This past Sunday morning, just as I was about to eat a lovely Eggs Benedict made with smoked salmon, I thought to myself how grateful I was that I had gotten up early enough to get to the restaurant while there were still enough open tables that I didn't mind taking up one for a “just one?” as the server always says when I walk in.
But I was a little sad that I couldn't express my gratitude for the food by saying a bracha. For one thing I didn't know what the correct blessing would be. I only know two relative to food, the one over bread and the one over wine. And I'm not sure the one for bread would have been appropriate over an English muffin. What I do know is that which blessing is said when and over what is complicated.
And second, I know you're not supposed to say a bracha over treif food, even if it isn't one of the forbidden foods. As far as I've gotten on the road to keeping kosher is not eating pork, shellfish or meat and milk together (although I have some issues with chicken and milk, that whole cooking a chicken in its mother's milk thing, but that's a post for another time). Still whatever the food is, if it is not cooked in a kosher kitchen, it is still not kosher.
Not being able to say brachas over food has bothered me for awhile, since one of the things that attracted me to Judaism was its built in mnemonics to help me remember to be grateful for the everyday things that it is so easy to take for granted. And goodness knows, I love to eat (if not to cook since it seems to me cooking for one person isn't worth the effort of the clean up) so I have lots of opportunity to be grateful for my food. But since it is usually food from non-kosher restaurants, I can't express it. (I know. I know. Eat in kosher restaurants. I know of two close to where I live, neither of which is especially good, though I eat at one of them anyway because I like the folks who run it.)
I was thinking about all of this as I was enjoying the lemony hollandaise sauce and I decided that even if I couldn't fulfill a commandment there was nothing stopping me from saying some words to express my gratitude.
These are the blessings that I have come up with so far:
“Thank you G-d for... “
...the food and the money to buy it with and tip the server (This wasn't and isn't always true for me.)
...being able to hear the screaming child at the next table (A couple of my friends are having hearing problems and would probably love to be able to hear that child, at least for the first minute or two.)
...getting home without hurting myself or anyone else or damaging any property; and without anyone else damaging me or my property (I've been in a couple of car accidents lately, one that was and one that wasn't my fault. Always happy every time I drive somewhere and nothing happens except I get where I am going.)
...keeping my home safe when I am here and when I am not here (It hasn't happened lately, but several places I've lived have been broken into. The worst part isn't that they take your stuff. The worst part is they take away your sense of security inside your own home.)
I have a long, looong way to go on the road to being more observant. And I know that the letter of the Law matters. I can honestly say I am sincerely working to learn more of the letter of the Law.
But, in the meanwhile, I also think G-d knows my intent – to express gratitude for this amazing world I live in and all the gifts I have been given... which is to say pretty much everything. I think G-d understands and accepts all expressions of gratitude however, and in whatever language, expressed.
And I think that the expression and the intent will help motivate me to learn more.
For this day, this hour, this minute... I think, I truly hope, that's enough.