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Shabbat Parashat Vaeira 5775

Ask the Rabbi: Beracha on Vegetable Soup

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: What beracha do I make on vegetable soup when I consume just the broth?

Answer: (We will not presently discuss soup with mezonot elements (e.g., croutons, noodles), which complicates matters.)

The gemara (Berachot 39a) says that the “water of boiled vegetables [has the same beracha] as the vegetables (i.e., Borei Pri Ha’adama).” Therefore, we would think that this clearly answers your question. However, the Rishonim are bothered by an apparent contradiction, as the gemara (ibid. 38a) says that the beracha of most fruit juices is Shehakol. The distinctions various opinions provide are crucial to answering your question.

The Rashba (Berachot 38a) says that the gemara refers to vegetables that are normally eaten cooked, whereas fruit are normally eaten whole and not as juice. The Rosh (Berachot 6:18) says that cooking provides more qualitative taste of the source food than squeezing.

Another factor is the focus on the vegetables vs. on the broth. The Rosh (Shut 4:15) says that the broth “deserves” Ha’adama when it is normal for most people to cook the vegetables to eat them. (The Mishna Berura (205:10) seemingly cites this opinion as requiring the individual to cook it with the intention to eat the vegetables). The Rambam (Berachot 8:4) puts the stress in the other direction – if one has in mind when cooking to drink the broth, the broth is important enough to merit Ha’adama. The simple reading of these Rishonim (V’zot Heberacha, p. 270 cites dissenters, but apparently overstates their strength) is that when one has in mind to both eat the cooked vegetables and drink the broth, Ha’adama is appropriate for both elements. (One beracha suffices when they are eaten together.) Thus, the classic ruling is that on soup that is based entirely on vegetables, which are normal to be used for making soup, the beracha is Ha’adama, even on the broth (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 205:2), and my recollection of the minhag where/when I grew up was like that.

On the other hand, several classical and contemporary Acharonim advise against this ruling, based on other opinions and possible distinctions, as follows. The Mordechai (cited by the Magen Avraham 205:6) says that only vegetable broth that is used for dipping foods warrants Ha’adama. The Ra’ah (cited, but rejected, by the Mishna Berura (Sha’ar Hatziyun 202:66)) and other important but minority Rishonim understand the gemara statement that water of boiled vegetables has the same beracha as the vegetables as just meaning that the beracha made on the soup’s vegetables covers the broth, but if the broth is eaten alone, one recites Shehakol. This was enough for some poskim, including the Kaf Hachayim (OC 205:11; see Birkat Hashem 7:20), to invoke the rule that we avoid “going out on a limb” regarding berachot. The common application is to refrain from a beracha when it is unclear if it is warranted. Here its application is that since Shehakol works after-the-fact for all foods, whereas Ha’adama is ineffective for a food whose beracha should be Shehakol, we recite Shehakol in a case of doubt between the two.

Important contemporary poskim (see V’zot Haberacha p. 270 in the name of Rav Auerbach; Rav Elyashiv reportedly agreed) claimed that the vegetables in today’s soup often do not provide discernible enough taste to make the majority water worthy of the beracha of Ha’adama. (Some cite the precedent that the beracha on beer is Shehakol rather than Mezonot.) Although I view most vegetable soups I have eaten as full of vegetable taste, these opinions push the direction of practice toward reciting the “safer” Shehakol on the broth of vegetable soup. (When one eats the soup’s vegetables as well (at least a significant amount of them – see V’zot Haberacha, p. 119) the consensus is that Ha’adama covers the broth too (see Sha’ar Hatziyun 205:66).) However, one whose practice has always been to recite Ha’adama on the broth is not wrong if he continues, as this is the fundamentally stronger opinion, which is still followed by significant authorities.


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