Grace before Meals
GRACE BEFORE MEALS
The rabbis required a blessing before partaking of food since they considered it sacrilegious to "enjoy of this world without a prior benediction" (Ber. 35a). They instituted separate blessings for the various species of food, of which those over bread and wine are considered the most important. The blessing for bread, "Who bringest forth bread from the earth" (Ha-moẓi leḥem min ha-areẓ; Ber. 6:1), is based upon Psalms 104:14, and, when recited at the start of a meal, exempts one from the obligation to recite most additional blessings for the remaining courses (Sh. Ar., oḤ 177). Since this blessing is often the only one recited before a meal, the popular term for the grace before meals is Moẓi. The blessing for wine, "Who createst the fruit of the vine ("Bore peri ha-gafen"; Ber. 6:1), is recited, even when the wine is drunk in the course of the repast and not at the beginning (Sh. Ar., oḤ 175, and see also 176).
Although the actual formulation of the blessings before meals was delineated during rabbinic times, the practice itself is of ancient origin. Thus in i Samuel 9:13 there is a reference to the people waiting for the prophet to bless the sacrifice before they would partake of its flesh. Josephus describes the grace before the meal recited by the *Essenes (Jos., Wars, 2:131). The rabbis attached great importance to the proper recitation of these blessings, and the father of R. Simeon b. Zevid was praised "as being a great man and well versed in the benedictions" (Ber. 38a).
Hertz, Prayer, 984–95; Idelsohn, Liturgy, 122; E. Levy, Yesodot ha-Tefillah (19522), 279–81.