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Why No Special Blessing Before Drinking Water?

Why No Special Blessing Before Drinking Water?

On making a unique bracha on water

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Question:

There’s no need to elaborate on how important and precious the element of water is for our life. So how is it that we have special blessings for different kinds of foods, yet for water we just make the blessing of “she-ha-kol ni-hi-yah bid-va-ro”—“that everything came into being through His word”?

Answer:

In Jewish teachings, the creation in general is divided into four elemental categories: fire, air, water and earth.1 The earth, which is the coarsest of the elements, is physically the lowest (found even below water). Next is water which is slightly more refined, followed by air which hovers above the water, and finally fire, which constantly strives to go higher.

The Kabbalists teach that within every creation there is an “utterance of G‑d's mouth,” a spark that is the energy of its creation. However, the spark is static, bereft of the capacity to advance creation's quest to unite with its Creator. When a person recites a blessing before eating, he arouses these sparks to reunite with their Creator.

The blessings on food were instituted to correspond to the quality of sustenance they provide, which correlates with the kind of Divine spark that is within it.

Water, a more ethereal element, does not actually provide sustenance. A person eats food for the nutrients it provides. On the other hand, a person drinks water mainly to regulate body temperature and to provide the means for these nutrients to be distributed throughout the body.2

This is in keeping with the concept that the higher something is spiritually, the lower it falls. This means that the lower and coarser the element, the higher the source of its sparks, and in the case of food, the more qualitative the nourishment. The fact that water is a higher and more refined element, signifies its lower spiritual source, as a result of which it is unable provide actual nutrients to the body.

It is for this reason the sages did not institute a special blessing for water, since it does not have the same type of energy and “spark” that food—which originates from the earth—does have. However, we still make the blessing She-ha-kol,3 “That everything came into being through His word,” since, after all, water is something that is created through G‑d’s word.4

Please note that when drinking water, if one is not thirsty or does not need it to cool off, he or she would not make a blessing at all, since there is no physical need or pleasure derived from the drinking.5

Please see our section on Food Blessings.

Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin
Ask the Rabbi @ the Judaism Website Chabad.org

Footnotes
1.
See Bamidbar Rabah 14:12.
2.

See Rabeinu Chananel to Talmud ,Shabbat 78a.

3.

In the Mishnah (Talmud, Berachot 44a), Rabbi Tarfon’s opinion is that before drinking water one should make the blessing of “Borei nefashot rabot vechetronon”–“The One Who creates numerous living things and their deficiencies.” (This blessing is recited as an after-blessing for many foods.) However, the Halacha follows the opinion that one makes the blessing “Shahakol Nihiya B’dvoro” before drinking water (see Talmud, ibid., 45a).

The Shem MiShmuel explains that even according to the first opinion, we thank G‑d for water because it “takes away our deficiency” but not for adding sustenance as other foods do.

4.

Based on the Chassidic work by Rabbi Shmuel Bornsztain, Shem MiShmuel, Eikev 5677.

5.

Seder Birchat Hanehenin, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi 7:7.

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Jeff Silverman Seattle June 5, 2016

I disagree with your interpretation about the importance of water Rabbi,
I am essentially a scientist. While I understand, I think, what you wrote, I think you miss an important point.

Without water, there is no life. There are organisms, like humans, that require oxygen. There are organisms that find oxygen toxic. There are organisms that do not care if there is oxygen or not. However, there are no organisms that can live very long without water.

I live in western Washington in the United States, and we typically get 40 inches (1.2 m) of rainfall a year. We have lush, green forests with a dense understory and lots of foliage. Go 20 miles (33 Km) east of the mountains, and we get 5 inches (13 cm) of rain, and it is a barren wasteland. Clearly, water is a great gift. So why no blessing for it? Reply

Ed Rosenthal Tampa January 29, 2016

The Beracha for Water I'm especially curious about the final statement in this piece: "Please note that when drinking water, if one is not thirsty or does not need it to cool off, he or she would not make a blessing at all, since there is no physical need or pleasure derived from the drinking.5"
Could there be a correlation to the fact that since the beracha says "Sh'HaKol Niyihe Bidvaro", we don't have to say it because water was the only element which existed before HaShem spoke, and thus not coming into existence "by His word." Water exists in Bereshit 1:2 but HaShem doesn't speak until 1:3.
Could you share some thoughts?
Thank You. Reply

ariel August 8, 2013

Yehuda Hi Rabbi, I didn't understand one concept:

You wrote "the higher something is spiritually, the lower it falls", and then: "The fact that water is a higher and more refined element, signifies its lower spiritual source". So, I understand the opposite: "the higher something is physically, the lower spiritually it falls".

Could you explain to me where is my confusion? Thanks! Reply

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