In its most common form, bentching—used as both a noun and a verb—refers to the Grace After Meals (Birkat Hamazon) and the chanting thereof.1

This bentching consists of four primary blessings—the first composed by Moses when the manna came down from heaven in the desert, the second by Joshua when the children of Israel ate from the first harvest after entering the Holy Land, the third by Kings David and Solomon, and the fourth by the sages in Mishnaic times.

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Other Forms of Bentching

The original Yiddish term “bentch” is a verb for blessing (but not a noun). It can be applied to a variety of situations.

For instance, if you need some Divine assistance, you may say to your friend, “Please bentch me that I should ace this test.” Upon its completion, you can say “Wow, was I bentched!” More properly, you’d say, “Wow, was I gebentched.”

Bentching Mitzvahs

Many mitzvahs are performed after (or sometimes before) reciting a brief blessing. In that case, the bentching is associated with the very mitzvah itself. For example to shake the lulav on Sukkot is to bentch lulav.

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Candle-lighting on Friday before Shabbat (which is followed by a blessing) is referred to as licht bentchen, “candle blessing.” Additionally, the time when candles are lit (generally 18 minutes before sunset) can also be referred to as licht bentchen. So, as she hurries to get ready for Shabbat, a mother may tell her daughter, “Please get out of the shower already! There are three people in line after you, we are running out of hot water, and there is less than an hour to licht bentchen.”

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Bentching Thanks!

After enduring certain dangerous situations (including overseas voyages, trips through the desert, incarceration, serious car accidents or severe illnesses), a special blessing, called Hagomel, is said, generally at the Torah reading in the synagogue. The act of saying this blessing is to bentch hagomel, or bentch gomel. Thus, after a visit to Israel, a person may say (not entirely in jest) that the bus drivers there were so wild, he felt he needed to bentch gomel.

Read More About the Hagomel Blessing

A Witty Story About Bentching

There is a longstanding Jewish tradition to visit a righteous person and receive his blessing. Sometimes, however, there are (humble) Torah scholars who don’t appreciate the attention, feeling that they are unqualified to bentch others.

It once happened that someone visited Rabbi Yosef Rosin (known as the Rogatchover Gaon, the “Genius of Rogatchov”). In response to the visitor’s request for a blessing, the Gaon replied: “I am not a rebbe. Who am I to bentch people?”

“The Talmud teaches us not to take lightly the blessing of a simple person!” rejoined the visitor. “If this applies to a simple person, we can deduce that there is surely great importance to being bentched by you.”

“Oh no,” replied the Gaon, who was as sharp as he was humble. “In that case, it is better that you bless yourself. After all, my blessing is only good due to your logical inference from a simpleton, but yours would be valid from a straightforward reading of the Talmud.”

With that, we will sign off, heartily wishing you zei gebentched, “Be blessed!”