Q. What can you tell me about the blessing for bread, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread for the earth”?
A. It seems like a simple, uncomplicated thinking-God brings forth bread from the earth. He creates the fruit of the vine. He creates the fruit of the tree, the fruit of the ground, etc. Once upon a time life was simple like that. There was a direct line of connection – God, the farmer, the miller, the baker, the consumer. But that was in the pre-scientific, pre-industrial, pre-sophisticated age.
Today our daily bread involves so many functions – economic planners, chemists, mechanical engineers, advertising experts, wholesalers, retailers, distributors-that it seems that God’s involvement is increasingly remote. How can we still say hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz?
The answer is that God did not plant everything ready-made upon the earth: He provided the basis, and gave man the ability to build on the basis. Man is a co-worker with Him in developing and perfecting the Creation. Hence, it is up to man to bring forth bread in accordance with the will of God.
But what matters isn’t only the bread one produces; the way one produces it also matters. Just as the body is strengthened through eating good food, so the character is developed by using only ethical means to produce that food.
The Motzi blessing contains ten Hebrew words, since there are at least ten ethical requirements involved in producing bread. At the time of ploughing: “You shall not plough with an ox and an ass yoked together” (the differing pace of each animal causes suffering to the other). At the time of sowing: “You shall not sow your field with kilayim (an unnatural grafting of two species of corn). When the corn is threshed: “You shall not muzzle the ox when he treads the corn” (it infuriates the ox and makes him suffer by being unable to eat of the corn on which he is working). At harvest time: the poor must be able to benefit from the bounties of a good harvest. And since, according to the Torah, priests and Levites have no soil of their own, a share has to be allocated to them.
The way one produces food is important. Not that this is a popular idea in the modern world. Good quality meat is of concern to most people, but it doesn’t seem to matter how the animal has suffered by being artificially reared and cruelly dealt with while it was alive. That a good return should be produced by the year’s trading is important, but so are the methods by which the results are arrived.