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Concerning Birkat HaMazon/Brachot Achronot


Rabbi David Sperling

Iyyar 7, 5775
Dear Rabbi, Is it proper for someone to choose not to eat bread from the outset, for the reason that he thus would not have to say Birkat HaMazon after the meal, but rather a shorter Bracha Achrona? (for example someone choosing to eat vegetables only, and not eat any bread (even though he would in principle like to eat bread) Or is this something that a person shouldn’t do? I’m also thinking about Dvarim 8,10 "VeAchalta VeSavata u’Verachta" , that it says that we shall be satiated, and bless Hashem. So I wonder if it is not actually not only commendable to become satiated (perhaps from bread if bread is what one desires?) but perhaps even required? Also, in the preceeding verses Dvarim 8,7-9 it says among other things "For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into a good land [...] a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it" I therefore wonder if it can be proper to decide not to eat bread, although one has a craving for it, for the only reason that one doesn’t want to say the longer Birkat HaMazon? Thank you!
Shalom, Thank you for your interesting question. You are correct in thinking that the essence of a meal is a meal with bread. Because of that all our "mitzvah meals", such as the Shabbat and Festival meals begin with the blessing over bread. A meal without bread is certainly considered as less of meal. However, one is not obligated to fix their meals on bread (except for the mitzvah meals we mentioned, such as on Shabbat etc). If one desires to eat bread then they get to say the Grace after Meals (Birkat HaMazon) which is a Torah blessing (as you wrote), and of great importance. Someone who does not eat bread misses out on this blessing – but they are not in any way a sinner! I am sure there are great people whose eating habits revolve around their holy desire to say certain blessings – but most people are not on that level, and say blessings based on what food they desire to eat. As to someone who would like to eat bread but does not want to "go to the trouble" of having to wash and also say birkat ha'mazon, they are justified in their decision to have a breadless meal. In fact, if they know that because they are in a hurry they will not say birkat ha'mazon correctly, or with the proper concentration, it is not a bad idea to avoid the bread altogether. On the other hand, someone who is merely trying to avoid praising Hashem, needs to examine their overall approach to Torah and Mitzvot. As in all matters of religious growth, a lot depends on the person and the situation they in at that stage of their life. May we all be blessed with the strength and love to bless Hashem with all our souls.
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