Then I noticed how positively I was affected by Rav Yehudah Petiyah's descriptions of what's going on in the world of souls regarding brachot. My dedication to saying brachot with kavanah improved, as did my remembering to say the after-blessings – and improved happily.
Saying brachot with kavanah and actually remembering to say them – and doing so with a happy heart – is a great merit during these difficult times.
So here it goes...
Rav Petiyah gleans from the Arizal and other sources of Torah learning, his teachers, and his own experience.
To start off, souls in need of tikkun (rectification) undergo different kinds of rectifications and atonements after death.
What other religious systems know only as "Hell" or "Purgatory" (or whatever terms they use) is actually a whole rich & complex system in the unseen reality. Only our most learned & holy Jews (i.e., tzaddikim) have been privy to an understanding about this whole system.
Anyway, one of the tikkunim is for the soul to enter into an object.
This consists of 4 levels:
- domem (inanimate object, like a rock – this is the lowest level)
- tzomech (vegetation, like a tree, flower, or fruit)
- chai (a living creature, like any kind of animal or fish)
- medaber (a speaking creature, i.e a human being – this is the highest level)
With the medaber, a person can reincarnate into a fetus, which is then born as a new person with new opportunities to rectify and atone for past-life actions.
There are other ways, but not necessarily happy ones. So let's stick with this particular tikkun of the soul entering into a domem, tzomech, chai, or medaber.
Here's an example of a gilgul into a chai:
Once, Rav Petiyah was walking with his teacher when his teacher suddenly said that he sees with his own eyes a man from the generation of the Tannaim (Gemara) inside a female goat.
He'd committed what many would consider a relatively small sin, yet because of his great level and ability to know better, he needed to endure gilgulim in the Afterlife.
Anyway, Rav Petiyah says that once a soul has completed his gilgul in domem, it rises to the next level of gilgul, which is to inhabit a tzomech. Then a chai (like a female goat), then a medaber.
It's like a court sentence, in which the soul must be imprisoned that object for a specific amount of time until all the sins that can be atoned for this have been atoned.
Rectification by being Eaten
There are spiritual physics at play.
For example, a soul trapped in a domem can only ascend to tzomech in the months of Av, Elul, Tishrei, and Cheshvan.
If its sentence ends during those months, then great! But if not...the soul must wait until next year, when those months come rolling around again.
And guess what?
A soul that needs to ascend from a tzomech to a chai can only ascend in Nissan, Iyar, Sivan, and Tammuz.
And finally, a soul that needs to ascend from a chai to a medaber can only ascend in Kislev, Tevet, Shvat, and Adar.
Happily, sometimes a soul can ascend 2 levels at one time.
There are different ways this happens.
One is when a soul inhabits dust, and then an animal comes to eat grass in which is mixed a bit of the soul-inhabited dust, and the animal swallows the dust with the grass – viola! The soul now inhabits a chai, thus skipping the level of tzomech altogether.
Or, if a soul inhabits a fruit or vegetable, which is then eaten by a person, then the lucky soul gets to skip the chai level and go straight into medaber.
Even luckier is the soul that inhabits dust (domem) that gets mixed in food, which is then eaten by a person (medaber).
That lucky soul ascended 3 levels at once.
But getting back to souls trapped in a tzomech...
Not only are there formerly living souls trapped in fruits, vegetables, flowers, and juices; there are also sparks of holiness that fell with the sin of Adam Harishon and were mixed with a food upon the creation of that food.
This is where the role of the Jew comes in to the picture.
We Jews need to elevate all this.
The way to elevate sparks & souls trapped in tzomech is to make a blessing over them and to eat them.
Rav Petiyah notes that this is the deeper mean of the verse: "Ki lo al halechem levado yichyeh ha'adam – For not on bread alone will the man live."
In other words, a person's soul doesn't always live in bread (or other food). At some point, the food is eaten and the soul elevated.
Eating also releases the food-trapped soul before its time.
For example, a soul whose sentence ended in Av generally needs to wait until next year (Nissan at the earliest) to ascend to the next level (chai).
But if a person eats that food in Av, the soul ascends in Av.
The soul's original fixed sentence can also be shortened this way. (Like if the soul is meant to be trapped for Nissan & Iyar, but someone eats it before Iyar, then it's also released early.)
For example, if a tzaddik and talmid chacham eats a food, then wow! The sparks get sifted and the souls get rectified.
But even a regular person – even an am ha'aretz (an ignoramus) – can rectify souls at least a little bit...as long as he says a bracha before eating.
In short, being eaten is a happy shortcut for the soul to complete its tikkun.
As Rav Petiyah states:
...and then this soul will be rectified a little bit at a time, until it fully completes its tikkun. And not like the amei ha'aretz, who don't even make a bracha over their food. For at least they should be careful with brachot, that they shouldn't eat any food without making a bracha over it before and after.
[Hashem has also given us after-blessings to say, like Birkat Hamazon, Al Hamichya, Boreh Nefashot, etc. – MR]
This is so that by these means, the same soul is rectified, at least a tiny bit.
Say them with as much heartfelt gusto as you can.
You are doing holy, wonderful, beneficial acts of chessed when you say your brachot.