Prayer Insights

Morning Blessings # 7: "Upright Man"

Rabbi Shaul J. Leiter

The seventh blessing completes the process of channeling the renewed divine consciousness into the emotions described in the previous blessing.

"Baruch atah ... zokaif kefufim."

"Blessed are you, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe,
who straightens the bowed. "

Just as a newborn baby lifts its head and stretches its arms and legs out of its dormant fetal position, experiencing life and freedom for the first time, so too we exult in bringing the flow of energy all the way down to our legs. The legs and lower portion of the torso represent the ability to express emotions in action.

What is the difference in stature between man and animals? A man walks erect, his head upright, facing forward, his heart below. Beneath the heart are the legs, the foundation of action. In contrast, an animal's head, heart, and leg-sockets are on the same level; both in structure and in function its head looks to the earth, its source of sustenance. When we are asleep, our position is similar to that of an animal! Only when we are awake and erect, striving for positive growth, is the head ascendant. Then the intellect rules the emotions and the emotions stimulate us to act. The seventh blessing marks the transition to action, the ultimate expression of who we are and what we are all about.

At this point, let us look back and note that in blessings 4-7 the human body is used as a conceptualization of the 10 divine attributes through which G-d created the world. The head (4th and 5th blessings) contains the three intellectual attributes: wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. The right arm, left arm, and upper torso (6th blessing) represent respectively the emotional attributes: kindness, severity, and beauty (sometimes referred to as compassion). The right leg, left leg, and lower torso (7th blessing) stand for the active attributes: eternity, glory, and foundation-kingship [see Patach Eliyahu - Siddur: erev Shabbat minchah]. Meditating on how the human body is a functioning metaphor for the divine attributes makes one realize that we are not limited to merely one plane, but rather exist on all planes simultaneously.

Rabbi Shaul Leiter is the executive director of Ascent-of-Safed.

This series is translated and adapted from Meah Shearim and other sources

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