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How Can I Bless, After a Stroke?

A regular reader asked: “Rabbi, I want to say a blessing before eating, but since my stroke it is hard for me to remember the words of all the blessings. Is there a “one size fits all” blessing which I could say?

First of all, good for you! Saying blessings before eating is a wonderful practice.

Because language provides many different challenges to people, here are several suggestions. Choose whichever you think might be helpful in your case.

  • You can say blessings in English if that would be easier for you. That is a perfectly valid option and not “cheating.”
  • For blessings over food, consider printing them out and putting the paper or card near where you eat. This page from would work nicely for that purpose.
  • The CCAR Press offers a nice app you can have as close as your smartphone or tablet: An App for Blessings
  • There is no official “one size fits all” food blessing, but you could try using these two if you like:
    • For a meal that includes any wheat product, the blessing hamotzi (follow link to the text) covers the entire meal, except for wine.
    • For a snack or meal that does not include bread, you could use the shehakol blessing (again, linked.) Some readers may point out that that isn’t quite traditional, but the literal words of the blessing seem to me to cover the subject sufficiently – definitely better than no blessing at all.
  • If you are sitting and looking at the food and can’t recall what to say, and your cue sheet isn’t nearby, here’s what you can do. Say: “Blessed are you, Adonai our God, who provides [name the food] for me.”
  • If there are other Jews present who know the blessing, invite them to bless, then say “Amen.”

Let’s take this one step farther, in case someone with aphasia searches this question and reads this. Let’s say speech is very difficult, or recalling words is difficult. You are ready to eat, and the blessing just isn’t there, or isn’t going to come out of your mouth. In such a case, I suggest you look at the food. Let the intention of the blessing enter your heart: appreciate God’s creation and this gift to you, God’s creature. Now eat. God knows what you just said with your heart.

Most of all, remember that this is not a contest. There’s a very famous story that applies here. I’m going to quote Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, since she tells it so well:

The story is told that once the Baal Shem Tov, the great Chasidic teacher, was leading a prayer service. Within the congregation there was a simple shepherd boy, who could barely read. He didn’t know any of the prayers. But as the Baal Shem Tov led the congregation, the boy was so moved that he wanted to pray. Instead of the words of the prayers, he began to recite the letters of the alef-bet. He said, “Oh God, I don’t know the words of the prayers, I only know all these letters. Please, God, take these letters and arrange them into the right order to make the right words.” The Baal Shem Tov heard the boy’s words and stopped all the prayers. “Because of the simple words of this boy,” he said, “all of our prayers will be heard in the highest reaches of Heaven.”

May our blessings, however fragmentary we feel them to be, speak our truths to the Holy One of Blessing. May the act of blessing itself bless us and our communities, near and far.

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

6 thoughts on “How Can I Bless, After a Stroke?”

  1. Rabbi Ruth, you’ve given me tears in my eyes. Thank you so much for this…..such a help, not just for the suggestions, but for the feeling of being included that you gave me, that I matter, and am part of things. Thank you more than I can express

    1. Alex, thank you for an excellent question. I don’t know how many others may wonder the same thing, but thanks to the wonders of search engines, they’ll be able to find a menu of possibilities!

      1. Im just remembering, back to when I was a ‘new Jew’, coming up for four years ago: I was reading voraciously, full of wonder and hungry for knowledge(not much changed in that department…still like that) anyway, one book had a chapter on making up your own blessings….and the example given was so perfect for me I felt like doing a Snoopy happy dance. “Baruch Atah, Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha olam….for the feeling of my cats fur as s/he snuggles and purrs with me”….. I loved that so much, and still do. Just said it to one of my boys, Spock, who us cuddled beside me on the couch. He and Data keep me going at times when I’d be more inclined to stay in bed and dive under the covers. A combination of a big ginger Vulcan landing on my pillow, and sticking his bum in my face, and a little black and white Android, biting my toes – well, that sure works at getting me to get up and fix their breakfast. It’s just over a year since my husband beamed up, and coming up to four years since my Mum was killed in the fire, and some days are difficult. The boys help. So does Leonard Cohen. So do folks like yourself. Im very thankful to have all these things in my life. Thanks again, Rabbi Ruth

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