One of the most important prayers in Judaism and one of the very few that the Bible
commands us to recite, is never recited during synagogue services. That prayer is the birkat ha-mazon, grace after meal.
In Deuteronomy 8:10 we are commanded that, when we eat and are satisfied, we must bless the Eternal, our God. This commandment is simply fulfilled by reciting a birkat ha-mazon (blessing of the food) after each meal. Reciting birkat ha-mazon is commonly referred to as bentsching, from the Yiddish word meaning „to bless.“
Importantly, the grace after meals is recited in addition to the various brachot over food recited before our meals (e.g. Ha-Motzi). The most well known birkat ha-mazon consists of four blessings, three of which are dated back by our tradition to the time of Ezra and the Great Assembly (around 500-300 BCE) and a fourth which was added after the destruction of the Temple (70 CE). These blessings are:
· Birkat Hazan (the blessing for providing food), which thanks God for giving food to the world,
· Birkat Ha-Aretz (the blessing for the land), which thanks God for bringing us forth from the land of Egypt, for making God’s covenant with us, and for giving us the land of Israel as an inheritance,
· Birkat Yerushalayim (the blessing for Jerusalem), which prays for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the coming of the messianic time; and
· Birkat Ha-Tov v’Ha-Maytiv (the blessing for being good and doing good). It emphasises the goodness of God’s work, that God is good and does good.
In addition to these four blessings, the full birkat ha-mazon incorporates many psalms and additional blessings for various special occasions (weddings, holidays, guests, etc.)
If you would like to hear the birkat ha-mazon sung and a download of a full version of the text, please click here: https://bit.ly/2UtWfXl (reformjudaim.org). You can also find there a shortened version, which is a wonderful way to start incorporating bentsching into your home rituals.
Rabbi Adrian M Schell
(Source: Jewish FAQ/ReformJudaism.org)