Prayer Insights

Morning Blessings # 12: "Stepping Without Stumbling"

Rabbi Shaul J. Leiter

This series has focused on the connection between the morning blessings and the individual's daily renewal of spiritual energy and purpose. This installment discusses the twelfth blessing.

"Baruch ata sh'asa li kol tsarki."

"Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe,
who has provided my all my needs."

Everything is perfect. Up to now we have heard the cock crow, stretched, arisen and dressed. Spiritually, we have channeled Divine energy into our intellect, emotions and expression-modes. We have established ourselves in this physical dimension, the plane in which we can act and grow, and we have recognized that G-d is managing the world. Now we have to do something!

The Talmud relates this blessing, "Who has provided me all my needs," to the putting on of shoes. To get out of our private domain and into the world, we have to put on shoes. Without them we would be restricted, unable to go forth and pursue our goals. In this blessing, we acknowledge G-d for giving us the means to do this, as if He had given us our needs directly.

This blessing follows naturally the previous blessing, "Who directs the steps of man." G-d not only provides direction, he allots us footwear to help us accomplish our ends and not stumble over the physical obstacles (or desires or illusions) which are a part of our environment. Thus, shoes function as a shield between us and gross physicality.

Shoes are also an expression of our self-reliance. The kohanim, priest-servants of the Al-mighty, had to go barefoot in the Holy Temple. Similarly, Moses at the burning bush and Joshua in the beginning of his leadership were told by G-d to stand barefoot in His presence. Being barefoot signifies the relinquishing of independence.

Shoes also epitomize man's supremacy. There are four levels of existence. The inanimate elements of the lowest level are the foundation and sustenance for the second level, the vegetative. Plant life in turn, is used by the third level, animal life, for food and protection. Man, the fourth and highest level, utilizes animals for sustenance and clothing. Putting on leather shoes to walk on the earth demonstrates our domination of the three lower levels. (On Yom Kippur and Tisha b'Av, when we do not wear leather shoes, this blessing is omitted in the Chassidic and Sephardic traditions.)

The past tense of the verb "asah" - "He did" - stresses that G-d has already made the vessel. Our job is only to fill it; there is no need to try to recreate ourselves. Nevertheless, the potentials that G-d bestowed upon us which we have been describing and arousing through all of the previous blessings have to be utilized or they will be wasted. Yet, with power comes responsibility. Our mastery of our inner natures demands of us that we be masters of the external - in the best and most appropriate way.

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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