Each week we discuss one familiar halakhic practice and try to show its beauty and meaning. The columns are based on Rabbi Meir's commentary Meaning in Mitzvot on Kitzur Shulchan Arukh.
ORDER OF BLESSINGS
Our parsha contains the Torah mitzva of birkhat hamazon, the grace after meals.This is the only blessing on food which is mandated by the Torah, but serves as one source for the Rabbinical commandment to make a berakha before any food (Berakhot 48b).
When faced with a variety of foods, we give precedence to certain blessings according to a complex ordering which depends on various measures of the importance of the food (for instance, if it is one of the “seven species”, or if it is whole), the importance of the blessing (more specific blessings have precedence), as well as on personal preference (Shulchan Arukh OC 211).
Choosing a son-in-law
This particular “examination” has a beautiful hidden message. The halakha itself establishes that one of the most important criteria determining the order of berakhot is a person’s own taste. So part of the exam involves discovering the guest’s likes and dislikes. The Jewish father is anxious to know his prospective son-in-law’s Torah knowledge, but at the same time he wants to know how the young man is able to integrate Torah scholarship with his own personality and preferences.
Rabbi Meir HAS JUST COMPLETED writing a monumental companion to Kitzur Shulchan Aruch which beautifully presents the meanings in our mitzvot and halacha.
Rabbi Meir authors a popular weekly on-line Q&A column, "The Jewish Ethicist", which gives Jewish guidance on everyday ethical dilemmas in the workplace. The column is a joint project of the JCT Center for Business Ethics, Jerusalem College of Technology - Machon Lev; and Aish HaTorah. You can see the Jewish Ethicist, and submit your own questions, at www.jewishethicist.com or at www.aish.com.