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Birkat hamazon is said after eating bread. In the first paragraph, the word "lechem" - bread - is mentioned. The first paragraph, overall, thanks G-d for giving us food.

"Me'en Shalosh" a shortened version of Birkat Hamazon, is said after eating cakes, cookies, etc.; after eating one of the 7 fruits of Israel or after drinking wine. It too makes mention of the food eaten / drunk ("michya", "gefen", "perot")

"Borei Nefashot" doesn't seem to mention anything about the food eaten or even the act of eating or even a general topic about G-d giving us food. It says, "You have created living things ... to keep other living beings alive..." (loose translation of the concept>) It seems to be an indirect reference of the concept that one animal eats another animal. Also, we say "Borei Nefashot" on most fruits and vegetables as well as many other foods that are not "living beings".

So, what, exactly, in terms of what we ate, are we thanking G-d for in Borei Nefashot?

  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/68221/1713 – Daniel Feb 17 '16 at 19:11
  • I disagree with your loose translation of B"N - it's "you created living things and their deficiencies, in doing so bringing life to the soul of all things." It's not a reference to carnivores, only that by creating deficiencies in us that we fulfill we are alive. Rocks have no needs, and they do not live. Malachim, as well, do not have deficiencies. It is only in the physical world that we can experience growth as a process of "filling holes." – Isaac Kotlicky Feb 29 '16 at 21:16
  • Perhaps B"N was originally only said over meat/fish/dairy products. – Double AA Oct 25 '17 at 21:08
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page 6 of this article has a summary of the purpose of "Borei Nefashot". The general idea is that it is true that G-d gives life to all beings and provides us with our essential nourishment needs like bread and water. However, we also thank G-d for the "luzury package". I.e., in "Borei Nefashot" we thank G-d for giving us nourishment via other types of foods and making the experience pleasurable. E.g., He could have made foods tasteless and unenjoyable. Instead, G-d provides us with pleasurable foods like oranges and bananas so that we can receive our nutrients in the most pleasurable way. (See article and footnotes which obtained these sources form Tur and Bet Yosef OC 207, among others.)

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The Rashba in a teshuva (1:823) explains that the Mishnah refers to the beracha of borei nefashot as "velo klum - nothing" because this beracha is unique in that it has no connection to the food eaten. The Rashba explains that even the beracha of shehakol is a blessing to God for creating everything, a catchall beracha, unlike borei nefashot which blesses God for creating people who require sustenance, but not for His creation of the sustenance itself.

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    Very interesting. When you can, can you link the Rashb"a? The concept of "velo klum" sounds strange. It almost has a "Seinfeld" implication - a bracha about nothing? – DanF Apr 18 '16 at 1:18
  • @DanF to be clear, it's not that the bracha is about nothing, but that it doesn't relate to the food that we ate. That is why the mishnah says that you don't say "anything" after eating certain foods--because the bracha of borei nefashot is not on the food eaten – wfb Apr 18 '16 at 15:45

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