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July 25, 2013 - Image 63

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-07-25

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Food For Thought

Parshat Eikev: Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25;
Isaiah 49:14-51:3.

0

ur good manners and proper
etiquette dictate that we show
our appreciation to the person
who prepared our meal by thanking our
spouse who whipped up a tasty dinner
amidst all the commotion in the house
— or sending compliments
to the chef at a restaurant.
But in parshat Eikev, we
are told to show our appre-
ciation not for the meal itself,
but for the food that made up
the meal.
With three Hebrew
verbs, v'achaltah, v'savatah,
u'verachtah, we are com-
manded, "When you have
eaten and have been made
content, give thanks to the
Lord, your God:'
We fulfill this commandment through
the recitation of Birkat HaMazon, often
translated into English as the Grace
After Meals.
The Kotzker Rebbe taught that recit-
ing Birkat HaMazon, or bentchen in
Yiddish, is the fundamental mitzvah
(commandment) in that all of us are
capable to feel grateful that the Earth
produced food for us to eat.
Expressing the thanksgiving themes
of Birkat HaMazon is an expression
of our deep gratitude to God that, like
reciting a blessing before the meal,
elevates the activity of eating from sim-
ply a physical routine into the realm of
the sacred.
When we feel content after a meal
and show our appreciation to not only
the cook, but also to God, we then make
the act of eating a spiritual act. The
Talmud, in fact, teaches that it is forbid-
den for anyone to enjoy anything in this
world without first uttering a blessing.
We educate our children about the
commercial process that brings our
food from the farm to our table. Too
often, we adults neglect to consider how
our food gets to our plates. But none of
that would have happened had God not
granted the rainfall to make those crops
grow so that we can eat and survive.
In our fast-paced world, we often eat
quickly when we can find a few avail-
able minutes, and we seldom make the

connection between our food and God's
goodness. Even when we sit down for a
longer eating experience, we are often
preoccupied with making sure our
children are eating or trying to be pro-
ductive with the business associate with
whom we're having a power
lunch.
We often put a lot of time
and thought into family reci-
pes, restaurant menus, cater-
ers, diets and how pretty the
wedding cake looked. But we
need to be thankful that we
even have food to eat.
While reciting Birkat
HaMazon is the norm at
many synagogue meals and
community events, it some-
times gets omitted when
we're in a hurry following our meals.
Being mindful of where our food comes
from and then thanking God with a few
moments of reflection and blessing will
ultimately make us more appreciative
of our food and cognizant that there are
those without such sustenance.
In Judaism, the table on which we eat
is considered holy because there is an
inherent holiness involved in our act of
eating. We should make certain to keep
this in mind each time we sit down to a
meal. Just as we consider the nutritional
characteristics of the food product we're
about to consume, whether it's kosher
and has any necessary allergens we
should be concerned with, we must also
consider that by God's grace we have
another meal to consume — for nour-
ishment as well as for tastiness.
Eating can be routine. But, let us take
on the ritual of thanking God after each
meal by reciting Birkat HaMazon. We
should continue to enjoy tasty meals
and delight in fine dining experiences,
but so, too, we should remember to give
thanks where thanks is due, both before
and after we eat. May we all be blessed
with much nourishment and apprecia-
tion in our lives. ❑

Rabbi Jason Miller is a local educator, entre-

preneur and blogger and director of Kosher

Michigan, a kosher certification agency.

Twitter: ®RabbiJason.

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July 25 • 2013

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