Have you ever forgotten to tip the waiter after eating at a restaurant? Probably not, because that’s society’s conventional manner of thanking the wait-staff. While we do not usually have the opportunity to thank the chefs or the farmers (or any of the other people involved in the provision of food), every Jew has the opportunity--and the obligation--to thank God for providing the food.
“Grace After Meals,” known in Hebrew as Birkat Ha’mazon and in Yiddish as Bentching, reminds us that we need to express our gratitude after eating. Birkat Ha’mazon is recited after any meal with bread, for which one would also have washed their hands and recited the ha’mo’tzee blessing over the bread. (There are shorter blessings that are recited following a snack.)
The mitzvah of making a blessing after food is a direct Torah commandment. “You will eat and be satisfied, and bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you” (Deuteronomy 8:10).
In actuality, Birkat Ha’mazon is a series of blessings composed by the sages.
The first blessing thanks God for giving food to the world.
The second blessing thanks God for taking the Jews out of Egypt, establishing His covenant with us and giving us the Land of Israel.
The third blessing prays for Jerusalem. After the destruction of the Temple, the words were amended to reflect a longing for the rebuilding of the city and for the coming of the Messiah.
The fourth blessing emphasizes the constant good that God renders to humankind. (This blessing was added by the rabbis approximately 65 years after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans.)
There are also special paragraphs recited on Shabbat and holidays.