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.