Baruch Hashem, R' Boruch Leff, a mechanech in Baltimore and writer for Yated, Aish.com, and other publications has given me permission to post a series of pieces which quote my rebbe, Rav Moshe Weinberger, from his book Are You Growing?, which is available on Aish's website at a 40% discount here. He asked me to point out that these pieces were not written by Rav Weinberger himself, but represent R' Leff's understanding of things Rav Weinberger said in various shiurim. Enjoy!
In many bentchers, the bircas hamazon is translated to mean ‘grace after meals.’ Why some translate the word bracha here to mean grace, when everywhere else the word blessing is used, is probably due to the fact that non-Jews call their prayers to G-d at meals, ‘giving grace.’ It really is a sad translation given that bentching accomplishes so much more than ‘giving grace.’ Let us learn.
Oros HaTeshuva (14:10) writes that if we have sinned in the area of eating, if wehave eaten for the wrong reasons, l’shem gashmiyus, even if we have eaten an achila gasah, gross overeating, we can always repent and transform the pesha, sin, into a shefa, abundant blessing (peshaand shefa have the same letters). Rav Moshe Weinberger, shlita,explains that this repentance can take place during bentching itself. Bentching helpsus sanctify the physical.
No matter howholy a person becomes, no matter how much focus he puts upon his soul and his spiritual growth, he must eat to survive. Whenever we eat, we necessarily admit that we are physical beings. We engage the material world and we enjoy bodily pleasure. In order to guarantee that we don’t become attached to the physical and move away from our previous spiritual state, we bentch.
In bircas hamazon, we state in the first blessing that Hashem nourishes the entire world, we then move to Hashem’s providing for Eretz Yisrael in the second bracha, and continue to the appreciation of Yerushalayim and the Beis HaMikdash in the third blessing. As we say the bentching, we progress in understanding Hashem’s involvement and Hashgacha to the entire world.
While eating,we were dealing only with ourselves and our needs; now, in bentching we have become involved with the entirety of the world,and especially with the totality of spirituality in the world—the Beis HaMikdash. This is our return and repentance. But our teshuva is notcomplete until we acknowledge that all suffering has a productive purpose that Hashem has in mind, even if we don’t understand it. This is the fourth bracha, HaTov VeHaMeitiv—despite the Jewish people’s defeat in Betar at the hands of the Romans, despite thesuffering, they did not feel abandoned by Hashem. Miracles are present even in destruction—the dead bodies laying for years in Betar did not decompose becauseHashem preserved them. Suffering has a productive purpose even if we don’tunderstand it.
The bircas hamazon is essentially a spiritual journey, a tour-de-force of connection with Hashem. If our physical eating distanced us from Him, the bentching brings us back. Rav Tzadok of Lublin writes that the source of all sin liesin eating with only physical pleasure in mind. Our constant challenge is tothink of our eating as a means to serve Hashem; eating to maintain our health and energy. The Gra in Even Shelaimah (2:2) says that if we eat with properintent it is considered as if we brought a korban,and any pleasure we derive from it is actually a mitzvah.
In addition, according to Kabbalah, there are sparks of holiness present in food which nourish the soul. But these sparks can only be released if we eat with holiness and sanctity. When we bentch we display the innate holiness inour previous eating and the sparks are then released.Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.