Posts tagged " blessings "

What’s the point of a blessing before eating?

May 23rd, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 13 comments

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.

Please advise…

Thanks 🙂

Christine B.


Dear Christine,

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.”


Fat of the Land

November 2nd, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 5 comments

During the past year or so, despite difficult economic conditions, some companies have reported excellent earnings.  Upon reading their reports it becomes clear that many of them achieved this without increasing sales revenues.  Instead, rigid cost discipline allowed these firms to post profits.  Many families have followed a similar culture of frugality.  They are enduring a depressed economy by ruthlessly cutting their expenses.

We hope that things will improve and tough times will eventually fade away, though for many of us painful memories will linger.  But maybe that is not all that will linger.  While reaching for the stars, an awareness of restraint is healthy.  It is good to balance the belief that we can do anything and have everything with an appreciation of limitations.


Strike Them Down

October 25th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 34 comments

There we were, Mrs. Lapin and I, breakfasting with friends on a rooftop patio overlooking the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.  One of our breakfast companions is well connected with Israel’s high tech community and I immediately resolved to share with you what he disclosed to me. But first, by way of introduction, I must ask you a serious question.  Ideally, you’d want to wait to read this until you can quietly contemplate the implications of this enigma.

Imagine that you’re walking alongside a train track when you suddenly realize that a runaway train is rapidly bearing down. To your horror, you realize that in the next few seconds the train will hit five workmen on the track, all oblivious to their impending doom.

However, if you quickly pulled the track-switch lever right next to you, you could divert the onrushing train onto a siding where only one workman will be killed.  Would you be acting morally and ethically by doing so?  Some surveys show that a large majority of respondents believe the greater moral good will be served if they pull the switch to save five people by sacrificing one.


Graceful Endings

April 3rd, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Have you ever been in an audience listening to a speech that never ends? It is an even more ghastly experience for the speaker who plainly wants to finish but just doesn’t seem to be able to wrap it up. The sweat beads on his brow, his eyes dart around frantically seeking a savior, his hand clench and unclench and words continue pouring from his moving mouth. And the audience prays for it all to end.

I’ve been at synagogue services and also at business meetings that suffer from the same syndrome. Just like the speaker who can’t stop, the longer it goes on, the less likely it is that anything valuable is occurring. There is another event that suffers from having no ending.

I particularly enjoy being a dinner guest when a family’s children are also at the table. If they are deliberately included in the conversation, their views can be delightfully off-beat and refreshing. The problem arises when they leave the table mid-meal. Whether they excuse themselves politely or simply vanish, they leave unoccupied chairs and an off-balance feel to the gathering.

But since they have no idea of when it will end, what are they to do? They become restless because the meal stretches off endlessly into the future. Happily, ancient Jewish wisdom offers a solution. Establish a formal end to every meal and signal that everyone is expected to remain till the end by labeling it “Grace after meals.”

The Torah directs us to thank God for the food we have just eaten with a blessing;

…you shall eat and be satisfied; then you shall bless the Lord…

(Deuteronomy 8:10)

We are also taught to thank God for giving us His book, by saying a blessing before we study the Torah. Ancient Jewish wisdom discusses these blessings over food and the Torah in the same section to make the connection that food nourishes our bodies while God’s word sustains our souls. One who cares only for his body is but half a human as is one who cares only about his soul.

Why is one blessing said before and the other after? We say the Torah blessing before our souls are born aloft by hearing God talking to us from the pages of Scipture. However, we say the major food blessing after our stomachs are sated. The reason is because we always try to progress upwards towards the climax. Allowing God to talk to us from the pages of His Book is the whole point of reading His word. The blessing precedes that pinnacle. However, the highlight of the meal is when we talk to God.

In this fashion, a Biblical meal never just fades away. It builds to a peak and goes out with a bang. The solemnity of the Grace after Meals, along with its joyful melodies wraps the meal in the fabric of an unforgettable experience.

Children can easily be taught to remain at the table because the meal has a finite conclusion in the form of Grace after Meals. They readily understand that leaving the table before thanking God is even worse behavior than leaving a meal without thanking their parents.

Good advice for those in charge of worship services is to emulate the principle of the Grace after Meals. Instead of allowing the power and the passion of prayer to simply fade away as people inconspicuously creep to the exits in order to escape an interminable service, finish with a bang. Program the most important, and perhaps the most moving part of the service for the very end. Thus will people leave invigorated rather than fatigued.

Similarly, arrange business meetings with not only a start time but an equally definite ending time. Start the meeting with the less important items on the agenda. Finish it with the most important topics and perhaps with an uplifting announcement. People will leave energized rather than wearied.

We hope our Thought Tool books help you to study God’s wisdom and to enjoy uplifting conversation at mealtimes. Our two volumes are on a “get two for the price of one” sale right now. They make a delightful gift for yourself or for someone you want to bless.

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