Project Genesis

Prayer and Religious Articles

Grace After Meals - Birchat Hamazon

Question: What is the commandment for saying a blessing after a meal? What is the reason for reciting this blessing? Is it absolutely necessary to say the blessings in the form in which they are written after a meal? If I don’t feel the meaning within these blessings can I say my own words of praise to G-d?

Answer: The Torah obligates us to recognize that G-d is the source of all blessing after we feel satisfied from our food, as it’s written: “You shall eat and be satisfied and bless Hashem your G-d” (Deuteronomy 8:10, Tractate Berachos 48b). According to the Talmud, this would be when we eat a full meal – defined as a meal with bread. Over time, the Jewish people developed a formalized text for how to do this, called the “Birchat HaMazon.” G-d gives us good things so that we can come to appreciate Him, and therefore realize that we are obligated to follow His commandments. The blessings after (and before) all other foods or drinks are obligated by Rabbinical decree (see the sixth chapter of Tractate Berachos).

It is normal and healthy for a person growing in Jewish observance to take on new practices slowly, in stages. Thus, a person just beginning to learn about the importance of blessings may feel inspired to begin saying these blessings in his or her own words. Eventually, as one grows in learning, he or she will begin to appreciate the unique wisdom behind the wording of our sages in these blessings. Ideally, it helps to have a competent Torah mentor to aid in facilitating this growth process.

Question: Where did the Birchat Hamazon (Grace After Meals) originate? Is it a specific commandment of our Heavenly Father or instead is it a man-defined means/tradition meant to fulfill the instructions of God in Deuteronomy 8 not to forget Who has provided all of our provision?

Answer: You are correct that the source for the Grace after Meals is Deuteronomy 8:10. The actual text is ascribed to various leaders of the Jewish People. According to the Talmud, Moses wrote the first blessing in gratitude for the manna. Joshua wrote the second upon the conquest of the land of Israel. Solomon wrote the third upon the building of the Temple and the last blessing was written by the Sages of the time when the dead of Beitar (killed by the Romans) were brought to burial.

Best Regards,

Rabbi Azriel Schreiber

No Follow-ups »

No published follow-up questions.

We respond to every follow-up question submitted, but only publish selected ones. In order to be considered for publication, questions must be on-topic, polite, and address ideas rather than personalities.


Powered by WordPress