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Sunday, 27 September 2015

Cure your bentchaphobia!

Daf Yomi Nazir 36


There is an epidemic plaguing the frum community – a couple of mental health conditions unique to our population.  According to Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky, every Orthodox family contains at least one individual haunted by either Fleishiphobia or BentchaphobiaFleishiphobia is the fear of become fleishig.   No matter how cold a winter’s Shabbos may be, many people won’t touch as much as a potato in the cholent, for fear of chas v’shalom being unable to have pizza just as soon as Shabbos is over.

A related condition is Bentchaphobia.  “Is it mezonos?” they ask.  It looks like bread.  It smells like bread.  It feels like bread.  Let’s be brutally honest: it tastes like bread.  But G-d forbid it might actually be bread, because that, of course, would necessitate washing one’s hands and eventually reciting the entire four-and-a-half minute Birkat Hamazon (Grace After Meals).   
“I’ll just have the fruit plate.”

Rabbi Abahu quoted Rabbi Yochanan: Concerning any prohibition in the Torah, a permitted food item does not join a forbidden food item to meet the requisite prohibited total and make one liable, except for the nazirite prohibition.
Tosfos explains: If, for example, one ate half an olive’s worth of regular meat together with half an olive’s worth of prohibited fats, he is not liable.

When it comes to prohibited food, you can’t supplement permissible food to reach the amount that would make you liable.  The good news is that, in contrast, for permissible foods, you can supplement!  Even if you only had a tiny amount of certain permissible foods but, together with those foods, you ate other foods, you could gain the opportunity for a mitzvah!

For example, let’s talk about having a meal.  Ordinarily, in order to qualify to bentch, you would have to eat an egg’s worth of bread (approximately 55 cubic centimetres).  Any less and you would simply walk away.  Says the Magen Avraham: If you have enough other food at the meal to satiate you, those other foods could be combined with the small amount of bread you ate to qualify you to bentch

You see, bentching is not a negative experience; it’s an opportunity to thank the Almighty for His bounty.  Our Sages tell us that bentching with the right kavana (focus) leads to increased bounty from Above!  How does that work?  Well, when you say “Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d,” you open up the faucet of His blessing.  We don’t actually bless G-d; He doesn’t need our affirmation.  Rather, we are declaring Him as the Source of all Blessing.  The word for blessing, bracha, is related to the word braicha, meaning a pool of water.  When we bless G-d, He showers His pool of blessing upon us. 

Don’t you want a shower of blessing from Heaven as often as possible?  Of course you do!  So why would bentching be something to avoid?  The Magen Avraham makes it possible to bentch whenever you sit down to eat, even if bread isn’t the entire meal!  Because for permissible food items, even the other foods can join in to complete the shiur (requisite amount). And by doing so, we are afforded multiple opportunities a day to open G-d’s blessing faucet!  How awesome is that?


Bentchaphobia is a trick of the yetzer hara (evil inclination) to avoid bringing spiritual blessing into your life.  Don’t fall for his antics.  May you merit getting drenched by Heaven’s rains as you utilize every opportunity to open that faucet full-blast!