“Bless This Food”

For some reason, I woke up hearing the words of many people’s prayers just prior to a meal, “Lord, bless this food that you have given to us…” It just won’t get out of my head. So, I thought I would just give some insight to this little phrase, and explain how this is sort of an oxymoron (and I’m not talking about myself on the ‘moron’ part!).

In Jewish thought, this is a foreign concept — and for good reason. Why? Well, let’s think about what we are saying. We are asking God to bless (in a sense “make better”) what He has already given us. When we ask the Lord to “bless” the food which He has given us, it’s almost a slap in the face.

Think of it this way… “Blessings are for kids, silly rabbit.” Yes, I’m playing off of the advertising slogan “Trix are for kids, silly rabbit.” But that’s the point. Blessings are for people, not for things. Blessings are to confer health, prosperity, longevity, etc. They are never to confer “edibility” or “nutritiousness.”

Yeshua sets this example when he breaks bread:

Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves.
Mark 6:41 (NIV)

In this case, the NIV has rendered this passage more accurately than other translations. The NASB renders it as follows: “And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves…” However, in the Greek the object of the blessing is missing. It simply states “He blessed.” It is assumed by the translators that the object of the blessing is the food, since this is our Western tradition. However, this would have been as foreign to Yeshua as bacon with his eggs. The object of blessing, especially in the case of food, is Hashem.

Paul agrees with this line of thinking and clearly states this when he says the following:

“For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”
1 Timothy 4:4 & 5

  • The food is to be received with thanksgiving — a prayer of thankfulness, which is the traditional Jewish bracha, which traditionally begins “Blessed are You, oh Lord, our God, King of the Universe…” — not “bless this food”
  • because it is consecrated (set apart, designated, distinguished) by the word of God (Vayikra / Leviticus 11; Devarim / Deuteronomy 14)
  • and prayer. Consecrated by prayer, not blessed. One cannot bless what God detests and calls an abomination.

Let’s remember to bless Hashem for his provision, and not try to tell Him that what He has given us is not good enough.

Blessed are You, oh Lord, our God, King of the Universe Who brings forth food from the earth.

Lo B’shamayim Hi

Well, after a couple of hours discussion with a friend who knows the Torah and Talmudic writings far better than I, and reexamining the Scriptures and the original Talmudic source regarding the impurity of Akhnai’s Oven, I have come to some clear understandings of things that were unclear previously regarding rabbinic teachings. I plan on sharing a full discourse on this soon, but in the meantime am planning a formal apology for even mentioning Avi ben Mordechai’s Galatians book on my site. I am continuing to research this information, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that I am going to have to refute this and other such works as being in opposition to the written Scriptures (which they claim to be upholding).

If you would like to begin doing your own homework in the meantime, read the account of Akhnai’s [clay] Oven and the argument between Eliezer ben Hyrcanus and the other rabbis. Before you do, however, re-read Vayikra/Leviticus 11:29-38 and Devarim/Deuteronomy 13. Then, make sure you read a version of the account that mentions the rulings of Eliezer and the rabbis before they delve into the argument. I think things will start becoming apparent from there. I’ll post more when I have time.

-Shalom

Update: A followup to this post can be found here:
http://www.diggingwithdarren.com/blog/2006/04/15/akhnais-oven/
(This link has been fixed. 03/11/2009)

Terumah

Exodus 25:1 – 27:19

Here are some general thoughts on the parashat Terumah

In this Torah Portion we find the call for the building of the Mishkan (משׁכן, Tabernacle). In the opening line we hear Hashem speaking to Moshe:

“Speak to the Children of Israel and let them take for Me a portion (terumah, תרומה), from every man whose heart motivates him you shall take My portion.”

I believe this is they key phrase for understanding this parashah, as well as the entire building of the Mishkan.

Here we find Hashem desiring something to come into existence — the Mishkan, the place where He will meet with His people. It is to be a holy place, a place like none other. It is to be a place of perfection that will emulate the Heavenly courts (see the book of Hebrews & Midrash Rabba) in as many aspects as humanly possible. So, the question is, why did Hashem not create this edifice Himself? Why did He have man build it, rather than saying, “Let there be the mishkan!” Why did he use human agents to create such a reflection of the heavenlies?

I think there are several reasons for this. The first being that since the creation of mankind, Hashem has used man to accomplish His will on this earth. Instead of doing everything on His own, He has chosen to enter into “partnership” with man in achieving His purposes. We have a role to play in the work of the Malchut (Kingdom), and we need to be about it.

Secondly, with an entire nation coming together for the common purpose of building a dwelling place for their Redeemer, they have a common purpose. This effectively builds community. They have to rub shoulders, work side-by-side, communicate and forgive. They had to build relationships. They had to build trust. They had to be vulnerable. If this massive structure were to ever be completed, it would require the cooperation of many thousands of people. Without a common purpose and without communication, community cannot effectively be cultivated. Hashem knew this in His plan for the construction of the Mishkan.

Lastly, they had to make a personal investment. They had to invest not only their resources, but their time. And it wasn’t forced on them. Remember the words, “from every man whose heart motivates him”? Hashem didn’t coerce those who didn’t want to participate. However, there were benefits for those who chose to do so. Let me give you an example.

How did you get your first vehicle? Did you work to earn the money to purchase it, or was it given to you? From whichever perspective you came from, have you noticed the other perspective? Generally, those to whom things of great value are given, versus earned are treated with less value than they are actually worth. Why? Because the person receiving them hasn’t seen the value in the object due to their lack of investment. Here’s another example. Have you ever built a house? If so, you probably would have a much harder time selling it than a pre-existing house that you merely purchased. Why? Because you have invested blood, sweat and tears into it. We can appreciate much more what we have made an investment into.

The same is true with relationships. While we would be hurt if we lost a casual friend, we would be in great mourning at the loss of a spouse or child or sibling. Why? Because of our investment. We have poured our lives into these lives, and our investment is great. This is what makes us vulnerable, risking the deep hurt that comes with that loss. But is also what makes us better. Intimate relationships make us smooth where we are rough, lighter when we are heavy, stronger when we are weak. Like a shared glass of wine, they make it twice as enjoyable if it is good, and half as bad when it is distasteful. Life was meant to be shared. Begin sharing it with someone today.