Curious Kiddush Shaylos

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The Torah commands us to declare the sanctity of Shabbos, a mitzvah we fulfill when we recite kiddush before beginning the meal. Simple as this mitzvah appears, it sometimes involves interesting shaylos.

We recite kiddush before the seudah at night and also Shabbos morning. The Torah mitzvah of kiddush is fulfilled at night and has two brachos, one on the wine and the other is the special kiddush bracha. The daytime kiddush was instituted by Chazal in order to demonstrate that because the Shabbos meals are special we drink a cup of wine beforehand. (The psukim that we recite before this kiddush are a later minhag, presumably to emphasize that we are reciting kiddush.) One is forbidden to eat or drink before reciting kiddush. The poskim dispute whether an ill or weak person who eats before davening should make kiddush before doing so or after. There is also a dispute whether a woman makes kiddush before eating breakfast on Shabbos morning or whether she does not need to make kiddush until she eats later with her husband.

Someone who failed to recite the full kiddush at night for some reason, must recite it before or during one of the Shabbos day meals (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 271:8). We will later discuss an interesting application of this rule.

One can fulfill the mitzvah of kiddush either by reciting it oneself or hearing it from someone else who recites it. This happens when the head of the household recites kiddush for everyone at the table. Everyone is yotzei kiddush, he by reciting it and everyone else by hearing it. This is referred to as the baal habayis being “motzi” the others in their mitzvah.

Several requirements must be met in order to fulfill the mitzvah through hearing someone else’s kiddush. One of the requirements is that the person reciting kiddush must be obligated in the mitzvah. For this reason, only an adult can be motzi other adults.

When I was twelve-years old, I once spent Shabbos with my widowed grandmother, a”h. She wanted me, as the “man” of the house, to recite kiddush, and I was happy to oblige. Years later it occurred to me that my recital did not fulfill her obligation to fulfill the mitzvah of kiddush since I was under bar mitzvah at the time.

HEARING KIDDUSH

The people fulfilling the mitzvah must hear the kiddush. Therefore, if the baal habayis mumbles inaudibly they do not fulfill the mitzvah. Trying to solve this problem can sometimes create shalom bayis issues or hurt someone’s feelings. A rav’s direction may be very helpful.

Someone once asked me the following shaylah. His father-in-law recited kiddush in a very garbled manner. Even if his father-in-law indeed recited a full kiddush, he (the son-in-law) did not hear enough to be yotzei. How could he fulfill the mitzvah of kiddush without hurting anyone’s feelings ?

I proposed two possible suggestions. One was to find some practical excuse why he (the son-in-law) should recite his own kiddush after his father-in-law (such as this is his personal custom). Alternatively, if this is not a practical solution, he and his wife could discreetly make kiddush in their own room beforehand. (Of course, this solution will not help when their children get older.) Later in this article, we will discuss whether one can recite kiddush in one room and eat in another.

KEEP THEM IN MIND

It is necessary that the person making kiddush intend to be motzi those who want to fulfill the mitzvah, and they must have intent to fulfill the mitzvah with his recital. This leads us to a curious situation that once happened to me.

I was visiting the Schwartzes (Note: all names have been changed) for Shabbos and they honored me to recite kiddush first – or so I thought. I assumed that I was reciting kiddush for myself and that the baal habayis would then recite kiddush for his family. However, upon completing my kiddush, it became clear that the family had assumed that I had made kiddush for them as well. But since this was not my intention, they were not yotzei.

It turned out that the head of household was embarrassed to recite kiddush in my presence. Under the unusual circumstances, I may well have ended up reciting kiddush twice, one right after the other, because the family still needed someone to be motzi them in kiddush. Thus, if the baal habayis was still reluctant to recite kiddush, I could have recited it a second time for them because of the concept “Yatza motzi,” “someone who has already fulfilled the mitzvah may recite kiddush another time for someone who has not yet fulfilled it.”

HOW CAN I RECITE KIDDUSH WHEN I ALREADY PERFORMED THE MITZVAH?

One may recite a birchas hamitzvah (a bracha on a mitzvah) on behalf of another person (presuming that we are both obligated to fulfill this mitzvah) even if one is not presently fulfilling this mitzvah because of the principle “kol Yisroel areivim zeh lazeh,” “all Jews are responsible for one another,” (Gemara Rosh HaShanah 29a). This concept of “areivus” means that since I am responsible to help another Jew observe mitzvos, his responsibility to fulfill a particular mitzvah is also my mitzvah. Since I am responsible to see that my fellow Jew makes kiddush, I can recite the kiddush bracha on his behalf. For this same reason, I can still blow shofar in a shul and recite the brachos for other people even if I already fulfilled the mitzvah of shofar earlier.

MAKING KIDDUSH WHEN I WILL FULFILL THE MITZVAH LATER

I was once asked the following shaylah. Mr. Hirsch was hospitalized, and his wife was unable to make kiddush for her family. Mr. Goldberg, one of the Hirsch’s neighbors, asked whether he could make kiddush for the Hirsch family on his way home from shul and then go home and make kiddush for his own family. I told him that this was perfectly acceptable. However if he was not planning to eat anything at the Hirsch residence, he should not drink the kiddush wine but instead ask one of the Hirsch adults to drink most of a revi’is (about one-and-a-half ounces) from the cup (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 273:4; 271:13). I will explain later why Mr. Goldberg should not drink from the Hirsch goblet.

This seems strange. How can Mr. Goldberg recite “borei pri hagafen” and not drink any wine?

THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF BRACHOS

The answer to this question needs an introduction. It is true that one cannot recite a bracha on food or fragrance (birchas ha’ne’henin) for someone else’s benefit unless he is anyway making that bracha for himself. This is because the other person is not fulfilling any obligatory mitzvah by reciting these brachos. He needs to recite a bracha because he is gaining benefit, not because he is obligated to perform a mitzvah. Therefore, the rule of areivus does not apply in this case. Because he has no absolute obligation, one does not share in his mitzvah and cannot make the bracha on his behalf.

However, the bracha on kiddush wine is different because it is considered part of the obligatory mitzvah of kiddush (Gemara Rosh HaShanah 29a). Therefore, Mr. Goldberg can also make borei pri hagafen for the Hirsches even though he is not drinking any wine. (It should be noted that it is disputed whether this halacha is true for the daytime kiddush.)

AN INTERESTING APPLICATION

Sometimes one has guests for a Shabbos daytime meal who have not yet fulfilled the mitzvah of kiddush this Shabbos at all. (A common application is when a guest is not yet observant.) This provides one with an opportunity to perform the additional mitzvah (in addition to exposing one’s guests to Shabbos) of kiddush. As explained above, the normal daytime kiddush is not a replacement for the night kiddush. Therefore, our unobservant lunch guests have not yet fulfilled the mitzvah of kiddush this Shabbos. How can one alleviate the situation?

Since kiddush can be recited the entire Shabbos day, one should recite the full Friday night kiddush on Shabbos daytime on behalf of his guests. Although he has already fulfilled the mitzvah, he can still be motzi his guests. However, in order to do so he must explain to them that hearing kiddush is a mitzvah and that they should listen to him with the intent to fulfill the mitzvah. (It is always a good idea to do this so that one’s guests know to fulfill the mitzvah.)

WHY COULDN’T MR. GOLDBERG DRINK THE CUP OF WINE?

Before answering this question, we need to explain the concept of “Ayn kiddush elah b’makom seudah,” “Kiddush must be recited in the place that one will be eating a meal” (Gemara Pesachim 101a).

The Gemara relates the following story. One Friday evening, Rabba made kiddush. Although his disciple Abaye was present, Abaye planned to eat his Shabbos meal in his own lodgings. Rabba urged Abaye to “taste something” before he left, voicing concern that the light in Abaye’s lodging might extinguish before his arrival, making it impossible to make kiddush there. (I presume that Abaye was unable to locate his wine in the dark.) Rabba pointed out that Abaye would not be yotzei with the kiddush he just heard unless he ate something at Rabba’s house because of “Ayn kiddush elah b’makom seudah,” (Gemara Pesachim 101a).

This halacha is derived from the pasuk “Vikarasa LaShabbos Oneg” (Yeshaya 58:13), which Chazal midrashically interpret to mean, “In the place where you declare the kiddush of Shabbos, you should also celebrate your Shabbos meal” (Rashbam and Tosafos ad loc.). From this we derive that one must eat a meal in the place that one recites kiddush.

WHAT IS CONSIDERED THE SAME PLACE?

The Gemara rules that someone fulfills kiddush if he recited (or heard) kiddush in one part of a large room and ate in a different part of the room since this is considered the same place. Some poskim contend that one should not move to a different part of the house unless he knew at the time of kiddush that he might do this (Magen Avraham 273:1; Mishneh Berurah 273:3) and even this should be done only under extenuating circumstances (see Biyur Halacha 273:1). However, if one recited kiddush in one building and then went to a different building without eating, one certainly did not fulfill the mitzvah of kiddush and must recite (or hear) it again. This is why Mr. Goldberg could not drink the Hirsch’s wine. Since he had no intent to eat at the Hirsch’s house, he could not fulfill the mitzvah of kiddush there. Therefore he also couldn’t drink the wine since one cannot drink before fulfilling the mitzvah of kiddush. (According to most poskim, Mr. Goldberg has another option: he could drink the kiddush and then another cup of wine. This would be considered kiddush b’makom seudah.)

KIDDUSH IN SHUL

These two concepts (areivus and ayn kiddush elah b’makom seudah) are the basis of the custom that the chazzan recites kiddush in shul Friday evening without drinking the cup of wine.

Why is kiddush recited in shul at the end of Friday evening davening?

The Gemara mentions that in its time guests often stayed and ate their Shabbos meals in rooms attached to the shul and someone recited kiddush in shul on their behalf. Since the guests were eating in the same building, it was considered “kiddush b’makom seudah” and they fulfilled their mitzvah.

However, the chazzan who makes kiddush does not fulfill his mitzvah since he is eating his meal at his house which is in a different building. Therefore, he should not drink the kiddush wine. Instead it should be drunk by a guest eating in the building, and if there are no guests the cup is drunk by children who are permitted to drink or eat before kiddush. (Although in general children should be taught to keep mitzvos like adults, there is no requirement of chinnuch in this case. Iy”H I hope to discuss this halacha in a future article.)

ANOTHER INTERESTING SHAYLAH

I was once asked the following question from someone who was a guest at a Shabbos bar mitzvah:

“The baal simcha made kiddush in the shul immediately after davening, but the kiddush was conducted in the shul’s social hall. Is this an acceptable way to fulfill the mitzvah?”

Based on the above discussion, we can answer this question. If the social hall was in a different building, they would need to recite kiddush again in the social hall. Assuming the social hall was in the same building as the kiddush, this was acceptable under extenuating circumstances, assuming that they ate in the social hall. It would be preferred that they follow a different procedure, such as having kiddush made in the social hall.

WHAT IS CONSIDERED A MEAL?

Rabba’s words (“taste something”) imply that one fulfills kiddush without necessarily eating a meal, notwithstanding the Gemara’s statement that one must eat a meal where he recites kiddush. The Gaonim explain that one must begin his meal where he said kiddush by either eating some bread or drinking wine and this answer is quoted in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 273:5). The Gaonim explicitly state that one does not fulfill kiddush b’makom seudah by eating only fruit. Although some poskim disagree, arguing that one fulfills kiddush b’makom seudah by eating fruit (Shiltei HaGiborim Pesachim 20a:1, quoting Riaz, as explained by Magen Avraham 273:11) the accepted practice does not follow this opinion (Magen Avraham 273:11; Shu”t Ayn Yitzchak #12).

Magen Avraham rules that one fulfills kiddush b’makom seudah by eating a kizayis-sized piece of mezonos (the same size piece that requires an “al hamichyah” blessing afterwards), and this is the prevalent practice followed on Shabbos morning when people often make kiddush and then eat pastry or crackers. Some poskim rule that one should not rely on drinking wine to fulfill kiddush b’makom seudah but instead eat mezonos or bread (see Rabbi Akiva Eiger to 273:5 and Mishneh Berurah 273:26).

Some people follow the practice of the Vilna Gaon to recite kiddush only immediately before the meal they are eating for the Shabbos seudah (see Biyur Halacha and Rabbi Akiva Eiger to 273:5). In his opinion the concept of “Vikarasa LaShabbos Oneg,” means that one should declare the kiddush of Shabbos specifically at the time that one celebrates the Shabbos meal.

KIDDUSH ON YOM TOV

I was once asked the following question. The director of a small senior residence used to always make kiddush for the residents and then go home to eat the Shabbos seudah with his family. One Yom Tov, there were only women in the residence. Could he make kiddush for them without eating there?

WHY SHOULD THERE BE ANY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SHABBOS AND YOM TOV?

There might be a difference between Shabbos and Yom Tov in this regard. There is a dispute among the poskim whether women are obligated to recite kiddush on Yom Tov. The Gemara states that although women are usually not obligated to fulfill positive time-bound mitzvos (mitzvos aseh she-ha’zman grama), there are numerous exceptions to this rule, including kiddush. Some poskim believe that only Shabbos kiddush is an exception and that women are not required to recite kiddush on Yom Tov (Shu”t Rabbi Akiva Eiger #1). Other poskim (Graz 271:5) contend that there is no difference between kiddush on Shabbos and kiddush on Yom Tov – women are required to recite both (or hear them from someone else).

Although the universal practice is that women hear kiddush on Yom Tov, the above dispute has major ramifications. We mentioned above that one can be motzi someone even when one is not now fulfilling the mitzvah because of the concept of areivus. This means that the person making kiddush carries some of the responsibility of the mitzvah for the person who has not yet fulfilled the mitzvah. However, according to Rabbi Akiva Eiger, a woman does not have a mitzvah of reciting kiddush on Yom Tov. Therefore, a man who is presently not fulfilling the mitzvah cannot recite kiddush on her behalf. According to Rabbi Akiva Eiger, he should eat something after making kiddush and fulfill his mitzvah of kiddush in the residence.

Kiddush sets the tone of the whole Shabbos meal. In the midst of remembering the details and requirements of this mitzvah, we should never forget to also focus on the beauty of Shabbos and the wonderful opportunity we are given to sanctify it verbally day and night!

Cleanliness Is Next to G-dliness, Or This Is the Way We Wash Our Hands

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Question #1: I know that after clipping my nails, I must wash my hands. What happens if I hear someone recite a bracha before I have a chance to wash my hands? Do I answer Amen to the bracha?

Question #2: At what age should I have my baby wash negel vasser?

Question #3: Must a caterer insist that his non-Jewish employees wash negel vasser before beginning work?

A person must perform a ritual hand-washing after the completion of certain activities, including upon arising in the morning; before eating bread; after shaving, haircutting, clipping one’s nails, and touching private parts of one’s body; exiting the lavatory; scratching one’s scalp; and touching one’s shoes (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 4:18).

However, the procedure for these different washings is not the same. Some situations require washing each hand once, while others require washing each hand three times. In certain instances one is only required to wash the fingers, whereas others require washing the entire hand. Sometimes water is unnecessary so long as I have cleaned my hands, yet others require water. Some hand-washings require a bracha, others do not. Sometimes one may wash by holding one’s hands under the faucet, and sometimes one must pour onto them with a cup.

What are all these washings about? Why are there so many differences among them?

We can categorize the different types of ablution under three general headings:

1. Those that Chazal instituted so that one’s hands should be clean.

2. Those that create kedusha.

3. Those that remove ruach ra, a spiritual contaminant that might have a negative affect on a person if not removed.

As I will explain, sometimes we wash for a combination of these reasons.

1. CLEANLINESS IS NEXT TO G-DLINESS

One must wash one’s hands after scratching one’s scalp, combing out lice, or touching dirt, mud, shoes, feet, or any other parts of the body that are either sweaty or usually covered (Shulchan Aruch and commentaries: Orach Chayim 4:18, 92:7; Yoreh Deah 116:4, 5). However, scratching the exposed parts of one’s hands or face is not considered as dirtying one’s hands and does not require ablution (Shulchan Aruch 4:21). The poskim dispute whether one is required to wash one hands after touching ear wax or mucous (Rama, Orach Chayim 92:7, Gra, Mor Uketziya, Shaarei Tshuvah, and Mishnah Berurah ad loc.)

The ablution after performing any of the activities just listed does not require washing three times or pouring the water from a vessel — as a matter of fact one does not even require water – all that is required is to clean one’s hands properly (Magen Avraham 92:5; Machatzis HaShekel 4:17; Chida, quoted by Kaf HaChayim 4:61). This is because our only concern is that the hands become clean, and therefore any method that cleans them is acceptable.

Someone who touched the parts of his body that are sweaty or usually covered, or whose hands are dirty, may not recite a bracha or learn Torah until he cleans his hands (Magen Avraham 227:2). However if he will not be davening or studying Torah, he need not wash his hands as quickly as possible (Mishnah Berurah 4:41). (Concerning some of the other washings mentioned earlier, the halacha is different, as we will see.)

MAYIM ACHARONIM

Another example of an ablution whose purpose is cleanliness is mayim acharonim. Because of certain safety concerns, Chazal instituted the special takanah of mayim acharonim immediately prior to benching. (It should be noted that some poskim rule that one is not required to wash mayim acharonim unless one used salt from the area of Sodom for one’s meal, and that many people follow this approach. See Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 181:10.)

2. KEDUSHA

A second category of ablutions are those performed to create more kedusha. Before performing any service in the Beis HaMikdash, the Torah requires the cohen to wash his hands and feet in a specially prescribed fashion. Similarly, the cohen washes his hands until his wrists before duchening. These two ablutions are so important that they both supersede the prohibition of washing on Yom Kippur! Thus, the levi pours water on a cohen’s hand until the wrist even on Yom Kippur (and Tisha B’Av afternoon in Eretz Yisroel), even though washing one’s hands past the knuckles is generally prohibited on these days.

Similarly, a cohen was (and will be) required to wash his hands before he ate (and will eat) terumah or the special challah portion. An extension of this concept of kedusha is that every Jew must wash his hands before eating regular bread.

According to some opinions, one is required to wash one’s hands before every prayer (shmoneh esrei) and even to recite a bracha on this washing (Maasei Rav). Although we do not require a bracha, one should still wash one’s hands immediately before davening, preferably by pouring water from a cup (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 233:2).

3. RUACH RA

Several of the washings that we perform are to remove ruach ra, spiritual contaminants that may be harmful if not removed properly. These include:

A. Washing after clipping one’s fingernails or toe nails, or after giving or receiving a haircut (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 4:18, 19 and commentaries).

B. After leaving the lavatory, bathhouse, or mikveh.

C. After contact with a corpse, such as when visiting a cemetery or attending a funeral.

D. Upon awaking in the morning (negel vasser).

In all of these instances, one should try to wash one’s hands as soon as possible (see Magen Avraham 4:18 and Pri Megadim; Eliyah Rabbah 4:12; Kaf HaChayim 4:63) in order to remove the ruach ra without delay. One should be extremely careful not to touch food without first washing away the ruach ra. However, if one did touch food prior to washing, the food is not prohibited (Shu’t Shvus Yaakov 2:105; Artzos HaChayim in Eretz Yehudah 4:30; Darchei Teshuvah 116:35).

There are different types of ruach ra, some more powerful than others, and therefore some activities require pouring water three times on each hand, while others require pouring only once on each hand (Chida, quoted by Kaf HaChayim 4:61). When the ruach ra requires more than one pouring, one should wash one’s hands alternatively to remove the ruach ra (Kaf HaChayim 4:62, Ben Ish Chai Tolados 16). that is, one washes the right hand first, then one’s left, then one’s right, and so on until each hand has been washed three times. Both right and left handed people should follow this procedure (Mishnah Berurah 4:22).

Even in the cases that require three washings, if one has only enough water to wash once he may touch food afterwards with that hand (Artzos HaChayim; Biyur Halacha 4:2 s.v. yedakdeik).

Leaving a bathhouse or mikveh, clipping nails, and giving or receiving a haircut require only one washing (Eliyah Rabbah 4:12). A person who clips someone else’s nails does not need to wash his hands (Kaf HaChayim 4:92). However, the person whose nails were clipped must wash his hands. Therefore, someone who clips a child’s nails should wash the child’s hands if the child is old enough to touch food (Kaf HaChayim 4:92). A barber needs to wash his hands after giving a haircut, since he touches people’s hair (Kaf HaChayim 4:92).

The poskim dispute whether leaving the bathroom requires washing three times or only once (Magen Avraham 7:1; Eliyahu Rabbah 4:12). There is also a dispute whether one is required to wash one’s hands after leaving our modern bathrooms. Some poskim are lenient since our bathrooms are much cleaner than old-time outhouses (Shu’t Zakan Aharon 1:1; Shu’t Eretz Zvi #110, 111; Shu’t Minchas Yitzchok 1:60). Others contend that we should treat our bathroom as a beis hakisei, the outhouse of antiquity (see Shu’t Yechaveh Daas 3:1). Both the Chazon Ish (Orach Chayim 17:4) and Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Even HaEzer 1:114) rule that we should treat our bathrooms as a safek (questionable) beis hakisei. The universal practice is to not recite brachos in the bathroom, but some people are lenient to wash their hands there. Rav Moshe rules that one may not wash for bread in our bathrooms, but one may wash his hands there before davening, although one should dry one’s hands outside the bathroom.

According to those who contend that our bathrooms should be treated the same as those of antiquity, one should wash one’s hands after leaving the bathroom even if one entered there only to retrieve something (Pri Megadim, Mishbetzos Zahav 613:2), and even if only one’s hand was inside the bathroom (Kaf HaChayim 4:65).

AFTER CONTACT WITH A MEIS (A CORPSE)

After attending a funeral, one should wash both hands three times in the above-described manner (Machatzis HaShekel 4:17). The custom recorded by early poskim is that one may not enter a building after touching or escorting a meis without first washing netilas yadayim (Rama, Yoreh Deah 376:5). After this ablution, the custom is to turn the cup upside down and put it down rather than hand it to another person (Eliyahu Rabbah 224:7; Chochmas Odom 158:30; Rabbi Akiva Eiger, Comments to Yoreh Deah 376. None of these sources cite a reason for this practice.)

In many places, the custom is to not dry one’s hands after washing after a funeral, although the poskim are uncertain as to the origin or reason for this practice (Kaf HaChayim 4:78). Many poskim rule that someone who was never within four amos (about seven feet) of the meis does not need to wash his hands (Pri Megadim, Aishel Avrohom 4:21; Kaf HaChayim 4:77) The custom is to wash anyway since the earlier poskim do not make this distinction. It also seems that all poskim would agree that being in the same room as the meis requires one to wash his hands three times.

WASHING UPON ARISING

After waking in the morning, one washes for all three reasons:

To be clean: Because a person touches private and sweaty parts of his body while sleeping.

For kedusha: Every morning a person is like a cohen who must wash from the Holy Laver before he begins doing his daily service (Shu’t Rashba #191).

To remove ruach ra: According to the Zohar, (Parshas VaYeisheiv) a ruach tumah descends upon a person while he sleeps that remains on his hands until he washes it off with three rinses.

Before presenting the unique features of this morning washing, usually called negel vasser, I need to explain the halachic differences that result from the different types of washing.

IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WASHING TO REMOVE RUACH RA AND WASHING TO REMOVE DIRT?

There are several halachic differences between ruach ra washings and cleanliness washings:

(a) Although one may not recite a bracha, learn Torah, or daven when one is dirty, one may recite a bracha or daven after coming in contact with ruach ra. Therefore the Magen Avraham (227:2) rules that someone who entered a bathroom without using the facilities and without touching usually covered body parts may recite a bracha, even though he should wash his hands as soon as possible because he has been contaminated by the ruach ra of the bathroom. (We mentioned before that some contemporary poskim contend that the modern bathroom does not contain ruach ra.) Similarly, someone who clipped his nails, took a haircut, exited a mikveh, or was in contact with a meis, may recite a bracha even though he or she has not yet washed his or her hands.

(b) Removing ruach ra requires washing specifically with water. It is uncertain whether one can remove ruach ra by dipping one’s hands into water, or whether it is removed only by pouring the water onto one’s hands. Someone who cannot pour water on his hands may immerse his hands into water and then daven, learn Torah or recite brachos (Shulchan Aruch 4:12). Furthermore, someone who has no water to wash after ruach ra should wipe his hands clean in the meantime. However, he should wash his hands at the first available opportunity (Pri Megadim, Aishel Avraham 4:17).

ARE THERE HALACHIC DIFFERENCES BETWEEN WASHING TO INCREASE KEDUSHA AND WASHING TO REMOVE EITHER DIRT OR RUACH RA?

We do not recite a bracha al netilas yadayim when washing one’s hands to remove ruach ra or to remove dirt. This is because washing away ruach ra is a protection, and just as one does not recite a bracha when fastening one’s seatbelt or washing mayim acharonim, so one does not recite a bracha upon removing a dangerous contaminant from one’s hands.

Out of all the numerous times we wash our hands, we recite the bracha of al netilas yadayim in only two cases:

1. Prior to eating bread.

2. When washing our hands in the morning upon arising

WHY DO WE RECITE A BRACHA WHEN WASHING OUR HANDS IN THE MORNING?

As I explained before, washing one’s hand to remove either dirt or ruach ra does not require a bracha. If so, why do we recite a bracha when washing our hands in the morning?

The Rashba (Shu’t #191) explains that a person is considered a new creation every morning and therefore washes his hands like a cohen who washes his hands before performing the daily service in the Beis HaMikdash. According to this reason, someone who stayed awake all night or slept with gloves recites a bracha when he washes his hands in the morning. Furthermore, someone who woke up before halachic daybreak (alos hashachar) should wash again after halachic daybreak since the primary reason to wash is because a new day has begun. However, someone who slept in the daytime should not recite a bracha upon washing his hands when he awakes.

The Rosh (Berachos 9:23) explains a bit differently, contending that before morning davening one washes one’s hands with a bracha since while asleep his hands may have touched the private parts of his body. According to this approach, someone who remained awake all night or slept with gloves does not need to wash his hands in the morning and certainly should not recite a bracha, unless he relieves himself. On the other hand, someone who slept in the daytime should wash his hands with a bracha upon awaking before he davens since he may have touched his body while he slept.

HOW DO WE PASKIN?

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 4:13, 14, 15) concludes that in all of these disputed cases one should wash one’s hands, but not recite a bracha (see also Artzos HaChayim and Biyur Halacha 4:13 s.v. im). Therefore, someone who was awake all night, slept with gloves, slept during the daytime, or woke up early and washed negel vasser, should wash his hands after halachic daybreak (alos hashachar) without a bracha.

According to most poskim, someone who relieved himself before davening recites a bracha al netilas yadayim when he washes, according to both the Rosh and the Rashba, even if he did not sleep all night (Mishnah Berurah 4:30; Biyur Halacha 4:13 s.v. kol). Others contend that one should preferably have someone be motzi him with the bracha al netilas yadayim, since the Ari z”l contends that one recites a bracha on netilas yadayim only if one slept (Rav Moshe Sternbuch, Hilchos Gra Uminhagav, pg. 7).

If no cup is available, one may wash negel vasser without a cup. When one later locates a cup, one should wash again three times using a cup (Shulchan Aruch 4:7). Negel vasser must be poured into a vessel of some type or in some other place where people will not walk (Shulchan Aruch 4:8), because the ruach ra remains on the water (Be’er Heiteiv 4:8). For this reason, one may not receive any benefit from this water (Shulchan Aruch 4:9). Some have the practice not to recite a bracha or learn Torah while facing the negel vasser (Shaarei Teshuvah 4:8).

According to the Zohar, one should be careful to dispose of the water used for negel vasser carefully because it could damage people. This is different from the water used for cleaning, for netilas yadayim before eating a meal, or for mayim acharonim, which may be poured onto the floor. Therefore, when camping one should pour the negel vasser onto a slope or onto earth that will absorb it (Mishnah Berurah 4:21).

Most poskim rule that one does not need to dry one’s hands after washing negel vasser. Therefore, one may recite the bracha before one dries one’s hands. This is different from washing before eating, in which case one is required to dry one’s hands afterward.

A child who might touch food should have his hands washed with negel vasser three times (Pri Megadim, Mishbetzos Zahav 4:7; Mishnah Berurah 4:10). Many wash a child’s hands at a younger age. (Siddur Rav Yaakov Emden and Graz record washing a boy’s hands from when he is eight days old; Ben Ish Chai [Tolados, 1:3] does not mention an exact age.

One does not need to be concerned about a gentile who touches food, since there is no ruach ra on a gentile’s hands (Mishnah Berurah 4:10).

We can now address our original questions:

Question #1: I know that after clipping my nails, I must wash my hands. What happens if I hear someone recite a bracha before I have a chance to wash my hands? Do I answer amen to the bracha?

Answer: The answer is that ruach ra on my hands does not prevent me from reciting a bracha or answering amen.

Question #2: At what age should I have my baby wash negel vasser?

Answer: One should begin washing a child’s hands when he/she is old enough to begin touching food.

Question #3: Must a caterer insist that his non-Jewish employees wash negel vasser before beginning work?

Answer: One need not insist that the non-Jewish employees wash negel vasser since their touching food does not create any ruach ra.

Just as the cohanim washed their hands in the Beis Hamikdash in order to prepare themselves to perform the Divine service, so washing our hands whenever they are dirty, to remove ruach ra, or for kedusha, reminds us that we too are also constantly involved in serving Hashem.

A Sweet Change of Pace: What Bracha Does One Recite over Chocolate-Covered Raisins?

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

Before answering this question, we need to ascertain the correct bracha for chocolate itself. Although the accepted practice is to recite Shehakol on chocolate bars and other products, the question is, why? After all, chocolate is the product of the bean from the cocoa tree. Shouldn’t its bracha be Borei pri ha’eitz? As we will see, many poskim indeed contend that the correct bracha on chocolate is ha’eitz, notwithstanding the minhag. We will also investigate whether there is a difference between the bracha on dark chocolate and white chocolate.

To resolve our question we must analyze what bracha one recites on fruit products that have undergone extensive processing, such as sugar, peanut butter, jams, jellies, apple sauce, and chocolate. We also need to understand something about the history and methods of chocolate production. Aside from being informative, we will discover that all this information impacts on halacha.

CHOCOLATE’S HISTORY

Chocolate is native to southern Mexico and Central America, where the Maya, and later the Aztec Indians cultivated the cocoa (also called the cacao) tree for hundreds and possibly thousands of years. In fact, the word chocolate originates from an Aztec word meaning “warm liquid.” In their society, the royal family drank warm unsweetened chocolate from golden goblets, and cocoa beans were used as currency. Thus, if a Jew had accompanied Hernando Cortez on his trip to the New World, he may have recited kiddush and havdalah over hot chocolate since it qualified there as chamar medinah, a beverage used to honor guests!

The Spaniards planted cocoa trees all over the tropical parts of the New World. Later industrialists developed vast plantations of cocoa trees in Africa, Indonesia, and other tropical areas.

The Native Americans drank their chocolate unsweetened, whereas the Spaniards added sugar to it. This created two industries in the New World, the cocoa industry and the sugar industry. By 5340 (1580), hot chocolate flavored with sugar and vanilla was a common Spanish drink, and from there it eventually spread to the rest of Europe.

As long as chocolate was drunk as a beverage, its bracha was certainly Shehakol, since we recite Shehakol on all beverages (except wine, of course), even if they are made from the five grains, such as beer and whiskey (see Tosafos, Berachos 38a s.v. Hai).

THE 19th CENTURY AND CHOCOLATE

Two major 19th century developments vastly changed the way people consumed chocolate. In 1847, an English company introduced the first solid eating chocolate. Until this time, chocolate was only drunk as a beverage.

The second development occurred in 1876 when the Swiss devised a method of adding milk to chocolate, thereby creating what we know today as milk chocolate. Prior to this invention, all chocolate was pareve. (By the way, some European manufacturers currently add animal fat to chocolate, obviously making it non-kosher.)

HOW DOES COCOA GROW?

The cocoa tree grows with large, colored fruits the size of melons or small pineapples that hang from the branches and trunk of the tree. Each huge fruit contains a sticky pulp that holds about 20-50 almond-shaped seeds that are usually called cocoa beans. The growers separate the beans from the pulp, ferment the beans for about a week, dry them in the sun, and then ship the semi-processed cocoa beans to a chocolate maker.

HOW IS CHOCOLATE MADE?

The chocolate maker roasts the beans to bring out the flavor, and then removes the shell from the bean, leaving the kernel. The kernel is ground and becomes a thick, viscous liquid called chocolate liquor. The bean turns into a liquid when it is ground because it contains over 50% fat.

Chocolate liquor contains no alcohol — that is simply the name for the ground, liquefied chocolate. Chocolate liquor is pure, bitter, unsweetened chocolate, similar to what the Aztecs drank in their time.

The chocolate maker now separates the cocoa liquor into its two main components; the fat or cocoa butter (nothing to do with the butter made from milk that we eat) and cocoa bean solids. The solids are ground into cocoa powder. The chocolate we eat consists of a mix of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, and cocoa powder, along with several other ingredients, notably sugar and usually milk. This product is ground very finely in a machine called a “conch” to give it a smooth consistency and taste. The chocolate is then tempered, which means that it is heated slowly and then cooled slowly, to enable the chocolate to harden properly and so that the cocoa butter does not separate from the chocolate. Finally, the chocolate is flavored and shaped into the final product.

Thus before being ready to eat, chocolate has been separated, fermented, dried, roasted, shelled, ground, liquefied, separated, ground again, mixed with milk and/or cocoa butter, ground yet again in a conch, tempered, flavored and shaped.

White chocolate is made from cocoa butter, sugar, and sometimes milk. There are no cocoa solids in white chocolate and that is how in maintains its light color. Some “white chocolate” products are in reality made of vegetable oil and chocolate flavoring instead of cocoa butter.

SO WHAT BRACHA DO WE MAKE ON CHOCOLATE?

To this day, there is a dispute among poskim whether the correct bracha on chocolate is Borei pri ha’eitz or Shehakol nihyeh bidvaro. To comprehend this dispute we need to understand the halachos of fruit and vegetable products that no longer have their original consistency, such as date butter, apple sauce, jam, fruit puree, mashed potatoes, tomato paste, and peanut butter. Is the correct bracha on these items Borei pri ha’eitz (Borei pri ha’adamah in the case of some) or Shehakol nihyeh bidvaro?

The Rishonim dispute this question, many contending that even fruit that is completely pureed is still Borei pri ha’eitz, whereas a minority rule that the bracha on a fruit or vegetable that no longer has its original consistency is Shehakol.

HOW DO WE PASKIN?

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 202:7) rules that the bracha on date butter is Ha’eitz, and this is the ruling followed by most Sefardim. Ashkenazim follow the ruling of the Rama, who contends that one should recite Shehakol because of the safek as to which opinion we should follow. In practice, Ashkenazim usually recite Borei pri ha’eitz when eating a product that has some of the consistency of the original product, as is the case of jam with recognizable fruit pieces in it or “chunky” apple sauce, but recite Shehakol before eating a completely smooth apple sauce, or a smooth jam where the fruit has completely lost its consistency (Mishnah Berurah 202:42).

However, since the reason we recite Shehakol is because it is a safek, several halachic differences result. For example, someone having a snack of apple sauce and a beverage should make sure to recite the Shehakol on the apple sauce rather than on the beverage. If one recites the Shehakol on the beverage without specifically including the apple sauce, one now has a safek whether he has fulfilled the bracha on the apple sauce. This is because according to the opinions that the bracha should be Ha’eitz, one does not fulfill the bracha by reciting Shehakol on something else.

Similarly, someone eating a fruit and apple sauce at the same time who recited Ha’eitz on the fruit should not recite Shehakol (and certainly not Ha’eitz) on the apple sauce. This is because according to the poskim who contend that apple sauce is Ha’eitz he has already fulfilled his bracha by reciting Ha’eitz on the other fruit. Instead, he should first recite Shehakol on the apple sauce and then Ha’eitz on the other fruit (Ben Ish Chai, Pinchas #16).

Some poskim are stricter, ruling that one should not eat an item that is definitely Borei pri ha’eitz together with an item that is questionably Borei pri ha’eitz, such as apple sauce. This is because there isn’t any way to fulfill reciting a bracha on both items without creating an unnecessary bracha. If one recites the bracha on the fruit first, then one has a safek as to whether he can recite a bracha on the safek item. However, if you recite the Shehakol on the safek item first, then according to the opinions that the bracha is Ha’eitz you have now recited an unnecessary bracha (Maamar Mordechai 203:3).

HOW DOES THIS DISCUSSION AFFECT CHOCOLATE?

The average person looking at a chocolate bar does not recognize the cocoa beans since the producer ground, liquefied, and reconstituted them into a solid in the process. Can one still recite Ha’eitz on the finished chocolate product or does it become Shehakol?

Many assume that the bracha on chocolate products is Shehakol based on the rulings of the Divrei Yosef and other poskim quoted by Shaarei Teshuvah (202:19). However, since all these poskim lived at the time when chocolate was only drunk, it is difficult to base any halachic conclusion on what bracha to recite before eating chocolate since we recite Shehakol on all beverages, as mentioned above.

Among the more recent poskim who discuss what bracha one should recite before eating chocolate, the two greatest poskim to discuss this issue are Rav Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach and Rav Moshe Feinstein, who reach diametrically opposite conclusions. In his Minchas Shlomoh (Vol. 1, 91:2) Rav Shlomoh Zalman suggests that one should recite Ha’eitz before eating chocolate. He compares chocolate to a case of spices ground so fine that their source is no longer identifiable. The bracha recited on these spices is whatever would have been the appropriate bracha on this spice had it been edible before grinding (that is, usually Ha’Adamah), even if the spice is mixed with sugar [and even if it is mostly sugar] (Shulchan Aruch 203:7). Let me explain this case with an example.

WHAT BRACHA DOES ONE RECITE ON CINNAMON SUGAR?

Cinnamon is the bark of a tree, and as such its bracha is Borei pri ha’adamah (we do not recite Borei pri ha’eitz since we eat the bark and not the fruit). “Cinnamon sugar” is a blend of cinnamon and sugar where the cinnamon cannot be identified by appearance, although it is clearly the more pronounced flavor. Based on the above-quoted ruling, one should recite Ha’adamah before eating cinnamon sugar.

Why are spices different from finely ground fruit and vegetables over which Ashkenazim recite Shehakol?

Since this is considered the way that one “eats” spices they do not lose their bracha even though they can no longer be identified (Mishnah Berurah 203:12).

WHAT BRACHA DO WE RECITE ON SUGAR?

As I discussed in a different article, there is a thousand-year-old dispute over whether the correct bracha one should recite before eating cane sugar is Borei pri ha’eitz, Borei pri ha’adamah, or Shehakol. The Shulchan Aruch (202:15) concludes that we recite Shehakol on sugar, however someone who recited either Borei pri ha’eitz or Borei pri ha’adamah on cane sugar should not recite a new bracha since the correct bracha is disputed (Tur, Beis Yosef, Mishnah Berurah, and Biyur Halacha ad loc.).

Originally, sugar was produced only from sugar cane. Today a large percentage of the world’s sugar crop is extracted from the sweet white root of the sugar beet. However, mass cultivation and production of sugar beets did not begin until the 19th Century and was a result of the Napoleonic Wars. When the British blockaded Napoleon’s Europe, one of the curtailed products was cane sugar, which does not grow in Europe’s cold climate. Out of concern that his subjects might revolt over the unavailability of imported sugar, Napoleon built sugar refineries throughout Europe. He even awarded a medal for perfecting the production of white sugar from the white root of the sugar beet, which thrives in cold climates.

Although Napoleon was not worried about it, Rabbonim were concerned whether the bracha over the new type of sugar was also Shehakol, just as the bracha over cane sugar. (The two types of sugar cannot be distinguished one from the other.) The Mishnah Berurah (202:76) rules that one should recite Shehakol over beet sugar, although if someone recited Borei pri ha’adamah he should not make another bracha.

Thus we see that there is a halachic difference between spices that are ground up and cannot be identified, whose bracha remains Ha’adamah, and beet sugar, whose bracha is Shehakol. We must now analyze the difference between these two foods and to figure out where chocolate fits into the picture.

BEATING A BEET

After the sugar beets ripen, they are harvested, washed thoroughly, and then sliced into thin chips. The beets are then soaked in hot water for about an hour which extracts the sugar from the beets and creates a strong sugar solution. Chalk is added to the sugar solution which causes the non-sugar parts of the solution to clump so that they can be filtered out. The sugar solution is then evaporated to concentrate the sugar. Eventually the sugar concentration is great enough to form crystals which are then removed from the solution.

An important fact affecting our halachic discussion is that in the case of both cane and beet, the sugar is extracted, or removed, from the stem or root, rather than being simply processed.

Now our question is, do we compare chocolate to spices, which maintain their bracha even after they have been ground until they are no longer identifiable, or to sugar which we paskin loses its bracha and becomes Shehakol?

Horav Shlomoh Zalman compares chocolate to the case of ground spices that maintain their original bracha although they are no longer recognizable. (Dayan Gavriel Krausz, formerly the Av Beis Din of Manchester, devotes a lengthy essay to advocate this position in his sefer Mekor Habracha.) Apparently Rav Shlomoh Zalman felt that chocolate which is refined from the cocoa bean should not be compared to sugar which is extracted from the cane or beet.

(In my opinion, those poskim who contend that the bracha on chocolate is Borei pri ha’eitz should agree that the bracha on white chocolate is Shehakol since this product contains no cocoa solids. Cocoa butter should have the halacha of a liquid that is pressed out of a fruit whose bracha is always Shehakol.)

On the other hand, when Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 3:31) discusses what bracha to recite before eating chocolate-covered raisins, he assumes that the bracha on chocolate is Shehakol and does not entertain the possibility that its bracha might be a safek.

In Rav Moshe’s tshuvah, he addresses the following issue: When eating a food composed of items with different brachos, we must determine which food is the more important part, the ikar, and determines the bracha of the entire food. Rav Moshe deliberates whether the chocolate or the raisin is more important in order to determine whether the bracha on chocolate-covered raisins is Ha’eitz, like the raisin, or Shehakol, like the chocolate. Rav Moshe concludes that neither the chocolate nor the raisins can be considered of secondary importance (tafeil) to the other, and therefore chocolate-covered raisins require two brachos, Ha’eitz on the raisins and Shehakol on the chocolate.

Rav Moshe then discusses which of the two brachos to recite first. Usually, one should recite the bracha of Ha’eitz before reciting Shehakol. However, Rav Moshe points out that one must eat the chocolate before reaching the raisin; thus, the bracha on the chocolate will have to be first. Rav Moshe concludes that the best thing to do is to recite Ha’eitz on a regular raisin and then Shehakol on the chocolate. (When this option does not exist, he paskins that one should recite Shehakol on the chocolate and then Ha’eitz on the raisin.)

Clearly, Rav Moshe held that chocolate is definitely Shehakol and not even questionably Ha’eitz. I conjecture that he maintained that since chocolate undergoes so many changes and processes in its preparation, one should not consider the finished product as a fruit at all. Alternatively he may have held that since chocolate is liquefied and remains a liquid for most of its processing, it retains its status of being a liquid for hilchos brachos and thus the correct bracha is Shehakol. In any instance, the almost-universal minhag is to recite Shehakol before eating chocolate. (For other reasons why chocolate should be Shehakol, see Shaarei Habracha pg. 693 and Makor Habracha pgs. 52-61.)

Other poskim disagree with Rav Moshe’s psak on chocolate-covered raisins and nuts, contending that one should recite only one bracha. Among these poskim, there are two major approaches, those that hold that the bracha is always Shehakol since they consider the chocolate to be the ikar and those who feel the bracha should be determined by whichever is greater in quantity (Vezos Haberacha pg. 97; Yalkut Yosef, Vol. 3, pg 431). I refer you to your own posek to decide what bracha you should recite before eating this delicacy.

As we mentioned above, the Aztecs considered chocolate a royal food. By studying the halachos of the berachos on this food, we elevate it to being a true royal food – since we are determining what bracha the mamleches cohanim vigoy kodosh, the holy nation that is a kingdom of priests recites on this food.

Doubly Blessed

   

It was a big simcha, the birth of twin boys. Avi Habanim, the new Daddy, wondered whether he and Reb Mendel the mohel should recite the brachos once or twice. He also wanted to know whether the bracha after the bris, asher kidash yedid mibeten, is recited separately for each baby or not. Since holding the baby while this bracha is recited is a big honor, this would amount to two extra kibbudim for Avi to distribute – quite an asset in his sensitive family!

Response:

When celebrating the Habanim sons’ bris, the older son was brought to shul first; the mohel recited the bracha of al hamilah prior to performing the older boy’s bris. Avi then recited the bracha lehachniso bivriso shel Avraham Avinu, to bring him into the Covenant of Avraham our forefather. After the bris was completed, Uncle Max was honored with reciting the bracha asher kidash yedid mibeten prior to naming the baby Peretz after Uncle Max’s late father. After Max’s booming baritone rendition was complete, the mohel recited the mishebeirach wishing Peretz a speedy recovery and then began Aleinu, the customary closing prayer to the bris ceremony.

Now the Second Bris

After Aleinu and kaddish were completed, Reb Mendel, Avi and Uncle Herman (I will soon explain why he, and not Uncle Max) took a brief walk outside the shul, and then Avi’s younger son arrived just in time for his bris. Reb Mendel declared kvatter, the standard announcement politely asking people to end their conversations because the bris is beginning. Mendel recited the bracha al hamilah a second time and Avi then recited the bracha lehachniso again. After the bris was completed, Uncle Herman was honored with reciting the bracha asher kidash yedid mibeten prior to naming the baby Zerach.

The Dvar Torah

At the banquet celebrating the brisin, Avi began his comments by thanking Hashem not only for the birth of two healthy boys, but also for the opportunity to have had time to analyze a complex halachic topic that he had never previously researched. He then devoted his “Bris Torah” to sharing his research on the subject at hand. He began by noting that most early authorities contend that one should not recite the brachos twice, but recite one al hamilah and one lehachniso bivriso for both brisin (this is the commonly used plural). When following this approach, one should be careful not to talk about anything not germane to the bris prior to performing the second bris (see Beis Yosef, Yoreh Deah 265; Gra”z 213:7).

Lehachnisam bivriso

Indeed, even the text of the bracha recited by the father changes to the plural: lehachnisam bivriso shel Avraham Avinu, to bring them into the Covenant (Beis Yosef; Rama, Yoreh Deah 265:5). The Rama even amends the prayer that includes naming the child to plural by saying kayem es hayeladim.

Among those authorities who follow this approach, we find a dispute concerning when Dad recites his bracha lehachnisam; although some imply that he should recite it immediately after the mohel recites his bracha on the first bris (Yam shel Shelomoh, Chullin 6:9), most contend that he should not recite it until after the mohel performs the second bris (Shu”t HaRashba 1:382). This dispute concerns whether the optimal time to recite this bracha (on every bris) is prior to the performing of the bris, assuming that it is a bracha on the performing of the mitzvah, or afterwards, considering it a bracha of praise (see Tosafos, Pesachim 7a s.v. Beliva’eir). This is a complex discussion on its own that we will need to leave for now; perhaps it is a topic for a future bris. In order to accommodate both approaches, the father usually recites lehachniso bivriso immediately after the mohel begins removing the foreskin but prior to his peeling back the membrane underneath that is halachically called the or haperiyah.

Asher Kidash

There is an additional dispute whether to recite the bracha asher kidash yedid mibeten (recited after the bris and before the baby is named) twice or only once. Rabbeinu Yeruchem implies that one should recite it after each bris, whereas the Beis Yosef disagrees, contending that it should be recited only once — after the second bris. I would like to note that a much earlier authority than the Beis Yosef, the Tashbeitz (2:42), already ruled exactly as the Beis Yosef did — that it should be recited only once, and after the second bris, so that it refers back to both brisin.

Avi noted that some might be concerned about the following curious problem. Since we usually name the child immediately after reciting the bracha asher kidash yedid mibeten, and one is now reciting only one bracha for both boys, how does anyone know which child was given which name? (Avi then noted tongue-in-cheek that in his particular instance this probably would not be such a concern, since people could always refer to Chumash and see that Peretz is the older twin.)

Actually, an early halachic source alludes to a response to this question. The Tashbeitz notes that after reciting the bracha asher kidash yedid mibeten, the custom was to pour two different cups of wine and name each baby while holding a different cup, although one recites only one bracha of hagafen for both cups since there is no interruption between them. He notes that there is no real reason to have two cups for this purpose other than to pacify people. One cup of wine for the bracha certainly suffices. Presumably, each cup of wine was brought near the child who was now being named so that people would know which child would bear which name, although it is also clear from the Tashbeitz that there is no necessity to do this.

Avi continued: According to the Rama’s recommendation that one recites only one naming prayer for both boys, obviously one is using only one cup of wine. It also seems that one concludes this prayer by saying viyakaru shemam biYisrael Peretz ben Avraham veZerach ben Avraham. Since one recites only one prayer that then names both boys, presumably the naming follows the order in which they were circumcised.

Double Blessings

Avi then noted a more serious issue: If most poskim contend that one should not recite the brachos twice for the two brisin, why do we ignore this majority opinion! As you can imagine, after researching the shaylah, I asked my rav what to do, and followed his advice. However, before explaining his reasoning, I would like to share with you more of my research.

Truthfully, several different authorities, both early and late, recommend different reasons why one should recite separate brachos for each bris. The earliest dissenting opinion is that of the Baal HaItur, an early rishon, who rules that each bris always requires its own bracha. Why should this be so? Does the Baal HaItur contend that whenever one fulfills a mitzvah twice that each act requires its own bracha? This would mean that when installing several mezuzos one would recite a bracha on each mezuzah, and that a shocheit slaughtering many birds or animals should recite a new bracha before each shechitah. Although there is a recognized very early authority who indeed advocates this position (Rabbeinu Shmuel ben Chofni, quoted by Mordechai, Chullin #658), the other authorities, Baal HaItur included, accept that one recites only one bracha before performing the same mitzvah several times (Tashbeitz 2:42). So why is this case different?

Baal HaItur himself explains that bris milah is different from the other mitzvos mentioned because one may not perform two brisin simultaneously. Presumably, he means that because of the principle of ain osim mitzvos chavilos chavilos, one may not “bundle” together two mitzvos and perform them together because this implies that one finds performing mitzvos a burden that one wants to be rid of. The logic is that since I cannot perform the second bris until after I perform the first, the first bris is in effect an interruption between the bracha and the second bris (Shu”t Maharam Shick, Yoreh Deah #250).

Most early authorities dispute with the Baal HaItur’s logic. Although they presumably agree that one may not perform both brisin simultaneously because of safety concerns and because of the principle of ain osim mitzvos chavilos chavilos, they feel that this does not create a sufficient reason to require a new bracha on the second bris. Remember that the mohel knows that he will be performing a second bris when he recites the bracha on the first child.

Although most early authorities rule differently, some seem somewhat unconvinced that one is forbidden from reciting separate brachos on each bris. For example, someone sent the Rashba a letter inquiring whether it is correct to recite only one bracha when performing two brisin. The Rashba responded that he had never been in attendance when two brisin occurred together and consequently was unaware of an accepted practice. Logically, he feels that one should recite only one bracha, just as a shocheit should recite only one bracha prior to performing multiple shechitos, although it is clear from the Rashba’s discussion that he would certainly defer to a minhag differing from his ruling (Shu”t HaRashba 1:382).

Later Authorities

Avi continued his discussion by mentioning that the Tur cites the opinion of the Baal HaItur, but then quotes his father, the Rosh, who disputed the Baal HaItur’s conclusions. The Rosh compares this case to having two newly married couples in attendance at one sheva brachos, and whether one should recite two sets of brachos, one for each couple, or one series of brachos for both. He concludes that one should recite one set of brachos for both couples, and rules that when performing brisin on twins that one should recite only one series of brachos for both. Clearly, there is concern that one is reciting unnecessary brachos, brachos she’ainam tzricha, which is a violation of halacha. The Rosh then notes that this is true even if there are two different mohalim involved – and even if the two babies are from different families — one mohel should recite the bracha before performing the first bris with the other mohel present and include the second mohel in his bracha. The second mohel should have in mind to be included in this first one’s bracha. He then also rules that the same is true for the bracha recited after the bris, asher kidash yedid mibeten – concluding that this bracha should also be recited only once for both children, and even if the second child is not present when the first bris is performed since one knows that one will be performing both brisin (Shu”t HaRosh 26:4). Of course, this presents an interesting question, since this bracha is recited after the bris, and one may have already performed the first bris before the second baby arrived. The authorities conclude that even so, one should delay reciting the bracha asher kidash yedid mibeten until the second bris is performed, and then recite it after the second bris with intent for the first bris as well.

To sum up, there is a dispute between the Baal HaItur and the Rosh whether one must recite separate brachos on these two brisin, or whether one is required to recite one bracha on both brisin.

Other reasons

Other, later, authorities present completely different reasons why one should not recite the brachos on two brisin together. The Beis Shmuel (Even HaEzer 62:3) quotes the Perisha as stating that one should not make two brisin together because of ayin hora, just as one should not perform two wedding ceremonies together. According to the Perisha, the concern is not about the brachos, but about the ceremony itself, and that therefore one should complete one bris ceremony before beginning the next one. However, most other authorities do not share this concern (see Taz, Yoreh Deah 265:11 for one approach why).

We should note that the Perisha’s approach results in a different procedure than the Baal HaItur would advise. According to the Perisha, one should not bring the second baby to the location of the bris until after the first bris is complete, whereas according to the Baal HaItur, one may bring both babies at the beginning and conduct the two brisin step-by-step one after the other.

Avi then mentioned a different approach why we should not bring the two babies together. If we remember the Baal HaItur’s position, he contended that simultaneously performing the bris act for both babies violates ein osin mitzvos chavilos chavilos, bundling together mitzvos. However, the Baal HaItur was not concerned that bringing the babies together violates ein osin mitzvos chavilos chavilos. However, there are authorities who feel that bringing two babies together with the intent of performing their brisin consecutively involves a problem of ein osin mitzvos chavilos chavilos (see Magen Avraham 147:11). Thus, we have two authorities who advise against bringing the two babies together to perform their brisin together . We are now going to present a third reason not to do this.

Interrupting the Brachos

Most authorities rule that if someone interrupted after reciting the bracha for the first bris, he must recite a new bracha for the second bris. They contend that it is prohibited to interrupt because this now causes the recital of a new bracha, which is a bracha she’ainah tzricha, an unnecessary bracha. For this reason, the Maharshal reached an interesting conclusion: Departing from the Rosh’s conclusions, he contended that when two different families are making a bris, one should have them each recite its own brachos. He voices two different reasons for his conclusion:

1. There is likelihood that they will interrupt, which requires a new bracha, but fail to recite the bracha.

2. When dealing with two families, one needs to be concerned that they will get into a fight over who recites the brachos.

As a result, the Maharshal recommends making certain that the two brisin have an interruption between them to guarantee that they require two separate brachos. This alleviates the possibility of a machlokes and also guarantees that the proper brachos will indeed be recited (Yam shel Shelomoh, Chullin 6:9).

The Shach’s Conclusion

The Shach (Yoreh Deah 265:15) takes the Maharshal’s concerns even further, being concerned that even in the case of twins, there will be interruptions between the two brisin, and that one should therefore separate between them. In taking this position, he is disputing the conclusions of most Rishonim, and those of the Shulchan Aruch, Rama, and Taz, although one could argue that he was not disagreeing as much as reflecting changing patterns of human behavior. It may be that in earlier generations, people exhibited better self-control and remained quiet between the two brisin, whereas in his generation they did not.

Differing Customs

“If I have not yet put you to sleep,” the erudite father continued, “I will return to the original dispute I mentioned above between the Baal HaItur and the Rosh whether one must recite separate brachos on these two brisin, or whether one is required to recite one bracha on both brisin. Among the later authorities, there is much discussion whether the custom follows the Baal HaItur or the Rosh. The Bach records that in his day this was dependent on local custom, some places following the Baal HaItur’s approach of reciting separate brachos, and others following the Rosh. He mentions that the custom in Cracow followed the Rosh. The Bach concludes that the preferred practice in a place without an established custom is to bring one baby and perform his bris with its brachos, and then when finished bring the second baby and recite separate all the brachos again.

What Is the Sefardic Custom?

“The Tashbeitz, who was the Chief Rabbi in Algiers, a Sefardic community, reports that he attended many brisin of twins and never saw two brachos recited. This is also the conclusion of the Shulchan Aruch, usually the source for all Sefardic custom and practice. Nevertheless, some authorities quote an old established practice in Egypt, a Sefardic community, of performing the first bris with all its brachos, then reciting pesukim and similar things to create an interruption, following which they performed the second bris with all the brachos again (Shu”t Darchei Noam, Yoreh Deah #27, quoted by Pischei Teshuvah 265:10).

“A similar practice is noted in Nineteenth Century Hungary (Shu”t Maharam Shick, Yoreh Deah #250). Thus, it appears that in different places throughout Jewish history there were different established practices. However, Rav Elyashiv takes much umbrage at this practice, claiming that since most authorities quoted rule that one should recite only one bracha, they were also aware of minhagim, and that the places where the minhag was otherwise are the exception, not the rule (Introduction to Otzar HaBris).

“With this information, I asked my rav a shaylah, and he told me that he has attended many brisin of twins, and that the practice is always to perform one bris, make a slight interruption, and then begin the second. He told me that some people provide refreshments between the two brisin, both to accomplish more of an interruption and to have a “bris seudah” for the first twin.

In Conclusion

“Prior to thanking all those who have helped us, I want to share with everyone the idea that we should recognize the paramount importance of being careful with our brachos. Here we see how much ink was used to clarify whether one should recite one or two brachos. Certainly, it behooves us to be careful about our recital of our brachos.”

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