Saying Amen to My Own Beracha

The beracha of Ga’al Yisrael, which commemorates our Exodus from Egypt, is one of the blessings whose laws are discussed in this article, and therefore this topic is very appropriate for parshas Bo.

Question #1:

“Why do Ashkenazim recite “amen” after the beracha of Bonei Yerushalayim, but not after any other beracha that we recite?”

Question #2:

“Why do Sephardim follow a different practice? And, why do they appear to be inconsistent?”

Question #3:

“Someone once told me that some authorities rule that one may recite “amen” after reciting the beracha of Ga’al Yisrael right before Shemoneh Esrei, and that this does not constitute an interruption. Can this possibly be true?”

Answer:

The Gemara (Berachos 45b) quotes two apparently contradictory statements whether one should recite “amen” after one’s own beracha; one Beraisa stating that it is meritorious to do so, and the other frowning on the practice. To quote the Gemara:

“It was taught in one source, ‘Someone who responds “Amen” after his own blessings is praiseworthy,’ whereas another source states it is shameful to do this.” The Gemara explains that the two statements do not conflict, but refer to two different situations. The Beraisa that declares that it is praiseworthy to recite amen after one’s own blessing is referring to reciting amen after reciting the beracha Bonei Yerushalayim in bensching, whereas the Beraisa that asserts that reciting amen after one’s own beracha is shameful refers to someone reciting amen after any other beracha. The halacha concludes that one who completes a beracha at the same time as the chazzan or anyone else may not recite amen to the other person’s beracha, since, in doing so, he recites amen to his own beracha. For example, when reciting Baruch She’amar, if one completes the beracha at the same moment as the chazzan, one may not recite amen (Elyah Rabbah 51:2).

Why Bonei Yerushalayim?

What is unique about the beracha Bonei Yerushalayim that one may recite “amen” after one’s own beracha?

The Rishonim note that it is not the beracha Bonei Yerushalayim that makes its law special; rather, it is its location, as the last of the three main berachos of birchas hamazon. (Although there is still another beracha afterwards, this last beracha is not part of the series, since it was added later. The fourth beracha of birchas hamazon, which Chazal call Hatov vehameitiv, was added hundreds of years after the Anshei Kenesses Hagedolah wrote the rest of the birchas hamazon as a commemorative to the burial of those who had fallen in the destruction of Beitar. This is a topic that I will leave for a different time.

Because it is not part of the series, it begins with a full berachaBaruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam, whereas berachos that are part of a series do not begin with these words [Pesachim 104b].) Reciting amen after Bonei Yerushalayim demonstrates the completion of a series of berachos (Rambam, Hilchos Berachos 1:17, 18). On the other hand, reciting amen after one’s own beracha any other time implies that one has completed a unit, which is not true (Rabbeinu Yonah). We find a similar idea that upon completing the pesukei dezimra where we repeat the last pasuk (both at the end of Chapter 150 and at the end of Az Yashir) to demonstrate that this section has now been concluded (see Tur, Orach Chayim Chapter 51).

Is Bonei Yerushalayim unique or simply an example of the last beracha of a sequence? If the latter is true, are there other instances when it is praiseworthy to recite amen to your own beracha at the closing of a sequence?

Rashi, in his comments to the above Gemara, indeed mentions that one concludes “amen” after reciting the last beracha of the birchos kerias shema, those berachos that surround the daily kerias shema that we recite every morning and evening. These two “concluding” berachosGa’al Yisrael in the morning, Shomer Amo Yisrael La’ad in the evening — would then both be followed by the word “amen” to indicate the end of the series. (The beracha that begins with the words Baruch Hashem Le’olam, recited after Shomer Amo Yisrael La’ad on weekdays by Nusach Ashkenaz outside Eretz Yisrael, is a later addition added in the times of the Geonim, and technically not part of the birchos kerias shema.) Many other Rishonim advise reciting amen at the end of any sequence of berachos, adding to Rashi’s list also Yishtabach, considered to be the end of a “sequence” of two berachos that begins with Baruch She’amar; and the closing beracha of Hallel, considered the sequel to the beracha beginning Hallel (quoted by the Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 66). Rabbeinu Hai Gaon goes even further, advising the recital of amen after every “after blessing,” considering it the end of a series begun with the beracha recited before (cited by Rabbeinu Yonah).

Ashkenazim all realize that there is something more to the story. Whereas Ashkenazim always complete the beracha of Bonei Yerushalayim with amen, we do not follow this procedure for any of the other berachos mentioned. This specific practice is very old and is already mentioned by Tosafos.

To explain this practice, we will first see what other Rishonim have to say about it. For example, although accepting the premise that we may recite amen following the last beracha of a series, the Rambam appears to dispute what we have quoted above as to what is considered a succession. He appears to hold that if anything interrupts in the middle, the berachos are no longer considered a series – thus, Yishtabach, the latter beracha of Hallel and the beracha of Ga’al Yisrael are not considered the ends of series, although the berachos immediately before kerias shema are (see Hilchos Berachos 1:17, 18, as explained by Beis Yosef). The pesukim recited in the middle break up the succession, and therefore one should not recite amen. Those who dispute with the Rambam contend that both Yishtabach and the ending beracha of Hallel are considered the end of a series, since they connect back to the original beracha.

How do we rule?

The Shulchan Aruch, reflecting Sefardic halachic practice, rules a compromise position; contending that after Yishtabach one may add amen after his own beracha, but one is not required to do so (Orach Chayim 51:3). It is curious to note that in another place (Orach Chayim 215:1), the Shulchan Aruch mentions that Sefardic custom is to recite amen after Yishtabach and the last beracha of Hallel, and the Rama there notes that, according to the Shulchah Aruch’s conclusion, one should also recite amen after concluding the beracha Shomer Amo Yisrael La’ad, the last beracha of the evening kerias shema series.

Although Ashkenazim agree that one may recite amen after these berachos, we usually do not do so. However, if one hears the closing of someone else’s beracha when completing one of these berachos, one answers amen to the other person’s beracha (Elyah Rabbah 51:2). Thus, we see that there is a qualitative difference between berachos that complete a sequence and those that do not. After the first group, one may recite amen after his own beracha, whereas after the second group, one may not.

However, we have still not answered the original question: Why single out the beracha Bonei Yerushalayim? If, indeed, one may recite amen after the last beracha of any series to signify that the series is completed, why does the Gemara mention this halacha only regarding the beracha Bonei Yerushalayim? And, furthermore, why is the prevalent Ashkenazic custom to recite amen, almost as if it is part of the beracha, only after the beracha Bonei Yerushalayim, but not after other closing berachos?

Both of these questions can be answered by studying a different passage of Gemara (Berachos 45b), which cites a dispute between Abayei and Rav Ashi as to whether the word amen recited following Bonei Yerushalayim should be said aloud. Abayei used to recite this amen aloud, in order to let everyone know that he had completed the first three berachos of birchas hamazon. He did so in order to remind workers employed by other people that it was time for them to return diligently to work. That is, although Chazal had instituted a fourth beracha to birchas hamazon, they specifically exempted those working for others from reciting this beracha, thereby emphasizing the responsibility of an employee to his employer to observe a full day of work. (In today’s environment, where it is assumed that workers take off for coffee and rest breaks during the workday, an employee is required to recite the fourth beracha of birchas hamazon.) Abayei recited “amen” aloud at the end of the third beracha so that everyone would realize that the fourth beracha is not part of the series and is treated differently.

Rav Ashi, on the other hand, deliberately recited amen softly, so that people would not treat the fourth beracha with disrespect. It appears that the practice of reciting amen after the third beracha of Bonei Yerushalayim is a carryover of Abayei’s practice – that is, we choose to emphasize that the fourth beracha is not min haTorah.

At this point, we understand the laws applicable to whether one recites amen after Bonei Yerushalayim, Yishtabach, Shomer Amo Yisrael La’ad, and the end of Hallel. Sefardim recite amen after all these berachos. Ashkenazim hold that this is permitted, but do so only when reciting amen to someone else’s beracha at the same time.

However, the Beis Yosef and other early Sefardic authorities note what appears to be an inconsistency in Sefardic practice: whereas they recite amen after the above-mentioned list of berachos, they do not do so after other series of berachos, such as the morning berachos, or sheva berachos. The answer is that a series for our purposes means a group of berachos connected into a unit in a way that it is forbidden to interrupt between them. Thus, although morning berachos, and the berachos of sheva berachos are recited as a group, they are technically not a unit. The designation of a group of berachos as a unit is limited to cases where one may not interrupt between the berachos, such as in Hallel, pesukei dezimra, birchos kerias shema and birchos hamazon.

Papaya and the Beginning of Elul

clip_image002Whether a particular plant is defined halachically as a tree or not influences several areas of halacha, including:

 

1. What bracha one recites on its fruit.

2. What bracha one recites on its fragrance.

3. Whether the prohibition of orlah applies to its fruit.

4. How severe is the prohibition to destroy it (ba’al tashchis).

5. There are several agricultural halachos concerning kilayim, shmittah, and ma’aser, all of which are relevant only in Eretz Yisroel.

 

What does this have anything to do with the impending beginning of Elul and the papaya tree? Stay tuned and find out.

The Gemara mentions that a tree that takes root thirty days before Rosh Hashanah is halachically considered to complete its first year and begin its second year on Rosh Hashanah. This has major ramifications for determining which fruit are no longer prohibited as orlah, but more so, can actually be a factor as to whether certain crops are permitted or not. As we will soon see, the question germane to papaya is because most papaya fruit often grows before the tree is three years old, which may create a problem whether one may eat the papaya fruit. As we will soon see, although this problem is more serious in Eretz Yisroel, the question also exists germane to papaya that grows elsewhere.

What is a Tree?

Although it is obvious that an oak tree is not a vegetable, the status of many species of Hashem’s botanical wonders is questionable: are they trees or are they not? The Random House dictionary I have on my desk defines a tree as, “a plant having a permanently woody main stem or trunk, ordinarily growing to a considerable height, and usually developing branches at some distance from the ground.” If we exclude the two qualifiers, “ordinarily” and “usually,” then this definition does not consider a grape vine to be a tree since it lacks height if not supported and does not develop branches some distance from the ground. Since we know that halacha considers grapes to be fruits of the tree, this definition will not suffice. On the other hand, if we broaden the definition of “tree” to include all plants that have a “permanently woody stem or trunk” we will not only include grape vines, but also probably include eggplant, pineapple, and lavender, all of which have woody stems. On the other hand, several plants, such as the date palm and papaya, fit the Random House definition as a tree and yet grow very differently from typical trees. Are all of these plants trees?

For halachic purposes, a better working definition is that a tree is a woody perennial plant that possesses a stem that remains from year to year and produces fruit. This definition is also not without its difficulties. In a different article, I discussed the status of eggplant, several varieties of berry including raspberry and cranberry, and several fragrant plants and flowers, which may or may not qualify as trees, depending on our definition. There are many times that we treat a plant “lechumrah” as a tree regarding the very stringent laws of orlah, although we will not treat it as a tree regarding many or all of the other halachos mentioned. In that article, I noted that the following characteristics might be qualifying factors in providing the halachic definition of a tree:

(a) Is the species capable of producing fruit within its first year (after planting from seed)?

(b) Does the fruit production of the species begin to deteriorate the year after it begins producing?

(c) Does the species produce fruit from shoots that will never again produce fruit?

(d) Is its physical appearance markedly different from a typical tree?

(e) Many poskim contend that the prohibition of orlah does not apply to a tree that produces fruit for three years or less.

We should also note that poskim dispute whether the definition of a tree for the purposes of the bracha “borei atzei besamim” is the same as the definition for the bracha of “borei pri ha’eitz” and for the halachos of orlah, shmittah, ma’aser, and kilayim.

Is papaya a tree?

A papaya may grow ten feet tall or more, but it bears closer similarity in many ways to being a very tall stalk since its stem is completely hollow on the inside and it does not usually produce branches. Its leaves and fruits grow directly on the top of the main stem, and it usually produces fruit during the first year, unlike most trees.

Commercially, the grower usually uproots the plant after four to five years of production, although the papaya can survive longer, and in some places it is standard to cut it down and replant it after three years.

With this introduction, we can now begin to discuss whether papaya is a tree fruit and its proper bracha borei pri ha’eitz, or whether is it is considered a large plant on which we recite ha’adamah as we do for banana. A more serious question is whether the prohibition of orlah applies to papaya. If it does, this could create an intriguing problem, since it may be that there are plantations, or even countries, where the entire papaya crop grows within three years and may be prohibited as orlah.

Commercial and Halachic History of Papaya

The Spaniards discovered papaya in Mexico and Central America, from there it was transported to the Old World. The earliest halachic reference to it that I am aware of is a shaylah sent from India to the Rav Pe’alim (Vol. 2, Orach Chayim #30), author of the Ben Ish Chai, asking which bracha to recite on its fruit.

The Rav Pe’alim discusses what the appropriate bracha on papaya is. He begins by comparing papaya to the eggplant. Based on four factors, Rav Pe’alim rules that papaya is not a tree and that the appropriate bracha is ha’adamah. These factors are:

1. The part of the stem that produces fruit never produces again. Instead, the fruit grows off the newer growth higher on the plant. Initially, I did not understand what the Rav Pe’alim meant with this, since there are many trees, such as dates, which produce only on their new growth, not on the old. Thus, this does not seem to be a feature that defines a tree. After further study, I realized that the difference is that papaya produces fruit only on top of the “tree,” and it looks atypical, not resembling other trees, whereas with dates, although the fruit grows on the new growth high up on the tree, it does not grow on the top of the tree, but from branches on the new growth.

2. The stem of the papaya is hollow, which is not characteristic of trees. (Rav Moshe Shternbuch, in his teshuvah on whether papaya is included in the prohibition of orlah, describes papaya as a tall stalk. See Shu’t Teshuvos VeHanhagos 3:333).

3. The fruit grows directly on the trunk and not on the branches.

4. The papaya produces fruit within its first year.

In a follow-up letter, a correspondent wrote that the custom among Jews in India is to recite ha’eitz before eating the papaya’s fruit. Rav Pe’alim responded that he does not consider this custom to be a halachic opinion, since the community lacked Talmidei Chachomim to paskin shaylos. He points out that if the papaya is a tree, then we must prohibit its fruit as orlah since the grower usually cuts it down before its fourth year.

Among contemporary poskim, some follow the ruling of the Rav Pe’alim that papaya is exempt from orlah and its bracha is ha’adamah (Shu’t Yechaveh Daas 4:52), whereas most rule that papaya does have orlah concerns (Shu’t Shevat Halevi 6:165; Mishpetei Aretz, page 27, quoting Rav Elyashiv; Teshuvos VeHanhagos). One should note that Rav Ovadyah Yosef, who rules that papaya is exempt from any orlah concerns, also rules that passionfruit, called pasiflora in Hebrew, is also exempt from the prohibition of orlah since it produces fruit in its first year. Most other authorities do not accept this approach.

Papaya outside Eretz Yisrael

There should be a difference in halacha between papaya growing in Eretz Yisroel and that growing in chutz la’aretz. Whereas the prohibition of orlah exists both in Eretz Yisroel and in chutz la’aretz, questionable orlah fruit is prohibited if it grew in Eretz Yisroel but permitted if it grew in chutz la’aretz. This is because the mitzvah of orlah has a very unusual halachic status. There is a halacha leMoshe meSinai that prohibits orlah fruit outside of Eretz Yisroel, but only when we are certain that the fruit is orlah. When we are uncertain whether the fruit is orlah, the halacha leMoshe meSinai permits this fruit.

Based on the above, one should be able to permit papaya growing outside Eretz Yisroel either because (1) there is the possibility that this particular fruit grew after the orlah years had passed or (2) that perhaps papaya is not considered a tree for one of the reasons mentioned by the Rav Pe’alim.

There are two important differences in halacha between these two reasons. The first is whether the bracha on papaya is ha’eitz or ha’adamah. The Rav Pe’alim ruled that it is not a tree fruit and therefore its bracha is ha’adamah. According to the first approach, it may indeed be ha’eitz and still be permitted, since it is only safek orlah.

Here is another difference in halacha between the two reasons.

Papain

Papain is a highly popular enzyme extracted from the papaya. In the early twentieth century, Belgian colonists in the Congo noticed that the local population wrapped meat in papaya leaves. The colonists discovered that the papaya leaves preserved the meat and also tenderized it. Laboratory analysis discovered an enzyme, now called papain, as the agent of the process. This spawned a new industry producing and selling papain from papaya plantations around the world.  New applications were discovered, and papain is now also used in the production of beer, biscuits, and is very commonly used as a digestive aid.

If papain were still produced from leaves there would be no orlah issue, since orlah applies only to the fruit of a plant. Unfortunately, today’s papain is extracted not from the leaf, but from the peel of the papaya. If a fruit is prohibited as orlah, its peel is also prohibited.

In actuality, there is a more serious problem of orlah in papain than in eating the papaya fruit itself. Papain is collected by scratching the peel of the growing fruit, which causes a liquid containing the papain to exude from the peel, without harming the fruit. A bib is tied around the middle of a papaya tree, which catches all the papain from that particular tree. The papain is collected and sent to a plant where all the papain harvested is blended. The process can be repeated many times before the fruit is ripe for picking. Thus, the papain is a second crop.

However, this method of harvesting the papain creates a halachic complexity not encountered with the papaya fruit. Since safek orlah is permitted in chutz la’aretz, if we are uncertain as to whether a particular tree growing is within its orlah years, we may eat the fruit because of the halacha leMoshe meSinai that safek orlah is permitted. Therefore, even if we consider papaya a tree, the fruit grown outside Eretz Yisroel is permitted if there is a possibility that it is not orlah.  The papain, however, would be prohibited because the papain used is a mixture of extracts of all the fruit. If indeed this particular grove contained some trees that are orlah, then the mixture is permitted only if there are 200 parts of non-orlah fruit to one part orlah, which in essence prohibits all the papain.

The above is true if we assume that the papaya is a tree subject to the laws of orlah. However, if we assume that the different reasons suggested are enough bases to rule that it is questionable whether papaya is subject to the laws of orlah, then we may permit papaya from trees that grow outside Eretz Yisrael even when we are certain that the tree is less than three years old. The latter reason would permit papain that originates in chutz la’aretz.

Important Eating – The Halachos of Ikar and Tafeil

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Question #1: You made a bracha on a cup of tea and sipped it, and then decided it needed more sugar. Do you need to make a bracha on the extra sugar?

Question #2: You cooked a delicious vegetable-barley soup. What bracha do you recite before eating it? Does it make any difference whether you want to eat the barley?

Question #3: I eat my potato latkes with apple sauce. How many brachos and which ones do I recite before eating them? Does it make a difference if I finish the latkes but am still eating the apple sauce?

The main theme of this week’s parsha, Balak, is mankind’s ability to recite berachos, and the opposite, and creating proper priorities in how we use this ability. This is certainly an opportune time to examine the complicated rules governing how we prioritize the brachos on what we eat.

We apply the rules governing ikar and tafeil, literally the “primary” item and the “secondary” one, numerous times throughout the day. Whether we are eating cereal, fruit and milk for breakfast, macaroni and cheese for lunch, chicken with rice for supper, or snacking on an ice cream cone, these halachos apply. It definitely behooves us to be sure we are applying the halachos correctly.

First an introduction:

The Mishnah (Berachos 44a) which discuss brachos recited before eating states, “This is the rule: Whatever is primary and is accompanied by something secondary, one recites the bracha on the primary and absolves the secondary item.” Thus, the secondary item does not receive its own bracha, but is included in the bracha of the primary item.

WHAT CONSTITUTES AN IKAR-TAFEIL SITUATION?

There are two general categories of situations included in the halachos of ikar and tafeil; (1) when the ikar is an enhancer and (2) when the two items are combined in a mixture.

(1) Enhancers: This category includes food items where the tafeil food makes the ikar food tastier. Some common examples include: Cereal with fruit and milk; eating latkes with apple sauce; stirring herbal tea with a cinnamon stick; breading fish or meat (schnitzel).

In all of these cases, one recites the bracha for the ikar; that is, the cereal, latkes, tea, or meat; and the tafeil is included – that is, the tafeil item loses its bracha.

The category of enhancers also includes cases where the ikar is too spicy or sharp to eat alone. Thus, eating a cracker or piece of bread with a very sharp food to make it edible is a case of ikar and tafeil and one recites the bracha only on the sharp food (Mishnah Berachos 44a).

We should note, however, that the tafeil item loses its bracha only when one eats it together with the ikar or afterwards. But if one eats the tafeil before one eats the ikar, one does recite a bracha on the tafeil. Thus, food eaten before schnapps to soften its “bite” requires a bracha since one is eating it before the schnapps. When this situation occurs, the poskim debate what bracha one recites on the tafeil.

(2) Mixtures: This category includes cases where one food is not specifically enhancing the other, but both foods are important. For example, someone eating macaroni and cheese, blintzes (they always contain a filling), cholent, kugel, or stew is interested in eating all the different foods that comprise the dish. The same halacha applies when eating soups, which may contain vegetables, meat, noodles, barley, or flour. In these cases, all the food items eaten are important and none of these ingredients serve only to enhance the rest. However, the food in these cases are mixtures they are considered one complete food item and therefore only recites one bracha for the entire food, although it contains items that eaten separately would require separate brachos. Thus, the concept of ikar and tafeil is very different here – it is the rule used to determine which bracha we recite on this food. In this case, the bracha of the ikar is the bracha on the entire item.

WHAT DETERMINES THE BRACHA ON A MIXTURE?

There are three rules that determine which bracha to recite on a mixture.

1. If one of the items in the mixture is clearly the most important, then that item determines the bracha (Pri Megadim, Pesicha Koleles, Hilchos Brachos s.v. HaTenai; Mishnah Berurah 212:1). For example, the bracha on chicken soup with vegetables is shehakol since the chicken is the most important flavor component in the soup. However, if it is a vegetable soup with some meat added for flavor, the bracha would be ha’adamah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 205:2 and commentaries).

2. When there is no most important ingredient, the bracha is usually determined by the majority item in the product. Thus, the bracha on a peanut bar containing peanuts, honey, and sugar is ha’adamah since peanuts are the major ingredient, and the bracha on a tzimmes consisting of prunes and sweet potatoes depends on which item is the major ingredient.

3. However, when the mixture contains one of the five grains (wheat, barley, spelt, oats, and rye) then the bracha is usually mezonos, unless the flour or grain product is included only to hold the food together (Shulchan Aruch 204:12; 208:2,3). Because these grains are important, they are the ikar of the mixture even if they are a minority component.

However, when the flour’s purpose is only to hold the item together or to provide texture, then it is not the ikar of the food because its purpose is clearly to function is a subsidiary. (In this instance, the flour is being used to enhance the other food item, and thus it categorically becomes a tafeil.)

Therefore, the bracha on a trifle containing cakes and ice cream is mezonos even if there is more ice cream than cake, since the cake is a grain product; whereas the bracha on potato kugel that contains flour, bread crumbs, and/or matzoh meal to provide texture is ha’adamah. Since the grain product here functions only to hold the kugel together, it is tafeil and does not affect the bracha. Similarly, flour added to thicken soup is tafeil (Mishnah Berurah 212:1). When the flour provides taste or makes the product satisfying, then the flour is the ikar and the bracha is mezonos (Shulchan Aruch 204:12; 208:3).

Similarly, the bracha on vegetable-barley soup is mezonos. However, if the barley is completely dissolved, the bracha on the soup is usually ha’adamah. Similarly, if you do not want to eat the barley but a few pieces ended up in your portion anyway, the bracha is ha’adamah.

The same rules apply in the case of licorice candy whose bracha is shehakol even though it contains a significant amount of flour, since the flour is there only to give it a stiff texture. On the other hand, the bracha on kishka is mezonos, since the main ingredient is the flour.

BEFORE AND AFTER

Until now we have been discussing situations when you are eating the ikar and tafeil together. What do you do if you are eating the tafeil item either before or after you eat the ikar?

A TAFEIL EATEN BEFORE

A tafeil loses a bracha only when it is eaten together with the ikar or afterwards, but not when it is eaten before. Again, the reason for this becomes fairly clear once we think about it. A tafeil’s bracha is subsumed by the bracha on the ikar. This helps us as long as one has already recited the bracha on the ikar. However, if one has not yet recited the bracha on the ikar, how can one eat the tafeil without reciting any bracha at all since we are forbidden to benefit from the world without first reciting a bracha? Thus, it must be that we recite a bracha on the tafeil when eating it before the ikar.

However, this does not tell us whether the bracha on the tafeil is the same bracha one would usually recite on it, or whether it is automatically reduced to a shehakol. Let us say that someone is going to drink a powerful beverage or a very spicy pepper, and in order to tolerate it, he is first going to eat some bread or crackers. What bracha does he recite on the bread or cracker?

The Rama (212:1) rules that one recites a shehakol on the bread or cracker!

WHY DOES THE CRACKER LOSE ITS BRACHA?

The Rama’s ruling is based on an earlier psak of the Terumas HaDeshen, who discusses a case of someone who wants to drink wine, but can not drink the wine on an empty stomach. Therefore he eats some seeds whose bracha is usually ha’eitz before imbibing the wine. The Terumas HaDeshen rules that he recites a shehakol on the seeds since he is not getting his primary benefit from the fruit (Darchei Moshe 212:2). However, the Beis Yosef disagrees and rules that he should make ha’eitz on the seeds.

On what concept is this dispute dependent? One could explain that this dispute reflects two different ways of explaining why one does not recite a bracha on a tafeil. The Terumas HaDeshen contends that a tafeil is unimportant and therefore does not warrant a bracha, however, one cannot benefit from this world without a bracha — therefore one recites shehakol. On the other hand, the Beis Yosef holds that the bracha on the ikar counts as the bracha on the tafeil and therefore one does not need to make a bracha on it- but if the tafeil were to require a bracha, it does not lose its status or its bracha.

EATING A TAFEIL AFTER THE IKAR

What do you do if you finished eating the ikar, but you have not yet completed the tafeil. Do you recite a bracha on the tafeil since you are no longer eating the ikar, or do we say that the bracha on the ikar still suffices? For example, you finished your cereal, but there is still some milk left, or you finished the barley of the soup, but there is still more soup to eat. Do you recite a new bracha on the rest of the soup?

The halacha is that if you finished the ikar first, and a small amount of tafeil remains, one does not recite a bracha on the remaining tafeil. However, if a large amount remains, one does recite a bracha (Mishnah Berurah 168:46).

At the beginning of the article I asked the following shaylah, “You made a bracha on a cup of tea and sipped it and then decided it needed more sugar. Do you need to make a bracha on the extra sugar?”

The question here is that the sugar is tafeil to the tea, but can it be a tafeil when it was not in front of you when you made the bracha?

The halacha is that if you begin eating something and afterwards decide to eat a tafeil food alongside, the tafeil requires a bracha- but only shehakol (Mishnah Berurah 212:4). This is true only if the tafeil is an enhancer (see our category above). However, if it is a tafeil because it is a mixture, it receives its regular bracha. Thus, if after making a bracha on cereal, someone decided to add milk and fruit, he recites ha’eitz on the fruit and shehakol on the milk. On the other hand, if he knew he would add fruit and milk when he recited the bracha on the cereal, then they are tafeil to the cereal and he does not recite a bracha on them even though they were not present when he recited the bracha.

What should you do if someone brought you a cup of tea and you then decided to add sugar? Do you need to recite a bracha on the sugar?

If you usually add sugar to your tea, you do not need to recite a new bracha. However, if you do not, then you will need to recite a bracha on the sugar.

Not everything we do in life qualifies as our ikar purpose in life- often we must do things that are tafeil to the more important things in life. However, paying attention to the halachos of ikar and tafeil should encourage us to focus on our priorities in life- and not allow the tafeil things we must do become more important than they are.

Flavor and Fragrance – The Bracha on Fragrant Fruits

clip_image001In honor of the month of Shvat, and a bit before Tu Beshvat, I decided to send an article that explains the halachos of the bracha Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros “He who bestows pleasant fragrances in fruits.” Many authorities prefer the version Asher nasan rei’ach tov ba’peiros, in past tense, “He who bestowed pleasant fragrances in fruits” (Eliyah Rabbah 216:5; Mishnah Berurah 216:9).

Here are some curious questions about this bracha that we need to resolve:

1.  Do we recite this bracha on a food that is not a fruit?

2. Assuming that we recite this bracha on any food, do we recite this bracha on a seasoning that is not eaten by itself, such as cinnamon or oregano?

3. If I am eating a fragrant fruit, do I recite a bracha when I smell it while I am eating it?

4. Do I recite this bracha when smelling a delicious cup of coffee or a freshly-baked pastry? After all, the coffee bean is a fruit, and the flour of the pastry is a grain, which is also halachically a fruit. As we will see, the answer to this question is not so obvious.

ORIGINS OF THE BRACHA “HANOSEIN REI’ACH TOV BA’PEIROS”

The Gemara (Berachos 43b) teaches that someone who smells an esrog or a quince should first recite Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros.

Question: Why did Chazal institute a unique bracha for aromatic fruits?

Answer: Whenever one benefits from this world one must recite a bracha. Thus, Chazal instituted brachos that are appropriate for fragrances. However, all the other brachos on fragrance are not appropriate for smelling fragrant foods, since the other brachos praise Hashem for creating fragrances, whereas esrog and quince are not usually described as fragrances, but as foods that are fragrant. Therefore, Chazal established a special bracha for aromatic fruits (see Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim end of Chapter 297).

It is noteworthy that although quince is still considered a fruit for the purpose of this bracha even though it is not edible raw. More on this question later…

DO WE RECITE THIS BRACHA ON FRAGRANT FOODS THAT ARE NOT FRUITS?

This leads us to a fascinating halachic discussion with a surprising conclusion.

A BRACHA ON SMELLING BREAD?

Several early poskim contend that one should recite a bracha before smelling hot fresh bread (Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim Chapter 297, quoting Avudraham and Orchos Chayim). However, when discussing what bracha one should recite, these poskim contend that mentioning besamim (such as the brachos of Borei isvei besamim or Borei minei besamim) is inappropriate since bread is not a fragrance but a food that has a pleasant fragrance. It is also inappropriate to recite on it Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros, since it is not a fruit. We therefore find some authorities who conclude that one should recite Hanosein rei’ach tov bapas, “He who bestows pleasant fragrance in bread.” Indeed, one contemporary posek rules that someone who smells fresh cookies should recite Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’ugah, “He who bestows pleasant fragrances in cake.”

However the Beis Yosef and other poskim disagree, contending that one does not recite a bracha before smelling bread or cake, pointing out that the Gemara and the early halachic sources never mention reciting a bracha before smelling bread. These poskim contend that we do not recite a bracha on smelling bread because its fragrance is not significant enough to warrant a bracha (Beis Yosef, Chapter 297).

This creates a predicament, since according to the “early poskim,” one may not smell bread without first reciting a bracha, whereas according to the Beis Yosef, reciting a bracha on its fragrance is a bracha recited in vain! The only way of resolving this predicament is by trying not to smell fresh bread, which is the conclusion reached by the Rama (216:14).

(Incidentally, the Rama’s ruling teaches a significant halacha about the rule of safek brachos li’kula, that we do not recite a bracha when in doubt. Although one may not recite a bracha when in doubt, one also may not smell a fragrance or taste a food without reciting the bracha because that would be benefiting from the world without a bracha. This halacha applies whenever someone has a doubt about reciting a bracha.)

The concept, introduced by the Beis Yosef, that one recites a bracha only on a significant fragrance is hard to define. What is considered significant? The following is an example in which poskim dispute whether a fragrance is considered significant.

WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE!

The Mishnah Berurah (216:16) rules that someone who smells fresh-roasted ground coffee should recite a bracha of Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros. However, the Kaf HaChayim (216:86), one of the great Sefardic poskim, rules that it is uncertain whether the fragrance of coffee is significant enough to warrant a bracha. Thus, most Sefardim will not recite a bracha prior to smelling fresh-roasted coffee, whereas those who follow the Mishnah Berurah would recite a bracha before smelling roasted coffee beans.

As we have discussed, although some poskim (Avudraham and Orchos Chayim) limit the bracha of Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros to fruits, other poskim contend that this bracha should be recited before smelling any fragrant food. This dispute influences the next discussion.

DO WE RECITE HANOSEIN REI’ACH TOV BA’PEIROS ON A FRAGRANT SEASONING?

The question here is what defines an edible fruit for the purposes of this bracha. Do we recite Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros only on fruit or do we recite it on any edible item? Furthermore, is a flavoring or seasoning considered a food for the purposes of this bracha or not?

Spices that are used to flavor but are themselves never eaten, such as bay leaves, are not considered a food. For this reason, there is no requirement to separate terumos and maasros on bay leaves even if they grew in Eretz Yisroel (Tosafos Yoma 81b; Derech Emunah, Terumos 2:3:32). A seasoning that is never eaten by itself, but is eaten when it is used to flavor, such as cinnamon, oregano, or cloves is questionable whether it is considered a food, and we separate terumos and maasros without a bracha; if eaten by itself, it does not recite a bracha of borei pri ha’eitz or borei pri ha’adamah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 202:16). What bracha do we recite before smelling a seasoning?

CINNAMON, SPICE AND EVERYTHING NICE

What bracha does one recite before smelling cinnamon?

The Tur quotes a dispute between the Rosh, who contends that the bracha is Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros, and the Maharam, who contends that one should recite Borei atzei besamim. In the Rosh’s opinion, cinnamon should be treated as a food. Thus, we may assume that he contends that the bracha before smelling all spices is Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros, even though they are not eaten by themselves. We can also draw a conclusion from this Rosh that we recite the bracha Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros even on the bark of a tree that is eaten, such as cinnamon. Thus in his opinion, the word ba’peiros in the bracha should be translated as food rather than as fruit. (In truth, the word pri in the bracha Borei pri ha’adamah should also not be translated as fruit, since we recite it on stems, roots, and leaves when we eat celery, carrots, and lettuce.)

On the other hand, the Maharam contends that Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros is inappropriate, presumably because cinnamon is usually not eaten by itself. Alternatively, the Maharam may hold that Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros is inappropriate for cinnamon because it is a bark and not a fruit.

Either way, many Ashkenazi poskim rule it is a safek whether the bracha on cinnamon is Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros or Borei atzei besamim and therefore one should recite borei minei besamim (Eliyah Rabbah 216:9; Mishnah Berurah 216:16). Many Sefardim recite Borei atzei besamim before smelling cinnamon (Yalkut Yosef 216:4). Everyone agrees that the bracha before smelling cinnamon leaf is Borei atzei besamim.

AND THE LEMON SMELLS SO SWEET!

But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat! Is the bracha before smelling a lemon Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros because it is after all a fruit, or do we recite a different bracha since it is too bitter to eat by itself?

Some poskim rule that one should recite Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros before smelling lemons (Ginas Veradim 1:42; Yalkut Yosef 216:7), whereas others contend that one should recited Borei minei besamim before smelling a lemon, treating the lemon as a safek as to whether it is considered a fruit or not (Ketzos Hashulchan 62:9 in Badei Hashulchan).

However, this latter opinion causes one to wonder why the bracha before smelling a lemon is different from the bracha before smelling an esrog? After all, the Gemara teaches that before smelling an esrog we recite Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros, although an esrog is also too bitter to eat. Possibly, the esrogim in the days of Chazal were less bitter and were edible. This is implied by the Gemara (Sukkah 36b), which mentions that Rav Chanina took a bite out of his esrog, something difficult to imagine doing to a contemporary esrog.

An alternative approach is that an esrog is a fruit because it can be made edible by adding sugar. However according to this reason, a lemon should also be considered a fruit, since one can eat candied lemon, which I presume would require the bracha of Borei pri ha’eitz (Vezos Ha’beracha pg. 366). Similarly, some people eat the slice of lemon they used to season their tea, and lemon is also eaten as a pudding or pie filling. I presume that the bracha on these items when eaten alone would be Borei pri ha’eitz. The fact that lemon cannot be eaten unsweetened should not affect what bracha we recite before eating or smelling lemon just as the bracha before smelling fresh quince is Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros even though it is also not edible raw.

Furthermore, we noted above that Chazal instituted the bracha Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros on fragrant fruits and foods because one cannot recite a bracha on them by calling them fragrances. Few people would describe lemon as a fragrance, but as a fruit.

Because of these reasons, I believe the bracha before smelling a lemon should be Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros, but I leave it for the individual to ask their rav a shaylah.

Incidentally, the correct bracha to recite before smelling citrus blossoms or flowers is Borei atzei besamim, since the flower is not edible.

As a side point, one should be very cautious about eating esrog today. Esrog is not a food crop and it is legal to spray the trees with highly toxic pesticides. Because of the rule of chamira sakanta mi’isurah (the halachos of danger are stricter than that of kashrus), I would paskin that it is prohibited to eat esrogim today unless the owner of the orchard will vouch for their safety. Thus, although Aunt Zelda may have a great recipe for making esrog jam, substitute lemon or lime instead. Incidentally, the bracha on eating lemon jam should be Borei pri ha’eitz, which is additional evidence that the bracha before smelling a lemon is Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros.

There is a major shaylah in halacha whether one may smell one’s esrog and hadasim during Sukkos. I have written a separate article on this subject.

EATING AND SMELLING A FRUIT

If I am eating a fragrant fruit, do I recite a bracha before I smell it even though I am not deliberately trying to?

One does not recite the bracha on fragrance if one is picking up the fruit to eat and happens to smell it at the same time (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 216:2). However, if one intends both to smell the food and also to eat it, then it would seem to be a question of dispute whether one should recites both brachos, Borei pri ha’eitz and Hanosein Rei’ach Tov ba’peiros. This issue is dependent on a dispute between poskim whether one recites a bracha on a fragrant item that is intended to be used for another purpose. I analyzed this subject in a different article in which I discussed when one should not recite a bracha before smelling a fragrance.

WHICH BRACHA SHOULD I RECITE FIRST?

The poskim disagree as to whether one should first recite the bracha on eating the fruit because one gains a more significant benefit than from smelling it (Olas Tamid), or whether one should first recite the bracha on smelling it, since one will smell the fruit before he eats it (Eliyahu Rabbah 216:6). The Mishnah Berurah (216:10) rules that one should recite the bracha on smelling the fruit first, although he also cites another suggestion: have in mind not to benefit from the fragrance until after one has recited the bracha on eating it and has tasted the fruit. Then, recite Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros and benefit from the fragrance.

Many poskim state that the custom today is to not make a bracha on smelling a fruit unless it has a pronounced aroma (see Vezos Haberacha pg. 174). For this reason some hold that one should not make a bracha when smelling an apple since apples are often not that fragrant, but one could recite a bracha when smelling guava which is usually much more aromatic. (However, note that Rambam and Mishnah Berurah [216:8] mentions reciting a bracha before smelling an apple, although it is possible that the apples they had were more fragrant than ours.)

The Gemara (Berachos 43b) teaches “How do we know that one must recite a bracha on a fragrance, because the pasuk (Tehillim 150:6) says, ‘Every neshamah praises Hashem,’ – What exists in the world that the soul benefits from, but not the body? Only fragrance.”

Although the sense of smell provides some physical pleasure, it provides no nutritional benefit. Thus, smell represents an interface of the spiritual with the physical. Similarly, we find that we are to offer korbanos as rei’ach nicho’ach, a fragrance demonstrating one’s desire to be close to Hashem. We should always utilize our abilities to smell fragrant items as a stepping stone towards greater mitzvah observance and spirituality.

The author acknowledges the tremendous assistance provided by Rabbi Shmuel Silinsky for the horticultural information used in researching this article.

When Do We Not Make a Bracha on a Fragrance?

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This article was originally published in the American edition of Yated Neeman

Question #1: My neighbor has a wonderfully fragrant garden. Do I recite a bracha whenever I visit her and walk through the garden, and if so, which bracha?

Question #2: On my way to work I pass a spice factory that has a wonderful aroma. Do I recite a bracha every day as I drive by?

Question #3: Someone told me not to recite a bracha on regular perfume today because it is synthetic. Is this true?

Question #4: I just adore the smell of turpentine! Do I make a bracha when I smell it?

In general one should not benefit from a pleasant aroma without first reciting a bracha. Nevertheless, not all fragrances require a bracha before we smell them. Furthermore, when a bracha is not required, it is forbidden to recite one.

Fragrances upon which one may not recite a bracha fall under three general categories:

I. Forbidden fragrances

II. Fragrances whose purpose is not for pleasurable smelling.

III. Fragrances whose source no longer exists. This would include a case where you put the fragrance into a closed bag, but can still smell the residual aroma in the air outside the bag (Biyur Halacha 217:3), or when you enjoy the smell of an empty besamim box.

I. FORBIDDEN FRAGRANCES

One does not recite a bracha on a fragrance that it is forbidden to smell, such as a scent used in idol worship, or sorcery, or the perfume of an ervah (Rambam, Hilchos Berachos 9:7, based on Gemara Berachos 53a). Smelling something used for idol worship is prohibited because one may not have any benefit from idols. Since we are not permitted to smell these fragrances, it is understood why Chazal ruled that one should not make a bracha on them.

One does not recite a bracha before smelling these prohibited fragrances even if a small amount is mixed into a potpourri of other fragrances (Biyur Halacha 217:8; cf. Gra ad loc. who implies that if most of the fragrance is from a different source, one should recite a bracha before smelling it. However this is very strange, because the Torah forbids smelling the entire fragrance whenever the prohibited source is discernable.)

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I PASS AN IDOL AND SMELL INCENSE?

Although this is unusual in America, there are many places in the world where this is a common shaylah. May I walk down this street if I might smell a forbidden fragrance?

According to halacha, I am permitted to walk down the street provided I try not to appreciate the fragrance. The Gemara discusses a category called Hana’ah haba’ah lo le’adam baal korcho, “benefit that a person receives against his will.” Although a person has control over what he eats, he has more limited control over what he smells or hears. If someone is exposed to a pleasurable fragrance that is forbidden according to halacha, there is no violation involved provided he does not try to enjoy the aroma (Gemara Pesachim 25b).

II. FRAGRANCES WHOSE PURPOSE IS NOT TO PROVIDE THE PLEASURE OF SMELLING

“One does not make a bracha on a fragrance unless it was made for the pleasure of smelling,” (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 217:2). One only recites a bracha on a fragrance that is avida lireicha, literally, “made for fragrance.” In the words of the Chazon Ish (Orach Chayim 35:1), “Anything that it not specifically meant to smell, is not considered a fragrance.” Thus the definition of the word besamim is something made to provide pleasurable scent and does not include aromas not meant for smelling.

There are several headings of aromatic fragrances that are not for the pleasure of smelling. They include:

A. Deodorizing fragrances

B. Fragrances whose current purpose is not for their aroma.

C. Fragrances whose purpose is to provide aroma to something else.

D. Items that most people do not consider fragrances.

IIA. DEODORIZING FRAGRANCES

One does not recite a bracha before smelling a fragrance whose purpose is to neutralize a bad odor, such as a room deodorizer, deodorant, or oil rubbed on the skin to dispel malodor (Gemara Berachos 53a). Even though these items may be highly aromatic, since their purpose is not for enjoyment but to neutralize an unpleasant odor, we do not recite a bracha.

One does not recite a bracha before smelling a room deodorizer even if he enjoys the aroma and even if he sprayed it in a room without a bad odor or brings it to his nose for a pleasant whiff. Since the deodorizer was made expressly to dispel malodor and not for enjoyment, it is not considered besamim even if the individual enjoys smelling the deodorizer (Shaar Hatziyun 217:16, based on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 297:2).

USING OILS AS A DEODORIZER

Some people use pleasant-smelling essential oils to combat malodors. Does one make a bracha before smelling these fragrances?

It depends on why one smells them. If they are functioning as deodorants, then one does not recite a bracha, whereas someone who uses the oil with the intent of enjoying its aroma does recite the appropriate bracha before smelling it (Gemara Berachos 53a with Rashi). (See my other articles on this subject to know which bracha one recites.)

WHAT DETERMINES WHETHER A FRAGRANCE IS BESAMIM OR A DEODORIZER?

Some items are obviously deodorants or deodorizers and are not besamim. However, the essential oils we mentioned and other fragrances may sometimes be used to deodorize and sometimes for pleasure. What determines whether this particular fragrance is besamim over which we recite a bracha or not?

The Chazon Ish (Orach Chayim 35:2) explains that the determining factor is why you brought the fragrance to this location. If you brought it for pleasure, then it is besamim and you recite a bracha. If you brought the fragrance to neutralize an odor, then you do not recite a bracha even if you smell it for pleasure.

However, if you removed some of the fragrance permanently to enjoy its aroma, this part becomes besamim and warrants a bracha. The Chazon Ish uses the example of someone who applies fragrant oil to his or her skin. Even if the person originally used the oil to deodorize, if he subsequently sprinkled some onto a handkerchief to enjoy the aroma, he recites a bracha on the sprinkled oil.

IIB. INCIDENTAL TO PURPOSE

We learned above that one does not recite a bracha before smelling a fragrance whose current purpose is not for its aroma. What does this mean?

Imagine yourself outside the production facility of the world’s largest manufacturer of flavors and fragrances. The aroma outside this plant is indescribable — I can tell you because I have been there. Yet the halacha is that one does not recite a bracha on this fragrance. Why not?

The halacha is that someone who enters a spice merchant’s store recites a bracha because the owner wants customers to smell his wares so that they will make a purchase (Gemara Berachos 53a). If these items are in his warehouse where he is not soliciting customers, one does not recite a bracha (Magen Avraham 217:1).

Why do you recite a bracha on the spices in his store but not those that are in his warehouse? Because the fragrances in the store are there to be smelled and enjoyed; the ones in the warehouse are not. Thus, the fragrances in the warehouse are not avida lireicha and are not besamim.

Thus, smelling the most fantastic aroma in the world from the production facility of the world’s largest manufacturer of pleasant flavors and fragrances does not warrant a bracha. These fragrances do not qualify as besamim since they are not there for people to enjoy their aroma.

THE SPICE MERCHANT HIMSELF

Does the spice seller himself recite a bracha upon entering his own shop? He does not enter intending to smell fragrant spices in order to decide what to buy. He enters because it is his livelihood. Can a fragrance be avida lireicha for one person but not for another?

Poskim dispute this question, many ruling that the merchant should recite a bracha since the fragrance has the status of avida lireicha. Others contend that for the merchant the fragrances are merchandise and not avida lireicha and therefore he should not recite a bracha (Mishnah Berurah 217:4; Shaar Hatziyun 217:7).

Other poskim present a different reason why the merchant should not recite a bracha on the fragrance. The Taz (217:1) contends that one recites a bracha over a fragrance only if one demonstrates that he wants to smell it, such as by picking up the fragrance and raising it to his nose. The customer who enters the shop recites a bracha because he walked into the shop intending to smell and purchase fragrances — thus, his entry is itself demonstration that he wants to smell the spices, and therefore he recites a bracha. However, the owner’s entry does not demonstrate intent to smell the product. According to this opinion, someone who makes a delivery to a perfumery would not recite a bracha.

On the other hand, most poskim contend that once a fragrance qualifies as avida lireicha, one recites a bracha over it even if one is not specifically trying to smell it (Pri Megadim MZ 217:1; Shaar Hatziyun 217:4). Thus, the poskim dispute whether the merchant himself recites a bracha. Later in the article we will suggest an approach whereby he can avoid a safek bracha completely.

The same dispute also applies to the neighbors of the perfumery, its workers, and people making deliveries to the shop. According to the Taz’s opinion, only the customers recite a bracha on the magnificent fragrance of the shop since they come to smell and purchase. Also, if you entered the store to enjoy the fragrance, you recite a bracha according to all opinions.

PUTTING INTO YOUR HAND

Let’s assume you are back in the spice merchant’s warehouse or in the flavor factory and you know that you do not make a bracha on the incredible fragrance that is wafting through the air. What happens if you approach some of the spices to take a pleasant whiff or you lift some of the fragrance in order to smell it? Do you recite a bracha?

The poskim dispute what to do in this case. The Mishnah Berurah (217:1) contends that whenever you do something to smell the fragrance, such as you move towards the fragrance or you pick it up or you put some into your hand, you should recite a bracha. Any act makes the fragrance avida lireicha.

However the Chazon Ish disagrees, maintaining that if you will return the fragrance it is not avida lireicha and you do not make a bracha (Chazon Ish, Orach Chayim 35:1). The Chazon Ish agrees that if the manufacturer has samples available because he wants people to smell and buy, then one does recite a bracha.

SPICES IN THE KITCHEN

There is a common practical difference in halacha between the approaches of these two Gedolim regarding spices in the kitchen. Suppose you want to enjoy the smell of the cinnamon or the oregano on your kitchen shelf. According to the Mishnah Berurah, if you remove a container to smell it, then you recite a bracha on the spice even though you intend to return the spice to the shelf after smelling it. However according to the Chazon Ish, you do not recite a bracha on this fragrance unless you do not intend to cook with it later. (See Shmiras Shabbos K’Hilchasah, Vol. 2, Pg. 262). Someone who wants to avoid the dispute would sprinkle a little bit of spice into his hand and make a bracha on that. Since you are not going to use this spice for cooking, it is besamim and one recites a bracha before smelling it.

Some poskim explain that this opinion of the Chazon Ish is the reason for the widespread minhag to set aside special besamim for havdalah on Motzei Shabbos (Shmiras Shabbos K’Hilchasah, Vol. 2 pg. 262). Why do people do this? Couldn’t you just use a fragrant kitchen spice for the bracha?

However according to the Chazon Ish, one does not recite a bracha on a kitchen spice if one intends to cook with it. Only if one removed some of the spice from kitchen use and set it aside for besamim does that spice warrant a bracha.

THE GARDEN

At the beginning of the article I asked, “My neighbor has a wonderfully fragrant garden. Do I recite a bracha whenever I visit her, and if so, which bracha?” We are now prepared to answer this question.

The fragrant garden itself is avida lireicha since the owner or gardener presumably planted it wanting to benefit from the beautiful aroma. Do we therefore recite a bracha upon entering the garden? According to most poskim, one would recite the bracha upon entering the garden even if he is not entering the garden to enjoy the aroma at all, since it is avida lireicha. The bracha will depend on what is growing in the garden, but assuming that there are items growing with different brachos, one should recite Borei Minei Besamim.

However according to the Taz, one recites a bracha only if he wants to smell the fragrance. In order to avoid this shaylah, one should have in mind before entering the garden that one is entering the garden to enjoy the fragrance and recite a bracha immediately before entering the garden, just as one recites a bracha immediately before eating a delicious fruit.

Similarly, someone whose house is permeated with aromatic flowers should recite a bracha before entering the house since the flowers were acquired with the intention of making the house pleasantly fragrant. However, if the flowers are there only for beauty and their owner was not concerned with their fragrance, then one does not recite a bracha before entering the house. According to the Mishnah Berurah we quoted above, one should recite the appropriate bracha (either Borei Atzei Besamim or Borei Isvei Besamim) before smelling an individual flower. According to the Chazon Ish, it would seem that one should not recite a bracha unless he removed a leaf or trimming from the flowers that he wants to smell.

THE FRUIT MARKET AND THE CONFECTIONER

Does one recite a bracha when entering a fragrant fruit market, since smelling the delicious fruit may entice one to make a purchase? The same question applies to a confectionary store – Does one recite a bracha before entering this store since the delicious smell of all the sweets may entice the customer to purchase?

If indeed the owner feels that the fragrance of his wares encourages people to buy them, then one should recite a bracha before entering. This case is similar to an interesting dispute that we find in earlier poskim.

THE PHARMACY

In earlier days, a pharmacy was a store in which the apothecary sold raw herbs for their medicinal value. The poskim ask whether one recites a bracha before entering the apothecary shop just as the Gemara says that one recites a bracha before entering the besamim seller’s store.

Some poskim rule that one should recite a bracha before entering a pharmacy because the permeating fragrance encourages people to purchase herbs. Other poskim disagree for an interesting reason — people do not purchase medicinal herbs because of fragrance, but for medical need (see Biyur Halacha 217:1). Thus, since healthy people do not make purchases even if the herbs smell pleasant, and sick people will buy even if the herbs are not fragrant, no one is deciding to buy because of the fragrance. Therefore, these herbs are not avida lireicha.

The Mishnah Berurah (Biyur Halacha 217:1) compromises between the two positions quoted above. In his opinion, if people use the fragrance to find the location of the store, that is reason enough to make a bracha. However, he points out two other reasons why one should be careful before reciting a bracha.

1. That according to the Taz (mentioned above) one does not recite a bracha unless one intends to smell the fragrance.

2. One should recite a bracha only if the fragrances are open. However, if the herbs are all closed in bags, but the air is fragrant from the previously opened bags, this is considered a rei’ach she’ayn lo ikar, upon which one does not recite a bracha.

Thus upon entering a fragrant fruit store, one should recite Hanosein Rei’ach Tov Ba’peiros and then intend to enjoy the fragrance, since the fruits are always out in the open to encourage people to buy them.

It is uncertain whether the same halacha applies to a florist’s shop. Flowers today are not cultivated for fragrance, and most people purchase flowers because of beauty, not fragrance. However, if there is a florist who feels that customers purchase because of fragrance, one should recite Borei Minei Besamim and enjoy the fragrance.

IIC. Fragrances whose purpose is to provide aroma to something else.

In the time of Chazal, it was common to burn incense in order to give clothing or dishes a pleasant fragrance. The Gemara (Berachos 53a) mentions that one does not recite a bracha when smelling this beautiful aroma because its purpose is not for the fragrance itself.

When showing a house for sale, some people toast cinnamon in the oven or open essential oils and other fragrances around the house to make the house more appealing. Since the purpose of these fragrances is to give the house a pleasant aroma and not to entice people either to smell or to purchase the fragrance, one does not recite a bracha.

IID Items that most people do not consider fragrances.

There are items that some people enjoy smelling, but most people do not consider fragrant. One should not recite a bracha before smelling such an item.

Examples: The poskim dispute whether one recites a bracha on freshly baked bread. Those who contend that one does not recite this bracha is because they feel that this is not a significant fragrance to warrant a bracha (Beis Yosef 216; Rama). Thus, some people enjoy smelling certain plants or herbs whereas other people do not. If most people do not consider a particular smell to be a fragrance, you should not recite a bracha even if you enjoy it.

TURPENTINE

Question #4 above, a shaylah someone recently asked me, was: “I just adore the smell of turpentine! Do I make a bracha when I smell it?”

Dear reader, how would you answer this shaylah?

Perfumeries do not sell turpentine as a fragrance. Hardware stores sell it as a solvent and paint thinner. Many people consider the odor of turpentine pungent and not fragrant. Since most people do not consider turpentine to be a fragrance, one should not recite a bracha before smelling it.

III Ayn lo ikar – A fragrance whose source no longer exists.

In the case mentioned above where one burns incense to impart aroma onto clothing or pots, one does not recite a bracha on the clothing afterwards because the fragrance has no ikar (Rambam, Hilchos Brachos 9:8). For this reason, one does not recite a bracha on a bag that has a pleasant smell because it once held fragrance or when you can still smell the residual aroma that is in the air after a spice has been put into a closed bag

(Biyur Halacha 217:3).

SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES

Some poskim contend that one does not make a bracha on a synthetic fragrance (Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, quoted in Shmiras Shabbos K’Hilchasah, Vol. 2, Pg. 263 note 32). Apparently, they hold that one can only recite a bracha on a fragrance whose source was originally besamim. However most poskim dispute this ruling, contending that fragrance should not be different from a “synthetic food”- a food made from a non-food substance, such as alcohol or vinegar whose source is petrochemical – which is very common today.

This situation is very common today, since most inexpensive fragrances and perfumes are synthetic. Because of the above dispute, if I have a reason to smell a synthetic fragrance I try to recite a bracha on a different fragrance whose bracha is Borei Minei Besamim, such as cloves or cinnamon, and thereby be motzi the synthetic fragrance. (Neither of these options will work for Sefardim, since they usually recite Hanosein Rei’ach Tov Ba’peiros on cloves and Borei Atzei Besamim on cinnamon.)

As a quick review, we do not recite a bracha on the following categories of fragrances:

Those that we are not permitted to smell.

Deodorizers

If the fragrance is incidental to the item’s main purpose or if it provides aroma to something else.

Items that most people do not consider fragrances.

Where one does not smell the source of the fragrance.

Some poskim hold that we should not recite a bracha on a synthetic fragrance.

EXPRESSIVE FRAGRANCE

In a monumental essay, Rav Hirsch (Breishis 8:21) explains that the expression rei’ach nicho’ach, usually translated as “a pleasant fragrance,” should more accurately be rendered “an expression of compliance.” He demonstrates that the word nicho’ach means “giving satisfaction” and the concept of “rei’ach” is used because fragrance implies receiving a very slight impression of something that is distant. Thus, when a korban is offered as a rei’ach nicho’ach it means that it shows a small expression of our fulfilling Hashem’s will. Similarly, our attempt to observe the halachos of brachos on fragrances correctly demonstrates a small expression on our part to praise Hashem for even His small kindnesses to us.

Pizza, Pretzels and Pastry

Shaylah 1. Yehuda is famished and spots a pizza shop with a reliable hechsher. Entering the shop, he sees no place to wash before eating, but the friendly counterman assures him, “No problem, our pizza is mezonos!” Is the counterman’s psak correct?

Shaylah 2. While driving inter-city, Baila snacks on some packaged cookies. Before realizing it, she has single-handedly eaten the entire box! Must she bensch or does she recite al hamichyah?

Shaylah 3. It is hard for Dovid to wash at work, so instead of taking sandwiches, he eats crackers with his meal. Can he thereby avoid washing netilas yadayim?

Shaylah 4. When Shifra invited her new Sefardi neighbor for a Shabbos meal, they told her that they do not make hamotzi on challah that tastes sweet. When Shifra offered them matzoh instead, she was told that they make mezonos on it! Why is there such a difference between our practices?

To answer each of these shaylos, we need to study the halachic subject known as “pas haba’ah bikisnin,” a term we will translate later. As a working definition, we could say that this includes baked goods usually eaten as a snack rather than as a meal. Although we will discuss the halachic details of pas haba’ah bikisnin, in general these items are mezonos and al hamichyah when eaten as a snack, and require washing, hamotzi, and the full bensching when eaten as a meal.

HOW CAN SOMETHING SOMETIMES BE HAMOTZI AND SOMETIMES MEZONOS? DOES IT HAVE AN IDENTITY CRISIS?

In a way, yes. Sometimes these items fulfill the role of bread and sometimes they do not. But before we explain the role of pas haba’ah bikisnin, we must first explain why bread is unique.

As we know, Chazal established a special bracha just for bread, hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz, and it is the only food that requires full bensching. The Torah views bread as mankind’s staple food and as such it has brachos of its own.

WHAT IS BREAD?

My dictionary defines bread as something made from flour and water (or another liquid) and baked. This definition is highly inadequate, since according to this definition, croissants, cake, cookies, pretzels, pastry, tarts, pies, teiglach, kichel and many other items are all “bread,” yet even Marie Antoinette did not serve them as substitutes for bread on a regular basis.

Thus, we need a better definition for bread, or at least for bread that always requires netilas yadayim, hamotzi and bensching. The Beis Yosef (Orach Chayim 168) explains that these halachos apply to bread prepared the way it is typically used for sustenance, rather than as a snack. Baked goods that are typically eaten not as a staple but as a snack are placed in a different halachic category.

With this introduction, we can now discuss our subject. The Gemara (Berachos 42a) tells us that if one eats as much pas haba’ah bikisnin as most people consider a meal, one must treat it as bread. Under such circumstances, one must wash netilas yadayim, make hamotzi and bensch. The rationale is that by eating pas haba’ah bikisnin for sustenance, we are treating it like bread. Thus, usually pas haba’ah bikisnin is eaten as a snack, and when eaten this way its bracha is mezonos and al hamichyah (Rosh).

WHAT CONSTITUTES PAS HABA’AH BIKISNIN?

There are three basic interpretations of pas haba’ah bikisnin:

1. Bread made from spiced or sweetened dough (Rashi, Berachos 41b; Rambam, Hilchos Berachos 3:9). Most pastry and cake fit into this category.

2. Bread made with pockets that are filled with sweets before it is baked (Tur). This is similar to kokosh and rugelach, where regular bread dough is rolled between layers of chocolate or cinnamon before it is baked.

3. Hard bread like a cracker, biscuit, kichel or pretzel (Rav Hai Gaon).

The “bread” of all three above instances is usually not eaten as a staple, but as a snack. According to many later authorities we rule like all three opinions above: therefore, any baked item that is sweetened, spiced or has too hard a texture to be eaten as regular bread, is considered pas haba’ah bikisnin (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 168:7; see also Maamar Mordechai and Biyur Halacha to 168:8). All of these items will be mezonos and al hamichyah if eaten as a snack, and will be hamotzi and require full bensching if eaten as a full meal.

Matzoh is baked similar to a cracker, yet is usually eaten as a substitute for bread rather than as a snack. Since it is usually eaten in order for one to be satiated rather than as a snack, Ashkenazim treat matzoh as regular bread. On the other hand, they are not eaten that regularly the rest of the year and are also not too different from other crackers. For these reasons, Sefardim treat them as pas haba’ah bikisnin the rest of the year, and only treat them as bread on Pesach when they function as our regular bread, whereas Ashkenazim contend that they are a staple and are therefore hamotzi. (It should be noted that on Pesach Sefardim also recite hamotzi over matzoh, since this is the regular bread of the Yom Tov, see Machazik Bracha 158:5). Thus, we have explained Shifra’s questions (that we mentioned above) why Sefardic and Ashkenazic practice are so different.

We should note that boiled or fried items never have the law of pas haba’ah bikisnin, but are always mezonos even if eaten as a full meal. Thus, most authorities rule that pasta, kneidlich, donuts and chremzlich (the latter two are deep fried) are mezonos and al hamichyah and do not require netilas yadayim, no matter how much you eat and regardless how many calories one gains. (It should be noted that there is an opinion that disagrees, see Shulchan Aruch 168:13).

A LITTLE SWEET

What about an item that is just a bit sweet, such as many Ashkenazi Shabbos challos?

The poskim dispute how sweet something must be to be considered pas haba’ah bikisnin. The Shulchan Aruch, followed by the Sefardim, rules that even if the dough is only a little sweet, one should treat it as pas haba’ah bikisnin and it is mezonos as long as the sweetness is noticeable, whereas the Rama, who is followed by Ashkenazim, rules that it has to be very sweet or very spicy to be pas haba’ah bikisnin.

WHEN IS PAS HABA’AH BIKISNIN CONSIDERED A STAPLE?

I mentioned before that one must wash netilas yadayim before eating pas haba’ah bikisnin, and recite hamotzi and bensch on it when it is eaten as a staple rather than as a snack. What defines the difference between a staple and a snack?

According to many poskim, if what one ate is enough to be considered a large meal then it is treated like bread. Other poskim contend that even if one ate an amount the size of four eggs, one is already required to wash netilas yadayim and make hamotzi. (For our purposes, we will say that four kibeitzim is approximately 8.4 ounces.)

Some contend that one makes hamotzi even for the equivalent of three kibeitzim, or about 6.3 ounces. Thus, someone who eats four kibeitzim or more of pastry outside a meal creates a shaylah as to what bracha to recite before and after eating, and whether he must wash netilas yadayim. One should avoid this shaylah by eating less than four kibeitzim unless one eats it as part of a meal (Mishnah Berurah 168:24), and some contend less than the equivalent of three kibeitzim (Birkei Yosef 168:4).

DOES THIS AMOUNT INCLUDE THE OTHER ITEMS ONE IS EATING, OR JUST THE “PAS” PART OF THE MEAL?

If someone ate an entire meal of meat and vegetables without bread but with pas haba’ah bikisnin, must he wash netilas yadayim, and does he recite hamotzi and bensch? The Magen Avraham (168:13) rules that he must wash netilas yadayim, make hamotzi and bensch since he ate pas haba’ah bikisnin together with the meal. Thus, he is satisfied from eating a meal containing pas haba’ah bikisnin, which requires him to treat it as bread. As we will see, Ashkenazim usually follow this psak (Mishnah Berurah 168:24). Thus, substituting crackers instead of bread for supper and eating as many crackers as is typical with a meal will not exempt someone from washing netilas yadayim and he will still recite hamotzi and bensching.

Birkei Yosef (168:6) disagrees, contending that we calculate only how much pas haba’ah bikisnin he is eating. Thus, one is exempt from netilas yadayim as long as one ate less than four kibeitzim of pas haba’ah bikisnin. If someone eats less than three kibeitzim, one recites mezonos on the crackers, ha’adamah on the vegetables, and shehakol on the meat, and afterwards recites al hamichyah and borei nefashos since he did not eat four kibeitzim of pas haba’ah bikisnin. One should avoid eating between three kibeitzim and four outside a meal, but if one did eat this much, he would make an al hamichyah afterwards (VeZos HaBeracha pg. 37). This is the approach usually followed by Sefardim.

We can now explain how Shifra can accommodate the needs of her Sefardic guests. There are a total of three different disputes all related to the halachos of pas haba’ah bikisnin.

1. Do we consider sweet challah to be bread or pas haba’ah bikisnin?

2. Do we consider matzoh to be regular bread or pas haba’ah bikisnin?

3. If someone eats a full meal containing less than three kibeitzim of pas haba’ah bikisnin does he recite hamotzi and bensch or not?

In all three of these shaylos, Ashkenazim follow the first alternative and Sefardim the second. Therefore, whereas an Ashkenazi makes hamotzi on a sweet challah or on matzoh, a Sefardi will not make hamotzi on it unless he intends to eat four kibeitzim. Thus, an Ashkenazi inviting a Sefardi should ideally provide challah that has no noticeable sugar to make his guest comfortable. A Sefardi eating at an Ashkenazi’s house where there is only sweet challah should eat four kibeitzim of the challah in the course of the meal.

TRAVELING NOSHER

We can also now paskin Baila’s shaylah – our traveler who ate an entire bag of cookies while driving. If she ate so many cookies that she is full from them, she must bensch, even though she did not wash netilas yadayim before imbibing her cookies, since she ate enough to be considered a filling, if not particularly balanced, meal.

THE KIDDUSH

At a large kiddush or a smorgasbord, many courses are served that certainly suffice for a full meal. In addition, crackers and cake are usually also served, both of which qualify as pas haba’ah bikisnin. Thus, an Ashkenazi who eats enough for a full meal should wash netilas yadayim and make hamotzi on the crackers if he intends to eat the amount of crackers that one would usually eat with this meal.

According to many poskim, a Sefardi merely needs to keep track that he eats less than three kibeitzim of pas haba’ah bikisnin to avoid a shaylah.

How does an Ashkenazi participate in the kiddush without eating a full seudah and yet without creating a shaylah what bracha to make?

The two best options are to eat the cake and crackers either before or after he eats the rest of the Kiddush foods. If he eats them first, the optimal way to avoid the shaylah is by reciting an al hamichyah and then eating the other items at the kiddush (VeZos HaBeracha pg. 35). This demonstrates that the pas haba’ah bikisnin and the rest of what he is eating are not one big meal.

An interesting phenomenon results from this discussion. It is not uncommon for someone to attend a kiddush and eat a considerable amount of cake, crackers and other food without washing netilas yadayim. This is incorrect because they have eaten a full seudah that requires washing and bensching. Then, they come home fairly full and, wanting to save room for the rest of the Shabbos meal, they eat only a small piece of challah, less than they need to fulfill the mitzvah of seudas Shabbos, or even to require them to bensch. They should make sure to eat a kibeitzah of challah within a few minutes in order to make sure that they fulfill the mitzvah of seudah.

What if someone decides in the middle of a snack that he is going to eat enough to make a meal? If he will still be eating enough to be considered a meal, he should wash, and make hamotzi on what he is yet to eat. On the other hand, if what he intends to eat is not enough for hamotzi by itself, but only in combination with what he ate already, then he should not make a new bracha but complete eating what he has left without washing (Magen Avraham 168:14). When he finishes eating, he bensches – creating the rather unusual situation of reciting mezonos before eating and bensching afterwards.

“MEZONOS ROLLS”

Bakeries that produce so-called “mezonos rolls” knead them with enough juice or milk to consider them pas haba’ah bikisnin according to some authorities. These rolls should taste fairly sweet, and if they do not, are hamotzi for an Ashkenazi even if one takes only a nibble from them.

However, the bracha is mezonos only when one eats a small amount. When eating a full meal together with mezonos rolls, one must wash netilas yadayim, recite hamotzi, and bensch afterwards. Thus, the “psak” of the pizzeria’s counterman (quoted above) that the pizza is mezonos was certainly not accurate if the partaker is an Ashkenazi eating a full meal. Furthermore, it is not the preferred method if he eats three kibeitzim or more of pizza, and certainly not if he ate four.

There is another reason to question his psak, as we will discuss.

PIZZA, BUREKAS AND MEAT PIES

The Shulchan Aruch (168:17) rules that the bracha on an item called “pashtida,” a baked item filled with meat, fish or cheese, is hamotzi. This sounds exactly like a case that should have the halachic status of our second type of pas haba’ah bikisnin mentioned above, where one filled a dough, yet the Shulchan Aruch rules that it is considered bread! Why is pashtida different?

The poskim present several answers to this question.

(A) Pashtida is indeed a form of pas haba’ah bikisnin. The Shulchan Aruch is discussing a case in which he ate a full meal and that is why the bracha is hamotzi (Taz 168:20).

(B) There is a difference between dough filled with sweet things and one filled with satisfying things like cheese, fish or meat. The latter case, which is the case of pashtida, is always hamotzi since it is meant to satisfy and not as a sweet snack (Emek Bracha, quoted by Taz 168:20; Graz 168:10).

(C) Pashtida is regular bread dough and therefore its bracha is hamotzi. If it was made with a oily dough, such as one makes burekas, then indeed it would be considered pas haba’ah bikisnin (Birkei Yosef 168:7; see a similar approach in Aruch HaShulchan 168:50).

At first glance, pizza and pashtida seem comparable and both should be hamotzi. However according to the first approach above, this is true only if one ate a lot of pashtida and pizza, otherwise it is still comparable to pas haba’ah bikisnin. According to the second approach above, both pashtida and pizza are hamotzi even if one eats only a small amount. Thus, there is an additional reason why pizza might be hamotzi even if one ate only a small amount.

Adding milk or juice to the flour will only make a difference according to the last approach. According to this opinion, pizza produced with regular bread dough is hamotzi, whereas adding milk or juice to the dough might make it into pas haba’ah bikisnin. Even this is by no means certain, since the pizza itself does not taste different by virtue of the milk or juice added to its dough.

Thus, according to many poskim, pizza is always hamotzi, whereas according to some poskim it is pas haba’ah bikisnin and therefore sometimes mezonos as I explained above. As in all other shaylos, one should ask one’s individual Rav what to do.

According to the Gemara (Bava Kamma 30a), someone who desires to become a chassid (exemplary in his behavior) should toil in understanding the halachos of brachos. By investing energy into understanding the details of how we praise Hashem, we realize the importance of each aspect of that praise and how we must recognize that everything we have is a gift from Hashem. Furthermore, when reciting the proper bracha, one is acquiring the item from Hashem in the proper way. Pas haba’ah bikisnin functions in two different ways, sometimes as our main sustenance and most of the time as a pleasant snack. Reciting the correct bracha focuses on our understanding the appropriate praise for Hashem at the correct moment.

Making Our Days Count

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A Review of the Halachos of Sefiras HaOmer

In Parshas Emor, the Torah teaches: “Hashem spoke to Moshe saying, Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: ‘When you enter the land that I am giving to you and you will cut its harvesting, then you shall bring an omer-sized portion from the first of its harvest to the Kohen. And he (the Kohen) shall wave the omer before Hashem for your benefit, on the day after the ‘day of rest’ the Kohen shall wave it… And you should count for yourselves from the day after the ‘day of rest, from the day you bring the omer of waving, until there will be seven complete weeks. Until the day after the seventh week, you shall count fifty days.’” (Vayikra 23:9-11,15-16). It should be noted that the words in the posuk, mimacharas hashabos, which we have translated as the “the day after the ‘day of rest,’” would usually be translated “the day after Shabbos”. However, the Oral Torah (Torah shebaal peh) teaches us that the words “day of rest” here mean the first day of Pesach (Menachos 65b). Thus, the omer offering is brought on the second day of Pesach, whether or not that date falls on the day after Shabbos. From the day that we bring the omer offering we begin to count the omer, until we complete the counting of seven weeks.

The Gemara recounts a fascinating story that occurred at the time of the Second Temple. There was a group of non-believing Jews, the Baytusim, who disregarded the teachings of Chazal. (Indeed, the Baytusim also disavowed belief in reward and punishment and other basic Jewish tenets, see Avos diRabbi Nassan, Chapter 5:2). Since the Baytusim followed their own interpretation of the posuk, they decided that the korban omer must be offered on a Sunday and not necessarily on the second day of Pesach. They plotted to have Rosh Chodesh Nisan fall out on Shabbos, realizing that the second day of Pesach would then fall out on Sunday. The result would be that the korban omer would be offered on Sunday, even though it was not supposed to happen that particular year.

The Baytusim were so determined to have the korban omer offered on Sunday that they hired false witnesses in an attempt to manipulate the main Besdin to declare Rosh Chodesh Nisan on a Shabbos. Fortunately, one of the witnesses that they hired did not believe in the Baytusi creed and told the Rabbonim about the plot (Gemara Rosh HaShanah 22b). Because of this event, major changes were instituted in the type of witnesses accepted by the Besdin (Rosh HaShanah 22a).

As mentioned above, the mitzvah of counting omer begins from the day that the korban omer is offered. This implies that when there is no korban omer, there is no requirement min hatorah to count the omer (Menachos 66a). Indeed, most poskim contend that since there is unfortunately no Beis Hamikdash today and there are no korbanos, there is no mitzvah min hatorah to count omer (Ran, end of Pesachim; see Shulchan Aruch 489:3 and Mishnah Berurah). However, Chazal instituted that we should count omer even though there is no Beis Hamikdash in order to remember the mitzvah as it was at the time of the Beis HaMikdash. (Menachos 66a).

Details About the Counting

Before counting the Omer, we recite a brocha on the performing of the mitzvah. One should be careful to stand while reciting both the brocha and the counting (Rosh, end of Pesachim; Shulchan Aruch 489:1).

The Torah states: “And you should count for yourselves… seven complete weeks. Until the day after the seventh week, you shall count fifty days.” It is noteworthy that the Torah makes two statements, one that we should count seven weeks, and a second that we should count fifty days. Based on this observation, the Gemara derives that there are two mitzvohs, one to count the days and the other to count the weeks (Menachos 66a).

Tosafos raises the following question: Why does the Torah say, “Until the day after the seventh week, you shall count fifty days,” if the mitzvah is to count for only forty-nine days? Tosafos explains that the verse should be translated: “Until the day after the seventh week, which is the fiftieth day, shall you count” (Menachos 65b s.v. Kasuv.) According to this translation, there is a mitzvah to count up until the fiftieth day, which is Shavuos, but that there is no mitzvah to count the fiftieth day itself.

As mentioned above, the Gemara rules that there is a mitzvah to count the weeks. Obviously, there is no mitzvah to count the weeks until the end of the first week — at which point there is a mitzvah to state that one week of counting has been completed. From this point on, is there a mitzvah to mention the weekly count every day, or is it sufficient to count the weeks only at the end of each week? According to the latter interpretation, one counts the weeks only seven times, once at the end of each week (Tur, quoting Yesh Omrim). However, the accepted opinion is that every day of sefirah (except for the first six days) one counts the number of days and then one calculates how many weeks and days. Thus, on the eleventh day of sefirah we count, “Today is eleven days, which is one week and four days in the omer” (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 489:1). (According to the first opinion cited above [that of Tur, quoting Yesh Omrim], there is no mitzvah to count the weeks on the eleventh day. According to this opinion, the entire counting is: “Today is eleven days.”)

Some Practical Applications

Someone who counts the wrong number has not fulfilled the mitzvah. However, if he remembered immediately and corrected his error, he has fulfilled the mitzvah (Mishnah Berurah 489:32).

One should not recite the blessing without knowing the day’s exact count, even if he knows that he will hear the correct count from someone else immediately. Rather, one should first find out what the correct count is before reciting the blessing (Mishnah Berurah 489:29 and Shaar HaTziyun ad loc.).

Sefirah can be counted in any language, provided one understands what he is saying. Someone who does not understand what he is saying has not fulfilled the mitzvah, even if he counts in Hebrew (Magen Avraham).

A very common question is whether one who missed counting one day of sefirah may still recite a brocha when he counts the remaining days. Some early poskim contend that someone who missed counting one day has no mitzvah to count the remaining days since his counting of forty-nine days is no longer complete (Tur, quoting Bahag). According to this opinion, someone who missed one day may continue to count sefirah, but he is forbidden to recite a brocha since he is no longer fulfilling a mitzvah. However, other poskim contend that missing one day does not affect the upcoming days. In their opinion, each day there is a mitzvah to count the sefirah of that day even if one has not counted the preceding days (Tur, quoting Rav Hai Gaon). Shulchan Aruch (489:8) treats this shaylah as an unresolved issue. Thus he rules that someone who missed counting one day of sefirah should count the remaining days without a brocha. The count should continue because it is possible that he is still fulfilling the mitzvah. Yet he does not recite a brocha, because if he is no longer fulfilling a mitzvah the brocha would be a brocha li-vatala (a brocha recited in vain).

In this case, and all other cases where there is a doubt whether one is still fulfilling the mitzvah, it is preferable to hear the brocha from someone who is definitely required to count (Mishnah Berurah ad loc.). The person reciting the brocha must have in mind to include the other person in his brocha, and the person who is not reciting the brocha must have in mind to be included in the brocha. If there is no one available to make the brocha for him, he should count sefirah without a brocha.

An Interesting Shaylah

There is another interesting shaylah that results from the above-mentioned dispute whether each day’s sefirah counting is dependent on still having a complete count: Does a boy who becomes bar mitzvah between Pesach and Shavuos recite a brocha on the counting of sefirah? Even if the twelve-year old was counting sefirah every night very diligently, he was not fulfilling a mitzvah since he was still a minor. Thus, if the mitzvah of counting sefirah is dependent on a complete count, the bar mitzvah bochur may not have a complete sefirah count.

Many poskim discuss this issue and there is no common agreement what to do. (See for example, Birkei Yosef 489:20; Shaarei Tshuva 489:20; Shu”t Maharam Shick #269; Shu”t Har Tzvi 2:76.) Therefore, one should ask his Rav for a ruling on this shaylah.

As we mentioned above, someone who missed one day of sefirah should continue counting but without a brocha. However, someone who is not sure if he missed counting one day may still count with a brocha (Shulchan Aruch 489:8). Since it is not certain that his counting is incomplete, he can rely on the possibility that his counting is still complete with the possibility that the halacha is that one can recite a brocha even if the count is incomplete. This concept is called a sfek sfeika, which means that there are two possibilities why it is permitted to do something. In this case, the two possibilities that it is acceptable to recite the brocha allow him to recite a brocha.

Similarly, in any other case where it is questionable whether he fulfilled the requirement to count, or where the law is that he should count without a brocha on a particular night, the halacha is that he may proceed to continue counting the next night with a brocha (Mishnah Berurah 489:38).

If on a given night someone counted sefirah without reciting a brocha first, he may not recite the brocha afterwards for that day’s counting. Although he fulfilled the mitzvah of counting omer that night, he is unable to fulfill the mitzvah of making a brocha on the counting. Therefore, one should be careful not to tell someone what night of sefirah it is before one has fulfilled the mitzvah (Shulchan Aruch 489:4). The accepted practice is to respond to the question “What night is it?” by stating what was the count of the previous day.

Some Unusual Applications

What is the halacha if someone alluded to the correct number of the day’s omer count, but did so in an unusual way? For example, has someone fulfilled the mitzvah if he counted on the thirty-ninth day of the omer that today is “forty days minus one”? Is this considered a valid method of counting thirty-nine days, or must one count thirty-nine in a direct way? The halacha is that this unusual method of counting is considered counting, and he has fulfilled the mitzvah (Be’er Heiteiv 469:6).

Another shaylah about an unusual method of counting has very common application.

In Hebrew, one can allude to a number by reciting the Hebrew letter or letters that represent it. For example, one could attempt to count the eleventh day of sefirah by stating that today is yud alef b’omer, or attempt to count the thirty-third day of sefirah by counting that today is lag b’omer. Poskim dispute whether one fulfills the mitzvah if one counts this way. Whereas some poskim rule that this is a valid method of counting, other poskim rule that he has not fulfilled the mitzvah since he did not count the number explicitly (Shaarei Tshuvah 489:6).

There is a very common shaylah that results from this dispute. On the evening of Lag B’omer someone stated “tonight is Lag B’omer” before he counted sefirah. Can he still recite a brocha on the counting of sefirah that night, or do we say that he has already counted for that night and cannot recite the brocha anymore? Biyur Halacha rules that this issue remains unresolved. Therefore, one should count in the regular way to make certain he fulfills the mitzvah, but without a brocha since it is a doubt whether he is still obligated to perform the mitzvah (Biyur Halacha 489:1 s.v. moneh). On subsequent nights he would be able to resume counting with a brocha.

The Korban Omer was harvested at night, hence the mitzvah of counting Omer is at night. If the omer was not harvested at night, there is a dispute among poskim whether it could be harvested instead in the daytime (Tosafos Menachos 66a). The same dispute is reflected in a different shaylah that is germane to each of us: If someone forgot to count the omer at night, can he still fulfill the mitzvah if he counts in the daytime? Since the matter is disputed, he should count in the daytime, but without a brocha, since we refrain from making a brocha whenever it is uncertain whether one is performing a mitzvah (Shulchan Aruch 489:7). The accepted psak halacha is that he may resume counting with a brocha the following evening (Mishnah Berurah 489:34).

What Happens if…

As we mentioned above, according to most poskim the mitzvah of counting the omer is only rabbinic in our era since unfortunately the Beis HaMikdash is destroyed. Some poskim contend that since the counting is only midirabanan one is permitted to count the omer before it is definitely nightfall (Rosh and other Rishonim, end of Pesachim). Thus, the practice developed in some communities to count the omer during twilight even though it is uncertain whether it is day or night. Shulchan Aruch rules that one should preferably wait until after nightfall to count. However, someone who is davening in a shul where the people are counting before nightfall is permitted to count with them lest he forget to count later (see Shulchan Aruch 489:2-3). In this situation, Shulchan Aruch rules that he should count together with the shul without a brocha and have in mind that if he remembers later, he will count again. If he indeed remembers to count again, then he recites a brocha and counts a second time.

This ruling seems very strange. How can one count the second time with a brocha—didn’t he fulfill the mitzvah the first time he counted? Counting with a brocha should be a brocha li-vatala, a brocha recited in vain!

The answer is that when he counted the first time, he made an automatic condition that if he indeed remembers to count again later, he does not want to fulfill the mitzvah now. It is considered that he specified that he does not want to fulfill the mitzvah. However, if he forgets to count later, then the first counting he performed is valid, since his condition was not fulfilled. Thus, he will rely on the opinions that counting sefirah before nightfall is valid, and he may resume counting the following night with a brocha.

Is writing out the number count of the sefirah considered counting sefirah? If someone wrote a letter before he had counted sefirah, and he dated the letter with that night’s sefirah count, may he still count sefirah with a brocha? This issue is discussed at length by poskim. The conclusion is that although writing shows the intention of the person, it does not constitute speaking. When a mitzvah requires one to speak, such as saying Shma, reciting tefila, or counting omer, one does not fulfill his mitzvah by writing. Thus, someone who dated a letter with the night’s sefirah count before he counted sefirah can still recite a brocha on the night’s sefirah count.

As mentioned above, the Torah associates the counting of the sefirah with the offering of the korban omer. An additional idea is conveyed by the Medrash. When the Jews brought the Pesach offering in Egypt, they were eager to receive the Torah immediately. When they asked Moshe, “When do we receive the Torah?” he answered them, “On the fiftieth day”. In their enthusiasm, each of them counted every day, eagerly awaiting the exciting day on which they would receive the Torah. In commemoration of this event, we count the days from Pesach until Shavuos. (This Medrash is quoted by Ran at the end of Mesechta Pesachim.) We should all be zocheh to anticipate receiving the Torah anew on Shavuos with the same excitement and enthusiasm that our ancestors had.

Topical Tropical Plants — Papaya, Pineapple, and Palm Hearts

A visitor to the food market today may choose from a vast assortment of tropical and exotic fruits that were unknown in earlier generations. Many of these fruits grow in unique ways and create interesting shaylos. Other tropical products, such as heart of palm and sugarcane, were well-known, but have undergone major production changes or involve interesting shaylos. These gifts of Hashem provide a wonderful opportunity to discuss some of the halachos pertaining to trees.

We learned in previous articles that whether something is a tree or not influences several areas of halacha, including what bracha one recites before eating its fruit or smelling its fragrance, and many details of the halachos of arlah, kilayim (mixing species), shmittah, maaser, and ba’al tashchis (destruction without benefit).

As we noted, although it is obvious that an oak tree is not a vegetable, many species of Hashem’s botanical wonders are questionable whether or not they are trees. In a different article I discussed the status of eggplant, several varieties of berry including raspberry and cranberry, and several fragrant plants and flowers. In that article we learned that there is a three-way dispute regarding whether woody plants are categorized as trees, specifically whether:

(1) Any perennial plant (one that grows each year without replanting) is considered a tree, even if everything that is above ground dies off each year and only its underground root remains. We will refer to this as the opinion of the Rosh (Berachos 40a; Tur, Orach Chayim 203).

(2) Only a plant whose trunk or stem remains above ground from one year to the next to produce fruit qualifies as a tree. We will refer to this as the opinion of Tosafos (Berachos 40a; Ritva, Sukkah 35a).

(3) It is only a tree if it has branches that remain from one year to the next. We will refer to this as the opinion of Rashi (Berachos 40a).

We also mentioned that the prevalent minhag is to make a pri ha’adamah on species that grow less than ten inches tall (Ritva, Sukkah 35a; Mishnah Berurah 203:3). As we noted, cranberries fit into this category since they are perennial, yet grow prostrate on the “ground” of bogs. Nevertheless, we treat these species as trees concerning the laws of arlah. Furthermore, if one recited borei pri ha’eitz before eating them one has fulfilled the requirement of a bracha and should not recite borei pri ha’adamah.

Other poskim add other qualifying factors to define a tree, such as:

(a) A species capable of producing fruit within its first year (after planting from seed) is not a tree.

(b) A species whose fruit production deteriorates the year after it begins producing is not a tree.

(c) A species that produces fruit from shoots that never produce again is not a tree.

(d) A species whose physical appearance is markedly different from a typical tree is not a tree.

(e) Many poskim contend that the prohibition of arlah does not apply to a tree that produces fruit for only three years or less.

We also learned that poskim dispute whether the definition of a tree for the purposes of the bracha “borei atzei besamim” is different from the definition for the bracha of “borei pri ha’eitz” and for the halachos of arlah, shmittah, maaser, and kilayim.

With this introduction, we can now discuss some topical tropical issues:

What is the correct bracha to recite before eating coconut or palm hearts?

Does the prohibition of arlah apply to papaya?

If someone recited a borei pri ha’eitz on pineapple or on cane sugar, must he recite a new bracha?

BANANAS AND PINEAPPLES

Bananas are perennial plants whose new fruit grows directly from the root every year. Pineapple is a perennial herb which grows about three feet high, bearing long, stiff leaves in a circular cluster. The fruit grows from the center of this cluster, and, when removed, the plant produces another fruiting stem. This process can repeat itself for years, although in practice, the farmer usually uproots the entire field and replants it every few years.

Whether the bracha on these fruits is ha’eitz or ha’adamah depends on the dispute quoted above. According to the Rosh, the bracha recited on these fruits is ha’eitz since the root remains from one year to the next. However, according to the opinion of Tosafos and of Rashi, the bracha is ha’adamah, since the part of the plant that is above ground does not produce fruit again.

If we are uncertain whether the correct bracha on an item is ha’eitz or ha’adamah, one should recite ha’adamah. This is because someone who mistakenly recites borei pri ha’adamah on a fruit that should have been borei pri ha’eitz fulfills the minimal requirement bidie’evid (after the fact) and should not recite an additional bracha of borei pri ha’eitz. The reason for this is that every tree grows from the ground – Thus praising Hashem for “creating the fruit of the ground” when eating a fruit that grew on a tree is not inaccurate. Therefore, someone who is uncertain whether a certain fruit is “of the tree” or “of the ground” should recite borei pri ha’adamah before eating it since it is more inclusive.

The Shulchan Aruch and the Rama (Orach Chayim 302:2) rule that the bracha on perennials whose stem dies each year is ha’adamah. However, it is disputed whether the reason we recite ha’adamah is because the Shulchan Aruch concluded like Tosafos and ha’adamah is indeed the correct bracha, or because it is a safek whether the bracha should be ha’eitz (like Rosh and Tur), or ha’adamah (like Tosafos), and we recite ha’adamah because of this uncertainty (Maamar Mordechai; see also Graz and Aruch HaShulchan).

This dispute is not merely theoretical. According to the first opinion, someone who recited ha’eitz on a banana should not eat any banana but must recite a new bracha (Chayei Odom 51:9), whereas those who follow the latter approach rule that he should not recite a new bracha and may continue eating.

STRAWBERRIES

The Chayei Odom (51:9) rules that the bracha on strawberries is a safek since some of the plant remains above ground from year-to-year (Mishnah Berurah 203:3). Therefore he rules that one should recite ha’adamah before eating them, but that someone who mistakenly recited ha’eitz should eat one strawberry so that the bracha is not vain. Then he should find an item whose bracha is either ha’adamah or shehakol to be motzi the bracha on the rest of the strawberries.

However according to the Maamar Mordechai and other poskim quoted above, someone who recited ha’eitz on strawberries should not recite a new bracha and may continue eating.

PAPAYA

The Spaniards discovered papaya in Mexico and Central America from where it was transported to the Old World. The earliest halacha reference to it that I am aware of is a shaylah sent from India to the Rav Pe’alim (Vol. 2, Orach Chayim #30), author of the Ben Ish Chai, asking what bracha to recite on its fruit. Before quoting his answer, we need to understand the unique way that papaya grows.

Although the papaya may grow ten feet tall or more, it is technically a “woody herb” rather than a tree, since its stem is completely hollow on the inside and it does not usually produce branches. Its leaves and fruits grow directly on the top of the main stem, and it usually produces fruit during the first year, unlike most trees. Commercially, the grower usually uproots the plant after four to five years of production, although the papaya can survive longer.

Based on information provided, the Rav Pe’alim discusses what the appropriate bracha on papaya is. He begins by comparing papaya to the eggplant, which I discussed in a previous article. Notwithstanding the eggplant’s woody stalk, it is not subject to the prohibition of arlah, although poskim cite several different reasons. The Radbaz contended that any plant that produces fruit within its first year is not halachically a tree (Shu’t Radbaz #966).

Based on four factors, Rav Pe’alim rules that papaya is not a tree and that the appropriate bracha is ha’adamah. These factors are:

1. The part of the stem that produces fruit never produces again. Instead the fruit grows off the newer growth higher on the plant (The author admits to not understanding what the Rav Pe’alim meant with this concern, since there are many trees, such as dates, which only produce on their new growth, not on the old. Thus, this does not seem to be a feature that defines a tree. After further study, I realized that the difference is that papaya produces fruit only on top of the “tree,” and it looks very atypical from any other tree, whereas dates, although the fruit grows on the new growth high up the tree, they do not grow on the top of the tree.)

2. The stem of the papaya is hollow, which is not characteristic of trees.

3. The fruit grows directly on the trunk and not on the branches. (The author admits to not understanding what the Rav Pe’alim meant with this concern, since there are many trees, such as dates, which produce on the trunk and not on the branches.)

4. The papaya produces fruit within its first year.

In a follow-up letter, a correspondent wrote that the custom among Jews in India is to recite ha’eitz on the papaya’s fruit. Rav Pe’alim responded that he does not consider this custom to be a halachic opinion since the community lacked Talmidei Chachomim to paskin shaylos. He points out that if the papaya is a tree, then we must prohibit its fruit as arlah since the grower usually cuts it down before its fourth year.

Among contemporary poskim, some follow the ruling of the Rav Pe’alim that papaya is exempt from arlah and its bracha is ha’adamah (Shu’t Yechaveh Daas 4:52) whereas others rule that papaya does have arlah concerns (Mishpetei Aretz, page 27, quoting Rav Elyashiv). I refer the reader to an article on the subject published by the OU, which I can send you.

A contemporary dispute is whether one draws a distinction between papaya growing in Eretz Yisroel and that growing in chutz la’aretz. Whereas the prohibition of arlah exists both in Eretz Yisroel and in chutz la’aretz, questionable arlah fruit is prohibited if it grew in Eretz Yisroel but permitted if it grew in chutz la’aretz. Usually, questionable arlah occurs when we are uncertain whether fruit grew during the first three years. However, in this instance we have a different shaylah. Does a dispute whether arlah applies to a specific species constitute safek arlah, rendering the fruit of this plant permitted if grown in chutz la’aretz?

This question is disputed by poskim, with the above-quoted Radbaz ruling stringently whereas the Maamar Mordechai (203:3) and the Maharsham (Shu’t #196) rule leniently.

COCONUT

Coconut fruit grow on the stem and not on the branches. Thus, according to the reason cited by the Rav Pe’alim that the bracha on papaya is ha’adamah because its fruit grows directly on the stem, the bracha on coconut should also be ha’adamah. Furthermore according to Rashi who says that one of the defining aspects of a tree is that its fruit grows on its branches, the coconut may not be a proper tree, and the correct bracha on coconut would be ha’adamah.

I note that several of the contemporary books on hilchos brachos rule that the correct bracha on coconut is ha’eitz. Some discuss whether the correct bracha on coconut is ha’eitz or shehakol, since the vast majority of coconuts are cultivated for their oil and not for the fruit (VeZos HaBeracha, pg. 376). However, none of the sources I have seen discuss the possibility that the bracha should be ha’adamah, although I think this possibility should be considered.

CANE SUGAR

Another tropical plant that has been cultivated for food for millennia is the sugar cane. Sugar cane is actually a very tall grass. Why discuss sugar cane in an article about trees?

The Rambam (Hilchos Brachos 8:5) quotes a dispute among the Gaonim whether the appropriate bracha on cane sugar is “borei pri ha’adamah” or “borei pri ha’eitz,” and then concludes that the finished product should not be considered a fruit at all but shehakol because of the vast change it undergoes during production.

Why would the bracha on cane sugar be ha’eitz? Why should we consider it a tree?

In answer to this question, let us quote Tosafos (Berachos 36b s.v. biritiva), “And on sugar we recite the bracha borei pri ha’eitz because (the verse) Ya’ari im Divshi, “My forest with my honey” (Shir HaShirim 5:1) refers to sugar.” In Tosafos’ opinion, since Shlomo HaMelech describes a field of sugar cane as a “forest,” the cane is considered a tree! A similar reference exists in the Book of Shmuel (I:14:27), where it refers to “ye’aros hadevash,” or forests of honey, also understood to refer to a sugarcane field.

If the bracha on sugar is ha’eitz, then why isn’t all sugar prohibited because of arlah?

The Radbaz (Shu’t #563) points out that arlah only applies to what is derived from the fruit of a plant, as opposed to sugar cane which derives from the stalk (Birkei Yosef 331:22). Thus, there is no arlah concern on cane sugar, even according to those opinions who rule that one should recite ha’eitz before eating it.

The Shulchan Aruch (202:15) rules that the bracha on sugar is shehakol. However if someone recited either borei pri ha’eitz or borei pri ha’adamah on cane sugar, he should not recite a new bracha since the correct bracha is disputed (Tur, Beis Yosef, and Biyur Halacha ad loc.) However, if the sugar is refined from beets, a person who recited borei pri ha’eitz must recite a new bracha. It is interesting to note that the Mishnah Berurah himself [174:39] mentions sugar as an item to use to be motzi the bracha on other items.

EAT YOUR HEART OUT!  THE PALM STORY

What are palm hearts?

Palm hearts are the immature center of a palm tree that the grower harvests while it is still soft. It is consumed as a vegetable.

Whereas most of the other items listed in this article are all relatively recent innovations to the Jewish diet, Jews have been eating hearts of palm for probably two thousand years. The Gemara (Berachos 36a) cites a dispute what bracha to recite on them! Rav Yehudah contended that the bracha should be ha’adamah like any other vegetable, whereas Shmuel held that it should be shehakol since it eventually hardens. The Gemara then points out that there are other vegetables such as radishes that harden and become inedible, and yet the bracha is ha’adamah. This seems to conflict with Shmuel’s opinion. Shmuel responds that farmers plant radishes intending to eat them as radishes, whereas palm trees are not planted intending to eat the hearts!

The Gemara concludes that the halacha is like Shmuel that the bracha on palm hearts is shehakol, and this is the accepted psak halacha (Shulchan Aruch 204:1). However, contemporary canners and producers of palm hearts do not usually harvest them from wild growth because of environmental and market availability concerns. Instead, they cultivate plantations of particular species of palm for the hearts just like any other cash crop. Based on this information, it seems that the correct bracha before eating palm hearts should be ha’adamah and not shehakol. (It would not be ha’eitz because one is eating the stem, not the fruit.)

In addition to the palm hearts, both dates and coconut grow on varieties of palm tree.

One of the unique features of the palm tree is that it has a central stem that continues to grow, but no real branches; the lulav is really a leaf, not a branch. The Gemara (Sukkah 45b) makes note of this fact and proceeds to compare the Jewish people to our heavenly Father. In the words of the Gemara, just as a palm tree has only one heart, so too the Jewish people have but one heart – to our Father in heaven.

The author acknowledges the tremendous assistance provided by Rabbi Shmuel Silinsky and Rabbi Zusha Blech for the horticultural information used in researching this article.

Rav Ovadia holds that if you have an apple and a banana in front of you and wish to eat both, you should first make “Ha’Adama” on the banana (having in mind not to be “motzei” the apple), and only afterwards say “Ha’Etz” on the apple. Otherwise you’ll have a safek on whether the bracha said over the apple also was the appropriate bracha for the banana, and you cannot make “Ha’Adama” over it.

This is the Way We Bake Our Bread! – Some Practical Questions about Hilchos Challah

clip_image002Shaylah #1: Mrs. Ginsburg calls me with the following question:

“I like to separate challah with a bracha, but I do not have a bowl big enough to hold the minimum amount of dough necessary. Instead, I have been mixing the dough in two bowls, and draping a cloth over them. Someone told me that this is not a satisfactory method of combining the doughs and that I have been reciting invalid brachos as a result. What is the correct way to separate challah?”

Shaylah #2: Mrs. Bracha, Mrs. Ginsburg’s friend, was curious why Mrs. Ginsburg was trying to combine her two doughs. “After all, let her just ‘take challah’ on each bowl separately. Why all this hassle?” Which of the two good ladies is correct?

Shaylah #3: In preparation for Shalach Manos, Mrs. Lowenstein is baking her challahs in small batches and placing them in her freezer. Should she separate challah from them?

AM I BAKING CHALLAH OR “TAKING” CHALLAH?

In the last question, I used the word challah to mean two completely different things – our special Shabbos bread, and the consecrated portion that we separate from dough. Indeed a very strange misnomer has occurred in both Yiddish and English that often creates confusion. Whenever someone mixes a large dough or batter intending to bake it, he or she is required to separate a special portion called challah. In the time of the Beis HaMikdash, a generous portion was separated from each dough and given to a kohen. Only a kohen or his family and only when they were tahor could eat the challah, which had special sanctity. Today, since we are all tamei and cannot rid ourselves of this tumah, no one may eat the challah; therefore we separate a small piece, which we burn or dispose of respectfully.

On the other hand, the word challah also came to refer to our special Shabbos bread . To avoid confusion, I will refer to the special Shabbos bread as “bread,” rather than challah, and the word “challah” will refer to the consecrated portion separated from dough or bread to fulfill the mitzvah.

Indeed, it is a very important mitzvah for a woman to bake bread for Shabbos, rather than purchase it from a bakery (Bi’ur Halacha, Orach Chayim 242 s.v. vehu), and it is an even bigger mitzvah to bake enough to separate challah with a bracha (Rama, Orach Chayim 242). However, as we will see in discussing the questions raised above, these mitzvos can sometimes become complicated.

The Torah teaches us the mitzvah of challah in Parshas Shlach (Bamidbar 15:18-21). I quote some of the pasukim:

(18) Speak to the children of Israel and say to them, upon your entry to the land that I am bringing you there.

(19) And it will be when you eat from the bread of the land, that you should consecrate a special portion for Hashem’s sake.

(20) The first of your kneading bowls is challah; you should consecrate it just as you consecrate part of your grain.

Note that Pasuk 19 refers to separating challah when you eat bread, whereas Pasuk 20 mentions taking challah from your kneading bowls. This leads us to a question: Why does the Torah tell us to separate challah from bread if we already separated challah when we were kneading it? The two references imply that sometimes we must separate challah when kneading dough, whereas at other times we are not obligated to do so until it is already bread. Stay tuned to find out how this applies.

HOW TO SEPARATE

Before answering Mrs. Ginsburg’s question, we need to explain the basic method of challah taking.

The simplest method of separating challah is as follows:

1. Separate a piece of the dough that will become the challah portion, but do not intend that it should become challah yet. The custom is that the piece should be at least as large as a small olive (Rama, Yoreh Deah 322:5).

2. Touch the piece to the rest of the dough.

3. Recite the bracha Asher kidishanu bimitzvosav vitzivanu lihafrish challah. Many people have the custom of adding the words min ha’isah to the end of the bracha. (Others end the bracha with the words lihafrish terumah, lihafrish terumah challah, or lihafrish terumas challah instead of lihafrish challah.)

4. Declare that the piece is challah. If saying this part in Hebrew, simply say “Harei zu challah.” One can just as easily say in English: “This is Challah.” Technically, one does not need to declare the portion challah verbally; it is sufficient to simply think which piece becomes challah. (This last case is useful when someone serves you bread or cake and you are uncertain whether challah was separated. Simply have in mind now to designate part of the bread as challah and leave that part uneaten.)

5. One should treat the separated portion, which is now challah, as non-kosher and destroy it. One may wrap it up carefully in two layers of aluminum foil and burn it in one’s oven or on top of the stove. In our ovens, one may burn the challah while using the oven for cooking or baking, so long as one is careful that it does not unwrap. Even if it does unwrap, it will not prohibit anything baked in the oven at the same time; however if it touches the oven itself, that part of the oven will require kashering. Because of the latter concern, some people prefer to wrap it carefully and respectfully place it in the garbage.

MINIMUM AMOUNTS

To answer Mrs. Ginsburg’s question how she should separate challah, we must first appreciate that there is no mitzvah to take challah if one is baking only a small amount of dough. Referring back to our Pasuk, we will see why this is true.

When the Torah required separating challah from “your kneading bowls,” to whom was the Torah speaking? Obviously, the generation living in the Desert, who were eating man. The Torah (Shemos 16:32) tells us that each individual gathered one omer of man each day in the Desert. Since the “bowl” used by the Jews in the Desert contained one omer, we know that this is the size bowl that the Torah is describing.

How big is an omer? The Torah (Shemos 16:36) teaches that this was one-tenth the size of an eifah, but that does not help us if we do not know the size of an eifah. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 324:1) rules that an omer contains 43.2 eggs. By the way, the gematria of the word challah is 43, and the last letter of challah is a hei, whose gematria is five. This is a good way to remember that the minimum size of separating challah is a dough the size of 43 and 1/5 eggs (Shach 324:2).

However, today we are uncertain how much dough this means since eggs vary tremendously in size. For our purposes, I am suggesting an estimate. We will assume that less than eight cups of flour does not require separating challah, and that one should not recite a bracha before separating challah unless one uses at least five pounds of flour. Any amount in between requires separating challah but without reciting a bracha. These figures are estimates and your Rav may give you different amounts.

If you ask me why I gave the first measurement in cups and the second in pounds, the answer is very simple. Cups are a less accurate measure than pounds, but more commonly used. If a woman knows that every time she uses eight cups of flour she should take challah without a bracha she is unlikely to miss taking challah when necessary. On the other hand, a bracha requires a more accurate measure, and most poskim require a bracha over dough made from five pounds of flour, although many poskim rule that one should recite a bracha even if using less.

WHY SEPARATE CHALLAH WITHOUT A BRACHA?

One recites the bracha only when certain that the dough is large enough to fulfill the mitzvah. If the batch is too small to fulfill the mitzvah, then a bracha would be levatalah, in vain. On the other hand, if one is required to separate challah, then one may not eat the bread without separating challah. Since it is uncertain exactly how much flour requires challah, we separate challah on any dough without a bracha when it is questionable whether one is required.

Preferably, one should try to recite a bracha before performing a mitzvah. Therefore, it is preferred to make a batch large enough to separate challah with a bracha. However, if one does not need such a large amount and it will go to waste, one should make a smaller dough and separate challah without a bracha (assuming that the batch contains at least eight cups of flour). It is preferable to bake fresh bread for every Shabbos rather than bake a double-batch one week and freeze half for the next week, unless the frozen bread tastes as good as the fresh variety.

We have now answered Shaylah #2, the dispute between Mrs. Bracha and Mrs. Ginsburg whether one should try to combine doughs to recite a bracha on the mitzvah. Indeed, one should.

Furthermore, one may not deliberately make small doughs to avoid taking challah altogether (Gemara Pesachim 48b; Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 324:14). Therefore, someone making small batches should combine them into one larger batch in order to fulfill the mitzvah.

BATCHING TOGETHER

How does one combine different batches of dough or bread?

There are two general ways to combine different doughs into one “batch” in order to perform the mitzvah of separating challah. The first is by actually combining two doughs together; the second is by using a vessel to combine doughs or breads into what is now considered to be one batch.

HOW DO WE COMBINE DOUGHS?

One can combine two doughs by touching them together sufficiently that parts of one dough will join the other dough when separating them (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 325:1 and Taz). This sticking together is enough to make the different batches considered as one.

Thus, Mrs. Ginsburg could combine her two doughs by touching them until the doughs stick together. Although this is often a simple way to combine two doughs, Mrs. Ginsburg pointed out that this approach is impractical when her doughs are mixed in two separate bowls. However, a simple solution is to wait until after the doughs rise and then to place them both on the board or tray for braiding. At this point, she should touch the doughs together until they stick to one another and become considered one dough.

“Does this mean that I can never take challah until my dough is removed from the bowls?” asked Mrs. Ginsburg. “I would prefer to separate challah while the dough is still in the bowl.”

Indeed, there are two possible ways she could take challah from the dough while it is still in the bowl, although each approach has its potential drawbacks.

A. If the dough rises in the bowls until it is high enough that one can touch the two doughs together, one may separate challah from one dough for both of them after sticking the two together. Of course, this is only possible if both doughs rise until they are higher than the top of the bowl.

B. A second approach involves placing the two bowls in a sheet or tablecloth in a way that the two bowls are touching while inside the sheet or cloth (Mishnah Berurah 457:7). Then fold the sheet or cloth over the bowls until it covers the doughs, even partially. I will explain shortly why this combines the doughs together. For reasons beyond the scope of this article, I prefer method “A” to method “B.”

HOW DO WE BATCH BREADS?

Another method of combining either dough or bread from small batches into one large batch to fulfill the mitzvah of challah is to place them together in a basket or other vessel (Mishnah Challah 2:4; Gemara Pesachim 48b).

Why does a basket make two or more different batches into one batch? Refer back to the Pasukim that I quoted earlier:

Pasuk 19: And it will be when you eat from the bread of the land, that you should consecrate a special portion for Hashem’s sake.

Pasuk 20: The first of your kneading bowls is challah; you should consecrate it just as you consecrate part of your grain.

I noted above that Pasuk 19 refers to separating challah when you eat bread, whereas Pasuk 20 mentions taking challah from your kneading bowls, which implies that we already separated challah when it was dough. Why does the Torah teach us to separate challah from bread when we already separated challah when it was being kneaded? The answer is that sometimes a dough is too small to require separating challah, but placing the baked bread (from two or more such doughs) in a basket will create a batch large enough to perform the mitzvah!

AN EXCEPTION — A MIX THAT DOES NOT WORK

If one does not want to combine two doughs, for example, if one dough is whole wheat flour and the other is white, or one is bread dough and the other pastry, then combining the two batches does not work (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 326:1). These batches remain separate unless one actually mixes the two doughs together. Thus, even if one touched together hamantashen dough with bread dough and the two combined have the requisite amount to separate challah, they do not combine.

At this point, we can answer Mrs. Ginsburg’s shaylah, about combining two batches of dough mixed in separate bowls. I have suggested two methods whereby one can combine the two batches into a five-pound batch and recite a bracha before the separating:

1. Take the different doughs and touch them together until the edges stick to one another. Do this either while the dough is in bowls or any time afterwards before the bread is baked.

2. Place the doughs or breads together inside one basket, cloth, or vessel. Since they are all inside one container, this combines them into one batch. Preferably, the dough or breads should all touch one another (Mishnah Berurah 457:7).

We can now analyze Mrs. Lowenstein’s question whether her freezer combines the breads into one batch that requires her to separate challah?

DOES ANY VESSEL COMBINE BREAD INTO ONE BATCH?

Previously, we discussed how one can combine to batches together for mitzvas challah by placing them into one basket. Does putting breads or hamantashen from many small batches into the freezer together create a mitzvah of separating challah?

The Gemara (Pesachim 48b) teaches that a table with a rim around it combines small batches of bread together to create a mitzvah of challah. Thus, it seems that a basket is simply an example. However, many Rishonim imply that the mitzvah of challah is created by a vessel only while in the process of baking bread, but not afterwards (Rashi, Pesachim 48b; She’iltos #73; Eimek Shei’lah who explains these opinions meticulously). However, the Rosh (Beitzah 1:13) implies that if a large quantity of bread is mistakenly placed into one vessel later, it will become obligated in challah at this point, and therefore he recommends combining all the doughs together earlier and separating challah. Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 457:1) implies that he rules like the first opinion, unlike the Rosh.

Although some poskim suggest that a freezer will combine just as a basket combines, most contemporary poskim rule that this is not a concern for a variety of reasons. These reasons include: 1) This takes place long after you finished making the bread. 2) You have no intent to combine the doughs together. 3) A freezer may not be considered a vessel at all because of its size and weight. 4) The doughs are all bagged before they are placed inside the freezer (see Machazeh Eliyahu #l11; Shu’t Nimla Tal).

We can now answer questions 1 and 3 that we posed at the beginning. 1) One should indeed try to combine different batches of dough or bread in order to separate challah from them, and in order to be able to recite the bracha. 3) Although a vessel or tablecloth will combine different doughs into challah, a freezer does not create a concern that requires separating challah, nor does it combine batches for challah taking.

Having discussed the halachic details of this mitzvah, it is worthwhile taking a glimpse at the following Medrash that underscores its vast spiritual significance: “In the merit of the following three mitzvos the world was created – in the merit of challah, in the merit of maasros, and in the merit of bikkurim” (Breishis Rabbah 1:4). Thus, besides gaining us eternal reward, this easily kept mitzvah helps keep our planet turning.

Wining and Dining

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA  Arriving in my shul office one day, I check my schedule to see what the day’s activities will bring. The schedule notifies me that Leah Greenberg (not her real name) has an 11 o’clock appointment. I am curious what issues she plans to bring me today. Leah is highly intelligent and usually has interesting questions to discuss.

An 11:05 knock on my door announces her arrival. After she seats herself in my office, I ask her what has brought her this morning.

“As you know, I do not come from an observant background,” she begins. “Although I have been observant now for many years, I always feel that I am missing information in areas of halacha that I need to know. Instead of asking you these questions over the phone, I wanted to discuss all the questions I have on one subject matter in person at one time. – I thought that this way you could perhaps explain the halachos and the issues involved to me.”

It would be nice to spend a few moments doing what I enjoy most, teaching Torah. I encouraged Leah to read me her list.

“My first two questions have to do with kiddush Shabbos morning. I believe I was told years ago that I should make kiddush before I eat Shabbos morning. Recently, someone told me that this was not necessary. What should I do?”

“Many prominent poskim rule that a married woman does not need to recite kiddush until her husband has finished davening (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 4:101:2). In their opinion, there is no requirement to recite kiddush until it is time to eat the Shabbos meal, which for a married woman is when her husband is also ready. Others contend that she should recite kiddush before she eats (Shu’t Minchas Yitzchok 4:28:3; Shmiras Shabbos K’Hilchasah 2:153).”

“Not questioning what you have told me, which is what I intend to do, I know very religious women who do not recite kiddush until the Shabbos meal. Some of them are not married, so the reason you told me above would not apply to them.”

There is a custom in some places that women did not recite kiddush Shabbos morning, and therefore you should not say anything to women who follow this practice (Daas Torah 289). But what you are doing is definitely preferable.”

“My next question has to do with a mistake I made last week. Last Shabbos morning, after I made kiddush and ate mezonos to fulfill the kiddush properly, I recited the after bracha on the cake, but forgot to include al hagafen for the wine I drank. I didn’t know whether I was supposed to recite the bracha acharonah again in order to say the al hagafen or whether I should do nothing.”

“What did you end up doing?” I inquired, curious to see how she had resolved the predicament.

“Well, I didn’t have anyone to ask, so I waited until my son came home from hashkamah minyan and made kiddush and then I had him be motzi me in the bracha acharonah.”

“That was a very clever approach. You actually did what is optimally the best thing to do, provided that you have not waited too long for the bracha acharonah. But let me ask you first. Why were you uncertain what to do after you had made kiddush?”

“Well, I know that after eating cake and drinking wine or grape juice we recite the long after bracha beginning and ending with both al hamichyah (for the food you have provided us) and al hagafen (for the vine and its fruits). I had recited this bracha, but I left out the parts referring to wine. So I was uncertain whether I had fulfilled the mitzvah with regard to the wine since I had only mentioned al hamichyah, which only refers to the cake.”

“Your analysis of the question is very accurate,” I responded. “But I am first going to answer a question with a question. What happens if you only drank wine, and ate nothing at all, and then afterwards recited al hamichyah and did not mention al hagafen at all? Or for that matter, what happens if you recited the full bensching after drinking wine. Did you fulfill your responsibility?”

“I would think that you did not fulfill the mitzvah since you did not recite al hagafen,” Leah responded. “But because of the way you asked the question, I guess I am wrong. I told you that I don’t have the strongest halacha background.”

What a beautiful neshamah! I found my mind wondering. Leah was always eager to learn more about Yiddishkeit and halacha, and she always felt humble. This is how we should always feel before the Almighty. In truth, she was usually far more knowledgeable than most people who take their Yiddishkeit for granted.

I returned to our conversation.

“I presented you with two cases. If someone bensched a full bircas hamazon after drinking wine but not eating anything, we paskin that he should not recite a new bracha acharonah since wine does provide satisfaction (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 208:17). However, many other foods, such as most fruit, are not satisfying enough that bensching would fulfill the responsibility. Therefore, the bracha of bensching is inappropriate for them, and one must recite the correct bracha acharonah.

“In the case of someone who recited al hamichyah instead of al hagafen, there is a dispute whether he must recite al hagafen or not. Most poskim contend that one has fulfilled the mitzvah and should not recite a new bracha” (Levush 208:17; Eliyahu Rabbah 208:26; cf., however, the Maadanei Yom Tov and Pri Megadim 208:16 in Mishbetzos Zahav who disagree and rule that one must recite al hagafen.)

“Then it would seem that I should not have recited al hagafen and I did not have to wait for my son to come home. Why did you say that I did what was optimally correct?”

“Actually, your case is a bit more complicated than the ones I just presented.”

“How so?”

“In the two cases I mentioned, reciting full bensching or al hamichyah after wine, one did not eat anything at all that would require bensching or al hamichyah, so the bracha can only have referred to the wine. The halachic question we deal with is whether this bracha can ever refer to wine or not. If the bracha can never refer to wine, then it has the status of a bracha li’vatalah, a bracha recited in vain.

“However, when you drank wine and ate cake you were required to include two different themes, one for the wine and the other for the cake, but you included only one. Here our question is whether one theme will fulfill both bracha requirements.”

“I find this rather confusing. Either the bracha al hamichyah works for wine or it does not. How can it sometimes work and sometimes not?”

“Let me give you a different example that will be more familiar. What happens if you recite the bracha of borei pri ha’adamah on an apple?”

“I have been told that one isn’t supposed to do this, but if you did one should not recite a new bracha.”

“That is exactly correct. Now let me ask you another question. What happens if you plan to eat an apple and a tomato, and you recited borei pri ha’adamah on the tomato? Do you now recite a borei pri ha’eitz on the apple or is it covered with the borei pri ha’adamah that you recited on the tomato.”

“I understand,” replied Leah. “One is not supposed to recite ha’adamah on an apple, but if one did, he fulfilled his requirement. However, if one is eating an apple and a tomato, and recited ha’adamah and then ate the tomato, he still must recite ha’eitz on the apple.”

“Precisely.”

“But why is this?”

“The ha’adamah does not usually apply to the apple which does not grow directly from the ground. However, when there is nothing else for the ha’adamah to refer to, it does apply to the apple since it grows on a tree which grows from the ground. Therefore when one recites ha’adamah on an apple, one does not recite a new bracha. But when one recited the ha’adamah on a tomato, the bracha does not include the apple.”

“Are there any other examples of this rule?”

“There are many. Here’s one. As you know the correct bracha after eating grapes is al ha’eitz ve’al pri ha’eitz (for the land and for the fruits of the land), not al hagafen ve’al pri hagafen (for the vine and for the fruits of the vine), which refers specifically to wine. However, if one recited al hagafen after eating grapes, one should not recite a new bracha since the literal wording of the bracha includes all fruits of the vine, which also includes grapes (Shulchan Aruch, 208:15). But what happens if someone finished a snack in which he ate grapes and drank wine?”

“I believe he is supposed to recite al hapeiros ve’al hagafen,” Leah interposed.

“Correct. But what happens if he recited just al hagafen and forgot to say al hapeiros. Must he now recite a bracha of al hapeiros because of the grapes or was he yotzei with the al hagafen that he recited?

“Based on the direction that you are leading me, it would seem that he must recite al hapeiros since the bracha of al hagafen referred only to the wine he drank, just like the ha’adamah referred only to the tomato and not to the apple (Shulchan Aruch, 208:14).”

“Excellent.”

“May I conclude that someone who recited al hamichyah on wine fulfilled his requirement if he only drank wine, but did not fulfill their requirement to recite a bracha acharonah on the wine if they also ate cake?”

“Some poskim reach exactly this conclusion (Shu’t Har Tzvi #105). However, others rule that one has fulfilled the requirement of a bracha acharonah on the wine also and should not recite al hagafen. They reason that al hamichyah includes any food that satisfies, even while eating another food (Kaf HaChayim 208:76). That is why I told you that having someone be motzi you in the bracha acharonah is the best option since it covers all bases.”

“This whole discussion is very fascinating, and I think it leads into the next question I want to ask. I know that the correct bracha after eating grapes is al ha’eitz ve’al pri ha’eitz but the correct bracha after eating most fruit is borei nefashos. What do you do if you eat both grapes and apples as a snack? Somehow it does not sound correct that you make two brachos.”

“You are absolutely correct. Although the bracha after eating an apple is borei nefashos, when one recites al ha’eitz ve’al pri ha’eitz anyway, that bracha also covers the apples or other fruit that one ate (Shulchan Aruch 208:13).”

“What happens if I ate an apple and drank some grape juice at the same time? Do I recite one bracha or two afterwards?”

“This a really good question – Rav Moshe Feinstein actually has a tshuvah devoted exactly to this question. But before presenting his discussion, we first need to discuss a different shaylah.” I paused for a few seconds before I continued.

“What is the closing of the bracha we recite after drinking wine?”

“All I know is what it says in the sidurim and benschers. There it says to recite “al ha’aretz ve’al pri hagafen.”

“We follow this version (Taz 208:14), but actually there is another text to the bracha that is also acceptable.”

“What is that?”

“Some poskim close with al ha’aretz ve’al hapeiros, meaning that the closing of the bracha on wine is the same as it is on grapes, dates, or olives. According to this opinion, the bracha after drinking wine begins with al ha’aretz ve’al pri hagafen and ends al ha’aretz ve’al hapeiros (Rambam). Although I have never seen this text printed in any benscher or siddur, poskim quote it as a perfectly acceptable version (Shulchan Aruch 208:11). However, according to both opinions one begins the bracha with the words al hagafen ve’al pri hagafen.”

“May I ask you something at this point,” Leah interjected. “You told me before that if someone ate grapes and apples he recites just one bracha al ha’eitz ve’al pri ha’eitz for both the grapes and the apples. Will this affect whether one can say the same bracha after wine and apples? Even according to the opinion that one concludes by mentioning fruit, he began by saying al hagafen ve’al pri hagafen and does not mention fruit until the end of the bracha. Does this affect whether one bracha suffices for both the wine and the apple?”

I must admit that I was astounded by the pure brilliancy of her analysis. Leah was unaware that she had just unraveled the core issue in Rav Moshe’s teshuvah (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim #72) on the subject, and that she had zeroed in on a dispute among the poskim whether this bracha that begins with a reference to grapes and ends with a bracha on fruits suffices to fulfill the bracha on another fruit.

“Now I can explain the shaylah you asked about someone who ate an apple and drank grape juice at the same time. Rav Moshe says that it depends what bracha he recites at the end of the bracha after drinking the grape juice. If he recites al ha’aretz ve’al pri hagafen then he should recite a borei nefashos afterwards because neither part of the bracha referred to fruit, only to grapes. However, if he concludes al ha’aretz ve’al hapeiros there is a dispute what to do and one should not recite a borei nefashos.

“May I ask one last question for the day if I might?”

“Feel free to ask as many as you like. My greatest pleasure in life is answering questions about Torah.”

“I know that when we eat fruit that grew in Eretz Yisroel we modify the end of the bracha acharonah to reflect this fact. Do we do the same thing if we drink wine produced in Eretz Yisroel?”

“After drinking wine or grape juice produced from grapes that grew in Eretz Yisroel one should recite al ha’aretz ve’al pri gafnah, for the land and for the fruit of its vine, or al ha’aretz ve’al peiroseha, for the land and for its fruit, thus praising Hashem for our benefiting from the produce of the special land He gave us.

“What bracha do we recite after eating cake or crackers made from flour that grew in Eretz Yisroel?”

“Some poskim contend that one should recite “al michyasah” on its produce after eating flour items that grew in Eretz Yisroel (Birkei Yosef 208:10; Shu’t Har Tzvi #108). However, the prevalent practice is to recite “al hamichyah” and not “al michyasah” after eating pastry or pasta items even if they are made from flour that grew in Eretz Yisroel (Birkei Yosef 208:10).”

“Why is there a difference between flour and wine?”

“When eating fruit and drinking wine, the different nature of the source country is very identifiable. Therefore its bracha should reflect a special praise of Eretz Yisroel. However, when one makes a product from flour, the source of the flour is not obvious in the finished product. Thus, praising Hashem for the special grain His land produces is inappropriate.”

“I have really enjoyed this conversation, and if possible would like to continue it at a different time with other questions.”

“It will be my pleasure.”

Leah left with a big smile on her face, having now mastered a new area of halacha. Although I was technically the teacher of the meeting, I learned a tremendous amount from her in terms of enthusiasm about mitzvos and humility in serving Hashem.

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