Sunday, July 18, 2010

Top Secret Rules?

After eating a meal with bread (or any meal really) there are a series of prayers that we say, a type of Grace After Meals, that Jews call bensching. You go to b'nai mitzvah, you go to weddings, you go to any kind of simcha and you walk away with a little book full of prayers and blessings and the Birkat Ha'Mazon.

Every Shabbos, or even when I'm out with friends, I've noticed something: I take lightyears longer than every other Jew on the planet to bensch. Now, I read my Hebrew really quick, but I read it all. I've noticed people flipping pages faster than Forrest Gump running cross-country.

Am I missing something? Am I not privy to the top secret rule that there really are parts you don't need to read? Am I wasting my time going through the entire series of prayers? What am I missing? Is there a set of rules on what is "required" and what isn't?


(Note: I also wonder this about prayers in synagogue, too, as sometimes I find myself ahead of people in the Shemonai Esrei and then suddenly they're done and I'm like "wah!?")

(Second Note: I've always wondered where the word bensch comes from, and I always assumed it was Yiddish. Turns out it is Yiddish, but it derives from Latin, not German or Hebrew. How bizarre! It means to bless or make a bracha, but generally it's used when referring to saying the Birkat HaMazon, or blessing after meals.)