What is the Birkat Hamazon? Jewish Blessing After a Meal


I just finished lunch whether it was a
quick meal of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a fancy gourmet experience
Jewish tradition teaches I should thank God for the food I just ate there is a
minimal ancient formula which can be recited which can be roughly translated
as rub-a-dub-dub thanks for the grub yay God but the traditional prayer
Birkat Hamazon, the blessing after a meal that included bread is somewhat
longer the first paragraph is probably the best well known it starts as follows Birkat Hamazon is one example of how
our tradition expresses thanks and gratitude it continues for four sections
that talk about gratitude for food, the Land of Israel, a prayer for a rebuilt
Jerusalem, and God’s goodness Jewish tradition seems to be saying that
we need more than just these two words of thank you to be fully grateful so let’s dive into the first paragraph in some more detail a number of words
repeat Kol (all), Mazon or zon (sustenance and sustain) Tov (good) this is
our way of saying you just finished your lunch but you need to see this as your
way to thank God for the goodness for all creatures who are fed and sustained
by God but wait a minute do I really believe that God provides food for all
if I really look carefully there seems to be a different picture people in my
own City live with food insecurity food is expensive not everyone can afford
good food let alone any food famines occur. Many are hungry. Am I really
supposed to believe God is feeding all? Do I have to ignore the reality for many
who really worry about from where the next meal is coming? Do I have to lie? I do not think Birkat Hamazon is asking me to lie and describe God’s actions
in a way that is false rather it is asking me to do three
different things. First it tells me to be grateful to God for the food I have
eaten say thank you. Second use my gratitude as a moment to
assert in my imagination that God sustains the whole world in all
creatures. It does not have to be true now but it is an aspiration for which to
strive. And third, work to make this aspiration a reality. It asks me what can
I do so that others can have adequate food. Prayers like Birkat Hamazon
teach that with gratitude comes obligation and responsibility. If I am
able to thank God for my lunch then I need to help ensure others will have
lunch so that they too can thank God and this is only the first paragraph of
Birkat Hamazon.

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