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In Nusach Edut HaMizrach, in the Zimun before Birchat Hamazon, after the leader says:

הַב לָן וְנִבְרִיךְ לְמַלְכָּא עִלָּאָה קַדִּישָׁא:

give us [a cup of wine] and we will recite the blessings to the Holy Supernal King

The rest of the people answer:

שָׁמַיִם:

heaven

What is the intention behind the word "Shamayim"? What does it mean and why do we say it?


I don't know how it is connected, but I noticed that by the counting of the Omer "Shamayim" is said after asking for permission of the congregation, who, according to the translation on Seferia.org, respond by granting the permission of heaven. Here is the way it is on Seferia.org:

הש"ץ אומר: בִּרְשׁוּת מוֹרַי ורַבּוֹתַי. והקהל עונים: שָׁמַיִם

[The Cong. Leader says] With the permission of my masters and my teachers. [Cong. Answers: With the permission of] Heaven

However, by Birchat Hamazon it is said before requesting permission.

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The BT (Ber. 55a) cites R. Yitzhak who stated that one should not be appointed over a community without having the community consulted with first. For precedent, he refers to a communication between God, Moses and Israel on the appointment of Bezalel:

אמר רבי יצחק אין מעמידין פרנס על הצבור אלא אם כן נמלכים בצבור שנא' (שמות לה, ל) ראו קרא ה' בשם בצלאל אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא למשה משה הגון עליך בצלאל אמר לו רבונו של עולם אם לפניך הגון לפני לא כל שכן אמר לו אף על פי כן לך אמור להם הלך ואמר להם לישראל הגון עליכם בצלאל אמרו לו אם לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא ולפניך הוא הגון לפנינו לא כל שכן

Trans. (from Sefaria):

Rabbi Yitzḥak said: One may only appoint a leader over a community if he consults with the community and they agree to the appointment, as it is stated: “And Moses said unto the children of Israel: See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah” (Exodus 35:30). The Lord said to Moses: Moses, is Bezalel a suitable appointment in your eyes? Moses said to Him: Master of the universe, if he is a suitable appointment in Your eyes, then all the more so in my eyes. The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to him: Nevertheless, go and tell Israel and ask their opinion. Moses went and said to Israel: Is Bezalel suitable in your eyes? They said to him: If he is suitable in the eyes of the Holy One, Blessed be He, and in your eyes, all the more so he is suitable in our eyes.

Based on this, R. Hai Gaon (cited in Shibulei Haleket §140) explains that when one is appointed to lead the birkat ha'mazon (grace after meal), typically a kohen or distinguished individual, the group charges him by saying "bless", as if to say 'you are worthy before God to lead [because of your stature], surely we must too find you worthy'. The leader then begins "with your permission let's bless..." insinuating, 'you must agree [to my leading] because God is in agreement with you'. Whereupon the group responds "with permission of Heaven", as if to concur, 'we are in agreement [to your appointment] so that Heaven (God) should accede that you are befitting before us'.

Although R. Zedekiah in his Shibulei Haleket cites the above regarding the appointment for breaking bread, it is no less the origin and reasoning for its recitation for birkat ha'mazon too. Indeed, R. Shem-tob Gaguine (Keter Shem Tob, vol. 1 142f.) referred to the above in his section on birkat ha'mazon and offers it as explanation for there as well.

  • So why is it said before the leader says "בִּרְשׁוּת מַלְכָּא עִלָּאָה קַדִּישָׁא, וּבִרְשׁוּת מוֹרַי וְרַבּוֹתַי וּבִרְשׁוּתְכֶם"? – Tamir Evan Jan 9 '18 at 20:56
  • @TamirEvan Because it's said after he acknowledges their appointment ("ברשותכם" or as others have "הב לן ונבריך וכו") and they uphold God's accession ("שמים"). With both in agreement the leader then declares basically "now with all of your permission let us bless..." – Oliver Jan 9 '18 at 21:02
  • Note that R. Yosef Haim of Baghdad writes this explicitly in Rav P'alim (4:22). I was going to post this as an answer, but you beat me to it. – mevaqesh Jan 10 '18 at 7:19
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Shamayim is acronym of "שומע ומשמיע יחד מכוונים" it means that we all paying attention to the bless

  • 3
    Do you have a source for this? – mevaqesh Jan 9 '18 at 14:04
  • @mevaqesh shut.moreshet.co.il/shut2.asp?id=126815 – Shmuel Brin Jan 9 '18 at 17:03
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    @Oliver How about "דין הזימון" at halachayomit.co.il (and in English here) which claims R. Ovadia Yosef himself would explain the meaning of Shamayim as referring to that acronym (in the second paragraph there). – Tamir Evan Jan 9 '18 at 20:36
  • @TamirEvan Great find; thank you. As I commented earlier, this obviously now carries (much) more weight being said by ROY. Yet, what the editor of that post adds in parenthesis negates the reason ROY presented immediately before ("שהכוונה בזה שהם מצרפים עמהם רשות שמים") which is actually in line with what R. Hai essentially says. It's very possible that that which ROY is purported there to have said was nothing more than an ancillary explanation. After all, the acronym altogether appears to be a late invention (certainly post Gaonic). – Oliver Jan 9 '18 at 20:57
  • @Oliver I agree with you. I just wanted to point out that it wasn't just the invention of some anonymous internet user (at least, if you accept halachayomit.co.il's word for it). – Tamir Evan Jan 9 '18 at 21:02

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