A Guide to Understanding a Bracha

There are different kinds of blessings or brachot in Judaism

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In Judaism, a Bracha is a blessing or benediction recited at specific times during services and rituals.  It is usually an expression of thanksgiving. A Bracha can also be said when someone experiences something that makes them feel like uttering a blessing, such as seeing a beautiful mountain range or celebrating the birth of a child.

Whatever the occasion, these blessings recognize the special relationship between God and humanity.

All religions have some way of offering praise to their deity, but there are some subtle and important differences among the various types of brachot.

Purpose of a Bracha 

Jews believe that God is the source of all blessings, so a Bracha acknowledges this connection of spiritual energy. Although it is fine to utter a Bracha in an informal setting, there are times during religious Jewish rites when a formal Bracha is appropriate. In fact, Rabbi Meir, a scholar of the Talmud, considered it the duty of every Jewish person to recite 100 Bracha daily.

Most formal brachot (the plural form of Bracha) begins with the invocation "blessed are you, Lord our God,” or in Hebrew “Baruch atah Adonai Eloheynu Melech haolam.” 

These are typically said during formal ceremonies such as weddings, mitzvahs and other holy celebrations and rituals. 

The expected response (from the congregation or others gathered for a ceremony) is "amen." 

Occasions for Reciting a Bracha

There are three main kinds of brachot:

  • Blessings said before eating. The motzi, which is the blessing said over bread, is one example of this kind of bracha. It is sort of like the Christian equivalent of saying grace before a meal. The specific words spoken during this bracha before eating will depend on the food being offered, but all will begin with "Blessed is the Lord our God, King of the world," or in Hebrew, "Baruch atah Adonai elokeinu Melech haolam." 
    Then, if you'll be eating bread you would add "who brings forth bread from the ground," or "hamotzie lechem myn ha'aretz." For more general foods like meat, fish or cheese, the person reciting the bracha would continue "everything was created from his words," which in Hebrew would sound like: "Shehakol Nihyah bidvaro." 
    • Blessings recited when performing a commandment, such as putting on ceremonial tefillin or lighting candles before the Sabbath. There are formal rules about when and how to recite these brachot (and when it is appropriate to answer "amen"), and each one has its own etiquette. Usually, a rabbi or other leader will begin the bracha during the correct point in the ceremony. It is considered a serious violation to interrupt someone during a bracha, or to say "amen" too early since it shows impatience and a lack of respect. 
    • Blessings that praise God or express gratitude. These are the more informal exclamations of prayer, which still express reverence but without the ritualized rules of more formal brachot. A bracha may also be uttered during a time of danger, to invoke God's protection.