Daily Blessings: Eating Meals

All graphics, commentary, and transliterations are Copyright © 1998 by Jordan Lee Wagner.


When bread is included in a repast, it takes on the status of a "meal" -- use the blessings below. Without bread, use the blessings before and after snacks.

Blessings before Meals:  

Ritually wash your hands, as follows:  Fill a spoutless vessel with water. Then pour the water over the round smooth rim, onto your hands.  The most common practice is to pour first over the right hand three times, then the left three times, using up all the water. Dry your hands and recite:
Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-o-lam,
a-sher kid-sha-nu b'mitz-vo-tav
al n'ti-lat ya-da-yim.

Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, King of the Universe,
who sanctifies us through His commandments
and commanded us
concerning the elevation of the hands.  

Without interruption after handwashing, begin the meal by reciting the blessing over the bread:
Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-o-lam,
ha-mo-tzi le-chem min ha-a-retz.

Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, King of the Universe,
who brings forth bread from the earth.  

Immediately eat some of the bread to start the meal.  This blessing covers everything that is consumed as part of the meal except for wine (or grape juice).
by Jordan Lee Wagner
 Copyright © 1998 by Jordan Lee Wagner.  All rights reserved.

Like any mitzvah, the handwashing can be experienced as opportunity to relate to God by fulfilling a divine commandment. But the symbolism of handwashing also has an ethical component.

In Jewish mystical tradition, the transcendental is modelled as an unknowable root of reality, plus ten humanly contemplatable divine attributes. Everything in material reality is animated by a correspondence with one of these attributes.

Water (by virtue of its transparency) is associated with chesed (lovingkindness), best exemplified by good deeds done with no hope or possibility of reward. In a natural way, your hands represent what you do in this world. So by gathering the waters together in a vessel and then pouring them over our hands, we focus on marshalling chesed and charging ourselves with chesed.

We then recite the handwashing benediction, either individually while drying our hands, or all together when seated. Notice that the text of the handwashing benediction is "...al n'ti-lat ya-dai-yim" ("Blessed are You...who has commanded us concerning the elevation of hands.") and not "...concerning the washing of hands."

There are several differing customs for how to wash hands. The most common is to fill the vessel once, douse the right hand three times, then the left three times, using up all the water in the vessel. In some communities, each individual makes a point of beginning (but only beginning) the refilling process for the next person.

We are silent after handwashing. The handwashing is a preparation for eating the bread, and theoretically the two events are directly connected. Delays, distractions, or communication are minimized. In many families, children make a game of trying make others talk, in which case the talker washes again but without the benediction.

 The Grace After Meals

Birkat HaMazon ("The Blessing for Sustenance") is recited to mark the conclusion of meals. This is in accordance with Deuteronomy 8:10.

Reciting Birkat HaMazon is popularly called "bentching". It takes about two minutes, but much longer if one is not in the habit.

Many communities sing a psalm in remembrance of the Temple before bentching. Usually, Psalm 137 is sung on ordinary days, and Psalm 126 is sung on festive days.

Psalm 136

Recited on ordinary days:

Al na-ha-rot Ba-vel,
sham ya-shav-nu gam ba-chi-nu,
b'zach-rei-nu et Tsi-yon.
Al a-ra-vim b'to-chah
ta-li-nu ki-no-ro-tei-nu.
Ki sham sh'ei-lu-nu sho-vei-nu
div-rei shir
v'to-la-lei-nu sim-cha,
shi-ru la-nu mi-shir Tsi-yon.
Eich na-shir et shir A-do-nai,
al ad-mat nei-char.
Im esh-ka-cheich Y'ru-sha-la-yim,
tish-kach y'mi-ni.
Tid-bak l'sho-ni l'hi-chi,
im lo ez-k'rei-chi,
im lo a-a-leh et Y'ru-sha-la-yim
al rosh sim-cha-ti.
Z'chor A-do-nai liv-nei E-dom
eit yom Y'ru-sha-la-yim,
ha-o-m'rim a-ru a-ru,
ad ha-y'sod bah.
Bat Ba-vel ha-sh'du-dah
ash-rei she-y'sha-lem lach
et g'mu-leich she-ga-malt la-nu.
Ash-rei she-yo-cheiz v'ni-feits
et o-la-la-yich el ha-sa-la.

Psalm 126

Recited on Sabbaths
and Festivals;
at a wedding, bris,
or pidyon haben;
and on any day when
Tachanun is not said:

Shir ha-ma-a-lot,
b'shuv A-do-nai
et shi-vat Tsi-yon,
ha-yi-nu k'cho-l'mim.
Az y'ma-lei s'chok pi-nu
ul-sho-nei-nu ri-nah,
az yo-m'ru va-go-yim,
hig-dil A-do-nai
la-a-sot im ei-le.
Hig-dil A-do-nai
la-a-sot i-ma-nu,
ha-yi-nu s'mei-chim.
Shu-vah A-do-nai
et sh'vi-tei-nu,
ka-a-fi-kim ba-ne-gev.
Ha-zo-r'im b'dim-a
b'ri-nah yik-tso-ru.
Ha-loch yei-leich u-va-cho
no-sei me-shech ha-za-ra,
bo ya-vo v'ri-nah,
no-sei a-lu-mo-tav.

If three or more adult male Jews participated in the meal, one of them leads the group and inserts a formal zimun ("invitation")before the Birkat HaMazon (The Grace After Meals).

The leader recites the text in blue; all others recite the text in red.

If ten or more men are present, insert the words in parentheses.

Ra-bo-tai n'va-reich.
Froynd-n mir vill-n bentch-n.

Y'hi sheim A-do-nai m'vo-rach mei-a-tah v'ad o-lam.

Y'hi sheim A-do-nai m'vo-rach mei-a-tah v'ad o-lam.

[ Ba-al ha-ba-yit ha-zeh v'-] [ Ba-a-lat ha-ba-yit ha-zeh v'-]
ma-ra-nan v'ra-ba-nan v'ra-bo-tai,
n'va-reich (E-lo-hei-nu) she-a-chal-nu mi-she-lo.

Ba-ruch (E-lo-hei-nu) she-a-chal-nu mi-she-lo uv-tu-vo cha-yi-nu.

Ba-ruch (E-lo-hei-nu) she-a-chal-nu mi-she-lo uv-tu-vo cha-yi-nu.

Ba-ruch hu u-va-ruch sh'mo.

Birkat HaMazon includes four benedictions. Often, all will sing along with the first benediction. (And when young children are present, it is common to sing all the bentching aloud together.) The first benediction is traditionally attributed to Moses. It is said in appreciation of sustenance and the divine providential care shown to all creatures:

Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai, E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-o-lam,
Ha-zan et ha-o-lam ku-lo, b'tu-vo,
b'chein b'che-sed uv-ra-cha-mim,
hu no-tein le-chem l'chawl^ba-sar, ki l'o-lam chas-do.
Uv-tu-vo ha-ga-dol, ta-mid lo cha-sar la-nu,
v'al yech-sar la-nu, ma-zon l'o-lam va-ed.
Ba-a-vur sh'mo ha-ga-dol, ki hu Eil zan um-far-neis la-kol,
u-mei-tiv la-kol, u-mei-chin ma-zon
l'chawl^b'ri-yo-tav a-sher ba-ra.

[ Ka-a-mur: Po-tei-ach et ya-de-cha, u-mas-bi-a l'chawl^chai ra-tson. ]
Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai, ha-zan et ha-kol.   ( A-mein. )

The second benediction is traditionally attributed to Joshua. It is said in appreciation for The Land of Israel:

No-deh l'cha
A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu,
al she-hin-chal-ta la-a-vo-tei-nu
e-rets chem-dah to-vah ur-cha-vah.
V'al she-ho-tsei-ta-nu
A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu
mei-e-rets mits-ra-yim,
uf-di-ta-nu mi-beit a-va-dim,
v'al b'ri-t'cha she-cha-tam-ta biv-sa-rei-nu,
v'al to-ra-t'cha she-li-mad-ta-nu,
v'al chu-ke-cha she-ho-da-ta-nu,
v'al chai-yim chein va-che-sed she-cho-nan-ta-nu,
v'al a-chi-lat ma-zon she-a-tah zan um-far-neis o-ta-nu ta-mid,
b'chawl^yom uv-chawl^eit uv-chawl^sha-ah.

On Chanukah and on Purim, an extra paragraph is inserted here.

V'al ha-kol
A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu a-nach-nu mo-dim lach,
um-va-r'chim o-tach,
yit-ba-rach shim-cha b'fi kawl chai ta-mid l'o-lam va-ed.
v'a-chal-ta v'sa-va-ta,
et A-do-nai E-lo-he-cha,
al ha-a-rets ha-to-vah a-sher na-tan lach.
Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai,
al ha-a-rets v'al ha-ma-zon.
  ( A-mein. )

The third benediction is traditionally attributed to King David with later modifications attributed to King Solomon. It is said in appreciation for Jerusalem and the Temple:

Ra-cheim na A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu al Yis-ra-eil a-me-cha,
v'al Y'ru-sha-la-yim i-re-cha,
v'al Tsi-yon mish-kan k'vo-de-cha,
v'al mal-chut beit Da-vid m'shi-che-cha,
v'al ha-ba-yit ha-ga-dol v'ha-ka-dosh she-nik-ra shim-cha a-lav.
E-lo-hei-nu A-vi-nu r'ei-nu zu-nei-nu
par-n'sei-nu v'chal-k'lei-nu v'har-vi-chei-nu,
v'har-vach la-nu A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu
m'hei-rah mi-kawl tsa-ro-tei-nu.
V'na al tats-ri-chei-nu A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu,
v'lo li-dei ma-t'nat ba-sar v'dam,
v'lo li-dei hal-va-a-tam,
ki im l'ya-d'cha ha-m'lei-ah ha-p'tu-chah ha-k'do-shah v'ha-r'cha-vah,
she-lo nei-vosh v'lo ni-ka-leim l'o-lam va-ed.
On the Sabbath insert:
R'tsei v'ha-cha-li-tsei-nu
A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu
uv-mits-vat yom ha-sh'vi-i
ha-sha-bat ha-ga-dol
v'ha-ka-dosh ha-zeh,
ki yom zeh ga-dol v'ka-dosh hu l'fa-ne-cha,
lish-bat bo v'la-nu-ach bo
b'a-ha-vah k'mits-vat r'tso-ne-cha,
u-vir-tso-n'cha ha-ni-ach la-nu
A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu,
she-lo t'hei tsa-rah v'ya-gon va-a-na-chah
b'yom m'nu-cha-tei-nu,
v'har-ei-nu A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu
b'ne-che-mat Tsi-yon i-re-cha,
uv-vin-yan Y'ru-sha-la-yim ir kawd-she-cha,
ki a-tah hu ba-al ha-y'shu-ot
u-va-al ha-ne-cha-mot.

An extra paragraph is inserted here on Rosh Chodesh, Festivals, and Rosh Hashanah.

Uv-nei Y'ru-sha-la-yim ir ha-ko-desh bim-hei-rah v'ya-mei-nu.
Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai,
bo-nei b'ra-cha-mav Y'ru-sha-la-yim. A-mein.
( A-mein. )

The fourth benediction is said in appreciation for divine goodness. It was written by Rabban Gamliel and added during Roman times, when the persecution was so bad that Judaism's continued existence became doubtful. The immediate pretense for the additional text was the occasion of getting permission to bury Jewish bodies.

Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai,
E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-o-lam,
a-vi-nu mal-kei-nu a-di-rei-nu bor-ei-nu go-a-lei-nu yots-rei-nu k'do-shei-nu
k'dosh Ya-a-kov,
ro-ei-nu, ro-ei Yis-ra-eil,
he-me-lech ha-tov v'ha-mei-tiv la-kol,
she-b'chawl yom va-yom hu hei-tiv,
hu-mei-tiv, hu yei-tiv la-nu.
Hu g'ma-la-nu, hu gom-lei-nu, hu yig-m'lei-nu la-ad,
l'chein ul-che-sed ul-ra-cha-mim ul-re-vach,
ha-tsa-lah v'hats-la-chah,
b'ra-cha vi-shu-ah, ne-cha-mah par-na-sah v'chal-ka-lah,
v'ra-cha-mim v'chai-yim v'sha-lom v'chawl tov,
u-mi-kawl tov l'o-lam al y'chas-rei-nu.

The Grace After Meals concludes with a number of appended petitions and closing sentiments.

hu yim-loch a-lei-nu l'o-lam va-ed.

hu yit-ba-rach ba-sha-ma-yim u-va-a-rets.

Ha-ra-cha-man, hu yish-ta-bach l'dor do-rim,
v'yit-pa-ar ba-nu la-ad ul-nei-tsach n'tsa-chim,
v'yit-ha-dar ba-nu la-ad ul-ol-mei o-la-mim.

hu y'far-n'sei-nu b'cha-vod.

hu yish-bor u-lei-nu mei-al tsa-va-rei-nu,
v'hu yo-li-chei-nu ko-m'mi-yot l'ar-tsei-nu.

hu yish-lach b'ra-chah m'ru-bah ba-ba-yit ha-zeh,
v'al shul-chan zeh she-a-chal-nu a-lav.

hu yish-lach la-nu et E-li-ya-hu ha-na-vi,
za-chor la-tov, v'va-ser^la-nu b'so-rot to-vot,
y'shu-ot v'ne-cha-mot.

hu y'va-reich
In your own home:


v'et < ish-ti | ba-a-li > ]
v'et zar-i ]
v'et kawl a-sher li.
If you are a guest:

 [ a-vi mo-ri ]
ba-al ha-ba-yit ha-zeh,
[ i-mi mo-ra-ti ]
ba-a-lat ha-ba-yit ha-zeh,
o-tam v'et bei-tam v'et zar-am
v'et kawl a-sher la-hem,
If others besides your family and your host's family are present, add:

v'et^kawl^ham-su-bin kan,

o-ta-nu v'et^kawl^a-sher la-nu,
k'mo she-nit-bar-chu a-vo-tei-nu
Av-ra-ham Yits-chak v'Ya-a-kov
ba-kol mi-kol kol,

kein y'va-reich o-ta-nu,
ku-la-nu ya-chad,
biv-ra-chah sh'lei-mah, v'no-mar a-mein.

ba-ma-rom y'lam-du [a-lei-hem v'-] a-lei-nu z'chut,
shet-hei l'mish-me-ret sha-lom.
V'ni-sa v'ra-chah mei-eit A-do-nai,
uts-da-kah mei-E-lo-hei yish-ei-nu,
v'nim-tsa chein v'sei-chel tov
b'ei-nei E-lo-him v'a-dam.
On the Sabbath:
Ha-ra-cha-man, hu yan-chi-lei-nu yom she-ku-lo Sha-bat
um-nu-chah l'chai-yei ha-o-la-mim.
On Rosh Chodesh:
Ha-ra-cha-man, hu y'cha-deish a-lei-nu et ha-cho-desh ha-zeh
l'to-vah v'liv-ra-chah.
On festivals:
Ha-ra-cha-man, hu yan-chi-lei-nu yom she-ku-lo tov.
On Rosh Hashanah:
Ha-ra-cha-man, hu y'cha-deish a-lei-nu et ha-sha-nah ha-zot
l'to-vah v'liv-ra-chah.
On Sukkot:
Ha-ra-cha-man, hu ya-kim la-nu
et su-kat Da-vid ha-no-fa-let.

Ha-ra-cha-man, hu y'za-kei-nu li-mot ha-ma-shi-ach
ul-chai-yei ha-o-lam ha-ba.
On ordinary days:
On days when musaf is recited: Mig-dol

y'shu-ot mal-ko
v'o-seh che-sed lim-shi-cho,
l'Da-vid ul-zar-o ad o-lam.
O-seh sha-lom bim-ro-mav,
hu ya-a-seh Sha-lom a-lei-nu
v'al kawl Yis-ra-eil,
v'im-ru a-mein.

Y'ru et A-do-nai, k'do-shav,
ki ein mach-sor li-rei-av.
K'fi-rim ra-shu v'ra-ei-vu,
v'dor-shei A-do-nai lo yach-s'ru chawl tov.
Ho-du La-do-nai ki tov,
ki l'o-lam chas-do.
Po-tei-ach et ya-de-cha,
u-mas-bi-a l'chawl^chai ra-tson.
Ba-ruch ha-ge-ver a-sher yiv-tach ba-do-nai,
v'ha-yah A-do-nai miv-ta-cho.
Na-ar ha-yi-ti gam za-kan-ti,
v'lo ra-i-ti tsa-dik ne-e-zav,
v'zar-o m'va-kesh^la-chem.
A-do-nai oz l'a-mo yi-tein,
A-do-nai y'va-reich et a-mo va-sha-lom.

Judaism prescribes fixed benedictions for specific occasions that can occur anywhere and anytime.  

  • Some express praise and gratitude.  
  • Others focus kavanah (meditative intent) in preparation for performing a mitzvah (fulfilling a divine commandment).  
  • Others are associated with eating specific foods.
  • And one is petitionary (Tefilas haDerech) and is associated with travelling.   

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Copyright © 1998, 2000 by Jordan Lee Wagner.

revision date: 7/30/2000

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