Would you or Susan write about the appropriate way to pray before meals? I’ve heard two different views. One view indicates that we shouldn’t “ask” for our food to be blessed, as God already said, as His people, He will bless our bread and water. Instead, we should simply bless & thank Him, as our provider, etc. The other view indicates we should, indeed, ask His blessing on the food, prior to partaking of same.
Although this isn’t your question, we (at Ask the Rabbi you get both of us!) would like to explain one of the major misconceptions about kosher food. Many people think that kosher food is food that is blessed. When a company has kosher certification, as thousands of large and small brands do, rabbis visit the company’s manufacturing facilities. However, they are not coming to bless the food but to supervise the production. Depending on the food, a rabbi might stay on the premises full time or alternatively drop in for sporadic visits. Every ingredient and its source, the methods of cooking and even the delivery containers are scrutinized.
Back to your question, Christine. We would come down on the side of thanking God. After all, whatever food the earth brings forth is already blessed. Consequently, we recommend thanking God for providing us with food and blessings us with such tasty sustenance We ourselves, say a blessing both before and after eating. The short blessing before eating is a formal acknowledgement (and it is important that our own ears hear our own mouth utter those words) that God supplies our food. This blessing changes slightly according to the type of food. For example, before eating an apple we say, “Blessed are You, King of the world, who created the fruit of the tree.”
The blessing we say after eating is longer because it requires more effort to induce spiritual humility in ourselves when our stomaches are full than when we are feeling hungry. What exactly blessing God means is complicated. The Hebrew word blessing, bracha, has many dimensions. For instance, the word also means knee from which we derive the concept of going down onto our knees and kneeling before God. We have an entire chapter on that one word in our book, Buried Treasure!
So, in fact, the blessings surrounding eating incorporate both an appreciation of God as our provider and also recognition that eating is a spiritual as well as physical blessing. We hope this helps.
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin
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