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Shabbat Parashat Behar 5776

Ask the Rabbi: Al Hamichya on a Fruit

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: I ate a fruit that requires the beracha acharona of Al Ha’eitz but, due to a lack of concentration, I recited Al Hamichya. Do I have to subsequently recite the correct beracha acharona?


Answer: It actually depends which fruit you ate. We will start, though, with the Levush’s (Orach Chayim 208:17) overview of the various berachot acharonot and of one reciting the wrong one.

Birkat Hamazon is a Torah-level obligation (see Devarim 8:10), prescribed by the Torah for bread, which is filling and is the staple of a classic diet. The Rabbis modeled a Birkat Hamazon-style beracha (Me’ein Shalosh) for the seven foods that are mentioned in the p’sukim around the one on Birkat Hamazon. (There are opinions that this too is a Torah-level obligation.) Within the versions of Me’ein Shalosh, the highest level (and thus the first mentioned when one makes a beracha on multiple Me’ein Shalosh foods) is Al Hamichya because it is for grain-based foods, which are generally more filling than fruits. Afterward, wine (Al Hagefen) is more important, followed by Al Haeitz for grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. The Levush explains that it is obvious that a lower-level or an inaccurate beracha is insufficient for that which requires a higher-level one. Additionally, a higher-level beracha does not cover foods which call for lesser praise because an exaggerated beracha is not of value. Thus, for example, reciting Birkat Hamazon for vegetables, as if it constituted a meal, is valueless, and Borei Nefashot must still be said.

Two exceptions to this rule are dates and wine. The gemara (Berachot 12a, as understood by Rishonim – see Beit Yosef, OC 208) says that if one recited Birkat Hamazon after eating dates, he fulfilled his obligation because dates are particularly filling. Another gemara (ibid. 35b) says similarly that wine is filling and would have required Birkat Hamazon if not for the fact that people rarely make it the basis of a meal. Therefore, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 208:17) rules that Birkat Hamazon is valid after-the-fact for dates and wine. All other foods that require Me’ein Shalosh are not exempted by Birkat Hamazon that was recited on them outside the framework of a meal with bread (ibid.).

What about when the mistake was to recite Al Hamichya instead of Al Haeitz (or Al Hagefen)? The Levush (ibid.) assumes that regarding dates and wine, if Birkat Hamazon is not too much of an exaggeration, then certainly Al Hamichya is not, and one would not have to repeat Me’ein Shalosh. The Taz (OC 208:16, see Pri Megadim ad loc.) disagrees. He argues that Birkat Hamazon contains the word zan (roughly, sustain), which is appropriate for dates and wine, whereas michya (roughly, food that gives life) is a different quality, which does not apply to them. The Malbushei Yom Tov (208:11) reasons that the fact that the halacha of fulfilling the beracha on dates with the wrong beracha acharona was said in regards to Birkat Hamazon implies that Al Hamichya is invalid even after-the-fact, and the Eliya Rabba (208:26) does not discount this possibility. However, the majority of Acharonim assume that after Al Hamichya for dates or wine, one does not need another beracha (see Minchat Shlomo 91, V’zot Haberacha p. 48). Since the general rule is that when is in doubt, he does not make another beracha, this is the proper ruling to adopt.

The question of Al Hamichya sufficing for dates and wine is much more complicated when one had both grains and dates or wine and mentioned “al hamichya” without the other elements. In that case, we assume that the person, when omitting the other elements, demonstrated that he did not remember the need to have the beracha cover them. Therefore, the stronger view in that case is to repeat Me’ein Shalosh with just the missing element (see discussion in Har Tzvi, OC I:108; Yalkut Yosef, OC 207:(2)).

The clear consensus is that one does not fulfill his beracha acharona obligation on grapes, figs, pomegranates, and olives with Birkat Hamazon or Al Hamichya (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 208:17).


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