Jesus and the Hebrew Blessing for Bread

A Blessing Before A Meal

At our house, like many others we have a tradition of saying grace before we eat. We pause and thank God for His provision, for our “daily bread”. Often it is a short prayer, sometimes it is a longer one. Occasionally when our daughter prays she says a simple blessing in Hebrew that I taught her. A prayer that was familiar to Jesus and his first century followers. A prayer that is still familiar to the Jewish people today.

Jesus Makes A Blessing

Though we don’t have the words that Jesus said recorded in Matthew 14, we can be pretty sure we know what they were.

As evening approached the disciples came to Jesus and suggested he send the crowd home so they could find food for themselves. But Jesus had something else in mind.

Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish, instructed the crowd of 5,000 men plus women and children to sit down and made a b’rakhah, a blessing.

And if he said the traditional blessing for meals that include bread he said:

Barukh attah, Adonai Eloheynu, Melekh-ha’olam, haMotzi lechem min ha’aretz.

(Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth)

Two Prayers At Meals

The Jewish tradition is that there are two blessings at meals. The first one, like the one above is short. A longer grace (Birkat-HaMazon) is said after the meal. Thanking God for something that has been received and appreciated.

This makes practical sense as well. If the prayer before the meal is too long and our stomachs are empty, our mind can wonder from heaven to the table.

Blessing God Or Blessing Food?

A second thing to note is the object of the blessing. In our Christian prayers we often ask God to “bless the food to our bodies”. When you stop and think about this it is odd. Why do we ask God to bless the food. The food is already God’s blessing to us. Rather, shouldn’t we bless God and thank him for providing it for us.

How often when we pray do we just repeat words and phrases that we have heard others pray without pausing to think about what those words mean?


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