word. It’s built of two: bar and vav kaf. Think of that word “bar.” That word “bar” like in Shimon bar Yochai. It means son. So here, I’m son of a child of vav kaf, which is the gematria of G-d’s name, 26! I’m a son of a Y-H-V-H—Hashem. Wow, I’m the gilui, the expression, so to speak, of His piryah v’rivyah, of His “be fruitful.” I’m His child. He loves me because I’m His child. He as Baruch is most experienced by me. I feel that I am most wanted by Him right now. I’m part of this amazing expanse of such a beautiful and diverse world. Thank you, thank you. But instead of saying thank you, we’ve moved on from modeh. Instead of saying thank you, we’re actually [compelling] Hashem to make more of this happen by us becoming conscious of Him being this flowing giver of life. So yeah, that’s what I want to get us into today.

Eli: I never thought of that. Bar—son of Hashem. How is it that I’ve never heard that before? How? I am blown out of my head. Every single time I learn from you something simple. That is so clear, that I’ve never seen before. That’s so beautiful. And I’m so blessed. They say the talmid of the rebbe is like his son. They say the talmid is like the child. So, I feel like I’m that—I’m so baruch right now. Bar-ruch. Rebbe, could we play that niggun Eilecha? I posted your amazing rendition. Let’s do it now. Wouldn’t you like to do that?

Rav Daniel: Definitely. Let’s play for Hashem…music…yes. 

Please look out in the coming weeks for more transcribed installments of Siddur Alive, and continue to follow @  https://www.instagram.com/elischwebel/  EliSchwebel on Instagram to see them in engaging video format.

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