What’s a Bentcher?

Oy, oy, oy! First there is the question of spelling. Is it a bencher, a bentcher, or a bentscher? Answer: I’ve seen all three.

And no, it isn’t a piece of furniture, although that’s what it sounds like.

My favorite bentcher

A bentcher is a little book or folder with the text of the blessings said after a meal, the birkat hamazon. It comes from the Yiddish word bentch, which means “to bless.” (Thanks to both Anne and Jeff, readers who corrected me on this.)

Bentch – to say or sing the birkat hamazon (blessing after meals.) Some may say, “It’s time to bentch,” meaning, the meal is over already, let’s bless and be done!

Bentch gomel – to say a blessing of thanks for delivery from danger. Always said during the Torah service.

Bentch lulav – to say the blessings that go with waving the lulav.

Bentcher is the book with the birkat hamazon in it. In a household where they bentch after every meal, it will likely be one of a half-dozen stuck in a napkin holder on the table. Some bentchers also have zmirot (zmee-ROTE) which are Shabbat songs for the table.

Some Jews carry a mini-bentcher that folds up to credit card size, to use when eating away from home.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, Hebrew for “blessing” is brakhah.


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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 http://coffeeshoprabbi.com/ and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

13 thoughts on “What’s a Bentcher?”

  1. May I add my tuppence ha’penny here Rabbi Adar?

    “Bensch” or bentsch (never quite sure of the spelling”) is actually Yiddish for “bless”. To this day I ask my dad to bentsch me on Friday night and I and my husband bentsch our children and grandchildren. (This is the priestly blessing which is traditionally given to children on Friday nights.)

    “Brocha” is Hebrew for blessing. It’s simply the Ashkenazic pronunciation of “Bracha”.

    What we called a bentscher in England is called a Birkon in Hebrew – from the root “B-R-K” – bracha: blessing.

    1. Anne, your tuppence is always welcome. I did a bit more digging and have to agree – you are right, bentch is “bless.” Both it and the Hebrew (bet, resh, khaf) are related to many other familiar words, including “berekh,” for knee. Thank you for speaking up! I will correct the post.

      1. Oh! I hadn’t thought of the connection between knee and bless. Of course, we “bend the knee” to show respect. I should have thought of that myself.

        Thank you! This is turning into a chavruta. 🙂

  2. I’ll throw my two cents in here, along with anneinpt. I think anneinpt is substantially correct, and I want to add a bit of spin.

    I grew up in a multi-lingual home, and was taught that bensch/bentsch came from the French word benison (via Latin, middle English, etc…in other words, tough to trace) — meaning blessing or benediction. Anyway, if you were to write the French word benison in Hebrew, it comes out as beit-nun-samech. Without vowels, it’s pretty easy to see how this became bensch/bentsch.

      1. Rabbi,
        There was absolutely no need to correct your post…and I never considered that you made an error. I was merely sharing!

  3. Do you have a favorite bentcher? Maybe one that’s not aimed at an Ortho audience?

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