Giving Thanks Together

Question

Dear Rabbi, I have a question about Grace after Meals. I’ve seen people who just say the regular Grace after Meals, but I’ve also seen people who add an introduction before saying it. Could you please explain this? Thanks.

2 months

Answers

  1. When three or more adults “break bread” together, they are obligated to also recite the Grace after Meals together, to give expression to the fact that they ate communally. Since they enjoyed the meal together as a unit, it is proper that they say Grace after Meals to thank God for the food as a unit as well. The “zimun,” as it is called, follows this pattern:

    Leader: My friends, let us say the blessing.

    The others answer: May the name of the Lord be blessed from now and forever more.

    The leader continues: May the name of the Lord be blessed from now and forever more. With permission of the distinguished people present — Let us bless Him whose food we have eaten.

    The others say: Blessed is He whose food we have eaten and through whose goodness we live.

    Then, the leader recites the blessing on behalf of the others, who respond “Amen,” and thereby make his blessing their own.

    In seeking food — more than in anything else — a person tends to think only of himself, and every man competes with his fellow man. The communal element in the meal and in the recitation of the blessing reminds us of God’s goodness, which is directed simultaneously and in equal measure. The first blessing, which is customarily recited aloud by the leader, concludes: “Blessed are You, God, who provides food to all.” We are thus liberated from selfish thoughts.

    Indeed, this is a fitting conclusion to the entire process of nourishment — from planting the first grain of wheat to blessing God for his bounty after the meal. At every step we are reminded of our obligations to our fellow man. For on the Jewish field, no seed ripens for the owner alone. Precisely where selfish desires may enter, we are instructed to sanctify. When the landowner works his land and gathers his produce, he sets aside the gifts to the Kohen and the Levi. He gives ma’aser, a tenth of his produce, to the Levi to sustain him in his service of God. The landowner is cautioned to leave a corner of his field for the poor, along with bundles that were inadvertently forgotten. Finally, when the grain is processed and turned into dough, before it is baked into bread, challah is removed for the Kohen.

    Thus, the entire process of nourishment culminates with communal recognition of the One God, “through whose goodness we live.”

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team