What Warrants Birchas Hagomeil?

In parshas Chukas, the Torah alludes to a miraculous salvation that the Bnei Yisrael experienced prior to entering the Holyland. Certainly an appropriate time to discuss this topic.

Situation #1: “Frequent Flyer?!”

“I daven in an Ashkenazi shul, and a Sefardi fellow who attends the shul who must be some incredible, frequent flyer. He seems to recite birchas hagomeil every Monday and Thursday, whether or not they give him an aliyah.”

Question #2: Infrequent Flyer

“I do not understand why we bensch goimel when we fly over the ocean, but not when flying over land. It is just as dangerous to fly overland — as a matter of fact, it is actually somewhat safer to fly over water, since there is a far greater chance of surviving a crash landing at sea than on land.”

Question #3: Recuperating

“I recently underwent some surgery. At what point do I recite birchas hagomeil?”

Answer:

Our Sages instituted a beracha, called birchas hagomeil, which is recited when someone has been saved from four different types of treacherous predicaments: those who traveled by sea, those who journeyed through the desert, someone who was ill and recovered, and someone who was captured and gained release (Berachos 54b). In a different essay, I discussed the Biblical and Talmudic sources for this beracha, the requirements to recite it in the presence of ten people and its relationship to the reading of the Torah. This essay will discuss some of the circumstances for which one recites birchas hagomeil.

How much traveling?

One of the four instances for which the Gemara requires birchas hagomeil is surviving a trip through a desert. However, when the Rambam quotes this Gemara, he states, “those who traveled on intercity roads recite birchas hagomeil when they arrive at a settled place,” instead of “those who traveled through the desert.” The authorities dispute what the Rambam means. The Tur assumes that he means that one recites birchas hagomeil after any trip. This is the position held by the Ramban, who writes that the Gemara mentioned those who traveled through the desert only because that is the context of the verse in Tehillim, but that anyone traveling recites birchas hagomeil upon reaching his destination safely. For this reason, the Ramban and the Avudraham record that many Sefardim recite birchas hagomeil for any out-of-town trip, for, to quote the Talmud Yerushalmi (Berachos 4:4), kol haderachim bechezkas sakanah, “all highways should be assumed to be dangerous.

The Rosh, however, disagrees with the Ramban, contending that there is a difference between tefillas haderech, which one recites for any trip, and birchas hagomeil, which one recites only when one would be required to offer a korban todah. In the Rosh’s opinion, the statement kol haderachim bechezkas sakanah means that one should recite tefillas haderech any time one travels between cities, but not that one should recite birchas hagomeil upon one’s return. Reflecting this approach, the Rosh and Rabbeinu Yonah mention that, in France and Germany, the practice was to refrain from reciting birchas hagomeil when traveling from one city to the next.

The Bach also follows this approach and takes issue with the Tur’s interpretation of the Rambam. He contends that the Rambam agrees that someone traveling through an area where food and water can be readily obtained does not recite birchas hagomeil afterwards. The Bach suggests that the Tur was not quoting the Rambam, but the Ramban, and that scribes erred while redacting.

How far?

The Beis Yosef rules that one should not recite birchas hagomeil or tefillas haderech if his trip takes him a parsah, a distance of somewhat less than two and a half miles, outside a city. In practical terms, many Sefardim recite birchas hagomeil only after an intercity trip that took longer than 72 minutes, regardless of the distance covered or the method of transportation (Shu’t Yabia Omer 2: Orach Chayim #14).

Port call

Does someone on an extensive sea voyage recite birchas hagomeil each time his ship docks or only when he has reached his final destination?

If the ship pulls into port for a day or two, one does not recite birchas hagomeil until the voyage is over (Bach and Elyah Rabbah 219:1, quoting Olas Tamid; Mishnah Berurah 219:1 adds that this also holds true if someone traveling through the desert visits a city en route). However, the Bach is uncertain whether one should recite birchas hagomeil if he will be in port for an extended period of time before continuing his voyage. He also writes that someone who survives a mishap at sea should refrain from reciting birchas hagomeil until he arrives ashore. At this point, the traveler should recite birchas hagomeil on the entire voyage, including the specific accident that he, fortunately, survived.

The Biur Halacha discusses whether one travelling a short trip by river on a raft should recite birchas hagomeil. He says that it depends on the above-mentioned dispute between Ashkenazim and Sefardim whether one recites birchas hagomeil for a short intercity land trip. According to minhag Ashkenaz, that one does not recite birchas hagomeil for a short trip, one should not recite birchas hagomeil for a trip by raft; whereas, according to minhag Sefard, which recites birchas hagomeil even for a short intercity trip, one should recite birchas hagomeil for a short river trip.

Travels daily

The Minchas Yitzchak (4:11) was asked by someone who lived in Copenhagen, whose livelihood required him to travel among the nearby Danish Islands of the Baltic Sea, whether he was required to recite birchas hagomeil every time he traveled through the sea, in which case he would be reciting it almost daily.

To answer the question, the Minchas Yitzchak refers to a responsum of the Avnei Nezer, who asks why the text of the beracha is that the traveler was chayov, guilty. The Avnei Nezer explains that there could be one of two reasons why this traveler undertook this trip: one alternative is that he felt a compelling need to travel, for parnasah or some other reason, in which case he should ask himself why Hashem presented him with such a potentially dangerous situation. The traveler should contemplate this issue and realize that he needs to do teshuvah for something — which now explains why the beracha calls him “guilty.”

The other alternative is that the traveler could have avoided the trip, in which case he is considered guilty, because he endangered himself unnecessarily.

Based on the above-quoted Avnei Nezer, who explained why all four categories of people who recite birchas hagomeil are categorized as “guilty,” the Minchas Yitzchak concludes one does not recite birchas hagomeil if one lives in a place where sea travel is required each day. One cannot label a person as “guilty” for living in a place that is accepted to be a normal place to live, and if a recognized livelihood in such a place requires daily sea travel, this is not considered placing oneself in unnecessary danger.

Airplane travel

Does someone who travels by airplane recite birchas hagomeil?

In researching the different teshuvos written on this subject, I found a wide range of halachic opinion. Rav Moshe Feinstein rules that anyone traveling by airplane must recite birchas hagomeil, regardless as to whether he was traveling over sea or over land, exclusively. He contends that even those authorities who rule that one should recite birchas hagomeil only for the four types of calamities mentioned in Tehillim and the Gemara also require birchas hagomeil for flying, since flying by air is identical to traveling by ship, as the entire time that one is above ground, one’s longterm life plans are all completely dependent on one’s safe return to land (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 2:59). I found a ruling basically identical to Rav Moshe’s that cited a different reason. One should recite birchas hagomeil, not because air travel should be compared to seafaring, but because we rule that one recites birchas hagomeil for any type of danger to which one is exposed (Shu’t Betzeil Hachachmah 1:20).

Rav Ovadyah Yosef rules that Sefardim should recite birchas hagomeil after any air trip that takes longer than 72 minutes, just as they recite birchas hagomeil after any trip on land that takes this long (Shu’t Yabia Omer 2: Orach Chayim #14).

On the other hand, many contend that, since this is a different method of travel from what was included in the original takanas Chazal, and, in addition, air travel today is not highly dangerous, one should not recite birchas hagomeil, at least not with the Names of Hashem, out of the concern that this might result in a beracha levatalah (Shu’t Chelkas Yaakov 2:9; Rav Sion Levy, in his question to Rav Ovadyah Yosef, published in Shu’t Yabia Omer, Orach Chayim II #14).

According to what we have written thus far, there should be no distinction drawn as to the length of the flight or whether it traverses land or sea. According to Rav Moshe Feinstein’s approach, one should always recite birchas hagomeil for air flight, and according to those who dispute this approach, one should not. Notwithstanding the strong logic, there is a prevalent custom that people bensch gomeil when flying overseas, but not when flying domestically. The Be’er Moshe (2:68) notes this practice, which he feels has very weak halachic foundation. Nevertheless, since this is the prevalent custom, he attempts to justify it and says that people should follow the custom.

How sick?

How ill must a person have been to require that he recite birchas hagomeil upon his recovery? I am aware of three opinions among the rishonim concerning this question.

(1) Some hold that one recites birchas hagomeil even for an ailment as minor as a headache or stomach ache (Aruch).

(2) Others contend that one recites birchas hagomeil only if he was ill enough to be bedridden, even when he was not dangerously ill (Ramban, Toras Ha’adam, page 49; Hagahos Maimoniyus, Berachos 10:6, quoting Rabbeinu Yosef).

(3) A third approach holds that one should recite birchas hagomeil only if the illness was potentially life threatening (Rama).

The prevalent practice of Sefardim, following the Shulchan Aruch, is according to the second approach — reciting birchas hagomeil after recovery from any illness which made the person bedridden. The prevalent Ashkenazic practice is to recite birchas hagomeil only when the illness was life threatening, notwithstanding the fact that the Bach, who was a well-respected Ashkenazic authority, concurs with the second approach.

How recuperated?

At what point do we assume that the person is recuperated enough that he can recite the birchas hagomeil for surviving his travail? The poskim rule that he does not recite birchas hagomeil until he is able to walk well on his own (Elyah Rabbah; Mishnah Berurah).

Chronic illness

The halachic authorities rule that someone who suffers from a chronic ailment and had a life threatening flareup recites birchas hagomeil upon recovery from the flareup, even though he still needs to deal with the ailment that caused the serious problem (Tur).

Conclusion

Rav Hirsch (Commentary to Tehillim 100:1) notes that the root of the word for thanks is the same as that for viduy, confession and admitting wrongdoing. All kinds of salvation should elicit in us deep feelings of gratitude for what Hashem has done for us in the past and does in the present. This is why the blessing can be both an acknowledgement of guilt and, at the same time, an expression of the thanks that we owe Hashem.

We often cry out to Hashem in crisis, sigh in relief when the crisis passes, but fail to thank Him adequately for the salvation. Our thanks to Hashem should match the intensity of our pleas. Birchas hagomeil gives us a concrete beracha to say to awaken our thanks for deliverance. And even in our daily lives, when, hopefully, we do not encounter dangers that meet the criteria of saying birchas hagomeil, we should still fill our hearts with thanks, focusing these thoughts during our recital of mizmor lesodah, az yashir, modim or at some other point in our prayer.

Important Eating – The Halachos of Ikar and Tafeil

clip_image002  clip_image002[4]clip_image001

 

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.

When Do We Not Make a Bracha on a Fragrance?

clip_image002[4]

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.

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.

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.”