The Baal Shem Tov, or Besht —  the founder of Chasidism — 
met the soul of the Messiah during an ascent to heaven. 
The Besht asked him, "When will the Master come?" 
The Messiah answered, "When your wellsprings break forth to the outside!" 
(from a letter written by the Besht to his brother-in-law about one of his soul ascents) 


 

Borei N'fashot: The most ecological prayer in Judaism

more on neohasid: Chanukah Tu Bishvat Earth Prayers
In all of rabbinic Judaism, the blessing Borei N’fashot may be the finest expression of what we would call ecological consciousness. It blesses the Creator for making creatures that need to use each other to survive. The needs of every creature unite it with all life and tie all species, all our relations, together, whether they be plants or animals or fungi or microscopic organisms or soil. Those needs compel creatures to evolve and reproduce as part of ecosystems of multitudes of species. All together they, and we, create a world that is alive and vibrant with life, and vibrant with the “Soul of all Life”. Here's a slightly poetic translation:

Barukh Atah Adonai/Yah
Eloheinu Melekh Ha’olam
Borei n’fashot rabot
v’chesronan,
al kol mah shebarata
l’hachayot bahem
Nefesh kol Chai
Barukh Chei Ha’olamim
  Blessed be You, Source of all Being,
our God, Ruler of all space and time
who creates many living souls,
all of them having needs,
for all You created.
What comes alive through their needs *
is the soul of every life and all Life!
Blessed be the Life of the Worlds.

* Note: The Hebrew reads "through them" but it's in the masculine so it must refer to needs, rather than souls, which is feminine.


Download the pdf, four to a page, double-sided! You can also download the full-size version of Rachel KatzPassow's artwork, created for the Teva Learning Center birkon, from opensiddur.

Here's a very brief primer on blessings before and after eating:

The Torah tells us to say blessings after eating, but doesn’t tell us what words to use for those blessings. The rabbis formulated blessings that correspond to different foods, both before and after eating. The best-known blessing after eating is Birkat Hamazon, the blessing after any meal that includes bread, which praises God who feeds all creatures and covers all the foods of the meal. But the blessing Borei N’fashot, which is the most general of the blessings, can also be said after all kinds of food. It is also the only blessing that is designated to say after eating food that comes from animals or after any food that does not fit into a more specific category.

The blessing before eating that corresponds to Birkat Hamazon is of course the blessing for bread, Hamotsi lechem min ha'arets. The blessing that corresponds to Borei N'fashot is Barukh Atah... shehakol nihyeh bid'varo: "Blessed be You... that everything comes into being through God's word." Hamotsi covers all the food on the table because it blesses the center and foundation of the meal, which for our ancestors was bread. Shehakol, as the blessing is called, also can cover all the food of the meal, because it is the most general and inclusive of all the blessings before eating.

In between these two blessings, there are a handful of more specific blessings that cannot apply to anything one eats. Most familiar is the blessing ending with borei p'ri hagefen, for wine or grape juice. (All other juice gets the blessing of shehakol.) We also have borei minei m'zonot ("who creates kinds of grain"), for anything that is not bread but made of flour, borei pr'i ha'eitz ("who creates the tree's fruit"), for fruit from trees, and borei p'ri ha'adamah ("who created the fruit of the earth/soil"), for any vegetable or any fruit that does not come from a tree. For the purpose of blessings, tree means any woody stem that lasts from year to year, even as small bush like a blueberry. For fruit that comes from plants that need to regrow from the ground every year, like strawberries, we use the blessing borei p'ri ha'adamah. The same holds true for bananas, which grow as tall as a tree, but which regrow every year.

There is a hierarchy of categories, from more specific to more general, and one can always use the more general category to apply to whatever is more specific. Most importantly, borei p'ri ha'adamah can apply to fruit, or to grain, since every part of a tree or grain stalk also comes from the adamah, the earth or soil. Conversely, one can say extra blessings by blessing the most specific category of food first, then the more general category. For example, you could bless the cornbread (which halakhically is more like cake) with borei minei m'zonot, then the avocado with borei p'ri ha'eitz, then the strawberry with borei p'ri ha'adamah, then the cheese with shehakol nihyeh bid'varo.

It's a Sefardi custom at shabbat meals to have fruits and vegetables on hand in order to make extra blessings between kiddush and hamotsi. Hamotsi comes last because once the hamotsi blessing is said everything else is covered.

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