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Who composed the Grace after Meal?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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The obligating to express gratitude to G-d after eating a satiating meal is stated clearly in the Torah—“and you will eat and be sated, and you shall bless the L-rd, your G-d, for the good land He has given you."1

The Talmudic Sages2   extrapolated3   from this verse that the grace must contain three components.  It must include gratitude to G-d for

a) the food consumed,

b) the Holy Land, and

c) Jerusalem.4  

Thus the first three blessings of the Grace are a biblical obligation.5   Originally, however, every person worded these blessings in whichever manner he saw fit. There was no standard text, or even a set general structure for these blessings.

When the construction of the First Temple was completed, King Solomon added to this blessing mention of the Temple; Jerusalem’s crown jewel
Structure – i.e. which general concepts must be included – was added to the first three blessings in stages:

•    When the Manna first came down from heaven, Moses developed the first blessing—thanking G-d for sustenance.

•    When the Jewish people entered Israel, Joshua structured the second blessing—thanking G-d for the Land.

•    When King David was coronated in Jerusalem, he composed the basic outline of the third blessing—thanking G-d for Jerusalem. When the construction of the First Temple was completed, King Solomon added to this blessing mention of the Temple; Jerusalem’s crown jewel.

When the Men of the Great Assembly instituted a standard prayer text, they did the same with the Grace After Meals. They developed a basic text for these three blessing, the text which is in use to this very day.

The fourth and final blessing of the Grace is wholly rabbinic and was instituted – structure and text – by the Sanhedrin in the city of Yavneh in 3908 (148 CE). This blessing, praising G-d for being “good and beneficent” was instituted to commemorate the tremendous miracle which occurred when the Romans allowed the dead of Beitar to be buried. See What is Tu b’Av? for an account of this miracle.

Footnotes

  • 1. Deuteronomy 8:10.
  • 2. Berachot 48b.
  • 3. See “What exactly is the Oral Torah?” . (http://www.askmoses.com/en/article/259,2065791/Who-composed-the-Grace-after-Meal.html)
  • 4. Although Jerusalem isn’t mentioned by name in the Five Books of Moses, it seems that the biblical obligation is to thank G-d for choosing a city wherein He would rest His Name—a concept mentioned numerous times in the Pentateuch. Eventually it became clear that this hitherto nameless city was Jerusalem.
  • 5. There is an opinion that the requirement to recite three blessings after eating food is not biblical—the biblical mitzvah is satisfied by saying one blessing. Rather, it is a rabbinic institution which received added credence when the biblical verse was found to allude to this requirement (Beit Yoseph Orach Chaim 191).

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Mitzvot » Blessings

Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Grace After Meals
Biblically mandated prayer, consisting of four blessings, recited after eating more than an ounce of bread.
Joshua
1. Assumed the leadership of the Jewish people after Moses died in 1267 BCE. He split the Jordan River and led the Jewish people in their conquest of the Promised Land. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, which chronicles Joshua's leadership.
Sanhedrin
The Jewish Supreme Court. The court would convene in a designated chamber in the Holy Temple, and was comprised of 71 of the greatest scholars of the time. Continued after the destruction of the Temples, but was dissolved in the 5th century when due to Roman persecution the seat of Torah scholarship relocated from Israel to Babylon.
Moses
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Men of the Great Assembly
An institution of 120 rabbis who led the Jewish people at the onset of the Second Temple Era. They canonized the 24 books of the Bible and composed most of the prayers we have today. This institution lasted approximately 200 years.
Jerusalem
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.
David
King of Israel who succeeded Saul, becoming king of Israel in 876 BCE. Originally a shepherd, he became popular after he killed the Philistine strongman, Goliath. He is the progenitor of the Davidic royal dynasty -- which will return to the throne with the arrival of King Messiah.
Solomon
Son of King David, and succeeded him on the throne of Israel in the year 836 BCE. he was the wisest man to ever live. He built the first Holy Temple and authored several books of the Bible.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.