On Saying Grace

I’m on vacation!!! So, while I’m away, I’m going to be posting some things that I wrote in the past. This one isn’t from me, but from the patriarch of our family who recently passed away. He shared this with us a few years ago and I wanted to share it again.

Shalom Mishpochah…

When I was working with the Immigration Service, I was often amazed to hear the reasons and excuses presented by applicants on why they should be naturalized as citizens of this great country. I would say that maybe 90% had no idea that this nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. In my office, I had a painting of Normal Rockwell showing a woman and her son in a restaurant praying – Saying Grace, and occasionally, I would glance up as if to remind them to look and ask a question or two, but like I said many did not.

I, too have gotten in the habit of Saying Grace before I eat a meal, regardless if it is at home, on the road or in a restaurant. I have checked and could not find anywhere in the Bible where I am instructed to pray before I eat.  However, in Deut. 8:10, we read that we are to eat and then pray –“and you shall eat, be satisfied, and bless the Lord your God.” 

Nowhere do we find an instruction to bless the Lord before we are satisfied, let alone before the first bite.  Yet that is exactly what so many of us quite appropriately do.

You see, the Bible never asks us to do the easy and the natural. In fact the Bible made the western civilization possible by introducing this revolutionary idea.  It is not only possible, but vital to overcome nature, particularly our own. 

When we potty train a toddler we make important progress in the quest to teach a young human that doing what is right is better than doing what comes naturally.  When a young person makes the holy commitment to remain chaste until marriage, he or she is doing what is right rather than what is natural.  When a man shows up for work every single day – on time—he is doing what is right rather than what is natural.  Soon after we are born, our parents direct us toward doing what is right.  For the rest of our lives, our goal should be to elevate ourselves above the natural.

Since hunger induces spiritual awareness, most sensitive humans feel the need to say a blessing before satisfying hunger.  Thus, we can be counted on to do so without instruction.  This, is in fact what both Christian and Jews do.  But it is unnatural for the satiated diner with bulging belly to pause prior to staggering away from the table, in order to express profound gratitude to the Creator.  That is precisely why God demands it of us, through His words in Deuteronomy.  It may not be the easiest thing, but we should strive to be good rather than to be natural, and to teach our children to make the same analyses. 

Shabbath Shalom everyone…

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