About Brachot (Blessings)
Brachot (blessings) are short texts the Talmud instituted to be recited before sampling the pleasures of this world. What is the reason for making a bracha?
Jews recognize the Almighty as the Creator of the Universe. And we marvel and wonder at His creation. We see all of creation – animal life, plant life, the earth itself and the heavenly bodies – as sacred and in some sense untouchable. After all, they are the direct products of God Himself.
However, God also created the human race. And He permits humanity to use His world; that is, as long as the appreciation of God’s creation and of the sanctity of His handiwork are not lost in the process.
To assure that man will be able to avail himself of nature and yet retain his awe for its Creator, we are enjoined to recite the brachot.
With this teaching in mind, we can appreciate the philosophy behind the brachot. Our Sages have carefully authored brachot for all kinds of fruits and vegetables, for water and for wine, for bread and for fragrant spices; for the wonders of nature, be they of impressive beauty such as the sea or be they awesome and fearful such as thunder, lightning or even earthquakes; and even for individual experiences, such as seeing once again a place where one had experienced a personal miracle.
Every time that Jews utter a bracha, they do so out of a sense of gratitude which takes account of the role that God plays in their lives. When they awaken in the morning they thank God for their renewed health and vigor. Before they retire at night, they thank God for the day’s energy and request a gentle night’s sleep. When faced with a piece of bread, fruit, meat, or a drink, the gratitude they experience is one which contains a sense of closeness to God.
We thus see that the few simple words of the bracha, which are typically recited even by the youngest of children in traditional Jewish households, contain some of the most sophisticated religious ideas and principles. Unfortunately, these ideas are sometimes lost in the concentration on the detailed halachot which determine precisely which bracha and which words should be recited upon the various components of nature.
These details can indeed be quite complex. And even a scholarly Jew may need a guide book to determine exactly the correct bracha to recite. This page, and this chart listing hundreds of common foods and the appropriate brachot to recite over them, provide such a set of guidelines for Jews of all educational backgrounds. You now have the opportunity to concentrate on reciting the blessings with more kavana, which means attention and intent. But kavana also means a keen awareness of the deeper religious message contained in the brachot such as we have outlined above.
Adapted from the Preface to Guide to Blessings: The Brachot for Various Foods by Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb
Brachot Rishonot (First Blessings)
The texts of the brachot rishonot are short and begin with the formula ברוך אתה ה’ אלהינו, מלך העולם (Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech Haolam…; Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe…). A general explanation of each bracha appears below. Click here for a detailed chart listing hundreds of common foods and their brachot.
|Food Item||Beracha Rishona||Transliteration||Translation|
|Bread and bread products. (What is kosher bread?)||המוציא לחם מן הארץ||…hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz||…Who brings forth bread from the earth.|
|Products of the Five Principal Species that are not bread, such as most cakes, pretzels, and crackers||בורא מיני מזונות||…borei minei mezonot||…Who creates varieties of grain.|
|Wine and grape juice||בורא פרי הגפן||…borei pri hagefen||…Who creates the fruits of the vine.|
|Fruits and nuts||בורא פרי העץ||…borei pri ha’eitz||…Who creates the fruits of the tree.|
|Most vegetables, legumes, melons, and berries||בורא פרי האדמה||…borei pri ha’adamah||…Who creates the fruits of the earth.|
|All other foods, including meat, fish, cheese, chocolate, mushrooms, and many beverages.||שהכל נהיה בדברו||…shehakol nehiyeh bid’varo||…Everything came into being by His word.|
Brachot Acharonot (After Blessings)
Recited after a meal that included bread. Click for Text.
This shortened version of Birkat Hamazon is recited after grain products (other than bread) and fruits or fruit products of the seven species (grapes, olives, pomegranates, dates, and figs).
Since the bracha includes tertiated introductory and concluding phrases based on the food eaten, it is often referred to as either Al Hamichya, Al Hagefen, or Al Ha’eitz.
Recited after all other foods. Click for text.