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Why a Blessing?

Why a Blessing?

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Few activities are as instinctive as eating: it is a basic bodily need, requires no thought or advance preparation, and is, largely, for us today, readily available. And yet the Torah demands from us that before putting anything in our mouths, we pause for a moment, recite a few words to ourselves, and only then proceed with our eating. And with these words, this simple blessing, we have transformed the most prosaic of acts into something holy.

How? By acknowledging G‑d as the source of all sustenance, recognizing that the earth and its bounties belong to Him, and expressing our gratitude to Him for providing it for us. All this with the words: "Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d, King of the universe..."

We call a blessing a blessing (or brocho) because that is essentially what it is. With the words of the blessing we bless and thank G‑d for providing us with the food or drink of which we are about to partake.

Chassidic teachings explain that all food contains a G‑dly spark of holiness. When we say a blessing before eating, and eat with the intention to serve G‑d, we actually elevate the physical substance of the food into holiness and reunite it with its Divine source.

Six different brochot (blessings) correspond to the various categories of food. They belong to the type of blessing called bircat ha'nehenin (blessings of pleasure) which are required to recite before we derive physical pleasure from G‑d's creations.

After we eat, we once again remember G‑d as the ultimate source of our sustenance, as instructed in the Torah, "And you shall eat and be satisfied and you shall bless Hashem, your G‑d, for the good land which He has given you." (Deuteronomy 8:10) We do this with the blessings after the meal.

Reciting the blessings before eating adds a whole new dimension to something we do every day, in diverse settings. Eating at home, with friends, at work, while celebrating, hanging out suddenly transcends the mundane and is transformed into something holy.

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CE October 28, 2012

response to MZB Maybe it's because you don't understand the importance of this that it has to be institutionalized as a law. Thanking G-d for all the things mentioned above comes a lot more naturally - but the lesson we learn from blessing G-d for even the food we eat is the importance of thanking Him for even the simplest things. It takes our appreciation to a much deeper and more essential level. And all the laws - well if we truly appreciate G-d, it only makes sense to thank Him His way - though the hierarchy of blessings that you mentioned. It means our gratitude is no longer limited to our own, selfish, understanding of what is good and what is not, and thus we can be completely humbled before Him - the truest thanks. Reply

MZB Walla Walla, WA October 17, 2009

A hierarchy of blessings? Why? I understand thanking G-d for the food he provides us. I understand thanking G-d for making us capable of gathering and preparing food. I understand thanking G-d for the opportunity to have friends and family at the table to share a meal with me. But most of that ISN'T part of the Jewish tradition; instead I'm told to learn the hierarchy of foods to be eaten and what should be blessed? How does that help me to understand G-d's intention for me on earth? Reply

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