The Zohar’s statement begs the well-known question: How can it be said that women are “exempt from Mitzvos”? Women are actually obligated in the majority of the Mitzvos! * The Kos Shel Bracha of the Future Era entails the revelation of the essence of G-d, which is connected with the essence of a Jew, a Jew’s inner core which transcends Torah and Mitzvos.
Translated by Boruch Merkur
EVERYONE IS OBLIGATED IN KOS SHEL BRACHA
1. My revered father, in his notes on the Zohar, devotes much attention to the verse, cited in the classic mystical text’s commentary on this week’s Torah portion, “And it shall be at the end of days that the mountain of the House of G-d shall be firmly established at the top of the mountains, and it shall be raised above the hills, and all the nations shall stream to it” (Yeshaya 2:2). The Zohar asks: “Who is the ‘top of the mountains (rosh ha’harim; literally “head” of the mountains)’? This refers to Avrohom, etc. Since he is the head, it is proper that the Kos Shel Bracha (Cup of Benediction, the cup of wine upon which Birkas HaMazon, Grace after Meals, is said) shall be ‘at the top of the mountains, etc.’”
The Zohar continues (expounding on the continuation of the verse, “And it shall be in the end of days, etc.”): “‘All the nations shall gather towards him’ – to what does this refer?” The Zohar answers, the intent here is to include [in answering “amen” to Birkas HaMazon] “even women and children, as well as the one who serves the meal. That is, even though the servant did not partake of the meal, he needs to listen and answer ‘amen,’ etc.” The Zohar offers an alternate interpretation: “‘All the nations shall gather towards him’ – although women and children are exempt from Mitzvos, everyone is obligated in Kos Shel Bracha, etc.”
WOMEN ARE EXEMPT FROM MITZVOS?!
2. The Zohar’s statement, “although women (and children) are exempt from Mitzvos, everyone is obligated in Kos Shel Bracha, etc.,” begs the well-known question: How can it be said that women are “exempt from Mitzvos”? Women are actually obligated in the majority of the Mitzvos!
It is impossible to say that by, “[they] are exempt from Mitzvos,” the Zohar is only referring to children and not women, for then it would not have been necessary to mention women at all here. By the same token, men are not mentioned in this context inasmuch as there is nothing novel in saying that men are obligated in Kos Shel Bracha.
The resolution to this difficulty is as follows. “Exempt from Mitzvos” is only said here with regard to the requirement of Birkas HaMazon. That is, there are two opinions proposed in the Gemara as to what extent women are obligated in Birkas HaMazon. According to one opinion, the obligation is of Biblical origin, whereas another opinion maintains that it is a Rabbinical decree.
Thus, the statement, “although women…are exempt from Mitzvos, everyone is obligated in Kos Shel Bracha,” can be understood in two ways: a) The Zohar follows the ruling that women are not Biblically obligated in Birkas HaMazon [nevertheless, they are still “obligated in Kos Shel Bracha”]; b) the opinion of the Zohar is that women are Biblically obligated in Birkas HaMazon, nevertheless, even according to the second Talmudic opinion – that women are not Biblically obligated in Birkas HaMazon – “everyone is obligated in Kos Shel Bracha,” in precisely the same manner as those who are Biblically obligated in Birkas HaMazon. That is, Kos Shel Bracha is [equally] applicable to all Jewish people – men, women, and children.
It remains to be explained, however, why this is so, why “women and children are exempt from Mitzvos” yet they are obligated in Kos Shel Bracha just like men. […]
KOSI REVAYA: THE CUP OF MOSHIACH
3. This topic will be elucidated in light of a discussion of the general concept of Kos Shel Bracha, the Cup of Benediction, which can be observed at various spiritual levels.
When we speak about a regular cup, the cup in question can, of course, vary significantly in size. It can be a small cup, a medium-sized cup, a large cup, or the greatest cup of all, “kosi revaya (my cup quenches thirst)” (of Moshiach the King), which holds 221 lugin (221 being the numerical equivalent of “revaya”).
So too regarding Kos Shel Bracha – it can be observed at a variety of levels, including the greatest level, the Kos Shel Bracha of the Future Era, which will also be the kosi revaya, holding 221 lugin, numerically equivalent to “arich (long, great),” which alludes to Arich Anpin, a level of Divinity that transcends all other concepts, including the intellect. […]
In fact, it is from this level [the Kos Shel Bracha of the Future Era, the unparalleled height of Arich Anpin] that the future redemption emerges.
Since the Zohar on this week’s Torah portion speaks about the state that will be in “the end of days,” in the future redemption, it is logical to say that when the Zohar speaks about the Kos Shel Bracha in this context, the intent is with regard to the Kos Shel Bracha of the Future Era.
WHY CHILDREN ARE OBLIGATED IN KOS SHEL BRACHA
4. Accordingly we can explain why the Zohar says that although children are exempt from Mitzvos they are obligated in Kos Shel Bracha:
Children [as well as women; see footnote in the original text] accelerate the advent of Moshiach, as is written in the Zohar on the verse in Shir HaShirim, “‘The blossoms have appeared in the land, the time of singing has arrived, and the voice of the turtledove (the redemption) is heard in our land’: ‘The blossoms have appeared in the land’ refers to Jewish children.” Thus, they are also obligated (they have a portion) in the Kos Shel Bracha of the Future Era (which the Zohar is speaking about here).
BUT HOW DO THEY HAVE AN EQUAL PORTION?
5. However, at first glance it remains to be explained:
The general principle that all the revelations of the Future Era are dependent upon our deeds and our service throughout the duration of the present era is a well-known concept. But since “women and children are exempt from Mitzvos,” they therefore don’t have “our deeds and our service” per se.
(It is true that they are involved in all the Mitzva Campaigns. (Women even participate in the T’fillin Campaign by influencing men to wrap t’fillin.) And through “our deeds” – especially general, central activities, such as the Mitzva Campaigns – they bring our righteous Moshiach. This merit, however, extends to women and children only insofar as they influence others; it is not fulfilled in them personally.)
On this basis [i.e., since their “deeds and service” are not equal to those of men], how is it possible to say that women and children have an equal portion in (the revelations of) the Kos Shel Bracha of the Future?
THE HUSBAND FULFILLS MITZVOS ON BEHALF OF HIS WIFE
6. With regard to women, it is possible to answer according to what is discussed in the works of the Arizal – that the reason why women are exempt from positive, timely Mitzvos is because their husbands fulfill them on their behalf. For a woman embodies Malchus [Kingship, the lowest of the ten Divine Attributes, which serves as a recipient from the higher Attributes] and a woman’s husband embodies Zeir Anpin [the six emotional Attributes, which channel G-dliness into Malchus]. Since the husband fulfills Mitzvos at the level of Zeir Anpin, this automatically affects Malchus. (In fact, it is thus done in a more profound manner – by way of Zeir Anpin, which transcends Malchus.)
However, regarding children, who are likewise exempt from Mitzvos, the question still stands: how are they privy to the revelation of the Future Era?
But also regarding women:
From the very fact that the Zohar emphasizes this concept – that women (and children) are exempt from Mitzvos – it is understood that their obligation in Kos Shel Bracha is not because Mitzvos pertain to them as well (through their husbands) but that their exemption from Mitzvos does not interfere with this revelation.
KOS SHEL BRACHA: THE REVELATION OF THE VERY ESSENCE OF G-D
7. The resolution of the matter:
This concept (of the Kos Shel Bracha) of the Future Era entails the revelation of the essence of G-d (as explained in several places in Pri Eitz Chayim, in the Future Era the inner aspect of Atika Kadisha will be revealed), which is connected with the essence of a Jew, a Jew’s inner core which transcends Torah and Mitzvos, for the connection and unity of a Jew with the very essence and being of G-d entirely transcends revelations. It is impossible for G-d’s essence to be grasped through the intellectual faculties of Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge, through the Emotional Attributes, nor through the three garments of the soul, thought, speech, and action. Rather, this is a connection and unity of essence to essence [the essence of a Jew with the very essence of G-d]. Jews are “a veritable part of G-d above,” and “the essence, when you grasp part of it, you grasp it all.” Therefore when you “grasp” a Jew here in this material world, you “grasp,” as it were, the very essence of G-d!
Thus, the revelation of this connection, which comprises the concept of the Kos Shel Bracha of the Future Era, is present in every Jew equally – including woman and children, who are exempt from Mitzvos – for this is a connection that entirely transcends Torah and Mitzvos.
As discussed above in the maamer (beginning with the words “V’Ata Im Matzatzi Chein B’Einecha, etc.,” which is founded on the maamer of the same opening words of 5678, as well as the maamer of the Tzemach Tzedek on the same verse, which speaks about these concepts (and they have other drushim connected with this, as well)) regarding chein (grace), which is even higher than an initiative from below (and the service of Torah and Mitzvos). Thus, the concept of chein extends even to children and babies.
In fact, since there is no concept of Mitzvos regarding children (as well as women), the concept of chein is more revealed in them, stemming from the very essence.
THE ZOHAR: DISPELLING MISCONCEPTIONS
8. The following lesson in serving G-d can be derived from the Zohar discussed above:
Since the redemption is dependent upon “our deeds and our Divine service” in the present era, one may be led to believe that this detracts from the importance of working with children, for children are “exempt from Mitzvos.” Similarly regarding women: They say that Mivtza T’fillin, for example, brings the redemption, but women have no obligation to put on t’fillin. A woman’s connection with the redemption, therefore, appears to be limited.
To dispel these misconceptions, the Zohar teaches that even though women and children are exempt from Mitzvos, “everyone is obligated” in the Kos Shel Bracha of the Messianic Era, for everything related to the redemption is in fact equally relevant to all Jews. The redemption is connected with a Jew’s essence, which transcends even Torah and Mitzvos, and when we speak about a Jew’s essence, all Jews are equal. Moreover, since children (as well as women) have the power to dramatically speed up the redemption, it is actually incredibly important to devote one’s efforts towards them.
The same lesson applies to adults. When a Jew is approached and encouraged to participate in singing “we want Moshiach now,” for he will thereby speed up the redemption – he argues that it is first necessary to accumulate Torah and Mitzvos to prepare to welcome Moshiach Tzidkeinu. We must tell this Jew that in essence, Moshiach is beyond all considerations of Torah and Mitzvos. In this respect, when Moshiach comes, it is irrelevant whether he had put on t’fillin on the eve of Shabbos, whether he made Kiddush by day (on Shabbos), whether he sat and struggled for three hours at the farbrengen to stay awake… The fact is that even if he sleeps during the farbrengen, he will still get a portion of Kos Shel Bracha. And what a Kos Shel Bracha – Kosi Revaya!
(Similarly with regard to what Rambam writes at the conclusion of the Laws of Kings and their Wars – that in the Future Era there will be “delicacies commonly available, like dust.” As a result of this great, universal abundance, every single person will have a share in the Kos Shel Bracha of the redemption.)
THE JEWISH SPARK – IN THE WAITER
9. An additional lesson is derived from this teaching in the Zohar:
Prior to saying, “although women and children are exempt from Mitzvos, everyone is obligated in Kos Shel Bracha,” the Zohar relates: “Even…a servant who serves food – even though he doesn’t partake of the meal – he too needs to give voice and say amen, etc.” Every Jew has a connection to the Kos Shel Bracha of the Future Era, even the person who serves the meal, the waiter. The reason for this is, as above, on account of the fact that he too – the waiter – has the etzem, the essential Jewish spark.
From here we learn a simple lesson: Even if there is a person whose role it is to simply serve the meal–– He doesn’t [participate in the meal, meaning he doesn’t] serve G-d at all; he only endeavors to provide others with food and drink, so that they should be able to imbibe Torah and Mitzvos, etc., in a manner that Rashi says, “like a table that is set and prepared, from upon which people may eat.” Even this person has a connection with the Kos Shel Bracha of the Future Era.
For at first glance, he has done nothing to improve his spiritual condition. He did not repent and return to G-d, he did not fulfill Torah and mitzvos, and he is, at first glance, lacking in the concept of “our deeds and our Divine service” of the present times! However, from here we see how the revelation of the Future Era will entirely transcend the concept of Torah and Mitzvos, and how at that time, the very essence of a Jew’s soul will be revealed, the Jewish spark that is connected with the essence and being of G-d Himself, and it will be revealed how the essence entirely transcends Torah and Mitzvos. Thus, he too will participate in the Kos Shel Bracha of the Future Era.
(From the address of Shabbos Parshas Ki Sisa 5741)