The written Torah does not command us to recite blessings before food

In his D’var Torah this week, the Chief Rabbi highlights that there is no Mitzvah in the Torah for us to recite a blessing before we eat our food.

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Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis,

Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
טוויטר

There is no Mitzvah in the Torah to recite a blessing before eating food.

In this week’s Parasha of Eikev, we learn that the Mitzvah of the Torah is to say the blessing after eating food – ‘Veachaltah Vesavata Uveirachta Et Hashem Elokecha’, ‘And you shall eat, and you will be satisfied, and then you will bless’. From there we learn about the Mitzvah of Bentsching (Grace after meals).

The Gemarah in Mesechet Berachot (21a) tells us, that our Rabbis deduce from here a ‘Kal Vechomer’ – if we have to bless after we eat, ‘how much more so’ should we bless before we eat?

And then our Rabbis contrast this to the study of the Torah. You see, there is a Mitzvah in the Torah to make a blessing before we study it. There the Gemarah says, ‘if we recite a Brachabefore we study Torah, then Kal Vechomer, how much more so, should we offer a blessing at the conclusion of the study of the Torah.


‘When it comes to physical delights in this world, when we are starved of something – we really look forward to it with a sense of passion and anticipation’
What sense can we make of this? I’d like to explain as follows…

When it comes to physical delights in this world, when we are starved of something – we really look forward to it with a sense of passion and keen anticipation.

So, for example, if we’re hungry and we’re looking forward to a meal, nobody needs to tell us that we are appreciative of what Hashem has been doing for us. It’s after the meal, however, that we need the Mitzvah, we need to Bentcsh, especially, if perhaps, the journey has been better than the destination and the meal has not been that brilliant. And seeing as we have that Mitzvah to bless God afterwards, how much more so should we bless God beforehand, when we appreciate what we’re just about to have.

With regard to the study of Torah, it’s just the opposite. You see, after I learn, that’s when I appreciate it. That’s when I’ve had an exhilarating Shuir, an incredibly fulfilling Chavruta or a wonderful experience when I’ve opened a Sefer and I’ve learnt by myself. But before I learn, to try and get to that point, sometimes I need to be stimulated, sometimes I need to be inspired to do it – it’s not easy. So, therefore, if I have a Mitzvah to bless God before I learn, Kal Vechomer, how much more so, at the conclusion of the study?

That’s why there is a Mitzvah to inspire and to get us going, but afterwards, it’s natural to feel satisfied and to be grateful to Hashem.

So therefore, we find that when it comes to spiritual delights in this world, they by far transcend physical delights. This very notion is encapsulated in yet another important verse in this week’s Parasha: ‘Ki Lo Al Halechem Levado Yichye Ha’adam Ki Al Kol Motzah Phi Hashem Yichye Ha’adam’, ‘People  don’t live by bread alone, rather we attain meaningful living through following and through studying the word of Hashem’.