Grace After Meals
When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. — Deuteronomy 8:10
The parents of a young man who was tragically killed in military service were faithful congregants in a little church. One day, they came to their pastor and told him that they would like to make a significant contribution to the church in memory of their son who died in battle. The pastor commended them and said, “That’s a wonderful gesture on your part. Do you mind if I share this with the congregation?” The couple agreed, and so the next Sunday, the pastor told the congregation about the generous gift given in memory of the son.
On the way home from church, another couple was driving down the highway when the husband said to his wife, “Why don’t we give a gift because of our son?” His wife looked at him baffled and replied, “But our son didn’t die in any conflict! Our son is still alive!” Her husband explained, “That’s exactly my point! That’s all the more reason we ought to give thanks to God.”
This week’s Torah portion contains a spiritual practice unique to Judaism. Most religions of the world have the concept of saying some type of grace before eating to recognize that the food we have received is a generous gift from God and that we are grateful. The rabbis incorporated this practice into Judaism as well. However, the main practice regarding grace, the one that is mentioned in the Bible, is saying grace after we have eaten and we are satisfied. As Scripture says: “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.”
The concept of thanking God after receiving His gifts is not just relegated to food. As the subsequent verses explain, there is a danger in forgetting God when one becomes satisfied. This is pointed out a few verses later in Chapter 8: “When you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God . . .” (v. 12–14). The commandment to say grace after meals is also a commandment to thank God after you are blessed in any and all areas of your life.
We will always turn to God when we are troubled, however it is precisely when things are going well that we have to be no less diligent in turning to God — with our prayers, praises, and gratitude.