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Shechecheyanu on VegetationDoes one make Shehecheyanu on a vegetable from the new crop that he eats, or is Shehecheyanu just for new fruit?
We must clearly distinguish between the answer in principle and in practice. In principle, Shehecheyanu applies to anything that grows in clearly distinct seasons. In fact, the Talmudic source for Shehecheyanu regarding fruit is the gemara Eruvin 40b that discusses a kara (pumpkin). In practice, many of the possible criteria for Shehecheyanu are not met by almost all vegetables.
The beracha is a proper response to the happiness that comes when something we enjoy appears after being out of our lives for a while. We must explore specific issues with that basic concept in mind. The most basic criterion of Shehecheyanu is that there must be clearly distinctive seasons that are renewed during the course of the year (Shulchan Aruch and Rama, Orach Chayim 225:6). With this in mind the Rama (ibid.) says that “we do not make Shehecheyanu on new yerek (roughly, vegetables) because it stands in the ground all year.” The reason that the Rama cites (Darchei Moshe, OC 225:2) in the name of Mahari Weil is that it is hard to discern which yerek is old and which is new.
The critical question regarding many vegetables (and some fruit) is if, despite there being different growing seasons, they are available almost all year without interruption. This depends on the understanding of the Rama, as follows. The Mishna Berura (ad loc.:18) points out that almost every vegetable has distinct growing seasons, making the Rama’s generalization about vegetables hard to understand. (With the extensive modern use of hothouses, it is now common for many fresh vegetables to be grown throughout the year.) One explanation is that because of a concern that one would get confused between different types of vegetables, we do not make Shehecheyanu on any of them. The other explanation is that the Rama meant by “stands in the ground” that many vegetables were stored in the ground for long periods. Thus, many vegetables that grow seasonally are available all year anyway, thus exempting them from Shehecheyanu.
When fresh produce is very noticeably superior to refrigerated produce, there is likely cause to make Shehecheyanu on the new fresh fruit (B’er Moshe V, 65). This is particularly understandable in light of the reason for the Rama’s limitation on Shehecheyanu: the fact that it was not noticeable what is from the new season and what is from the old (see V’zot Haberacha, pg. 161). (This situation seems more prevalent regarding fruits than regarding vegetables.) Certainly, if the produce is available only in cooked, marinated, and vacuum packed form one makes Shehecheyanu on the new, fresh produce. Another relevant situation is when produce is available throughout the year because it is imported from regions with different growing seasons. Here we do not make Shehecheyanu on the new arrivals.
Although in principle, there should be vegetables, at least in certain places, which should require Shehecheyanu, the minhag seems to be (at least for Ashkenazim) never to make it on them. Classical poskim already mention the idea of lo plug (not to distinguish) between different vegetables and thus withholding a beracha from all (see Mishna Berura 225:18). (Remember also that it is not an outright obligation to recite Shehecheyanu – Magen Avraham 225:6). Although the lo plug seems to be more limited than what we would call all vegetables, since the number of vegetables requiring Shehecheyanu has gone down, the expansion of the lo plug seems natural. Let us note that the distinction seems to be along the lines of what we consider vegetables vs. fruit, not what foods require borei pri ha’adama vs. ha’etz. Therefore, one should make Shehecheyanu on watermelon, strawberries, etc. when they are seasonal. It appears that some Sephardim have the minhag to make Shehecheyanu more freely on vegetables (see sources in V’zot Haberacha, pg. 160).
Berachot Recited Over the MediaWhen one hears a beracha being recited over the radio or telephone, can/should he answer amen. Can he be yotzei a beracha in this way?
In order for one to be yotzei with a beracha he hears, it must come from a person who is obligated in the mitzva (Rosh Hashanah 29a). Even in order to answer amen, he must hear the beracha from a person whose beracha is meaningful (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 215:3 regarding a small child’s beracha). Therefore, all agree that one is not yotzei and does not answer amen to that which he hears on a recording, when no one is actually speaking.
Almost all poskim agree that one cannot fulfill the mitzvah of hearing shofar via microphone, telephone or radio, because one must hear the authentic sound of a shofar (Rosh Hashanah 27b). The ruling regarding megillah reading via microphone is not as clear. Although one does not hear the actual voice of a valid ba’al koreh, but a device-generated reproduction, it is better than a recording in two ways. First, the sound is produced directly based on the sound waves from the ba’al koreh. Secondly, the reproduction is heard at essentially the same time the ba’al koreh reads. Therefore, although most poskim believe one cannot fulfill the mitzvah via microphone, the lenient position is marginally tenable (see Tzitz Eliezer VIII, 11; Igrot Moshe (OC II, 108) leans toward permitting it, but he appears to be based on a lack of related scientific information.)
The gemara (Sukka 51b) minimizes the importance of hearing the voice of the person reciting, if one knows what is being said. It tells of a huge structure in Alexandria, where flags were waved to inform people when to answer amen. However, Tosafot (ad loc.) limits this precedent to cases where participants were not attempting to fulfill any mitzvah at the time. On the other hand, it does seem to indicate that one can answer amen without hearing the voice in a case where one knows what beracha it is and is not obligated to be yotzei (see Shulchan Aruch and Rama, OC 124:8).
Rav Sh. Z. Orbach (Minchat Shlomo I, 9), while agreeing that one can answer amen to that which he hears in shul via microphone, disagrees regarding radio and telephone. The distinction is that the people in Alexandria were close enough to be connected to the berachot without hearing them. However, there is no physical connection between the person reciting and the one “listening” at a distance via telecommunication. One can raise the following counter argument to Rav Orbach’s claim (which is based on logic, not sources). Even though, scientifically, the reproduced voice is new and is not the transfer of the original voice, the immediacy and realistic reproduction creates a palpable connection even over great distances. Although to be yotzei with someone one likely requires hearing the original sound emanating from the valid halachic entity, we learn from Alexandria that this is unnecessary in order to answer amen; a feeling of connection may suffice. Indeed, Rav O. Yosef paskens that one cannot be yotzei via telephone but can answer amen and answer along with prayers that require a minyan (Yechave Da’at II, 68).
Another factor which might preclude answering amen is the possibility that the voice travels over a place that is filthy or contains idol worship (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 55:20). However, there are a few reasons to be lenient here. First, it is not clear that we pasken that this is a problem, especially when there are other points of leniency (see opinions in Yechave Da’at, ibid.). Also, even if it were certain that “the voice” travels over such a place, the fact that it travels as electrical signals alone may be reason for the halacha not to apply.
In conclusion, it is unclear whether one should answer amen to berachot heard via telecommunication. If one likes, he may rely on ample grounds to do so, realizing that the stakes regarding an unwarranted amen are lower than regarding berachot (see Igrot Moshe OC IV, 91). However, one need not feel halachically mandated to answer (see also Piskei Teshuvot 215:3).
Not Reading Along with the LainingWhen I get an aliyah, I read along with the laining (Torah reading), as I was taught. Not everyone does this. Is it a problem not to read along?
Actually, there are opinions that one should not read along. The Zohar (see the Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 141) says that only one person may read at a time. However, that source does not prevent the oleh (aliyah recipient) from reading along for one or more of the following reasons: 1) The Zohar may have objected only to reading audibly (Beit Yosef ibid.), and the oleh should read so that he cannot even hear himself (Shulchan Aruch, OC 141:2). 2) The Zohar referred to Talmudic times, when the oleh also lained so that there was no need for another to read (Darkei Moshe, Orach Chayim 141). 3) We prefer standard halachic sources, which sanction the oleh to read, to the Zohar (see D’var Hamishpat (Cohen) 1).
Indeed, it is at least proper to read along quietly. The Rosh (Megillah 3:1) says that if the oleh does not, his beracha is l’vatala (meaningless and, thus, forbidden), as it does not make sense that A makes a beracha on a Torah reading that B carries out. (The Talmudic system, whereby the oleh lained himself, is ideal. The Rosh explains that we separate the functions because when we, of necessity, give aliyot to people who do not know how to lain, it could cause embarrassment and/or invalid laining.) The Rosh concludes that a blind person and an am ha’aretz (a Jew who lacks a basic Torah education), who are unable to read from the Torah, may not receive aliyot.
Many Acharonim ask on the Rosh: why, based on the halachic rule of shomei’ah k’oneh (one who listens to a recitation fulfills the related mitzvah as if he had recited it), does the oleh need to read along with the ba’al koreh if he is listening? In fact, the Maharil (Hilchot Kri’at Hatorah) and the Taz (141:3) argue with the Rosh and say that a blind person and an am ha’aretz can get an aliyah even though they cannot read from the Torah. The Taz brings a proof from the Yerushalmi that says that one person can make a beracha on megillah reading which another is reading.
She’eilat Ya’avetz (I, 75) supports the Rosh’s approach. He claims that shomei’ah k’oneh, while relating the text to the listener, is insufficient. Since laining must be read from a Torah scroll, the oleh, who is the official reader, must read from the scroll (at least with his eyes). The Biur Halacha (to 141:2) explains that, unlike megillah reading, where every individual must hear the reading, the individual oleh does not make a beracha because he partakes in Torah study (which he did earlier in the morning). Rather, there is a special institution that one who reads from the Torah publicly makes a beracha. Listening to another’s reading is not included in the specific element for which the beracha should serve. Other explanations of the Rosh are beyond our present scope.
How do we rule? The Shulchan Aruch (OC 139:3), following the Rosh, says that a blind man should not get an aliyah, since it is forbidden to read the Torah by heart. The Rama counters that nowadays, when the ba’al koreh does the reading on congregation’s behalf, it suffices that he reads from the scroll, and a blind man and an am ha’aretz may get an aliyah. Yet, when the Shulchan Aruch states that the oleh must read along, the Rama does not dissent. The Biur Halacha (ibid.) assumes that the Rama, too, prefers the Rosh’s ruling but relies upon the Maharil’s leniency only in the case of the blind and illiterate, who can not read along, and would thus suffer the disgrace of never receiving aliyot. Many Sephardic communities follow the Rama (see Kaf Hachayim OC 141:16).
Regarding people who can, but do not, read along, it is the rabbi’s prerogative and obligation to educate, set down rules, and/or take steps to deal with the possibility that these aliyot do not count, as he sees fit. For you, it is enough to know that you are acting properly and that those who do differently, have the Maharil and Rama’s rulings to rely upon, b’dieved.
Sheva Berachot ConfusionAt Sheva Berachot, the person who was supposed to recite Sos Tasis started to recite Samei’ach Tesamach (the following beracha). People tried to get him to switch, which confused him. I told him to continue, and the next mevarech (blesser) went back to So Tasis. Afterward, someone pertinently remarked that since he did not yet mention Hashem’s Name, “no harm had been done” and he should have reverted to the correct beracha. What is the correct thing to do in that situation?
Let us start with your assumption that switching the order of Sheva Berachot does not present a problem. This is indeed the predominant opinion of poskim (see Ba’er Heitev, Even Ha’ezer 62:1, based on the Rambam; Otzar Haposkim ad loc. 3:2). (The matter is less clear regarding one who switches Yotzer Ha’adam and Asher Yatzar (ibid. and Hanisu’in K’hilchatam 10:(149))).
However, a good question was raised: when the mevarech was just a few words into the beracha, was it too early to have given up on the preferred order? We were, surprisingly, unable to find direct references to this common scenario. We must base our inclination on parallel precedent, although, admittedly, one could suggest distinctions between the cases.
Sos Tasis and Samei’ach Tesamach do not begin with the classic “Baruch ata Hashem Elokeinu…” because each is a beracha hasemucha l’chaverta. In other words, a beracha can use the beracha template of the previous, adjacent beracha and suffice with “Baruch ata Hashem” at its end (see Pesachim 104b with commentaries). The question then is: what is the status of a beracha which one started without saying “Baruch” or uttering Hashem’s Name. Is it “harmless,” allowing one to switch to a preferred beracha, or is it the midst of a beracha, which should be finished, if possible?
One who, in his Shabbat Shemoneh Esrei, starts saying the weekday berachot (beginning with Ata Chonen) should finish the beracha he started (Berachot 21b; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 268:2). One can continue because the weekday berachot are not antithetical to Shabbat. Why, though, should we continue the weekday beracha, since, in the final analysis, Chazal instructed us not to recite them? Recall that all but the first beracha of Shemoneh Esrei begin with “harmless words” (and Ata Chonen does not mention Hashem’s Name until the end). Apparently, once one begins a beracha in a string of berachot hasemuchot l’chavertan, it is best not to stop even if Hashem’s Name has not been uttered. The same should ostensibly apply in our case, meaning that your instruction to continue the beracha was correct. However, one can minimize or deflect the proof. Several poskim say that if one began Ata Chonen in chazarat hashatz, he would not continue because of the toil to the congregation. Also, perhaps it is a disgrace for Ata Chonen to be stopped. In contrast, in our case, Samei’ach Tesamach will shortly “get its turn.”
However, one can bring you further support from another precedent. The Mishna Berura (59:7, based on the Derech Hachayim) says that if one made a critical error in Yotzer Or and began Ahava Rabba before realizing, he should finish Ahava Rabba before returning to Yotzer Or. This precedent has some advantages over the previous one. Firstly, he could revert to Yotzer Or and end up with Ahava Rabba, which is usually preferable, in that the latter would then follow a proper beracha. Also, there it refers to berachot whose order is not critical, and the linkage between the previous and present berachot is arguably weaker (see Rasha, Berachot11a), and still he finishes the “open-starting” beracha he started.
In conclusion, it appears that one who started saying a beracha of Sheva Berachot that should have come later should preferably finish up the beracha before returning to the one he missed. It does not matter if he said Hashem’s Name in a normally beginning beracha or he recited a word or two of a beracha hasemucha l’chaverta. However, even if we are correct, it does not seem that stopping before Hashem’s Name would be a grievous mistake.
Beracha on Experiencing a MiracleMy car slipped off the road and starting rolling down a hill in a wooded area and was stopped by a tree after two tumbles. I was belted in and, baruch Hashem, escaped with only mild bruises. I said Hagomel (blessing after surviving a potentially life-threatening situation). Should I be making the beracha for experiencing a ness (miracle) when I pass the place of the accident?
First, if you are Ashkenazi, you properly said Hagomel, as one makes the beracha on any life-threatening situation (Mishna Berura 219:32). A Sephardi would make the beracha without Hashem’s Name as it is not one of the four classic scenarios mentioned in the mishna (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 219:9).You would do well to find additional ways to thank Hashem, including giving tzedakah (see Mishna Berura 218:32). We too join in giving praise to Hashem for looking out for you and to you for looking out for yourself by wearing a seat belt. Now, to your question.
The mishna (Berachot 54a) instructs to recite a beracha (birkat haness) when seeing a place where miracles happened to Bnei Yisrael The gemara extends this idea to an individual, who recites “she’asah li ness bamakom hazeh” at a place he was personally saved by a miracle. It presents three stories of rabbis who did so after the following miracles: being saved from a lion, having a hole suddenly appear in a wall enabling escape from a crazed animal, and having a spring suddenly appear in the desert to save him from the thirst.
The Avudraham (cited by Beit Yosef, OC 218) says that this beracha applies only to salvation in a manner that defies the laws of nature. According to this opinion, you would not need to make the beracha. Although dangerous, it is not out of the ordinary to survive such an accident in reasonable health. The Shulchan Aruch (218:9), after bringing this opinion, also cites an opinion that requires a beracha for one who was saved even in a natural manner.
The Magen Avraham (ad loc.:12) says that he is unaware of any such second opinion. Many discuss whether the Rivash (#337, cited by the Beit Yosef, OC 219) is that second opinion. The Avudraham views Hagomel and birkat haness as mutually exclusive. The former is for normal extrication from potentially dangerous situations; the latter is for miraculous salvation. In contrast, the Rivash sees them as complementary. Hagomel is said before a minyan once soon after being saved; birkat haness is said when one passes the place of the ness in the future. In any case, the Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) concludes that one who is saved in a normal fashion would do well to recite the beracha’s essence without Hashem’s Name.
The Gra (ad loc.) asks against the opinion that requires a beracha on any salvation, that if this is so, a woman who gave birth or a person who was seriously sick should have to recite it. The Biur Halacha (ad loc.) responds that no one requires a birkat haness for cases where most people survive (e.g, birth). In other words, the reason to call a natural event a miracle, and not good luck, is the fact that one was saved from a situation that usually results in death.
Thus, we summarize as follows. You certainly should not make the birkat haness with a beracha. Regarding without a beracha, it depends on whether most people who start rolling down a wooded hill at a slow speed with seat belts on are killed. We do not have statistics but would guess that it is quite common to survive such an accident but uncommon to escape at least moderate injuries. However, the only natural salvation that warrants birkat haness is from death. If there was a serious chance of death but one that did not reach a majority, Hagomel is in order but the element of miracle is missing. However, it would not be inappropriate to recite birkat haness without Hashem’s Name. Regarding some of the details of the beracha, including who says it (his children) and how often (every 30 days), see Shulchan Aruch, OC 218.
Resumption of Eating After Answering to a ZimunWhen I answer the zimun of two who are bentching, when can I resume eating?
The gemara (Berachot 46a) brings a machloket how far birkat hazimun extends. Rav Nachman says it is until “Nevarech …” i.e., the introductory portion of the bentching said only when there is a zimun. Rav Sheshet says that it is until “Hazan …” i.e., the end of the first beracha of Birkat Hamazone. Most Rishonim (including Tosafot, ad loc.) understand that the machloket involves one who is answering but not bentching with the zimun, and the question is how long he needs to take part in the zimun.
The Rif, Rambam, and the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 200:2) accept Rav Nachman’s opinion. Thus, Sephardic practice is to end the zimun at the end of the zimun addition (“… u’v’tuvo chayinu”). The Rama (ad loc.) follows the Rosh and others, who accept Rav Sheshet’s opinion. Therefore, Ashkenazim should have the mezamen say the entire first beracha out loud. The original intention of zimun was that one would bentch while the others listen silently and be yotzei with him. However, out of concern that people would not be able to concentrate sufficiently, the practice was adopted to bentch silently along with the mezamen (Shulchan Aruch, ibid. 183:7). Although most people who are mezamen do not recite the whole bentching out loud, they should do so at least for the zimun, which, for Ashkenazim, includes Hazan (Mishna Berura 183:28).
When one is answering zimun but not bentching, he is to listen to the zimun without eating (Tur, Orach Chayim 200). (In theory, he can fulfill his obligation of reciting the first beracha at that time (see Rama, ibid.), although the practice is that he listens, resumes eating, and recites a normal Birkat Hamazone.) Thus, in an Ashkenazi zimun, one who answers should wait until after Hazan has been recited (hopefully, out loud) by the mezamen. For Sephardim, he can resume eating right after the introductory part of the zimun.
One can inquire whether the need to wait is for the benefit of the one answering or whether it is a basic requirement of the zimun as a whole. Two practical questions likely depend on this chakira (halachic dilemma). One is whether one who ate foods other than bread, and thus does not need to bentch and is not personally obligated in zimun, needs to wait until after Hazan (for Ashkenazim). Do we say that if he breaks his connection with the zimun after its initial stage, it turns out that there was not a proper joining together to constitute a zimun? Another issue is what to do in a joint Ashkenazi-Sephardi zimun. Can the Sephardi follow his own ruling and consider the zimun complete before the beginning of bentching or does that ruin things for his friends who follow the Ashkenazi ruling?
The Rosh (Berachot 7:12) explains Rav Sheshet’s requirement to wait through Hazan as follows. Hazan is not part of the zimun but since the real zimun does not have its own beracha, it does not appear that there is a zimun if they are not together for the first beracha of Birkat Hamazone. The Mishna Berura (200:8, without citing a source) explains that the first beracha is partially connected to the birkat hazimun. According to the latter explanation and probably according to the former, if there is not passive participation throughout the first beracha, an Ashkenazi should not consider there to have been a clear and complete zimun. Therefore, one who did not eat bread should wait until after Hazan has been recited (see Mishna Berura 197:15). Also, the Sephardi who stopped eating to answer should wait until after Hazan to ensure that there is a zimun from the perspective of everyone involved. Yalkut Yosef (192:4) says that a Sephardi who leads Ashkenazim in zimun should recite Hazan out loud, and logic should dictate that he would agree in our case as well. However, if bentching along with the zimun, Sephardim should not answer “Amen” to the mezamen’s beracha(ot) (ibid.).
Unsure if BentchedWhat do I do if I eat a meal and am unsure if I bentched (recited Birkat Hamazone)?
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 184:4) says that if one is unsure whether he bentched or not, he should bentch. Although usually one should avoid a beracha when it might not be appropriate, when the potential obligation is from the Torah, he should take his chances and recite what might be an extra beracha (based on Berachot 21a). However, this is only if he ate enough to be satiated (k’dei sevi’ah), as the Torah mentions Birkat Hamazone in the context of “You shall eat and be satiated and bless Hashem …”( Devarim 8:10- see Mishna Berura 184:15). Otherwise, it is at most a rabbinic obligation and we revert to the regular rule not to make berachot out of doubt.
There are many questions regarding whether one has had k’dei sevi’ah. One is whether there is an objective amount or it depends whether the individual is full (see Mishna Berura, ibid.:22 with Biur Halacha). The most common question, which we will now focus on, is what one has to eat in the process of satiation. One is obligated in a full Birkat Hamazone only if he ate bread (Shulchan Aruch, OC 168:6), as only bread turns eating into a full meal. The question is whether one needs to eat bread and be satiated, or one needs to eat enough bread to be satiated from the bread.
The Halachot Ketanot (II, 227) makes the following claim. When one eats a k’zayit of bread he no longer has to make berachot on other foods of the meal because they are attached to the eating of the bread, which sets the meal’s tone. If so, even if he became filled only because of the other foods, it is as if he was satiated from bread, and there is an obligation to bentch from the Torah.
In contrast, the Pri Megadim (EA 184:8) assumes that the k’dei sevi’ah must come from the bread for there to be an obligation from the Torah. If it were enough just to be full, why does one need even a k’zayit of bread? There are a few answers to the Pri Megadim’s question. One, which he hints at but rejects, is that it is necessary to fulfill the Torah’s first requirement of “you shall eat” with bread. (Regarding many Torah laws, a k’zayit is the cutoff point of what is considered eating.) Regarding being satiated, the important thing is the state at the end (see Biur Halacha to 184:6 regarding one who was almost full before eating bread). Another possible answer is that if one ate less than a k’zayit of bread, it is likely that he must make a beracha on subsequent foods (see Magen Avraham, 177:1). If so, the Halachot Ketanot’s logic does not apply, and he would agree with the Pri Megadim that other food would not count toward k’dei sevi’ah. (The Pri Megadim (ad loc.) feels that even less than a k’zayit of bread exempts other foods).
Rav O. Yosef (Yechave Da’at VI, 10) suggests that this machloket existed among the Rishonim. The gemara (Berachot 48a) tells how Shimon Ben Shetach ate very little, yet bentched on behalf of King Yannai and friends. Tosafot (ad loc.) says that this is difficult according to the Bahag, who says that one who ate only enough for a rabbinic obligation cannot exempt those who were satiated, as the king certainly had a full meal. Rav Yosef suggests that Yannai ate a big meal with only a little bread. According to Tosafot, that would obligate him from the Torah and according to the Bahag it would not. In any case, the more widely held position seems to be that the satiation need not come only from the quantity of bread (see Igrot Moshe IV, 41; see sources in Piskei Teshuvot 184:(82)). There are additional halachic factors that indicate that in our case one should bentch out of doubt (Yechave Da’at, ibid.). Therefore, one who ate at least a k’zayit of bread (within a relatively short time- Mishna Berura 208:48) during a filling meal and is not sure if he bentched should bentch now.
There is an open question whether a woman’s obligation to bentch is from the Torah or is rabbinic (Berachot 20b). Likewise, there is a machloket whether a woman who is uncertain if she already bentched should do so now (Mishna Berura 186:3). At least in our case, considering the additional factors, it is likely better that she not bentch out of doubt.
Time Elapsed Betwen Meal and BentchingI left my meal (including bread) to daven Ma’ariv. It turned out that there was a long sicha before Ma’ariv. By the time I was able to return to eat an hour and a half had passed. Could I still bentch (recite Birkat Hamazone) at that time?
The mishna (Berachot 51b) says that one must bentch before the food is digested. The gemara (ibid. 53b) brings two opinions as to the signs of this cut off point. R. Yochanan says that it is until one becomes hungry. Reish Lakish says that it is as long as he is still thirsty from the eating or for 72 minutes, depending on how much he ate. We rule like R. Yochanan and assume that it refers to beginning to be hungry as the food is digesting (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 184:5). However, most poskim assume that R. Yochanan accepts a 72 minute minimum time limit, just that if one has not yet begun to become hungry, he can still bentch after that point (see Biur Halacha, ad loc.). However, the problem is that this feeling is hard to quantify or determine with certainty (Magen Avraham 184:9). Therefore, one should be careful to bentch no later than 72 minutes after finishing eating. You did not succeed in doing so this time and probably entered the realm of safek (doubt).
Ostensibly, your desired preference was the halachic preference as well. That is to continue your meal and bentch afterward; just be sure that the continuation of your meal includes at least a k’zayit of bread (Mishna Berura 184:20). Thereby, Birkat Hamazone is in any case appropriate, and there is a reasonable hope that it is in time to cover the original eating also.
This, though, raises a new question. After taking a break possibly long enough for digestion to begin, making it too late for a beracha acharona, does one require a new beracha rishona? The Magen Avraham (ibid.) assumes that one requires a new beracha because the previous eating is a matter of the past. However, the Even Ha’ozer (Orach Chayim 179) argues that there is no source to indicate that digestion breaks the continuity regarding a beracha rishona. To the contrary, the Rambam (Berachot 4:7) says that a beracha one makes when he begins eating can cover other foods “even if he breaks all day long” as long as he has not decided to stop eating. Although there are attempts to deflect the proof (see Tzitz Eliezer XII, 1) and some poskim agree with the Magen Avraham, the Even Ha’ozer’s opinion is the more accepted one (see Mishna Berura 184:17; Yechave Da’at VI, 11). Furthermore, in a case like yours where there is doubt whether digestion occurred, even the Magen Avraham (ibid.) suggests eating more without a new beracha to get out of the doubt regarding Birkat Hamazone. Apparently, it is better to enter a situation where one might need to say Hamotzi and refrain from it because of doubt than to miss out on Birkat Hamazone which he might still be able to make (see Levushei S’rad, ad loc.).
The only reservation we must address applies if you made a significant change of location (the parameters of which are beyond our present scope) between your first and second sittings. We rule like the Rama (Orach Chayim 178:2) that one does not need a new beracha after moving locations in the midst of a meal that includes bread. As we discussed, we also rule like the Even Ha’ozer that even a long break does not require a new beracha as long as one intends to continue eating. However, the Tzitz Eliezer (ibid) tries to prove that when one both changes locations and waits a long time, then we would accept the Magen Avraham’s opinion that one requires a new beracha. However, in our humble opinion, the case he presented is not convincing (beyond our scope). We accept that which is apparently the majority opinion that even with the combination of the passing of time and moving of location you can eat more bread without a new beracha. Doing so would have been the best way to salvage bentching in the case of doubt that arose.
Birkat Hagomel for a grandchildSomeone made a standard Birkat Hagomel because his young grandchild was saved from danger without his father being aware. Does one make Hagomel on behalf of a child?
Regarding a question on something that already happened, we like to consider the matter from two perspectives: what is best to do if the matter arises again and if what was done appears to be less than optimal, can we legitimize it, after the fact?
The first question is whether Birkat Hagomel applies to a katan (minor) who is old enough to perform mitzvot. The Maharam Mintz (5, accepted by the Magen Avraham, introduction to 219) says that it is inappropriate because of the beracha’s language. We say “… hagomel l’chayavim tovot (Who does favors for those who deserve punishment).” In other words, the one who makes the beracha acknowledges that had the danger been actualized, it would have been Divinely just because of his sins. However, a child is not culpable, and it is improper for him to suggest that it is his father who was guilty. The Maharam Mintz also did not expect the father to recite the beracha because it is far from clear that a tragedy, Heaven forbid, would have been his fault. Note that in our gemaras, Hagomel’s text omits the word, chayavim. Nevertheless, the Maharam Mintz did not deem it possible to alter the beracha’s form to give thanks while avoiding the issue of culpability.
Despite the existence of dissenting opinions, the consensus of poskim is to not require a child who is saved to make a beracha (Mishna Berura 219:3) and even to discourage it (see Tzitz Eliezer XIV, 20). Furthermore, you refer to a child who is too young to be obligated, and the poskim do not obligate anyone in his stead. Realize that Birkat Hagomel is modeled after the korban todah (sacrifice of thanksgiving). Beyond specific halachic obligations, there are various ways to show thanks to Hashem. These include making a seudat hoda’ah (meal of thanks) and giving tzedakah, which are appropriate here. On the other hand, some may feel a lack of fulfillment or fear a bad omen if no one recites Hagomel. It is not always wise to argue with people who feel this way. Thus, let us see if a voluntary beracha is possible.
The gemara (Berachot 54b) tells that when Rav Yehuda recovered from illness, disciples who visited him noted their gratitude to Hashem for returning Rav Yehuda to them without using the Hagomel formula. Rav Yehuda responded that (as he had answered Amen) he was exempted from reciting Hagomel. The Rosh (cited by the Tur, Orach Chayim 219) explains that people other than the one who was saved are permitted to make a beracha. The Beit Yosef (ad loc.) does cite the Rashba that this is an exception for disciples regarding their rebbe. (Rav Ovadya Yosef, Yechave Da’at II, 25 thus rules that others should not recite Hagomel on behalf of those saved from Entebbe.) However, Ashkenazim should note that the Rama (OC 219:4) says that anyone who feels the happiness may make the beracha. The Mishna Berura (219:17) assumes that this is so even if the one who was saved is not present (or is too young to understand). While one should not make a rule of making berachot for others, one can justify the grandfather you mention.
Admittedly, we saw that it is not clear one should change the beracha’s text However, one who makes Hagomel for others should ostensibly omit, “chayavim,” to avoid implicating others (Sha’ar Hatziyun 219:13). He also should change the text (composed in first person) and indicate who was saved (Mishna Berura, ibid.). However, there is some logic to keeping the standard text. The Taz (ad loc.:3) suggests that only one who feels the joy of the other’s salvation may make Hagomel. We then consider it that he is thanking Hashem on his own behalf for saving someone close to him. Therefore, he says, talk of culpability can refer to the blesser. In the same vein, use of the first person in describing the favor bestowed can also be justified.
Thus, while not recommending the course of action taken, we need not reject it either.
Birkat Hamazon When the Location of the Meal ChangesIf I start a meal in one place and want to leave in the middle or continue eating elsewhere, what do I do about Birkat Hamazone?
You have made the question easier to respond to by asking about a meal. The answer depends on what one is eating. Even so, we will not be able to address all of the many details.
The gemara (Pesachim 101b) posits that when one moves from the place where he was eating, he requires a new beracha before resuming eating. However, Rav Chisda rules that a new beracha is needed only if the food(s) he was eating is the type whose beracha acharona need not be recited in the place he ate. However, if he is in the midst of a meal, for which Birkat Hamazone must be recited where he ate, we say that even after leaving, he is drawn back to the place he ate and does not require a new beracha when he returns. (All agree that one needs to recite Birkat Hamazone in the place he ate and that one can make the beracha acharona on foods that require Borei Nefashot elsewhere. There is a not fully resolved machloket regarding grain products other than bread and regarding fruit from the “seven species.” We leave that issue out of this response and relate to a meal that includes bread.) Rav Sheshet rejects this distinction and says that a beracha is necessary even upon leaving a meal unless one was part of a group eating together of which at least one person stayed behind to be rejoined later.
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 178: 1-2) rules like Rav Sheshet. We would discuss the ramifications of his opinion for the benefit of Sephardim, who generally follow the Shulchan Aruch. However, Rav Ovadya Yosef and other Sephardic poskim (see Yalkut Yosef 178:(1)) do not accept his position in this matter (in order to avoid questionable berachot), so we will concentrate on the Rama’s opinion. The Rama (OC 178:2) limits the need for extra berachot after leaving the place of eating in a couple of ways. First, he understands that leaving the place is the equivalent of hesech hada’at (taking one’s mind off eating) and thus when one returns, he requires at most a new beracha rishona, not a beracha acharona. Secondly, whether one leaves a friend behind (see Mishna Berura ad loc.: 18) or whether one was eating a meal, he does not require any beracha upon resuming eating at the original place.
We must address two remaining topics. The Rama writes that although one does not require a beracha before resuming his meal, he should normally not leave with the plan to return without first bentching. The reason is the concern he might forget to return (ibid.) or might return too late for Birkat Hamazone to relate to his original eating (see Beit Yosef). However, if one plans to leave for a short time, this is not a problem (Mishna Berura, ibid.:34). The Biur Halacha points out that while one may be stringent and not leave in the middle, it is problematic to recite a potentially superfluous Birkat Hamazone before leaving if he plans to resume the meal and recite it again soon thereafter. One may rush out to minyan or another passing mitzva if necessary (Rama, ibid.).
Another question is whether one can continue the meal elsewhere and not return for Birkat Hamazone. The original beracha of Hamotzi enables further eating without a beracha even in a new place (Rama, ibid.). The Birkat Hamazone that he recites in the new place also covers the eating in the first location provided he eats some bread there as well (Shulchan Aruch, OC 184:2; see Mishna Berura ad loc.:9). Otherwise he would have to return to bentch in the original place of eating. Either way, it is preferable not to leave without bentching unless when he started his meal, he intended to continue it elsewhere (Mishna Berura 178:40). If he were eating Borei Nefashot food in a defined place, he would need a new beracha upon moving to a new place but would not require a beracha acharona, which he could recite whenever he finishes eating wherever he is (Rama 178:2).
Beracha on Dessert after a MealDoes one make a beracha on ice cream served as dessert at a meal with bread?
The gemara (Berachot 41b) presents the basic rules of berachot during a meal. Foods that “come due to the meal” do not require a beracha. Those not due to the meal require only a beracha before them. The Rosh (ad loc.) describes foods that come due to the meal as those that connected to the main part of the meal and (/or?) are eaten with the bread. Fruit are prime examples of foods that are not due to the meal (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 177:1). These are normally eaten to give a sweet taste rather than to fill one up. Although poskim assume that anything eaten before Birkat Hamazone is during the meal, foods that are eaten specifically for dessert are generally not due to the meal (see Mishna Berurah 177:4).
The gemara (ibid.) asks: why, according to these rules, does one require a beracha on wine drunk during the meal. It answers: “Wine is different, as it causes a beracha for itself.” The most accepted explanation is that wine is unique in that we make a beracha on it in various mitzva contexts (e.g. Kiddush and Sheva Berachot) even when one is not interested in drinking it (Rashi, ad loc.). We see that, if not for this unique characteristic, wine would not have required a beracha during a meal. Therefore, most Rishonim and the Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 174:7) posit that drinks consumed during the meal, even toward its end, do not require a beracha. Many explain that eating contributes to one’s thirst; thus quenching thirst is an integral part of the meal. Let us note that some Rishonim learn the gemara differently and say that one makes a beracha on all drinks during the meal. The Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) even cites them as a minority opinion and suggests removing doubts by making a Shehakol before the meal to cover drinks. However, the practice is certainly not that way.
One might wonder what ice cream, a classic dessert, meant to finish the meal with a sweet taste in one’s mouth, has to do with drinks. It is not part of the main meal and is not intended to quench one’s thirst. Yet, a few poskim make the following claim. Ice cream is a liquid that is served as a solid because people enjoy it at an artificially cold temperature. Since accepted practice is not to make a beracha on liquids during a meal, including during dessert, one should not make a beracha on ice cream. Yalkut Yosef (on OC167, 10) rules this way in the name of his father (Rav Ovadya). There are reports that Rav Moshe Feinstein ruled this way as well (see Vezot Haberacha, pg. 74). One could say that it is logical to call ice cream a liquid only when it is based heavily on milk and/or water, not when it is a mixture of eggs, soy products, and sugar (i.e., pareve ice cream) (see opinions in Piskei Teshuvot 177:(24)). Perhaps Rav Moshe was speaking about classic ice cream; however, Rav Ovadya does not accept this distinction.
It is difficult to accept the above ruling (despite the rule of safek berachot l’hakel) for fundamental reasons. The great majority of poskim understand that the matter does not depend on halachic definitions of liquid vs. solid but on the function of the food; is it a drink or a dessert? (The reason we do not make a beracha on most cakes for dessert is that they may be considered like bread (Biur Halacha on 168:8.)) Even among drinks, the Mishna Berura (177:39) brings machlokot about a beracha for whiskey or coffee at the end of a meal, with the question being its function. Indeed, the gemara did not state a formal rule about liquids during a meal. So why should we lump all liquids together when their functions are so different?
Most leading poskim rule to make a beracha on ice cream, certainly the pareve type; some suggest dodging the issue by making a beracha on a food it is agreed requires Shehakol (e.g., chocolate) (see opinions in Piskei Teshuvot and Vezot Haberacha, ibid.). We recommend making a beracha on ice cream served as dessert unless one always follows Rav Ovadya’s or possibly Rav Moshe’s rulings.
Birkat HaGomelOn Mondays and Thursdays, we often give the third aliyah to someone who has to say Birkat Hagomel (a blessing of thanks to Hashem for extricating someone from a dangerous situation, including plane travel overseas). Should he make the beracha before or after Kaddish?
This answer is based on a Q&A in our sefer, Bemareh Habazak, vol. V, 6.
The Kaddish that is recited after kri’at hatorah relates to it. Therefore, there should not be too long a break between the end of kri’at hatorah (and its normal concluding beracha) and Kaddish. However, we have to look for precedents to see whether saying and answering Hagomel is a problematic break.
The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (69:5) says that if the chazzan at Mincha stopped between the end of Ashrei and Kaddish to put on a tallit, he should say a few p’sukim before Kaddish. This is because Kaddish relates to the p’sukim of Ashrei and putting on the tallit is too much of a break. Following this approach, one would assume that Hagomel is also too much of a break between kri’at hatorah and Kaddish.
We can counter this indication in a few ways. There are other breaks that are not deemed problematic. After kri’at hatorah of Mincha on Shabbat, we do not immediately recite Kaddish, so that Kaddish can be recited directly before Shemoneh Esrei. That Kaddish, though, also relates to the kri’at hatorah. The Magen Avraham (292:2) explains that hagba/gelila and reciting “yehalelu” are not considered a break. However, one cannot bring a firm proof from there because he explains that the “break” is considered a long ending of kri’at hatorah. One can claim that, in contrast, Hagomel is unrelated to kri’at hatorah and constitutes a halachic break. On the other hand, many, including the Mishna Berura (54:12) say that putting on tallit or tefillin is not a long enough break to require repeating p’sukim before Kaddish. Since he stresses the break’s brevity, not its status as an extension of the matter at hand, Hagomel should not be considered a break either.
Furthermore, “normal interruptions” do not count as halachic breaks between Kaddish and the preceding passages to which it applies. For this reason, we can say Kaddish Titkabel, which relates to Shemoneh Esrei, despite the breaks for Hallel, kri’at hatorah, etc. in between (Terumat Hadeshen 13; Mishna Berura 123:18). One can argue that since Hagomel is normally said at the conclusion of one’s aliyah, it is, at least informally, part of the kri’at hatorah process and not a halachic break (see Kaf Hachayim, OC 123:27 regarding a mi sheberach). One can counter that Kaddish Titkabel is different because it was originally intended to be long after Shemoneh Esrei. In contrast, the Kaddish after kri’at hatorah can and perhaps should be directly after the end of the last aliyah. However, the concept that normal procedure does not interrupt is probably still pertinent.
Another difference is that the ba’al koreh, who usually recites the Kaddish, is not the one who is reciting Hagomel. The Mishna Berura (ibid.) urged the chazzan not to talk between Shemoneh Esrei and Kaddish Titkabel to avoid an unwarranted break. However, we do not find that the rest of the congregation has the same restriction. Similarly, what the oleh does should not be so important. One can counter that the whole congregation responds to Hagomel, and the public interruption is more problematic than an individual’s talking before Kaddish Titkabel. However, the fact that the ba’al koreh does not recite Hagomel seems significant, at least if he does not respond.
After comparing our case to halachic parallels and making distinctions, we conclude as follows. All things being equal, it may be preferable for the third oleh to wait until after Kaddish to recite Hagomel. After all, there is no halachic requirement to connect Hagomel to an aliyah; indeed, one who says Hagomel does not need an aliyah. However, if he wants to recite it before Kaddish, we do not have sufficient grounds to stop him from doing so.
Beracha on Sprouted BreadWhat beracha should I make on sprouted grain breads?
It is difficult to rule on this matter for a few reasons. Firstly, we have not found written halachic rulings on this relatively unknown topic, which hinges on complicated questions. Also, different people may prepare the bread differently, to the extent that the halacha may vary. Finally, we should better understand the botanical, chemical processes that accompany sprouting. We, therefore, propose a joint project with our readers. We will describe what we know and ask the public to add their insights. After compiling information and discussing the matter among ourselves and with other rabbis, we will share our findings. Let’s show how the information age can help further the world of halacha.
We received the following information (and samples of grain and bread) from a local producer of sprouted wheat bread. One soaks organic wheat kernels for several hours in water, which causes the kernels to sprout (into roots and stalks) over the next few days. When the roots are somewhat longer (but much thinner) than the kernels (which still look much the same), one grinds the whole thing. One bakes the moist “flour” without water or yeast. The result is a loaf with a color similar to whole-wheat bread and a moister and somewhat coarser texture (presumably because of the sprouts). It tastes quite sweet (like honey cake), to the extent that one would not guess that it is the product of only wheat and water. This bread is reported to be extremely healthful because of the chemical processes involved in the sprouting. We would like to know of significantly different processes that may be used.
Now let us briefly raise some of the pertinent halachic sources and deliberations.
The beracha on edible sprouts is ha’adamah. When one makes bread out of grain-like foods (kitniyot) that are not from the five, major forms of grain, its beracha is shehakol (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 208:8). These halachot should apply even to sprouts attached to wheat because they in no way resemble wheat’s taste. However, the Shulchan Aruch (ibid.:9) rules that bread made from a mixture of wheat flour and other flour is halachic bread if it contains a reasonable percentage of wheat (a sixth or an eighth). Our case easily meets that requirement.
The question is as follows. A wheat kernel, if planted, breaks down and is replaced by a stalk, formed by the grain and other nutrients from the ground. There are various opinions on how long it takes for grain to be considered rooted in the ground, as the beginning of a new entity. (See Terumat Hadeshen 191 and Shaagat Aryeh, Chadashot 7, in regard to stalks that become permitted when the omer is brought, who rule three days and two weeks, respectively. See also, Nedarim 57-59, regarding terumah and other halachic entities that lose their status after being planted.) However, one can distinguish between being rooted in the ground and maintaining wheat’s characteristics.
At what point of the kernel’s decomposition does it lose the status of wheat? Does it depend on its outer appearance or perhaps the taste of its product? Is the process uniform throughout the kernel or do certain sections change chemically more quickly? If it is not uniform, what is the halacha when part of the kernel is significantly altered, while other parts remain intact?
There are four arguable approaches: 1) The kernel remains wheat, and the bread made from it is regular bread (including regarding taking challah, which our local producer does); 2) Although the kernel is wheat, its unique taste makes it deserve the beracha of mezonot (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 168:7); 3) It is not wheat, but the bread is a normal use of sprouted grains which warrants ha’adamah (see Mishna Berura 208:33); 4) It is like corn bread, upon which we make shehakol (Shulchan Aruch 208:8). The main choices seem to be #1 and #4; our present inclination is #4.
Our readers’ input on any of the related issues is welcome at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Making a New Beracha After Break in EatingToward the end of a snack, I decide to stop eating after one more cookie and change my mind later. Do I need to make a new beracha before continuing to eat?
Intention regarding what one plans to eat affects the need for additional berachot in two different ways at two different points of the eating process. After discussing the principles of each (without getting into much details), we will see where your case fits in.
Intention at the beginning of the eating- If when one recites a beracha, he has in mind to eat several foods, the beracha covers other foods of the same beracha, including those that are not before him or which he has no specific plans to eat (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 206:5). If one intends at the time of the beracha to eat only a certain food or foods, then he needs a new beracha before eating other foods, even of the same beracha (Mishna Berura 206:20). When one does not give the matter thought, according to most poskim, one does not make a new beracha. This is because we assume that the standard situation is that the extent of one’s eating is open-ended (ibid.). However, the Rama (ad loc.) says that to remove doubt, it is best for a person to have in mind to cover with his beracha everything that may come his way.
Intention at the end of eating- The gemara in different places discusses situations that end a meal: 1) Removal of the tray/table from which a person was eating (Berachot 42a); 2) Rinsing one’s hands with mayim acharonim (water used before Birkat Hamazone) (ibid.); 3) Announcing that the group is ready to recite Birkat Hamazone (Pesachim 103b). In the third case, the gemara uses a phrase that is the heart of the issue, namely hesech hada’at (removal of thought). By performing an action that indicates that he is preparing for the berachot that follow eating, he shows that he has removed his mind from the eating that was included in the original beracha. Thus, to continue eating, he requires a new beracha. (Discussion as to whether he can eat before reciting Birkat Hamazone is beyond our present scope.) The Mishna Berura (179:3, based on the Rambam, Berachot 4:7) says that a clear thought that one has finished eating constitutes a hesech hada’at without verbalizing that he plans to bentch. Some Rishonim (see Shulchan Aruch OC 197:1) distinguish between the type of eating one was doing. If one was drinking (or having a snack- Shulchan Aruch Harav, Seder Birkat Hanehenin 5:1) then verbal or mental hesech hada’at is effective. If one was eating (a meal- ibid.), then only an action causes a break. The Biur Halacha (ad loc.) says that it is difficult to decide between the different opinions on the matter and urges one to avoid having mental hesech hada’at and then changing his mind during a meal.
Let us return to our case. If one were to decide to have a snack of one cookie, then the beracha would never have taken effect on other foods. However, once the intention was open-ended enough to apply to other foods, only positive hesech hada’at removes it. All of the poskim we have found discuss hesech hada’at from the perspective of the present (For example, see the language of the Rambam (ibid.) and the Mishna Berura (206:20).) In other words, one says to himself: “I no longer plan to eat,” which is equivalent to the actions of preparing for Birkat Hamazone. There is no halachic precedent for hesech hada’at on delay (i.e. “I hereby declare that after one more cookie, I will have stopped eating”).
Thus, if you continue to think clearly after finishing the cookie that it was indeed the last one, then you have hesech hada’at at that time. As you are referring to a snack, you would need a beracha before eating more. However, if your resolve to stop eating wavers before finishing to eat, then you could continue eating without a new beracha.
Berachot on Shabbat After SunsetAt the last day of Sheva Berachot, we ate most of the meal in the daytime but got up to Birkat Hamazone and the Sheva Berachot after sunset. Could we still make the berachot?
At first glance, this is the same as one who starts a meal on Shabbat and does not finish it until afterward, with the question being about reciting R’tzei in Birkat Hamazone. The Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 188) brings differing opinions on the matter. The Shulchan Aruch (188:10) rules that we follow the beginning of the meal and recite R’tzei even after Shabbat has ended.
However, in our case, the Acharonim rule differently. Many (including Shaarei Teshuva 188:7 and Birkei Yosef 188:13) cite the Ginat Veradim, who says that that which we recite things that do not seem to apply anymore because they applied in the beginning of the meal is only by hazkarot. That is, R’tzei and the similar Ya’aleh V’yavoh are not full berachot but are additions to the existing text of Birkat Hamazone. However, we do not make individual berachot, like Sheva Berachot, after the week of festivities are over, just based on the beginning or even the end of the meal. (We should note that there are other questions that arise in regard to counting the seven days. We rule that it follows the time of the chupa (Rama, Even Haezer 62:6; see Acharonim). When there are multiple reasons to allow the berachot, it may be possible to accept a combination of opinions. Thus, for example, Rav O. Yosef (Yabia Omer V, EH 7) allows making Sheva Berachot at bein hashemashot (twilight) of the eighth night when the couple had not entered the yichud room until the night of their wedding.)
The Pitchei Teshuva (Even Haezer 62:12), after citing this Ginat Veradim, seems to be bothered by the following question. When a man and woman who were both previously married get married, there is only one day of Sheva Berachot (Shulchan Aruch, EH 62:6). There is a major dispute on what one day means (see Chelkat Mechokek and Beit Shmuel, ad loc.). Some say the first day refers to all the meals the couple partakes in on the halachic day of their marriage. Others say it applies to the first, festive meal that the couple partakes in, even if it is on the night after the marriage, which is very common in summer weddings. While it is questionable whether to make a beracha at the wedding meal that was held at night, the Ba’er Heitev (62:5) says that one makes Sheva Berachot that night if the meal began in the daytime. The Pitchei Teshuva apparently expected that the same thing should be true for a meal that began on the seventh day of normal Sheva Berachot and ended on the night of the eighth.
The China V’chisda (on Ketubot 7a) makes the following distinction. Even though there is only one day of Sheva Berachot for the previously married couple, there are three days of simcha. Therefore, the second night is not a totally inappropriate time to recite the Sheva Berachot. In contrast, after the seven days of a normal Sheva Berachot period, there is no place for the berachot, and the fact that the meal was begun (or even finished) during the day is not enough to enable berachot to be made after their time.
There is a difference between your question of reciting Sheva Berachot on the eighth night and that of reciting “Shehasimcha Bim’ono” in the zimun of (introduction to) Birkat Hamazone. The Ezer Mikodesh (on Shulchan Aruch ibid.:13) says that one does recite “Shehasimcha Bim’ono” in this case. His main reason is that the gemara (Ketubot 8a) says that when one makes a meal in honor of a wedding up to twelve months later one may recite this addition. Although we do not do this in practice, in a case like ours, where there are serious reasons to consider this a continuation of the Sheva Berachot period, it is appropriate to do so. Recent Acharonim caution that this is true only when people outside the household take part in the meal (see Nisuim K’hilchatam 14: 128).
Beracha on Drinking for a Medical TestWe have developed a diagnostic tool that works as follows. After a full fast of several hours, one drinks a tasteless powder dissolved in a cup of water. A few minutes later, he breathes into a special machine that detects if various organs are working healthily. Does one make a beracha before and/or after drinking the water? Can he drink a little, regular water first to remove the doubt regarding the beracha?
The gemara (Berachot 35a) says that we must make a beracha before eating, because one may not benefit from the world before thanking Hashem. However, Chazal, who instituted the specific rules and texts of berachot, did so regarding specific types of benefit. For the type of benefits that one receives from food, there are berachot. For medicinal benefits, no berachot were instituted (Berachot 36a).
The main benefit of food responsible for its berachot is its taste (the poskim call it hana’at hacheich, benefit of the palate). Because of the beracha-related importance of taste, if one eats a food for medicinal reasons but also has taste enjoyment from it, he recites the food’s regular beracha (ibid.). Water is an exception to the rule in this regard, because it is assumed to lack a positive taste. So why do we ever make a beracha on water?
The mishna (ibid. 44a) says that one recites a beracha on water when he drinks it to quench his thirst. The gemara (ibid. 44b) says that this is as opposed to a case where one drinks to rinse down something that is caught in his throat. The gemara does not say what happens if one drinks water not because of thirst and not to get something out of his throat but for another reason. However, the poskim’s consensus is that only if the water acts to quench thirst does one make a beracha (Biur Halacha on Orach Chayim 204:7). Therefore, if one drinks water to swallow a pill he does not make a beracha before or after drinking (Pitchei Halacha, Berachot p. 135). (We cannot get into all the cases where poskim discuss whether the need to drink water fits into the category of thirst or not.)
Generally, quenching thirst regarding water is parallel to providing taste for food. Therefore, it is logical that if one drinks water for medicinal purposes but also is thirsty, then he does make a beracha, as the Mishna Berura (204:41) confirms. However, the difference between water and a tasty food or drink is as follows. When a tasty food is taken for medicinal purposes, our standard assumption is that he will have taste benefit as well. However, the standard assumption is that if one is not aware of being thirsty, the medicinal drinking of water will not provide the type of thirst benefit that warrants a beracha (see Mishna Berura ibid.:40).
In your case, the water with powder is drunk for medicinal purposes (it makes no difference whether it is therapeutic or diagnostic). However, since the people being tested fast for several hours before drinking, one can assume that they are thirsty as well. Thus, unless one notes that he is not thirsty, he should make a beracha before and after drinking the water. If one is not sure about the matter, he cannot solve the problem by your suggestion of drinking water before. This is because water drunk in order to solve a halachic problem is not water for thirst and does not get a beracha (Biur Halacha, ibid.). This is, in general, important to remember. Often, a person does not know what beracha to make on a food and wants to solve the problem by making Shehakol on water and covering the food in question. Based on what we have seen, if he is not thirsty, that beracha on the water is itself a beracha l’vatala (a valueless beracha, which is forbidden to make). If those being tested are allowed to eat a small amount of something else, that would be a way of removing doubt. After the test, one can drink as much as he wants to remove doubt about a beracha afterward. However, in most cases, one can confidently make the berachot.
Third Person of a ZimunI know that in order to answer to a zimun (a joint bentching, or reciting of Birkat Hamazone) the third person needed does not have the same requirements as the first two. Could you give me some specific parameters?
You are correct that there is a difference between the first two and a third. This is primarily because two who ate together form the basis of the zimun, even though they need a third in order to actually do the zimun. The main distinctions are in the following areas, which we present one by one.
Looking for a zimun- It is desirable for two who eat together to make some effort (within reason) to include a third to eat with them so that they can make a zimun (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 193:2). Similarly, seven should preferably look for another three to do a zimun of ten, with Hashem’s name (Mishna Berura 193:12). We do not find that one has any reason to look for another two for a zimun.
Forcing a third to answer- If two are interested in bentching and the third is not, the two can require the third to take part in a zimun (Shulchan Aruch 200:1). Even if the third does not respond, they fulfill their obligation of zimun, although the third does not, if he did not respond (Mishna Berura 200:3). One person who is ready for Birkat Hamzone cannot demand of the other two to answer for him, although they can if they want.
If one bentched without waiting- If three ate together and bentched without a zimun, they lost the opportunity to do so, even if one of them has not yet bentched. However, if only one bentched and two did not, then they can do a zimun, which the third can respond to even after having bentched (Shulchan Aruch 194:1). However, if the third ate something other than bread and recited a beracha acharona (blessing after eating), they cannot include him in the zimun (Mishna Berura 197:9).
What they ate- Zimun is only for Birkat Hamazone and not for other berachot acharanot. Thus, two must have eaten at least a c’zayit (app. half a slice) of bread. However, a third person can answer the zimun even after having any food or drink, other than water (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 197:2). However, some Rishonim say that this is the case only regarding turning a regular zimun into a zimun of ten. According to them, if two ate bread and one ate fruit, they cannot do a zimun (ibid.). To stay out of doubt, Sephardim avoid the situation where two who eat bread together invite a third to eat something other than bread (other grain products are a question). If it happened that two ate bread and one ate something else, then they should do a zimun (ibid.). The minhag among Ashkenazim is that if the third prefers not eating bread, it is fine to give him something else to eat or drink and use him for the zimun (Mishna Berura 197:22).
Joining after the first two basically finished eating- The three must be united in their eating in some way, in terms of time and place. Yet if two ate together and a third came after they finished eating but had not yet bentched, he can create a zimun with them under the following circumstances. That which the third needs to eat is as above. Even if the two are not going to eat any more, they can still be united in their meal if they halachically may eat and would eat at least a little more if they were served particularly tasty food (Shulchan Aruch 197:1). If they already made preparations for Birkat Hamazone that preclude their continuing the meal (such as mayim acharonim- the details are beyond our present scope) then they cannot do zimun together. In a case where the two are still considered within their meal and the third concludes what he is eating, they may not bentch without zimun. However, if the group neither started nor finished together, they need not do a zimun (Mishna Berura 193:19). However, if they want to do the zimun, the two may use the latecomer even if he has not concluded eating (Piskei Teshuvot 193:6).
Counting the Omer MixupBehar 12 Iyar 5765 If I am unsure what day of the omer it is, may I count both possible days in order to “cover my bases”?
Several poskim mention that it is preferable to recite sefirat haomer with a minyan. Your question provides one more reason to do so, as someone in shul will certainly know the correct count. Nowadays, even people who are traveling (the case discussed in the poskim) can and should normally call someone to find out the count if they are in doubt. However, we will deal with the question, which still arises, and touches on important concepts.
The matter begins with the question of the Ba’al Hamaor and Ran (very end of Pesachim). They ask why, in chutz la’aretz, one does not count two different days of the omer each night in order to take into account the possibility that the second day of Yom Tov was the real day? In other words, when they recite day 5 in Israel, abroad they should be saying 5 and 4. They answer that since if one does this throughout the sefira period, he would have to count day 49 on Shavuot, this would be a disgrace to Shavuot, and so they didn’t institute a count of doubt. The clear implication of these important Rishonim is that, in theory, it is possible to make a “double count” out of doubt, except when additional factors preclude it.
On the other hand, there are Acharonim (see Yabia Omer VIII, OC 45, who cites some) who give a more fundamental answer. They claim that it is not considered counting to recite contradictory numbers without knowing which is correct. Sefirat haomer, they reason, is not a mitzva to recite a text, which would allow one to recite multiple texts out of doubt. Rather, the mitzva is to give verbal expression to the knowledge of the correct day in the series. The Avnei Nezer (YD 248) seems to object mainly to reciting contradictory numbers. Some go further, saying that even if one guesses correctly and counts only the correct day, he does not fulfill the mitzva with the recitation because he guessed rather than knew.
Despite the appeal of the Acharonim’s logic, the prominence of the Rishonim’s opinion seems to outweigh theirs (see D’var Avraham I, 34). Therefore, if a person remains in doubt, he can perform a double count and continue a normal count with a beracha upon finding out the correct one on a subsequent night (Yabia Omer, ibid.). (Remember that it is a machloket whether one who did not count or counted wrong one night can count on other nights with a beracha).
The remaining question is whether one can make a beracha on the double count while he is in doubt. There are two hesitations. Firstly, as we saw, some question such a counting’s validity, and we avoid making berachot when there is a question whether the mitzva will be done properly (safek berachot l’hakel). Secondly, if the first number recited turns out to be wrong, it might be considered a hefsek (a problematic break) between the beracha and the correct number. This may depend on the nature of a hefsek and whether something done to try to fulfill a mitzva but turns out to be improper creates a hefsek (see Mikraei Kodesh, Pesach II 67). Rav Kook (Orach Mishpat 126) has an idea to obviate the problem, which could work in at least some cases. Although (or because) it is hard to decide on the matter, we suggest that one refrain from a beracha if and when he is forced to make such a double count. (Lack of a beracha in no way disqualifies the mitzva.)
When carrying out such a count, it is better to try to decide which number one thinks is more likely to be correct and recite it first with as much conviction as he can muster. If one is anyway not making a beracha, it is proper to break for several seconds between the first count and the second. If the counts are separated, it is possible that the Avnei Nezer and others would not consider it a self-contradictory count.
Saying Birkat HaGomel on Behalf of OthersWhen many people have to make Birkat Hagomel (e.g. at times when many have traveled) the shul often has one person make the beracha on behalf of the rest. Can one person say thanks to Hashem for what he received and have it count for others?
The gemara’s (Berachot 54b) story is the basis to answer your question. Rav Yehuda recuperated from a severe illness. Several rabbis visited him and said: “Blessed is Hashem who gave you to us and not to the earth.” Rav Yehuda responded that they had exempted him of the need to thank Hashem (= recite Birkat Hagomel). The gemara asks how Rav Yehuda could have been exempted if he had not made the beracha himself and answers that he had answered, “Amen.”
The conclusion one can draw from this gemara is that a person can make Birkat Hagomel for others. Indeed the Shulchan Aruch paskens (Orach Chayim 219:5): “If one recites Hagomel for himself and intended to exempt his friend and his friend intended to be exempted, he fulfills the obligation even without answering Amen.” The fact that Amen is not required should not be surprising, as the rule is that one who hears a beracha from his friend need only listen (Orach Chayim 213:2) although it is proper to also answer.
So why does the gemara require Amen in its case. The Tur (219) cites his father, the Rosh, who says that the problem with Rav Yehuda was that the person who recited the beracha was not personally obligated to make the beracha, yet it was an appropriate reaction because someone he cared about was saved. Under those circumstances, he could not be motzi Rav Yehuda, but by answering Amen, Rav Yehuda was considered to have recited the beracha himself. R. Akiva Eiger (notes to Shulchan Aruch 219:5) says that the issue was that the language of the well-wisher who praised Hashem for helping someone else did not apply sufficiently to him (who should be speaking in the first person.) unless he answered Amen. (See more about the basis of these opinions in Kehilot Ya’akov, Berachot 17).
In any case, it is clear cut in the Shulchan Aruch that one can make Birkat Hagomel on his own behalf and have it carry over to another person. One can ask whether it is better to do it as a group or individually. In principle, when one can make a beracha on behalf of a few, it is better for one to do it. However, the Mishna Berura (213:12) points out that we usually do individual berachot, perhaps out of fear that either the one saying or listening will not concentrate appropriately. Piskei Teshuvot (219:17) says that the same applies to Birkat Hagomel and that this is the accepted practice. We agree that each person usually makes his own Hagomel, but only when there are only a few who need it. If many people need it, it is a matter of tircha d’tzibura (inconveniencing the congregation) and encourages talking. Thus, it is a common and perfectly acceptable practice for one to recite the beracha after announcing that all others should listen with the intent to be included.
Piskei Teshuvot (ibid.) makes another claim, which we take issue with. He says that the one reciting should do so in the plural, saying “sheg’malanu …” (that Hashem granted us). His source for the matter discussed a case where there was a group salvation, not to a case where one makes a beracha for a personal salvation and others join in his beracha. If the Piskei Teshuvot were correct, one would have expected one of the Shulchan Aruch’s commentators to point out that the beracha is different. In fact, the Shulchan Aruch’s language strongly suggests not that way. He describes one who recites Birkat Hagomel “for himself and intends to exempt his friend.” This clearly implies that his wording was appropriate for a personal beracha and only his intention connects him to his friend. Only in regard to the less formal response of the congregation (“Mi sheg’malcha…”), which is not discussed in this halacha of the Shulchan Aruch, does it make sense to use the plural form to include all of the people in the blessing of continued good fortune.
Ba'al Koreh Omitting PasukOn Shabbat morning, the ba’al koreh omitted two words near the beginning of Shishi. People initially assumed they had heard wrong, and the matter became clear near the end of Musaf. No decision was made until shul dispersed (the rav was away). At Mincha, we started reading back at Shishi, and the kohen’s aliyah ended at its regular place in the new parasha. Was that correct?
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 137:3), discussing the case of one who misses a pasuk, makes the following distinction. If the omission occurred on a weekday kriat hatorah (=kht) then as long as the minimum number of p’sukim was read, we do not need to return to read the omitted pasuk. However, on Shabbat morning we must go back and read the omitted pasuk and another two adjacent p’sukim at whatever point of the “services” people realize the mistake, even after the Torah was returned or during Musaf. (The requirement found by Megillat Esther for the text to be read in order does not apply to kht (Da’at Torah, ad loc.)). Most poskim rule that we do the same if a single word was omitted (Mishna Berura 137:8). We recite the regular Birkot Hatorah before and after the three p’sukim (Magen Avraham 137: 2; Taz 137:3; see Masechet Sofrim 21:7). However, if we became aware of the mistake after the aliyah where it occurred, then we do not need to make a separate aliyah to make up for the omission. Rather, the next aliyah starts from the place of the mistake and continues into the reading of the next aliyah (Mishna Berura 142:2). (In Sha’ar Hatziyun 142:3, he explains that it is halachically sufficient to begin the new aliyah with the problematic pasuk and perhaps another two, and then to skip to the next aliyah. However, it is preferable to read straight.) If the pasuk in question was within three p’sukim of a break in the Torah text (p’tucha or s’tuma) we should start reading from the beginning of the section (Aruch Hashulchan, OC 137:4).
Your case is more complicated in that during the course of the davening, the Shulchan Aruch’s ruling was not employed. The question is whether Mincha was a possible time to make up for the omission, and, if so, how? There is little discussion among classical poskim on the matter, but the following approach emerges from our analysis.
In general, there is a machloket between Sephardic and Ashkenazic poskim as to whether a community can read the Torah at Mincha when they were unable to do so at Shacharit. Sephardic poskim do not suggest this (see Yalkut Yosef, 135:5 & 137:4), whereas Ashkenazic poskim do (Mishna Berura 135:5). Rav Ovadya Yosef (ibid.) thus says that if a congregation missed a pasuk and didn’t act on it until after the Shabbat morning services dispersed, the congregation should read the pasuk in question in the beginning of the next Shabbat’s kht along with three p’sukim from the present parasha. It follows from that approach that Ashkenzim could do the same thing at Mincha, reading the problematic pasuk and perhaps two others and skipping to the beginning of the next Shabbat’s parasha during the same aliyah. This is preferable to reading three p’sukim with berachot from the morning’s parasha independently of the new kht. Since there was a full reading of seven aliyot (as opposed to the case in Mishna Berura, ibid.) and it is possible to attach the missing pasuk to the current reading, it is unnecessary to read it separately, which would be questionable from a perspective of beracha l’vatala.
The fact that you began from Shishi and read straight until the beginning of the next parasha was, if anything, halachically preferable (see the aforementioned Sha’ar Hatziyun, which may or may not apply here). However, it was apparently unnecessary and not preferable because of tircha d’tzibbura (inconveniencing the congregation). After the fact, what you did “got the job done” sufficiently for an Ashkenazic community and was reasonable once people had dispersed after morning davening.
Girls and Women Lighting Chanukah CandlesI was brought up as a girl to light my own neirot (candles of) Chanuka (= NC) and I continued to do so as a married woman. Recently I was told that when there are men in the house, only they should light. Should my daughters and I stop lighting?
The basic mitzva of NC is to have one light a night per household. A higher level (mehadrin=mh) is to light a candle for each person and an even higher level (mehadrin min hamehadrin = mmh) is to have the number of lights increase corresponding to the day of Chanuka (Shabbat 21b). Rishonim disagree whether mmh erases the mh, and the household lights only the number that corresponds to that day (Tosafot) or whether we do both, as we light per person times the number of the day (Rambam). Ashkenazim follow the Rambam’s approach (approximately) whereas Sephardim follow Tosafot’s approach (Shulchan Aruch & Rama, Orach Chayim 671:2). So for Sephardim, it is traditional that the husband/father alone lights the candles.
Not only is a woman obligated to be involved in NC (Shabbat 23a), including by someone lighting on her behalf, but there is a clear consensus that a woman can light on behalf of a man (Magen Avraham 675:4; see Yechave Daat III, 51). The question is whether the Ashkenazic practice of mmh, that all members of the household light their own NC, applies to women as well?
The Rambam (Chanuka 4:1) writes that the number that corresponds to the people of the house includes both men and women. This makes perfect sense, as women are obligated like men. (We should note that the Rambam implies that even in mmh, only one person lights, just that the number is adjusted by the number of people, but Ashkenazim have each person light.) As time went on, though, it appears that different minhagim, which differ from the expected, surfaced. The Maharshal (Shut 85) (400 years ago) and Eliyah Rabba (671:3) (300 years ago) say that a wife does not light separately from her husband, as the latter explains, because a wife is part of her husband (ishto k’gufo), not a separate unit within the household. This idea, a reflection of marital unity, has halachic implications in various areas of halacha. This implies that daughters should and probably did light.
Later poskim noted that in practice no girls light, and all sorts of explanations (often a sign that all are tenuous) were raised to explain the phenomenon. The most famous one is the Chatam Sofer’s (175 years ago) who says that since the practice was to light outside and since it was not considered modest for women to congregate among men from other families, the practice that everyone lights was not extended to them. The Mishna Berura (675:9) brings the Olat Shmuel that females are not required to light separately and are subsumed in the men’s lighting, but if they want, they can light with a beracha. R. Sh. Z. Orbach (Minchat Shlomo II, 58.3) explains his opinion as follows. If one naturally fulfills his requirement with someone else and for no good reason intends not to be exempt but to do it himself, there may be an issue of an unnecessary beracha. However, since here there is a reason (even though not an obligation) for a woman to want to do mmh by lighting her own NC, it is not considered an unnecessary beracha. These poskim do not say that a girl should not light; they explain how there could be a minhag that many do not.
There are many females, including the wife and daughters of Rav Soloveitchik (Nefesh Harav, pg. 226), who have the minhag to light. Such a girl can be proud that she performs the mitzva as mmh (without belittling those with a different minhag). Regarding a wife, there are classical sources (see also Terumat Hadeshen 101) and a clear explanation as to why not to light separately. Thus, she might consider it sufficient to light the household ’s Shabbat candles and have her husband represent their unit on Chanuka. If she does light, she may avoid possible doubts by using her husband’s beracha to cover her lighting as well. There are other halachically plausible compromise possibilities, but we refer to the main practices we know of.
Minimum Amount of Liquid for Beracha AchronaI was wondering if you could tell me what the minimum amount of a liquid (ie water, soda, juice) needed to be drank in order for me to say a bracha achrona.
Approximately 3 ½ ounces, known as a revi’it (though there are different opinions on this matter, if one has 4 ounces, he will have had enough according to most authorities).
However, there is one additional factor that must be taken into account as well, and that is the time this amount is consumed. One must drink this amount consecutively without a large break (consisting of moving the cup away from your lips) to obligate a bracha achrona.
Source of Beracha "Shelo Asani Isha"Can you please direct me to sources that discuss the berakhah “shelo asani ishah”?
“Shelo asani ishah” is, as you know, one of three morning berakhot that are phrased negatively. The Talmud (Menahot 43b) has a positive phrasing for these three berakhot, and there it is stated “Sheasani Yisrael.” The Rif and the Rosh, in their commentaries to Berakhot, cite this version. However, Tosefta Berakhot quotes Rabbi Yehudah that the three berakhot that we now have in our morning prayers should be recited in their negative phraseology, and it is this practice that we follow today.
It has been suggested that the negative phraseology is preferred because it is a polemic against a certain New Testament verse in which the Christian savior reportedly claims, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female” but all are equal. Therefore, we say these three berachot in a negative form to parallel these three parts of the aforementioned statement.
Abudraham explains the three berakhot as follows: A heathen is under obligation to observe only the Seven Noachide commandments. A [Canaanite] slave is obligated to observe those mitzvot that a woman must observe but lacks the sanctity of a Jew. A woman is excused from all time-bound positive commandments because as a daughter, wife, or mother, she has over-riding responsibilities. Therefore, since as Jews we connect to the Creator through his commandments, we mention how we (males) are fortunate to have as many commandments as we do.
Some suggest that women customarily recite the berakhah, “Barukh attah sheasani kir’tzono,” omitting “Hashem” and “Elokeinu melekh haolam”. However, among many groups, this text is said in the form of the other berachot, mentioning the name “Hashem”.
Eating New Fruit During the Three WeeksWhy is eating new fruit considered such a pleasure that it is forbidden during the Three Weeks (between 17 Tammuz and 9 Av)? Also, is it permitted on Shabbat?
As far as the actual practices of the Three Weeks and the Nine Days, we would prefer not to rule definitively, as the practices depend very much on family and/or community minhag. These are best dealt with on the more local level. However, it is worthwhile to remove some confusion on the source, rationale, and parameters of this halacha/minhag.
The issue is actually not the eating of the fruit per se but the fact that when eating new fruit one is required to make the beracha of Shehechiyanu. The wording of that beracha implies that we are happy to have reached this period of time, but the sadness of this time of the year makes it inappropriate to make such a statement. The source is actually post-Talmudic (as is not uncommon in these halachot). The Sefer Chasidim (840) says: “There are pious ones from the early pious people who would not eat any new fruit between 17 Tammuz and 9 Av, for they said: how can we make the blessing that ‘He gave us life, sustained us, and allowed us to reach this time.’ There are those who make the beracha on new fruit when they came across them on the Shabbatot between 17 Tammuz and 9 Av.” The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 551:17) phrases it as follows: “It is good to be careful not to say “Shehechiyanu” on fruit and clothes during the Three Weeks, but on a Pidyon Haben you say it and do not lose out on the mitzva.”
The weak language of these sources makes it sound as less than a standard halacha or even minhag. The G’ra (ad loc.) calls this practice an extreme stringency. He proves that even a mourner on the day of a parent’s death is permitted to make Shehechiyanu if the need arises, and therefore, there is no way that the Three Weeks could be more severe. The Magen Avraham (551:42) makes a fundamental distinction that many accept (but the G’ra does not). He says that it is not that a person should be in too sad a state to make Shehechiyanu, but that the period of time is a tragic one. The Three Weeks is an objectively sad time for all, as opposed to the time of mourning where the individual is sad, but the time is a normal one.
We should point out that the aforementioned sources do not say that it is impossible to make Shehechiyanu during this time, but that the situation should be avoided by not eating new fruit and wearing new clothes. (For clothes, there are additional problems during the Nine Days, beyond the issue of Shehechiyanu (see Shulchan Aruch, ibid.:6)). Not only do we say Shehechiyanu at a Pidyon Haben, but the Rama (551:17) says that if the only time the fruit will be available to make Shehechiyanu is during this time, then one does not lose the opportunity.
One common occurrence where there is major discussion among poskim is, as you asked, on Shabbat. On one hand, even though laws of aveilut almost disappear on Shabbat, our issue is praising the time of year, which, despite Shabbat, is a problem during the Three Weeks. On the other hand, because of the mitzva of oneg Shabbat, we do not want to refrain from things that add to our enjoyment. While there is no clear consensus on the matter, different factors can help decide whether it is preferable to eat the foods and make Shehechiyanu or not (see Piskei Teshuvot 551:53). One is how close it is to Tisha B’av. Another is how important eating the new fruit is for the enjoyment of Shabbat.
The most important thing, in general, in regard to the laws and customs of the Three Weeks is to keep things in perspective. While many of the specific customs are relatively recent and sometimes one can argue upon them halachically, there should be a pervasive atmosphere of dampened joy. The specific customs are important and often binding vehicles to that end, but the heart of the mitzva is the mood itself.
Chocolate Covered RaisinsWhat is the proper beracha on chocolate –covered raisins?
Unfortunately, there is no consensus on the beracha for chocolate-covered raisins. But fortunately, there are a few legitimate options, and one can cover his bases well.
When one eats a food that is made up of distinct parts that are combined together, he makes the beracha of that which is the ikar (primary food) and not on the tafel (secondary food) (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 212). The problem is that at times there is no clear ikar and tafel. So, for example, when one eats fruit salad (which contains some fruit whose beracha is ha’adama), he determines the beracha by using that which applies to the majority of the fruit in terms of volume (Mishna Berura 212:1). This is because when it is difficult to say that one fruit is more important than another, the majority prevails. However, by chocolate-covered raisins, where the function of the chocolate and the raisin are different, it is possible that one is really ikar and the other tafel. If one had a clear feeling on the matter, that would determine his status (Laws of Berachos (Forst) pg. 215), but most people are somewhat ambivalent on the matter.
Let us mention a couple of precedents. The Shulchan Aruch (212:2) says that those who place a liquid-based confection on top of thin crackers make a beracha only on the confection. However, the Magen Avraham (ad loc.) says that that is only when the cracker does not have its own good taste, but the way it was done in his days, one makes a beracha on the tasty cracker. The Machatzit Hashekel (ad loc.) adds that one should make two berachot on the two separate parts of the food. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe OC III, 31) feels that our situation is similar and that one makes two berachot, shehakol followed by ha’etz. On the other hand, the Mishna Berura paskens that on nuts coated in sugar, even if the sugar is the majority, one makes ha’etz. But chocolate is a more significant, independent food than sugar, and, therefore, there are those who say that one makes only a shehakol on the chocolate coating (see V’zot Haberacha, pg. 96).
However, there seems to be more logic to make ha’etz, and this is for a combination of reasons. First of all, as we are dealing with a whole (albeit, small) fruit which is coated, it seems that the fruit is more important (see Tur, Orach Chayim 204 and Mishna Berura 204:51). Even if one never eats raisins without the chocolate, it does not mean that the raisins are not the ikar, like bread is the ikar even for one who never eats it without peanut butter and jelly. Secondly, many are of the opinion that the beracha on chocolate itself is ha’etz, as it is the normal use of the chocolate bean, which grows on a tree (see Minchat Shlomo 91.2). A major part of the reason that we normally make shehakol on chocolate is that it is a safer beracha. After all, shehakol works even for that which should get ha’etz, but not vice versa. In our case, an assumption that chocolate gets ha’etz eliminates a beracha, whereas saying shehakol makes one go out on a limb and make a second, possibly unnecessary beracha.
This combination of factors leads some to say that we should recite only ha’etz (see Laws of Berachot, ibid.). Another factor is that, in most cases, the raisin is greater in volume than the chocolate (see V’zot Haberacha, pg. 97). On the other hand, reciting just shehakol has its own advantage, as b’dieved it fulfills the obligation of beracha on all foods.
In summary, we recommend saying only ha’etz on chocolate-coated raisins, especially if the raisin is the majority. Shehakol is also a safe alternative, especially if the chocolate is the majority or if one thinks that the chocolate is his ikar. Only those who follow Rav Moshe regularly should make two berachot (and refer to his cited teshuva as to how to carry this out). Making berachot first on other foods of the same beracha(ot) removes some doubts but can also raise other ones.
Making Late HavdalaMy wife did not feel well on Motzaei Shabbat and went to sleep before I made Havdala. I decided to wait for her, which ended up being until the next morning. Should I have made a full Havdala on Sunday, including the berachot on besamim and ner (Havdala candle)?
There are a few questions to deal with here, starting with the question of whether you were correct to wait until the morning to make Havdala. We will assume a situation that you wife is fully capable of making her own Havdala without technical or emotional problems.
It is true that it is preferable for a woman to hear Havdala from a man, because of the opinions that she is not obligated in Havdala (see Shulchan Aruch and Rama, Orach Chayim 296:8). However, if she needs to, she may make her own Havdala (ibid.; we wrote more on the topic in last year’s Hemdat Yamim for B’ha’alotcha). So, if there are no problems, it is best to wait for her, but we must see whether there are problems.
All of the classical sources (from the gemara (Pesachim 106a) to the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 299:6)) talk about making Havdala on Motzaei Shabbat. The idea of making Havdala until Tuesday evening sounds as b’dieved (after the unfortunate fact). However, one can claim that the sources just describe the normal situation that one fulfills his mitzva within a reasonable amount of time and does not address a situation where there is reason to wait.
There is an interesting machloket between the Rosh (Berachot 3:2) and Maharam (cited by the Rosh) about one who was exempt from Havdala on Motzaei Shabbat because he was awaiting a close relative’s funeral. Is he obligated to make Havdala after the funeral on Sunday? The Taz (Yoreh Deah 396:2) explains that the Rosh, who exempts the mourner, understands that the base obligation of Havdala is only on Motzaei Shabbat, and that which one has until Tuesday is because of tashlumin (making up missed obligations). In this case, there was no obligation of Havdala on Motzaei Shabbat, and he is exempt. The Maharam understands that the base obligation extends beyond Motzaei Shabbat, and the mourner starts his obligation after the burial. According to the Rosh, it should be very problematic to delay Havdala until the morning, unless there is no choice in the matter (and, in this case, there is a choice). However, it appears that we accept the approach of the Maharam as halacha (based on Shulchan Aruch, YD 341:2; see Yabia Omer V, OC 10, who discusses the various indications).
A further complication is that one cannot eat or drink (except for water) before Havdala (Shulchan Aruch, OC 299:1). This is even the case upon awakening on Sunday morning, assuming one has the ability to make Havdala (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 59:10). For Sefardim, the situation is even more problematic, because three pillars of recent Sefardic psak (Ben Ish Chai, Kaf Hachayim (299;26), R. Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer VI, 48.13)) rule that if one did eat before Havdala, he is able to make Havdala only if it is still Motzaei Shabbat.
If one makes Havdala after Motzaei Shabbat, he does not make the berachot on the ner and besamim (Shulchan Aruch ibid.:5), because only Motzaei Shabbat is the time that fire was created and one needs to compensate for the let-down of the end of Shabbat (Mishna Berura, ad loc.). At first glance, he who waits until the next day will lose these berachot. However, it is possible to make the berachot without the rest of Havdala (Rama, OC 298:1).
We conclude that it is halachically preferable for one not to wait until Sunday morning to make Havdala even if refrains from eating and even if it means that his wife will have to make it herself. Since both options are neither perfect nor halachically wrong, there may be circumstances where one will want to wait until the morning (except for the ner and besamim), while not eating.
Shehecheyanu for Putting on TefillinI recently became bar mitzva, and no one told me to make the beracha of Shehecheyanu the first time I put on tefillin as a bar mitzva. Was that correct and, if so, why?
That is a very astute question for a bar mitzva, one which shows that already at your age, the study of Torah is not a new mitzva for you. There are two possible reasons to make Shehecheyanu when beginning to put on tefillin. One is that the performance of the mitzva is new, as you imply. The other is that he received a new, important commodity (like a new suit), which brings joy even to one who has put on other tefillin for years. According to both reasons, the time to make the beracha would not be the day of the bar mitzva, but the first time one puts on the tefillin. This is usually before the bar mitzva, each young man according to his minhag.
The Rama (Yoreh Deah 28:2) says that one makes Shehecheyanu the first time he does shechita (ritual slaughtering) not on the shechita itself, which causes damage to a living thing, but on the mitzva to subsequently cover the blood. Based on this, the Taz (Orach Chayim 22:1) says that every time one does a mitzva for the first time he should make Shehecheyanu. However, many poskim take issue on the Rama and/or the Taz (Shach, YD 28:5; Ba’er Heitev ad loc. in the name of the Pri Chadash; see Beit Yosef, OC 22). The main rationale is that, with the stress of the beracha being on our meriting being alive at this time, that the mitzva must be one which is linked to a certain time of the year, and thus be cyclical. This actually may depend on our understanding of the beraita cited in Menachot (75b) (see Yechave Da’at II, 31 in the name of the Rokeach). The beraita relates that the kohanim who came to Yerushalayim to bring the mincha (meal offering) would recite Shehecheyanu. Rashi explains that this is talking about the first time the kohen ever brought the mincha, and this would seem to support the Rama and Taz. However, Tosafot (ad loc.) says that kohanim made the beracha each time, because the kohen had the privilege to do so only twice a year, making it a cyclical mitzva. As we have a rule that safek berachot l’hakel (when in doubt whether to make a beracha or not, do not utter Hashem’s name in possible vain), we do not make Shehecheyanu on first-time mitzvot.
However, there is room to say that there is special justification for reciting Shehecheyanu on tefillin. The tosefta (Berachot 6:10) says that when one makes tzitzit or tefillin, he makes Shehecheyanu, and this is brought as halacha in the Rambam (Berachot 11:9). (There is discussion as to when the beracha is made, and we usually make berachot later on than the classical sources indicate; see ibid. and Rama, OC 225:3, and more). The Tur, though, brings this tosefta only in regard to tzitzit, but not in regard to tefillin. The explanation appears to be that according to the Rambam, the fact that tefillin and tzitzit are mitzvot makes their acquisition significant enough to warrant Shehecheyanu. The Tur disagrees, because only cyclical mitzvot get the beracha. He agrees that tzitzit warrants Shehecheyanu, because it is at least an article of clothing (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 22:1). But since tefillin is not an article of clothing (see Beit Yosef, ad loc. and Har Tzvi, OC 21), its acquisition is not of material significance.
The Shulchan Aruch sides with the Tur, and the accepted minhag among both Ashkenazim and Sefardim is to not make Shehecheyanu the first time one puts on tefillin or on the bar mitzva. However, the Mishna Berura (Biur Halacha 22:1) and Kaf Hachayim (OC 22:2) both suggest to put on an important new garment with Shehecheyanu right before putting on the tefillin for the first time, while having in mind for the tefillin, as well, to cover the safek.
Mistaken BerachaSomeone made the beracha of “Shehakol” on a food which required a different beracha (for argument’s sake, “Mezonot”). I know he is yotzei b’dieved (fulfilled his obligation, after the fact). However, does that mistaken beracha work to exempt other foods, either those which require “Mezonot” like the food he is eating or those that require “Shehakol” like the beracha he made?
In order to answer your question, we will have to investigate some of the concepts which you correctly assume and see how they apply to your case.
One does not have to make a separate beracha on every food he eats (even if it is not part of a meal, which he began with bread). Rather a beracha can pertain to any other food that he will eat at that sitting which shares the same beracha (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 206:5). The idea is that while the person’s most direct intention was on the first food upon which the beracha was said, he had some level of intention that other foods would or might be eaten afterward, and that the beracha should pertain to them as well (see Rama, ad loc. and Mishna Berura 206:20).
Another assumption you make is that “Shehakol” works for foods that should have gotten a different beracha. This is true and is part of a rule that more general berachot work b’dieved for ones for which a more specific, and, therefore, preferable beracha should have been said (Berachot 40a).
When we put these two facts together we have the following problem. If one makes “Shehakol” on milk, and then he is about to eat cookies, why should he make a beracha on them, as the “Shehakol” which was already said (b’dieved) is capable of exempting even cookies from a beracha? Rashi (Berachot 41a) answers that the idea of being yotzei with the more general beracha applies only when one makes it mistakenly on a certain food, but it does not extend to exempt other foods. Rabbeinu Yona (ad loc.) says that it actually all depends on intention. If one is correctly making “Ha’adama” on a vegetable, there is no reason to interpret his intention as one to exempt a beracha on a fruit that he will eat at the same sitting, as “Ha’etz” is the beracha it rightly deserves. The Shulchan Aruch (206:1), adopting Rabbeinu Yona’s approach says that if for some reason, one had in mind to use the beracha of “Ha’adama” for the vegetable and a fruit that was there as well, then he would not subsequently make “Ha’etz.”
Along similar lines, one who makes “Shehakol” on something which he later realized requires “Mezonot” had in mind (generally) not only for that food but also for everything else with that beracha, and all “Shehakol” foods are exempted (based on Mishna Berura 209:8). As we have seen, it is his intention that is crucial, not the fact that the new foods being brought out have a different beracha from the food he mistakenly made “Shehakol” on. On the other hand, foods that require “Mezonot” are not exempted, because he did not have them in mind when making “Shehakol,” as, to the best of his knowledge, it was the wrong beracha, l’chatchila.
The more interesting question is in regard to foods which share the beracha that he made, yet he presumably did not have them in mind. This can occur if the mistake was not in identifying the beracha of the food, but that he intended to correctly say “Mezonot” and “Shehakol” slipped out. In this case, the Har Tzvi (Orach Chayim 106-7) says that his intention for “Mezonot” foods excludes “Shehakol” foods from the beracha, and they would require a new beracha. He implies (and Piskei Teshuvot 206:6 states) that “Mezonot” foods are exempted with the “Shehakol,” because he intended to make a “Mezonot.”
The siituation may be different for foods that were not present when the mistaken beracha was made, but that discussion is beyond our present scope.
Chazan Missing a Day of Sefirat HaOmerIf one missed a day of sefirat ha’omer and is now serving as the chazzan for Ma’ariv in a place where it is customary that the chazzan recites the sefira with a beracha out loud, may he do so?
This matter has been debated by the Acharonim, and it is worthwhile to understand the various, logical arguments and their relative strength to help decide how to act.
We will start with the assumption that once one misses a day of sefirat ha’omer he may not continue counting with a beracha, because the 49 days constitute one mitzva of counting (Shulchan Aruch, OC 489:8). The Pri Chadash (ad loc.:8) raises a suggestion that although the beracha is inappropriate personally, it is different if he is the congregation’s representative for the public recital of sefirat ha’omer. Then the obligation and the ability to make a beracha may exist on the public level, as it does by Chazarat Hashatz, even if everyone present is capable of saying Shemoneh Esrei himself. Alternately, the Beit Halevi reportedly (see Mikraei Kodesh (Frank) Pesach II, 66) suggested that someone in the minyan can be asked to refrain from making his own beracha and be yotzei with the person who forgot a day. That way, the beracha becomes appropriate based on the rule that one can make a beracha on someone else’s behalf even if the person making the beracha is not doing the mitzva for himself at that time (Rosh Hashana 29a).
The Pri Chadash (ibid.) rejects these possibilities because the person who forgot a day, assuming he is unable to fulfill the mitzva of sefirat ha’omer, is akin to one who is not obligated in the mitzva. Such a person is incapable of making the beracha to be motzi someone else (Rosh Hashana, ibid.). He reasons that although the person in question is generally obligated in sefirat ha’omer, the fact that he has no practical obligation at this time, makes him equivalent to the following case. The Yerushalmi says that one whose obligation to read Megillat Esther is on 14 Adar cannot read on behalf of those who are obligated on 15 Adar. The Birkei Yosef (489:19) cites (but rejects) those who deny the Pri Chadash’s comparison, as follows. In the case of megilla, the person in question has no obligation to read on that day. In contrast, our chazzan is obligated today and it is just a technical (halachic) impediment that prevents him from fulfilling the mitzva. Rav Frank (ibid.) reasons that since the Talmud Bavli posits that the responsibility to help another Jew fulfill his mitzva (arvut) makes it considered as if he has a personal obligation, the Bavli must reject the aforementioned Yerushalmi. While there is not a clear conclusion on the matter, the majority opinion seems to be like the Pri Chadash, that the person who missed a day should not use the Beit Halevi’s trick to enable him to make the beracha (see Sha’are Teshuva 489:20; Yabia Omer VIII, OC 46). To the contrary, he should have in mind to be yotzei with one who has not yet missed a day.
One very subjective, pertinent factor is the element of embarrassment. [As we have discussed in the past] kavod habriyot (avoiding embarrassing people, including oneself) has great, halachic weight. Thus, there are those who allow a rav who customarily does the sefira out loud and for whom it would be a disgrace to publicize that he missed a day of sefirat ha’omer, to rely on the very significant opinions among Rishonim that missing one day of sefirat ha’omer does not disqualify the mitzva thereafter (Shevet Halevi III, 96). Someone other than the rav should probably not be so embarrassed, and the rav can pasken for himself. So our suggestion would be that a regular chazzan should preferably pass on to someone else the honor of saying the sefira out loud or perhaps avoid being the chazzan during that period if he will be embarrassed. (Regarding mourners, they usually do not miss days anyway.)
Berachot on Non-Kosher FoodWhat does one do about training children in a Jewish school to make berachot when many of them will be eating non-kosher food?
[We do not refer, in this response, to the educational challenges which educators in such a sensitive situation must deal with, but this factor is taken into consideration]. The mishna (Berachot 45a) says that people who eat non-kosher food together do not make a zimun. The Ra'avad (Berachot 1:19) sees this as a specific rule pertaining to zimun, an act which adds prominence to joint eating and blessing. However, the Rambam (ad loc.) interprets the mishna broadly, that one does not make a bracha on forbidden food, neither before nor after eating. Thanking Hashem for enabling us to do something which He told us not to do is blasphemy, not a blessing (Rashi, Berachot 47a). The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 196:1) rules in favor of the Rambam that one does not make a bracha on forbidden food, unless it was permitted to eat (i.e. pikuach nefesh) (ibid.:2).
Regarding children, the laws of forbidden foods fully apply, to the extent that one who feeds a child forbidden foods violates a Torah prohibition (Yevamot 114a; Shulchan Aruch, O. C. 343:1) even though the child is not personally culpable. Therefore, they, too, must not make a bracha on such food (see Bemareh Habazak II, p. 17). We do not train children in mitzvot in such a way that if they were adults, their actions would be improper. This applies even when the action is neutral (see Biur Halacha on Shulchan Aruch 657:1), all the more so when it pertains to a forbidden action.
Even when a Jewish school cannot convince the children to eat only kosher food, it is still able to train them to make berachot properly. Make sure that the children have been given some kosher food and have them make the berachot on it. Even if the children get so used to making berachot that they will do so at home on non-kosher food, that is not a reason for the educators to refrain from teaching their students the important mitzva of berachot. Furthermore, even if at the same meal, non-kosher food will be eaten, as long as the bracha was said on the kosher food, the bracha was proper. Thus, if you give the children bread and they say hamotzi and bircat hamazone together, you cover almost all beracha issues. If a food other than bread is given out, the joint beracha would be on that food. If the majority of the children are eating kosher, then one should encourage the group to make the berachot in any case. Even when a minority are eating kosher, a teacher can still make a bracha out loud on his food and have the children say "amen."
Beracha on Grape Juice Exempting Other BerachotI know that when one makes a bracha on wine, it exempts one from making berachot on other drinks. Does this apply to grape juice as well? For example, if one makes kiddush over grape juice, does he have to make a “Shehakol” on soda that he subsequently drinks?
The accepted practice is like the majority of poskim that grape juice is treated like wine regarding all halachot (including, as you assume, regarding kiddush). This ruling applies to exempting other drinks from a bracha (both the brachot before and after those drinks).
However, one must realize that this is not a yes or no answer. First of all, some wine and grape juice are diluted to the point that they lose the status of wine regarding kiddush and berachot, as well (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 204:5). Since it is difficult for the consumer to know when it is too diluted, it is proper for the hashgacha on the wine or grape juice to state that it is valid for kiddush and/or that its bracha is “Hagefen.” (Some hashgachot add that it is valid even for Sephardim, who are somewhat more strict on this issue).
The second point is that one needs to drink a certain amount of wine to be exempted from other drinks. The Biur Halacha (on 174:2) rules that in order for other drinks to be overshadowed by the drinking of the wine, one must drink a minimum of a m’loh lugmav (roughly, a full cheek which looks like two full cheeks), which is approximately 2 fl. oz.). If, at kiddush, one person had the requisite amount and others just had a taste of wine, then it is highly questionable whether the others are exempt from making a bracha on the drink (ibid.). It is also important that either the drinks are present at the time of the original bracha or that the person had them in mind (ibid.). A guest at a kiddush normally has in mind to eat or drink from whatever the hosts/ organizers will bring out (V’zot Hab’racha, p. 99).
If a case of doubt arises, it is best to make a “Shehakol” on a solid food before partaking of the soda, etc. and include future drinks in the bracha or to have someone who didn’t drink wine make a “Shehakol” on his behalf (Biur Halacha, ibid.).
Talit and Tzitzit in the BathroomAre we supposed to remove our talit when we go into the bathroom? If so, do we also have to remove our talit katan (tzitzit)?
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 21:3) rules that one need not remove tzitzit when entering a bathroom. In the Beit Yosef, he brings a proof from Menachot 43a. The gemara relates that Rav Yehuda would make a bracha every time he put on tzitzit but needed to do so only in the morning, because he didn’t take them off all day. Presumably, he entered the bathroom and used the facilities during the course of the day, and yet the clear implication is that he did not take them off at all. Even though one must avoid bizuy mitzva (disgracing a mitzva), normal, daily activity such as using the facilities does not fall into that category (Aruch Hashulchan, Orach Chayim 21:3).
However, we remove the talit gadol before entering a bathroom (Taz, 21:3; Mishna Berurah 21:14). This is due primarily to the extra respect due to an object which is used exclusively in regard to tefilla. The Mishna Berurah (ibid.) allows urinating with a talit on and so one can be lenient upon entering an area which has only urinals (see also Ask the Rabbi- R’ei 5761).
It is important to note that the requirement to remove the talit is a matter of propriety and not an outright requirement; this fact has a common application. When one enters a bathroom, one is required to remove tefillin (which have a level of kedusha beyond the status of tzitzit). Since this activity is a mandatory break in one’s performance of the mitzva of tefillin, one needs to make a bracha when he puts them back on (Mishna Berurah 28:47; see Biur Halacha, ad loc.). [The practical application in a variety of situations is not simple and is beyond the scope of this answer]. However, the rule to remove a talit is a lower level of requirement, and there is not a mandatory break. Therefore, if one removes the talit with the intention to put it back on after leaving the bathroom, he does not make a new bracha at that time (Mishna Berurah 8: 3).
Sleeping With TzitzitI am machmere (stringent) on the great mitzva of tzitzis, and, therefore, sleep with them on. Should I make a bracha on them in the morning, as I am not putting them on anew?
First, realize that many stringencies cause more halachic problems than they solve. You’ll see the application as we go on.
The gemara (Menachot 43a) indicates that if one is obligated to wear tzitzit at night, then he does not make a bracha in the morning unless he puts on a new garment which requires tzitzit (for convenience, I will call the garment, tzitzit, although this is a common misnomer). There are different opinions as to whether a day garment is obligated in tzitzit at night. According to the opinion that it is exempt at night, the new obligation which begins in the morning brings along a new bracha, as well. The Shulchan Aruch 8:16 rules that one who sleeps in tzitzit makes a bracha in the morning (compare to his ruling in 18:1; see Aruch Hashulchan 8:23). Since we do not reject the opinion of the Rosh who requires tzitzit on day clothing at night, several major poskim take issue with the Shulchan Aruch’s ruling, and the Mishna Berurah (8:42) concludes that, because of the doubt, one should not make the bracha.
The best advice is to have in mind, when making the bracha on the talit, to have the bracha apply to the tzitzit as well (Magen Avraham 8:21). One who does not wear a talit will, out of doubt, have to refrain from the bracha. Notice that if the Shulchan Aruch is correct, one who wears tzitzit all night is prevented from making a bracha he should make and does not even fulfill a mitzva by wearing them.
Another problem with keeping tzitzit on all night is that some authorities raised questions as to whether wearing them while sleeping compromises the tzitzit’s dignity. We are lenient on the matter (Rama 21:3), but it is not clear that one shows greater respect for the mitzva of tzitzit by keeping them on (see also Aruch Hashulchan, 21:6). The Mishna Berurah does cite that the Ari z.l. advocated sleeping in tzitzit for kabalistic reasons, but Sha’arei Teshuva 8:1 infers from earlier authorities that this was not the normal practice. We do not usually suggest to regular people to adopt kabbalastic practices which classical halacha does not favor.
Washing Hands After Bathroom UseMust one use a cup for washing after the use of the bathroom for personal needs? Is there any specific order for washing and saying the bracha? Can one wash in the bathroom itself?
The gemara (3rd perek of Berachot) forbids saying kriyat shma and berachot in an area set aside for facilities or close to a receptacle for human waste. The gemara permits reciting holy things in the proximity of a “Persian outhouse,” where the ground is graded so that the excrement rolls away immediately. Modern poskim discuss whether our modern plumbing is like a Persian outhouse because the excrement doesn’t stay in the bowl for extended periods of time or whether it is like a classical outhouse since the excrement remains until one flushes. Another point of leniency is that most facilities include a washing area and, thus, the room is not designated only for unclean usage and may not have the laws of a bathroom (based on a parallel idea in Mishna Berura 87:2). Another issue is that today’s toilets may not absorb excrement (see discussion in Mishna Berurah 87:5). Some claim that ruach ra’ah (which mandates the washing) is no longer prevalent. Do all these points add up to a heter?
A consensus among poskim forbids reciting berachot in modern bathrooms. However, many feel differently regarding the need to wash hands upon exiting the facilities (which precludes the effectiveness of washing hands in them). Since the requirement to wash is weaker [see last week’s discussion], there is halachic justification for leniency and, practically, one can be lenient when it is difficult to finding a washing area outside the facilities (Minchat Yitzchak I, 60; Yabia Omer III:OC 2).
Please note that the above applies only when the toilet is cleaned effectively by flushing. Also note that the need to remove ruach ra’ah is more stringent than the need to remove uncleanness in that it should be done as soon as possible (Mishna Berurah 4:38). In contrast, ruach ra’ah does not preclude one from making brachot (ibid.:39) as unclean hands do. Thus, it is preferable to wash properly and then recite “Asher Yatzar.” If water isn’t available upon leaving the bathroom, one should clean his hands in other halachically viable ways and then recite “Asher Yatzar.” When he finds water, he should then wash his hands to remove the ruach ra’ah.
Women and HavdalahI am a woman who lives alone. Do I need to make Havdalah on Motzaei Shabbat?
There is a disagreement whether women are required to make what we call Havdalah (they certainly make ‘Hamavdil’ before doing work forbidden on Shabbat) on Motzaei Shabbat or not. The issue is as follows. Havdalah is a mitzvat asei shehazman g’rama (time dependent mitzva) and, as such, women should be exempt. On the other hand, Havdalah is similar to Kiddush, as we sanctify Shabbat when it enters and exits. Since there is a special source that women are obligated in the positive mitzvot of Shabbat, including Kiddush (Berachaot 20b), they should be obligated in Havdalah as well. Yet Kiddush is different in that it is more linked to the Shabbat experience than Havdalah, Thus, the exception to the rule, which obligates women in Kiddush, may not apply here.
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 296:8) brings two opinions but prefers the opinion which obligates women in Havdalah. However, the Rama, who serves as the primary authority for Ashkenazic Jewry, instructs women to avoid the issue by hearing Havdalah from a man, who certainly is obligated. The Bach (ad loc.) takes issue on the need to hear from a man, saying that a woman could always accept upon herself to make a Havdalah even if she is not obligated.
There are an additional two issues, which arise when a woman makes her own Havdalah, which make it preferable to hear Havdalah from a man. There is a serious question whether she can make a bracha on the candle, as this is a time-dependent mitzva, which is only tangentially related to Havdalah (see Biur Halacha ad loc). Also, there is a minhag that women do not drink from the cup of Havdalah, but on the other hand, someone has to. In the final analysis, if a woman will not hear Havdalah from a man, she can and should make Havdalah and drink from the cup (see Mishna Berura 297:35 and Sha’ar Hatziun, ad loc.).
A complication about hearing Havdalah from a man (which applies even to a husband and wife) is as follows. If one has fulfilled a mitzva, he can perform the mitzva again for someone else, if that other person is obligated in the mitzva. Since a woman may not be obligated, a man who already fulfilled Havdalah can make it again only if it is on behalf of another man (or male child) who has yet to hear Havdalah. If this is not the case, it is better for the woman to make Havdalah herself, which is possible, according to the Bach, even if she is not obligated.
Talking Between Handwashing and BerachaWhen and why are we not to talk in between netilat yadayim and making “hamotzi”?
There are three different stages to deal with in this context. People are not always aware of the different levels of severity of hefsek between these stages.
The beracha connected to a mitzva usually precedes it. By netilat yadayim, we make the beracha after the action, because sometimes one cannot make the beracha beforehand due to dirty hands (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 158:11). In order not to make a break between the main part of the mitzva and the following beracha, one should not talk once he starts washing.
The second stage, in between the beracha of netilat yadayim and “hamotzi” is actually the most lenient. We are quiet and try to minimize the break between the two because of the gemara’s (Berachot 42a) statement that right after washing comes the beracha. However, there are different opinions about which washing the gemara is referring to (see Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 166). In any case, if one did speak, no berachot were severed from their mitzva, and there is no need to repeat anything (Mishna Berura 66:6). Only if one got so involved in other things that he forgot about keeping his hands clean, does he need to repeat netilat yadayim.
The final stage is the most stringent. The bracha of “hamotzi” must directly precede the eating. Therefore, one should not stop, and certainly not speak, between the beracha and what the beracha refers to, i.e. the eating. If one talks about anything other than needs related to the food, he must repeat the beracha (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 167:6). Since the beracha is related to the main part of the eating process, i.e. swallowing, one should not talk until that point (Mishna Berura 167:34). However, since chewing is the beginning of the eating process and it is usually accompanied by swallowing some of the food’s flavor, one does not repeat the beracha if he spoke after beginning to chew (Biur Halacha, ad loc.)
Incorrect Beracha on FoodSomeone made the beracha of “Shehakol” on a food which required a different beracha (for argument’s sake, “Mezonot”). I know he is yotzei b’dieved (fulfilled his obligation, after the fact). However, does that mistaken beracha work to exempt other foods, either those which require “Mezonot” like the food he is eating or those that require “Shehakol” like the beracha he made?
In order to answer your question, we will have to investigate some of the concepts which you correctly assume and see how they apply to your case.
One does not have to make a separate beracha on every food he eats (even if it is not part of a meal, which he began with bread). Rather a beracha can pertain to any other food that he will eat at that sitting which shares the same beracha (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 206:5). The idea is that while the person’s most direct intention was on the first food upon which the beracha was said, he had some level of intention that other foods would or might be eaten afterward, and that the beracha should pertain to them as well (see Rama, ad loc. and Mishna Berura 206:20).
Another assumption you make is that “Shehakol” works for foods that should have gotten a different beracha. This is true and is part of a rule that more general berachot work b’dieved for ones for which a more specific, and, therefore, preferable beracha should have been said (Berachot 40a).
When we put these two facts together we have the following problem. If one makes “Shehakol” on milk, and then he is about to eat cookies, why should he make a beracha on them, as the “Shehakol” which was already said (b’dieved) is capable of exempting even cookies from a beracha? Rashi (Berachot 41a) answers that the idea of being yotzei with the more general beracha applies only when one makes it mistakenly on a certain food, but it does not extend to exempt other foods. Rabbeinu Yona (ad loc.) says that it actually all depends on intention. If one is correctly making “Ha’adama” on a vegetable, there is no reason to interpret his intention as one to exempt a beracha on a fruit that he will eat at the same sitting, as “Ha’etz” is the beracha it rightly deserves. The Shulchan Aruch (206:1), adopting Rabbeinu Yona’s approach says that if for some reason, one had in mind to use the beracha of “Ha’adama” for the vegetable and a fruit that was there as well, then he would not subsequently make “Ha’etz.”
Along similar lines, one who makes “Shehakol” on something which he later realized requires “Mezonot” had in mind (generally) not only for that food but also for everything else with that beracha, and all “Shehakol” foods are exempted (based on Mishna Berura 209:8). As we have seen, it is his intention that is crucial, not the fact that the new foods being brought out have a different beracha from the food he mistakenly made “Shehakol” on. On the other hand, foods that require “Mezonot” are not exempted, because he did not have them in mind when making “Shehakol,” as, to the best of his knowledge, it was the wrong beracha, l’chatchila.
The more interesting question is in regard to foods which share the beracha that he made, yet he presumably did not have them in mind. This can occur if the mistake was not in identifying the beracha of the food, but that he intended to correctly say “Mezonot” and “Shehakol” slipped out. In this case, the Har Tzvi (Orach Chayim 106-7) says that his intention for “Mezonot” foods excludes “Shehakol” foods from the beracha, and they would require a new beracha. He implies (and Piskei Teshuvot 206:6 states) that “Mezonot” foods are exempted with the “Shehakol,” because he intended to make a “Mezonot.”
The siituation may be different for foods that were not present when the mistaken beracha was made, but that discussion is beyond our present scope.
Minor Doing Mitzvot On Behalf Of An AdultCan a minor (katan) do mitzvot and make berachot to be motzi (on behalf of) an adult (gadol)?
We will start with the explicit Talmudic sources on what a katan can and cannot do and then proceed to fill in the gaps in between.
The mishna in Rosh Hashana (29a) says that one who is not obligated in a mitzva cannot fulfill the mitzva on behalf of one who is obligated. One example it gives is that a katan cannot blow shofar on behalf of adults. However, the gemara in Berachot (20a) states that a katan can recite Bircat Hamazone on behalf of a gadol if the gadol ate only enough to be obligated mid’rabbanan (rabbinically) in Bircat Hamazone. In such a case, he who is obligated mid’rabbanan (because of his age) can be motzi another who is obligated mid’rabbanan (because of the amount he ate) (ibid.).
What happens if the child also ate a relatively small amount, so that his obligation is not mid’oraita (by Torah law) for two reasons (age, quantity) while the adult is missing only one element in order to be obligated mid’oraita? A similar question is whether a katan can fulfill a rabbinic mitzva on behalf of a gadol. The Ran (10a to Shabbat) cites the Ba’al Ha’itur that a katan who is old enough to be trained in mitzvot can light the Chanuka candles on behalf of a gadol. The apparent logic is that all who are obligated rabbinically are, for all intents and purposes, on the same level of obligation, no matter how many reasons there are for there not being a Torah obligation. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 675:3) brings two opinions on the matter but sides with the opinion that a minor cannot be motzi an adult (see ibid. 689:2).
However, in the case of Birkat Hamazone, there is more reason to say that a katan can be motzi a gadol when both ate a small amount. One who already fulfilled his mitzva can still be motzi one who has not (Rosh Hashana 29a). This is because one does not have to be presently obligated in a mitzva in order to be motzi one who is now obligated. The fact that he is a person to whom the obligation is pertinent, combined with the responsibility to help one’s fellow Jew fulfill his obligation, make him considered one who is commanded in the mitzva. There is logic to say that since the child can eat a satiating meal and be obligated in Birkat Hamazone on the level of a single d’rabbanan, that level of obligation applies to him, and he can be motzi an adult (Magen Avraham 689:4). Despite this idea, the Mishna Berura rules that one should avoid having a katan be motzi a gadol in Birkat Hamazone if they both ate the same amount (186:7).
It is noteworthy that, regarding the proper procedure, there are differences between different berachot and mitzvot, and we will mention just a few. One cannot make a beracha on behalf of another in regard to food unless the one who is making the beracha is making it for himself at the same time (Shulchan Aruch, OC 167:19, regarding beracha rishona; ibid. 197:4 and Mishna Berura ad loc. regarding beracha acharona). It is proper for one to be yotzei with another only if they are joining together to start the meal (ibid. 167:11), they are making a zimun, or one does not know how to bentch himself (ibid. 193:1).
Washing Netillat YadayimParashat Chayei Sara 5768 It seems wrong that people decide not to wash (netillat yadayim) and eat bread at the beginning of a meal and thus not bentch (recite Birkat Hamazon). One who has a meal should bentch and if it takes eating a little bread, so be it. However, someone told me that if you eat only a little piece of bread, you have to make individual berachot throughout the meal. Is that so?
One is not required to eat bread at a meal, even if it means that he will not bentch (except on Shabbat and Yom Tov when one needs a meal including bread). Nevertheless, regularly avoiding eating bread because he doesn’t want to be bothered with bentching is regrettable.
If one has the philosophy that you espouse to try to wash and bentch at every meal, he should be careful not to cause more halachic problems than it is worth. One issue involves netillat yadayim. Although it is good to be stringent and wash before eating any amount of bread (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 158:3), the obligation likely begins only with a k’zayit (size of an olive) and possibly even a k’beitza (size of an egg). Therefore, one may not make a beracha on netillat yadayim for less than that amount (ibid.:2) (the questions of one who eats in between a k’zayit and a k’beitza and of how to calculate the sizes are beyond our present scope).
Eating small amounts of bread in order to cover all the berachot under the umbrella of the meal’s berachot (Hamotzi and Birkat Hamazon) raises another problem. The gemara (Berachot 41b) says that wine exempts all other drinks from a beracha because of its importance and that bread exempts other foods that are eaten during the meal. However, according to the accepted opinion, Hamotzi can exempt foods only when they are subsumed under the meal. Based on this, the Magen Avraham (177:1) suggests that if one eats a little bread in order to exempt other foods, then the other foods do not revolve around the bread and the Hamotzi may not exempt them from their berachot. He counters that it is possible that the exemption was instituted across the board, regardless of one’s intention. However, according to the more accepted understanding of the Magen Avraham (see Machatzit Hashekel, ad loc.; Mishna Berura 177:3), one should not set up a situation where he is eating bread just in order to subsume other foods or presumably to set up a situation where he will have to bentch. Admittedly, some prominent authorities say that other foods are exempted even in that case (Even Ha’ozer 174:12; Aruch Hashulchan 177:2; Igrot Moshe OC IV, 41). However, this is hardly an optimal situation that we would suggest for one who would be happy not to eat bread at all. If one would eat bread for its own sake but would prefer not to “be bothered” with washing and bentching, it would be fine to convince him to regularly eat some bread and the Magen Avraham’s issue would not apply (see V’zot Haberacha, pg. 71).
If one does not eat even a k’zayit of bread then although he still recites Hamotzi, almost all authorities say he must make all of the individual berachot. Furthermore, he will not be able to bentch in any case and will have to make the appropriate berachot after eating. One also has to eat the k’zayit within k’dei achilat pras (a contested amount of time, which is within the range of a single digit of minutes) (Mishna Berura 210:1).
While we have not weighed all of the plusses and minuses (including the issue of one who eats bread-like foods during a full meal without bread- see Igrot Moshe, ibid.), we can fairly say that if a person is not interested in eating approximately a slice of bread, he should feel free to go without eating bread and “washing and bentching.” Whichever approach one takes, he should become familiar with the several halachic questions that arise in “bread meals” and “non-bread meals.”
Men Fulfilling His Mitzva on a Woman's BerachaParashat Toldot 5768 My boyfriend and I went out to eat with my friend and her husband, who are much more religious than we. I made Hamotzi on behalf of everyone, but afterwards my friend’s husband made his own Hamotzi. I was quite insulted. Is there a halacha that a man cannot fulfill his mitzva by answering Amen to a woman’s beracha?
Let us begin with a story, whose relevance should be clear later. An Ashkenzi boy got engaged to a Sephardi girl. At the engagement party, the girl’s father wished the boy’s father that soon he would have a grandchild named after him. The recipient of the “blessing” got upset, and the “good wisher” took it as a sign that he did not want to share grandchildren with the latter. It took some explaining for the Ashkenazi to realize that Sephardim covet grandchildren named after them while they are alive and he intended to bless his new mechutan. The Sephardi learned the hard way that Ashkenazim do not name after live grandparents, explaining the negative reaction.
The gemara (Berachot 42b) spells out when a person can make a beracha on behalf of others who are eating with him. Basically, there are two scenarios: they recline to eat together; they make a statement that they intend to eat together. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 167:11) points out that nowadays when people rarely recline when eating, the first criterion depends on whether they sit down to eat at one table. In your case, both criteria were apparently met (one is sufficient) and, therefore, you had reason to consider it appropriate that one person would make Hamotzi and the others would only answer and eat. In fact, when starting the meal as one group, there is a benefit in one making the beracha on behalf of all, based on the concept of “with a multitude of people, it is a glory for the King” (Mishlei 14:28) (Bi’ur Halacha to 167:11). (Regarding Birkat Hamazon after the meal, only if there is a zimun (three reciting Birkat Hamazon as a group) is it proper for one to listen and answer rather than recite separately (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 193:1).)
May a woman make Hamotzi on behalf of others? Only one who is fully obligated in a mitzva can perform it on behalf of others who are fully obligated (Berachot 20b). Women, who are not obligated in shofar blowing, cannot blow shofar for men to fulfill their mitzva (Rosh Hashana 29a). However, women are obligated (rabbinically, like men) to make berachot before eating and can exempt men. Indeed, in some fine families, the wife makes Hamotzi at the Shabbat meal.
It is understandable then that you might feel that your friend’s husband acted on an insulting social/political basis by making his own beracha, but it may be similar to the story above. Without crawling into his head, it is likely that he just followed a broad minhag (which you apparently do not share), which is well over a century old, that people generally make their own berachot rather than suffice by listening to another. One reason given is that we fear that one will speak between answering the beracha and eating (Shulchan Aruch Harav, Orach Chayim 167:18). A convincing reason for the general custom regarding many berachot is that we are afraid that people will not focus in a manner that enables them to be exempted by another’s beracha (Mishna Berura 8:13).
Only on Shabbat and Yom Tov is it still widely practiced that one person makes the beracha on everyone’s behalf, and this is because there is usually only one set of lechem mishneh (double loaves) upon which the beracha is recited. If one makes his own beracha on a piece of bread, it is questionable whether he is connected to the two loaves (see Mishna Berura 274:8 and Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 55:19). Even then, there are communities where people make their own beracha after the central one was made (see ibid.).
Berachot After Staying Up Shavuot NightAfter staying up all night on Shavout, we have someone who slept say the morning berachot on everyone’s behalf. Why is this necessary? What happens if we cannot find anyone?
We must address different categories of berachot, with different reasons and details.
Netilat yadayim and “Asher yatzar”- There are two possible reasons (see Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 4) for washing our hands with a beracha upon waking in the morning, before davening: 1) Our hands probably got dirty as we slept (Rosh); 2) Because in the morning we are like a new being, we set out on a process of purification and blessing Hashem (Rashba; see Mishna Berura 4:1). There is a further element of removing an evil spirit from one’s hands (see Rama, OC 4:2).
Reason 1 does not apply if one did not sleep and kept his hands clean. It is not fully clear whether reasons 2 & 3 apply if one did not sleep. The Rama (4:13) says that although one should wash his hands as usual, he should not make the beracha out of doubt. Listening to the beracha of one who slept on behalf of others avoids the doubt. One who did not sleep but “went to the bathroom” and thereby touched covered parts of the body also makes a beracha (Mishna Berura 4:30). Reason 1 certainly applies to such a person and the others are likely to apply, as the night passed by the time of alot hashachar (break of dawn, 72 minutes before sunrise).
“Asher yatzar” can be said by anyone who recently went to the bathroom.
Birkot Hashachar- Most of the series of berachot thanking Hashem for elements of our lives were originally recited as one received the benefit (e.g. putting on shoes, clothes, straightening the body) (Berachot 60b). Nevertheless, our practice is to make the berachot at one time, whether or not we recently received the benefit (Rama 46:8; see Yalkut Yosef for Sephardic practice). Therefore even one who did not sleep and renew these benefits can recite the berachot because the praise of Hashem is true in regard to others. The main issue is with the berachot of “hama’avir sheina” and “elokai neshama,” which focus on awaking from sleep and are recited, at least partially, in the first person. The Mishna Berura (46:24) rules that one should hear these berachot from one who slept. On the other hand, it is legitimate to make these berachot despite not sleeping (see Ishei Yisrael 5:(40) & Piskei Teshuvot 494:7), especially if no one who slept is available.
Birkot Hatorah (=bht- before the study of Torah)- It is unclear whether the reason one is obligated to make bht every morning is the fact that it is a new day or that his sleep ended the efficacy of the old beracha. Due to this doubt, the Mishna Berura (47:28) rules that one who was up all night does not make bht at daybreak but hears them from one who slept. (Yechave Da’at III, 33 argues.) However, he accepts R. Akiva Eiger’s idea that if one took a reasonably long nap during the previous day (and did not make the bht since he got up), he makes the berachot the next morning despite staying up in the night. This is because he is obligated according to both approaches, as he has slept and a day passed since his last bht. It is better to use such a person than one who put his head down for a few minutes at night. Note that one who sleeps at night makes bht before resuming learning. Thus, he is available to recite them on others’ behalf only if he came to shul when they are ready for the bht or if he did not recite them when he arose. (Note- everyone recites the Torah texts after the bht starting with “Yevarecheca”).
Tzitzit- It is unclear if we are obligated in tzitzit at night, and thus whether we need a beracha in the morning. One should be yotze with the beracha on his or another’s talit (Mishna Berura 8:42).
What is considered significant sleep may depend on where (bed or chair) and/or how long (opinions range from a minute to a half hour and beyond) he sleeps. The halacha may change depending on what topic is being discussed (see Ishei Yisrael 6:(64)).
When Can The Beracha on a Tallit Count for TzitzitI am a single kohen living in Israel. I, therefore, wear my tallit only for nesi’at kapayim (duchening). When I put on my tzitzit in the morning, should I make a beracha, or should the beracha on the tallit cover the tzitzit?
First we must understand the halacha that you correctly assume that one who puts on a tallit does not make a beracha when putting on his tzitzit in the morning.
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 8:10) says that one who puts on his tzitzit when his hands are still dirty from the night should put them on without a beracha, which he will recite later. He suggests doing so after purposely handling the tzitzit or when he puts on another pair of tzitzit. The Darchei Moshe (OC 8:3) relates the minhag to make a beracha only on the tallit that he wears for Shacharit, which also covers the smaller pair of tzitzit.
The Mishna Berura (8:24) provides different reasons for the practice to make the beracha only on the tallit and use it to cover the already worn tzitzit. He mentions the Chayei Adam’s (12:4) issue not to make two interchangeable berachot in close proximity. Since one beracha can accommodate multiple tzitzit, an unnecessary second beracha would be a beracha she’eina tzricha (unneeded and thus improper). (The Chayei Adam actually prefers making the beracha on the tzitzit to cover the tallit.) The Darchei Moshe (ibid.) was bothered by the possibility that the mitzva of tzitzit will not be complete (and thereby not warrant a beracha) because often the tzitzit’s garment is too small. Others point out other things that could make a beracha on the tzitzit unnecessary (e.g., the garment’s shape, having had the tzitzit on all night.).
This practice does raise problems. Berachot generally should precede the mitzva’s fulfillment; here the beracha comes after the mitzva of tzitzit. Rabbeinu Yonah (cited by the Beit Yosef, OC 8) says that it is sufficient that the beracha precedes part of the performance of the mitzva, in this case, the continuation of their being worn. The Taz (8:9) says that since one cannot put on the tzitzit right away, considering that the hands were dirtied during the night, it is fine to delay the beracha.
The question is whether this system is best even if one will not put on his tallit until a significant time later, i.e., during chazarat hashatz, prior to duchening. Not only is the concern with two berachot in succession being unnecessary reduced, but the problem of waiting a long time without a beracha being on the tzitzit also increases. Several poskim therefore say that when a long time is expected between the two, one makes a beracha first on the tzitzit and later on the tallit (see Be’er Moshe VI, 4; Tzitzit 8:(52)). Some still prefer one beracha, on the tallit, because of the lingering concern that the tzitzit do not warrant a beracha (Minchat Shlomo II, 4.1.3). This is far from clear; recall that when there is no tallit, we take our chances and make a beracha on the tzitzit. It should also depend if the garment clearly requires tzitzit or not. On the other hand, it is hard to alter minhagim.
It is also not clear what constitutes a long break. There appear to be different opinions ranging from around an hour to two or three hours (see Minchat Shlomo, ibid.; Piskei Teshuvot 8:16). Therefore, when one waits between tzitzit and tallit from the time he dresses until chazarat hashatz, there is ample justification to prefer either approach on whether to make a beracha on each or make the beracha only on the tallit (if it is his own tallit or he acquires it temporarily before putting it on). One can continue as he was taught or how he has practiced until now. Either way, it is correct to have the proper intention: taking the first approach, intend not to cover the tallit with the beracha on the tzitzit; taking the second approach, have in mind with the beracha on the tallit to cover the tzitzit.
A Beracha on the Mitzva to Write a Sefer TorahWhy is there no beracha on the writing of a sefer Torah?
This question, which we have not found discussed directly by the Rishonim, has several suggested answers in the writings of the Acharonim.
Before addressing possible answers, let us mention a fundamental issue debated by the Rishonim, which may impact on some answers. The Rambam (Sefer Torah 7:1) rules that every individual is obligated to write or have a sefer Torah written for him, even if he has a sefer Torah that he inherited. However, the Rosh (Sefer Torah 1 - as most understand him) posits that the nature of the mitzva is not to have a formal Torah scroll written but to have texts available from which Torah will be learned. In our early history, the sefer Torah was the primary text for Torah study. Nowadays, the main mitzva is to have on hand as many of the myriad texts as one is likely to study Torah from.
The Rashba (I, 18) says that berachot were not instituted for mitzvot whose main point is not independent but is a step needed to get to another mitzva. The Divrei Menachem (as cited by the Sdei Chemed, vol. VI, p. 313) says that since the main point of the mitzva to write a sefer Torah is to learn from it, a beracha was never instituted. Along similar lines, the Mahari Bei Rav (62) suggests that it is like several mitzvot where we make the beracha only before the final stage of the mitzva. Just as we do not make a beracha on building a sukka or putting together tefillin (Rambam, Berachot 11:8) we would not make a beracha on the writing of a sefer Torah, which is completed when one learns from it. The Mahari Bei Rav also suggests that there actually is a existing beracha that covers the writing of a sefer Torah. Since one makes a birkat hatorah before saying words of Torah and according to many this applies even before writing them (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 47:3), there was no need to institute an individual beracha for writing a sefer Torah.The Chatam Sofer (OC 52) claims that the former explanation (and probably the latter, which he does not mention) makes sense only if one assumes like the Rosh that the mitzva to write a sefer Torah is inexorably linked to that of Torah study, which he views as a minority opinion.
The Chatam Sofer (ibid.) discusses two technical possibilities of why the Rabbis would not have instituted a beracha. One is that since it is a mitzva that takes a long time to complete, there is a concern that it will be disbanded before completion, thus causing a beracha l’vatala. The Ateret Paz (I, II, YD, 12:(1)) cites the Yefei Lev who says that this is the reason that the kohen gadol did not make a beracha on the series of activities he performed in the Beit Hamikdash on Yom Kippur. The Chatam Sofer is not satisfied with this answer, suggesting that one could write almost the whole sefer Torah and then make a beracha before finishing up the last words. He assumes that although berachot are usually supposed to be made before one starts the mitzva, where following that principle would prevent making a beracha, we would make it closer to the end. He extends this not obvious assumption to the beracha on building a fence, saying that it would be made when the fence was about to become sufficiently safe.
The Chatam Sofer prefers another technical answer of depressing implications. He says that because, already at the time of Chazal, there were certain questions about spelling words in the Torah, there is a lack of confidence that we are fulfilling the mitzva (which requires a kosher sefer Torah) and, therefore, a beracha is inappropriate. The Ateret Paz (ibid.) discusses at length whether when we write a sefer Torah according to the conclusions that have been reached about spelling, we have to be concerned that we are not fulfilling the mitzva (like the Chatam Sofer) or not. He also cites an opinion that there is concern that an individual scroll diverges from the accepted text.
Sheva Berachot at se’uda shlishitWe made Sheva Berachot at se’uda shlishit. The question arose: should one drink the cup(s) before Havdala in this case?
The Magen Avraham (299:7) says that one who bentches over a cup of wine at se’uda shlishit should drink it. Since the cup is part of the bentching process, drinking it is considered the end of the meal. Just as one can finish up se’uda shlishit at night before Havdala, so can he drink the wine that is connected to the meal. However, he says, if one does not regularly recite Birkat Hamazon over wine, he should not drink it before Havdala. This is because, for such a person, the connection between the wine and the meal is insufficient to justify drinking before Havdala (see Machatzit Hashekel, ad loc.). The Tosefet Shabbat is not convinced that the fact that one does not always use a cup for Birkat Hamazon makes a difference in this regard, but poskim are reluctant to reject the Magen Avraham’s ruling without further indications (see Sha’ar Hatziyun 299:24).
What would the Magen Avraham say about Sheva Berachot at se’uda shlishit? On one hand, most of us do not always bentch over a cup of wine. On the other, we always use a cup for Sheva Berachot. R. Shlomo Kluger (Chochmat Shlomo, ad loc.) says that although logic dictates that it is permitted to drink the cup of Sheva Berachot but not of bentching (remember, our minhag is to use two cups), that would diminish the status of the cup for bentching. Therefore, he prefers that one not drink from either before Havdala. The Eshel Avraham (Butchatch, cited in Minchat Yitzchak III, 113) says that the Magen Avraham would agree that regarding Sheva Berachot, one should drink because the Borei Pri Hagefen that precedes drinking must be recited for there to be seven berachot. Others say that it is sufficient that one always uses a cup for bentching at Sheva Berachot or at gatherings with a minyan (see Tzitz Eliezer X, 45 and Yabia Omer VIII, OC 33). Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer, ibid.) also points out that, since our minhag is to mix the wine of the two cups together, one can drink from the Sheva Berachot cup without disgracing the Birkat Hamazon cup.
Assuming that the beracha of Borei Pri Hagefen is said and the wine is drunk, other issues and various opinions arise. R. Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe OC, IV 69) identifies two elements of the cups of wine at Sheva Berachot. The fact that the chatan and kallah drink is connected to the very nature of Sheva Berachot, which require a cup; therefore, they should drink. That which the person who bentches at Sheva Berachot drinks is related to the general matter of bentching on a cup. Since his drinking is not crucial, Rav Moshe posits that it is preferable that only the chatan and kallah drink the necessary cheeksful of wine. Some say the opposite, that the one who makes the beracha should drink (as well as the kallah, since not everybody believes that women are obligated in Havdala) but the chatan should not. The latter distinction is tenuous (Tzitz Eliezer, ibid.).
Some say that it is better that people only take a sip (see Tzitz Eliezer, ibid.), which might be permitted before Havdala and sufficient for drinking from the cup of Sheva Berachot. If the one who bentched, the chatan, and the kallah each drank about an ounce, more opinions would be satisfied (see Mishna Berura 271:73). However, except for those who do well with taking careful steps to satisfy as many opinions as possible, it is perfectly acceptable for at least the three people mentioned to drink as usual from the cup(s) (Yabia Omer, ibid.).
[Two related reminders are in place. It is not a simple matter whether panim chadashot are needed at se’uda shlishit (see Even Ha’ezer 62:8). If Shabbat is the last day of Sheva Berachot, the berachot should probably not be made at night (see Ask the Rabbi, R’ei 5765).]
Tefillat haderechIf one travels over the course of more than one day, does he make the beracha of tefillat haderech (prayer for the traveler) once or more and, if so, when?
The Kolbo (87) cites the Maharam MiRutenberg, saying that one says tefillat haderech only once during the day even if he stops along the way for some time. The Kolbo infers that if one planned to stop overnight at that point and then changed his mind, he would recite it again. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 110:5) accepts both rulings. Thus, there is a concept that a trip, as originally planned, creates a unit regarding tefillat haderech.
However, several Acharonim (Bach, Taz ad loc.) infer from these sources that each day is also a relevant unit, and that one who continues his trip on a second day must recite tefillat haderech again. (The Pri Chadash (OC 110:5) says that a trip receives only one tefillat haderech even over several days; his opinion is not accepted). While this would seem to answer your question, there is discussion as to what constitutes a new day in this regard. The Radvaz (2176) is inclined to believe that since tefillat haderech is a stopgap replacement for tefilla, it is always appropriate when a new day of tefilla arrives. (The Piskei Teshuvot 110:6 attributes this opinion to the Bach and Taz, but this respondent feels that this is a misreading of the sources.) However, the Radvaz was not willing to rely on his position and said that if the traveler does not stop in a place of inhabitation, he would say tefillat haderech again only without an ending as a beracha.
Most poskim require some type of break in between days for the new day’s travel to be considered a new unit worthy of another beracha. The Bach and Perisha mention sleeping in an inn or in a city in order to require a new tefillat haderech the next day, as does the Mishna Berura (110:26). The latter points out (Sha’ar Hatziyun 110:26) that the passing of the day by itself should not suffice, as even regarding the daily Birkat Hatorah, if one did not sleep at all during the night, many say that he does not make a new Birkat Hatorah in the morning.
Not everyone agrees that sleep per se is the issue, but rather the breaking up of the trip that normally accompanies serious sleep. There is a machloket regarding those who sleep on the side of the road but in a serious manner. Rav S.Z. Orbach is cited as requiring a new beracha if he got out of the car (Halichot Shlomo 21:2), whereas Ishei Yisrael (50:4) says that one would have to sleep in a proper inn to say tefillat haderech as a beracha. The same machloket should apply to one who sleeps on an airport bench during a long stopover. When one sleeps in a boat or plane, where the trip fully continues as he sleeps, there is more agreement that a new tefillat haderech would not be needed.
The question of a new day versus a new leg of a trip also impacts on the timing of another tefillat haderech. The Biur Halacha (to 110:5) is unsure as to what to do if one breaks for the night in a hotel yet wakes up pre-dawn (alot hashachar is the beginning of the halachic day) for the next leg of the trip. Should he recite tefillat haderech immediately after leaving town or should he wait until the new day. He suggest to be cautious and wait, yet says that if the trip will finish before morning, then he should recite it while it is still night.
Let us point out that regarding this general issue, if one is unsure whether or not to say tefillat haderech, he can do so without its ending. As such, it is a non- beracha and not problematic even though the beginning also contains Hashem’s Name (in a tefilla, not a beracha context). Some also suggest incorporating this prayer for road safety into the beracha of Shema Koleinu in Shemoneh Esrei, where most any request can be inserted (Halichot Shlomo ibid; Shulchan Hatahor (Sender) 110:5.)
Two Out of a Group Who Want to do a ZimunI know that if two people want to do a zimun and a third does not want to yet, the two can force the third to answer. What about if there are five or six people? Can two of them pick one to force to join them?The gemara (Berachot 45b) says that if three eat together, one stops to answer for two who want to bentch, but two do not stop for one. Rashi explains that one should show proper manners to answer, implying that there is no halachic imperative that he must take a break in his eating to do so. However, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 200:1) rules like the Rishonim who say that it is halachically required for the third to answer, and even if he refuses to answer, the two (only) fulfill the requirement of zimun. In order to answer your question, regarding two who want to use a third when there are more than three participants in the meal, we need to understand the reasoning behind the halacha above. Poskim explain that it is based on the concept of rov (majority) (Birkei Yosef, OC 200:5; Mishna Berura 200:2). The minority that is not yet ready to bentch has to follow the majority of the group that is interested. According to important poskim, this idea of rov can be extended to other groups. The Eliyah Rabba (OC 200:6), for example, says that six who want to do a zimun with Hashem’s Name also create a majority to force four to answer. If the matter depends on rov, it does not appear that a minority of a group can force a majority or even two sub-groups of the same number of people cannot force one another to do a zimun. The Birkei Yosef (200:5) assumes simply that which the Eliyah Rabba implies: five cannot make five answer. One could claim that the important thing is to have a majority of the necessary quorum who are ready to bentch and then they can use whomever they want. Thus two could force any one they wanted, while five, which is only half way to the zimun of ten, could not. However, the language of the poskim implies that it is a matter of deciding when the most appropriate time is for the group to do the zimun. There is no reason to assume that two can select one from the main group and turn him into their minority. The exact definition of what constitutes a rov in this regard is important for the following common case. One person wants to bentch, and a second is not yet finished but is interested in helping his friend and agrees to be the second. Can those two force the third? The Birkei Yosef (ibid.) (discussing five and five with one of the “non-bentchers” volunteering) leans toward the view that he cannot. The person who volunteers is still not an interested party who creates a rov who are bentching. On the other hand, Rav Kook (Orach Mishpat, OC 40) leans toward the approach that even when only one of the two is bentching now, the two can force the third. His impression is based on the following gemara (Berachot 45b). Rav Papa was eating with his son and a third person. Only his son was ready to bentch, and Rav Papa accommodated him. The gemara says that Rav Papa had gone beyond the letter of the law in agreeing. Rav Kook understands that once Rav Papa agreed, the third’s willingness was irrelevant. (One can deflect the proof and say that, given Rav Papa’s stature, it was clear that the third person would not object.) It seems that a majority of poskim accept the Birkei Yosef’s approach that only two who are actually bentching can force a third. In practice, most people do accommodate their friends anyway, which is good. (Vaya’an Avraham (OC 16) suggests the possibility that if the second agrees because he is halachically required to respect the person who wants to bentch, it would be considered a rov; he himself rejects the suggestion). It is worthwhile to recall that, for Ashkenazim, when someone answers zimun before bentching, he must wait until the end of the first beracha before resuming eating (Rama, OC 200:2).
The gemara (Berachot 45b) says that if three eat together, one stops to answer for two who want to bentch, but two do not stop for one. Rashi explains that one should show proper manners to answer, implying that there is no halachic imperative that he must take a break in his eating to do so. However, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 200:1) rules like the Rishonim who say that it is halachically required for the third to answer, and even if he refuses to answer, the two (only) fulfill the requirement of zimun.
In order to answer your question, regarding two who want to use a third when there are more than three participants in the meal, we need to understand the reasoning behind the halacha above. Poskim explain that it is based on the concept of rov (majority) (Birkei Yosef, OC 200:5; Mishna Berura 200:2). The minority that is not yet ready to bentch has to follow the majority of the group that is interested. According to important poskim, this idea of rov can be extended to other groups. The Eliyah Rabba (OC 200:6), for example, says that six who want to do a zimun with Hashem’s Name also create a majority to force four to answer.
If the matter depends on rov, it does not appear that a minority of a group can force a majority or even two sub-groups of the same number of people cannot force one another to do a zimun. The Birkei Yosef (200:5) assumes simply that which the Eliyah Rabba implies: five cannot make five answer. One could claim that the important thing is to have a majority of the necessary quorum who are ready to bentch and then they can use whomever they want. Thus two could force any one they wanted, while five, which is only half way to the zimun of ten, could not. However, the language of the poskim implies that it is a matter of deciding when the most appropriate time is for the group to do the zimun. There is no reason to assume that two can select one from the main group and turn him into their minority.
The exact definition of what constitutes a rov in this regard is important for the following common case. One person wants to bentch, and a second is not yet finished but is interested in helping his friend and agrees to be the second. Can those two force the third? The Birkei Yosef (ibid.) (discussing five and five with one of the “non-bentchers” volunteering) leans toward the view that he cannot. The person who volunteers is still not an interested party who creates a rov who are bentching. On the other hand, Rav Kook (Orach Mishpat, OC 40) leans toward the approach that even when only one of the two is bentching now, the two can force the third. His impression is based on the following gemara (Berachot 45b). Rav Papa was eating with his son and a third person. Only his son was ready to bentch, and Rav Papa accommodated him. The gemara says that Rav Papa had gone beyond the letter of the law in agreeing. Rav Kook understands that once Rav Papa agreed, the third’s willingness was irrelevant. (One can deflect the proof and say that, given Rav Papa’s stature, it was clear that the third person would not object.) It seems that a majority of poskim accept the Birkei Yosef’s approach that only two who are actually bentching can force a third. In practice, most people do accommodate their friends anyway, which is good. (Vaya’an Avraham (OC 16) suggests the possibility that if the second agrees because he is halachically required to respect the person who wants to bentch, it would be considered a rov; he himself rejects the suggestion).
It is worthwhile to recall that, for Ashkenazim, when someone answers zimun before bentching, he must wait until the end of the first beracha before resuming eating (Rama, OC 200:2).
Beracha on ices with fruit chunksWhat bracha are ices with fruit chunks in them, i.e. pineapple, strawberries etc?
If the food in question were a kind of ice cream or whipped cream in which fruits are added to it, you would view the ice cream as the main entity and the fruit as secondary. The halachah therefore is that you should only recite a shehakol blessing on the ice cream, which is the main entity.
However, if you are talking about a fruit-flavored ice cream made from chopped fruit, in which pieces of fruit are added to it, you should take a piece of fruit and recite a borei pri ha’eitz blessing on it. In this manner, you would exempt the entire ice cream concoction. (This is similarly stated in Sefer VeZot HaBrachah, p. 103, according to the responsa of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, in his Minchat Shlomo, volume 1, sif 91, ot 3).
A Chatan Leading Bentching at Sheva BerachotMay a chatan lead bentching and/or recite sheva berachot at his own sheva berachot? What if he is more of a talmid chacham than anyone else there?
We will start with a little bit of background. There are two sets of berachot that are recited under the chupa: the birkat eirusin, which corresponds to the betrothal (by giving the ring) and the birkot nisuin or birkot chatanim (what we call sheva berachot, which are actually six special berachot in addition to the beracha on the wine). Classical sources seem to indicate that, fundamentally, the chatan would recite at least the birkat eirusin before his mitzva of getting married (see Beit Yosef and commentaries on Even Ha’ezer 34). However, due to the following various concerns, the strong minhag has developed that other people recite both sets of berachot (although some concerns may apply more to one than to the other).
The Rambam is attributed (see beginning of Ma’ase Rokeach) to say that the berachot were made for the benefit of the chatan but to be recited by others about him. The Mordechai (Ketubot 131) says that it is haughty (yohara) for the chatan to claim the berachot for himself. Orchot Chayim (Kiddushin 21) says we are concerned that if chatanim will be in the practice of reciting the berachot, those who do not know how to do so will be embarrassed. The consensus is (see S’dei Chemed VII, p. 434; Hanisuim K’hilchatam 10:21) that if only the chatan is able to recite the berachot reasonably, he would make the berachot, as he fundamentally is able to do.
One of the differences between the reasons may be the following. Some of the berachot are general praises of Hashem and not specifically referring to the chatan. In theory, according to the Rambam’s reason, the chatan should be able to recite those. It seems that, classically, one person used to recite all of the berachot and in an “all or nothing” situation, we would have the chatan do nothing. Nowadays, when we split up the berachot, one could claim that the chatan could do the first few sheva berachot. Be this is at it may, the minhag is certainly that the chatan does not do any of the sheva berachot, which is correct according to the latter reasons and in general is just as well (the chatan has enough limelight). This is true under the chupa and during the week of sheva berachot celebrations.
The matter is less clear in regard to leading the bentching/zimun. Do the above concerns extend to it? On one hand, the leading of bentching is fundamentally the same at sheva berachot as at other times. On the other hand, the sheva berachot are recited specifically at the end of the bentching and indeed the one who leads waits until the sheva berachot are finished to make the beracha and drink the wine and is even allowed to recite one of the sheva berachot in the meantime (Sova Semachot 6:21). “D’vai haser” and shehasimcha bim’ono are also added. Logically, the element of the berachot being made on the chatan’s behalf does not seem to apply. It is not clear if we need to be concerned that chatanim would feel pressure to lead bentching and be embarrassed if they did not know how to so properly. In theory, yohara would not apply to a chatan who led the zimun, which, again, is a normal task. Therefore, one can easily make the case that a chatan can lead bentching. In fact, Hanisuim K’hilchatam (14:109) even cites a minhag to specifically have the chatan do so at the sheva berachhot at seuda shlishit [related to issues of drinking- see ATR, Noach 5769].
All of this being said, since the very consistent practice is that chatanim do not bentch at their own sheva berachot (even if it might originally have come out of ignorance), it would be objectionable for one to do so without a specific reason. Not only is it a matter of changing minhagim, in general, but, under the circumstances, there would indeed be a problem of yohara, especially if it is connected to the claim that the chatan is the only talmid chacham present. Again, if no one else feels comfortable leading the bentching, that would be different.
One Who Makes the Wrong Beracha on Tefillin Shel YadI accidentally made the beracha of “al mitzvat tefillin” when putting on my tefillin shel yad. What should I have done regarding berachot from that point?
Before addressing the heart of your question, let us guess your background. You must be an Ashkenazi, who usually makes a beracha each on the tefillin shel yad and the shel rosh. A Sephardi makes al mitzvat tefillin only when he talks in between putting on the two tefillin (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 25:9) or when he can put on only the tefillin shel rosh (ibid. 26:2). He would not have made the mistake that you did, which is common for Ashkenazim, who make al mitzvat tefillin daily. We will see later why being Ashkenazi makes a difference.
The gemara (Menachot 36a) cites R. Yochanan who says that when fastening the shel yad, one makes the beracha of “l’haniach tefillin” and upon placing the shel rosh he recites al mitzvat. On the other hand, the gemara cites Rav Chisda that one makes a beracha on the shel rosh only if he talks in between the two tefillin. The gemara answers that if one is silent, he makes one beracha, and if he talks he makes two berachot. One approach in Rishonim (including Rashi, ad loc, accepted by Sephardim- see Shulchan Aruch, OC 25:6) is that the number is the total of berachot for the two tefillin. One is recited before fastening the shel yad. If he talks, a second one is said on the shel rosh instead of saying nothing then. According to Rabbeinu Tam (see Tosafot ad loc.), one always recites al mitzvat on the shel rosh. If he spoke, he also repeats then l’haniach. The Rama (OC 25:6) accepts and sets the minhag among Ashkenazim to follow this approach.
The Rosh (Pesachim 1:10), following Rabbeinu Tam’s approach, says that both berachot apply to both the shel yad and the shel rosh. However, Chazal preferred that we not recite two berachot on one mitzva. Therefore, they attached the beracha that is more appropriate for one who is about to start putting on tefillin (l’haniach) to the shel yad and the more general beracha of al mitzvat to the shel rosh, upon completion of the mitzva of tefillin. The Taz’s brother (in a teshuva found in the Taz, OC 25:6) says that al mitzvat applies to the remembrances that tefillin conjure up and l’haniach applies to the mitzva’s specific detailed actions.
The following halachic ramifications emerge from this generally accepted approach. Since both berachot go on both tefillin, if one recited al mitzvat at the time of putting on the shel yad and l’haniach when putting on the shel rosh, he fulfilled the berachot requirement despite the imperfect order. Therefore, says the Shaarei Teshuva (25:5, based on the Michtam L’Dovid), if one already said al mitzvat and completed fastening the shel yad, he recites the remaining beracha of l’haniach before putting on the shel rosh, and all is covered. Although some argue (see ibid.) this is the best solution (see B’er Moshe V, 10).
The matter would be different if you caught your mistake before fastening the shel yad. Since l’haniach was in fact instituted to precede the shel yad and covers the shel rosh as well, you should have recited l’haniach after al mitzvat and before fastening the shel yad. At this point, with both berachot already recited, you would not have made any beracha before putting on the shel rosh (Shaarei Teshuva, ibid.). If you had caught and corrected the mistake quickly enough by inserting the words “l’haniach tefillin” within around a second and a half of saying al mitzvat, then we could apply the regular rule that mistakes in berachot can be fixed toch k’dei dibbur (B’er Moshe ibid, in contradiction to the Kaf Hachayim’s (25:39) novel ruling; see Piskei Teshuvot 25:12).
If a Sephardi had for some reason recited al mitzvat when he makes his single beracha, he would have fulfilled the mitzva and would not make a beracha upon putting on the shel rosh (Michtam L’Dovid, ibid.).
making blessings in or opposite bathroomsI am part of a group of around 10 Jewish prison inmates (some, like me, are studying for conversion). Our cells (5 ft. X 9 ft.) have a toilet in them and during the time for Shacharit and Ma’ariv, I am not able to get out. Can I put on my tallit and pray at that time, in a “dirty place,” or is it an abomination to Hashem? Our rabbi died a few years ago, and we don’t have anyone to answer our questions any more. Also, could you send us some texts to study from?
It is a problem to involve oneself in holy things in proximity of excrement, as we will briefly discuss. Those who are not Jewish yet are not bound by those requirements, which are not included in the seven Noahide laws. However, your letter [shortened above] makes it clear that you want to follow the laws like a Jew. Therefore, we will present the laws for your whole group under your difficult circumstances (and this will serve as one of the study materials we will send).
One may not pray or make blessings in or opposite bathrooms (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 83:1). However, not necessarily is every room with a toilet a bathroom. Poskim (halachic authorities) have discussed to what extent rooms with a toilet that are used also for things such as washing hands, shaving, etc. have the status of a bathroom. In your case, the room is as multi-purpose as it gets, which gives grounds for leniency.
The very presence of a toilet, even a cleaned one that is outside a bathroom, raises problems. One may not recite things of sanctity within approximately six feet of a waste receptacle or any distance when one is facing it. There is a distinction regarding whether it is made out of an absorbent material. Absorbent materials that are coated with a glaze, like most modern toilets, are also the subject of dispute (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 87:1 and commentaries). However, this is of limited help when the utensil is used only for the “dirty” purpose (ibid. 83:5). However, if one can cover the toilet all around or get a 30 inch partition in front of it and smell does not emanate from it, this problem is solved (ibid. 76:1).
There is another reason for leniency in modern bathrooms in general. The Talmud (Berachot 26a) says that Persian bathrooms do not have a status of a bathroom because the hole is built on an incline so that excrement rolls down and away. Poskim compare and contrast our modern toilets, which of course, flush (as opposed to those in Talmudic times) to the Persian ones. On one hand, during most of the day, the toilet is (relatively) clean. On the other hand, the excrement stays put until one gets around to flushing. In general, under normal circumstances (hopefully when you and your friends will be out of prison), we would not allow one to make blessings or pray in such a room. However, under the circumstances, there is room for leniency, if there is not a bathroom smell where one is.
The Rama (the Ashkenazic counterpart of the Shulchan Aruch, ibid. 62:4) says that when one is in a place that is not totally clean, he can and should contemplate the words of the Shema (as an example of all holy texts), rather than to recite them. Although it is generally forbidden even to think of such things in an unclean place (Beit Yosef, OC 25), this is a good solution for borderline places.
Therefore, we suggest the following. When you have to recite a prayer or blessing while in your cell, try to get out of a six foot radius of the toilet (probably possible with the diagonal), face the other way and read the texts without uttering them with your lips. Your tallit is not a matter of holiness, although it is an important thing since it is used for prayer. Therefore, in your cell, which does not have a full status of a bathroom, you may wear it without making a blessing, or as mentioned, by contemplating the blessing.
minhagim about bentching after zimunI have seen many minhagim about bentching after zimun. Sometimes, everyone bentches to himself; sometimes, the mezamen does the beginning out loud; sometimes, he waits for people to finish before saying a beracha ending out loud so that people answer amen. What are the issues and what is the proper method?
This is a classic case of a practice that has changed from the manner it was originally intended, with splintered variations arising. Let us proceed through the development.
In all likelihood, a mezamen would not only introduce bentching with what we call zimun but would recite all of the Birkat Hamazon, while the others would listen and answer amen (see Bach, Orach Chayim 193; Mishna Berura 201:15). This most fully accomplishes the idea of praising Hashem together (see Berachot 45a). The minhag has developed for everyone to bentch himself, apparently out of concern that people will not listen well enough to the mezamen (see Beit Yosef, OC 183) or because one may have to understand the text he is hearing even if it is in Hebrew (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 193:1 and Mishna Berura 193:5).
What, if anything, is left to the idea of a joint bentching? When the Shulchan Aruch (OC 183:7) says that everyone bentches himself, he writes that they do so quietly. In this way, they can still hear the mezamen (Mishna Berura 183:27). The Rama (ad loc.) adds that the others should go ahead toward the end of the beracha to enable answering amen to the mezamen’s berachot (which one cannot do if he just finished the beracha himself, with not more than a few exceptions- see Shulchan Aruch and Rama, OC 215:1). Many people practice the Rama’s idea (usually the mezamen waits for the others rather than their speeding up, but it’s the same idea).
The Mishna Berura (183:28) points out that in his time it was common for everyone to bentch out loud so that no one heard the mezamen (now it is more common for everyone, including the mezamen, to do so quietly). He says that it is important for all to hear the mezamen at least for the first beracha (until “hazan et hakol”) because of the idea that this is the end of the zimun. The main ramification of this idea is that those who interrupt their meal to answer zimun are supposed to wait until after that point before resuming their meal (Rama, OC 200:2). The matter depends on a machloket Amoraim in Berachot (46a) whether zimun ends at “hazan et hakol” or at “u’mituvo chayinu,” the addition to bentching that is inserted when there is a zimun. Sephardim follow the latter opinion (Shulchan Aruch, ad loc.). The Mishna Berura, ruling for Ashkenazim, posits that people must hear the mezamen until “hazan et hakol” for zimun to be done properly. The Magen Avraham (183:12) went a step further, saying that until that point, people should only listen to the mezamen and only afterward bentch themselves. The Mishna Berura (ibid.) says that only people who can concentrate on and understand the first beracha should follow the Magen Avraham.
As you observed, people do not always listen to the mezamen for even the first beracha. Because it is difficult to argue on a prevalent practice that has been followed by some knowledgeable people for a long time (see S’dei Chemed, cited in Kaf Hachayim, OC 183:38) different rationales for the leniency have been given. One is that, in regard to this manner, Ashkenazim rely on the Shulchan Aruch that zimun ends with “u’mituvo chayinu” (ibid.). The Tzitz Eliezer (XVI, 1) also cites an opinion that, generally, it is better to bentch separately. The Chazon Ish also points out that regarding a zimun of ten, where Hashem’s name is invoked in the first part of the zimun, it is not necessary to listen to the mezamen until “hazan et hakol” (see Mishna Berura 200:10).
In summary, we recommend following the Mishna Berura’s position where there is not a clear minhag to the contrary. However, we do not discredit the other systems you have seen.
MaftirWhen one person gets maftir (the last aliya) and makes the berachot on the haftara but someone else reads it, must the oleh read along? If we read from a klaf (a Torah-like scroll for the navi being read), must he do so specifically from the klaf?
First we will summarize the matter of an oleh reading along the regular kriat hatorah. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 141:2) rules that it is critical for the oleh to read along because, if not, his beracha will not be connected to any reading of his and would be l’vatala. For the same reason, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 139:3) says that a blind man cannot have an aliya because he must read from the sefer Torah. The Rama (ad loc.) argues that now that the oleh only makes the berachot and does not read the Torah for the community to hear, the blind, as well as those who do not know how to read along, may get aliyot, as is the practice. The Rama does not dispute the requirement that the oleh read along. The Biur Halacha (to 141:2) presumes that regarding those who cannot read along, the Rama relied on the lenient opinion that reading along is not absolutely necessary to avoid the divisive situation where many people would be denied aliyot. However, he agrees that, normally, one should read along.
Are the halachic “dynamics” of haftara reading as strict as those for kriat hatorah? Some poskim approach the question in the opposite direction, as we will explain. The Rama (OC 284:4) says that one who received maftir should be the one who reads the haftara. Only if he cannot read the haftara, should someone else read the haftara. Why can’t the maftir just recite the berachot on the haftara and have someone else lain it? The Pri Megadim (284, EA 3) seems to say that just as regarding regular kriat hatorah, one cannot only recite the berachot without reading, so too for the haftara. Thus, he implies that just as we have the oleh read along quietly for regular laining, the same can be done for the haftara (The Minchat Yitzchak IX, 22 says that the Pri Megadim views this as a b’dieved situation, although he does not understand why; the Pri Megadim can be read differently.) The Mishna Berura (284:8) and Yaskil Avdi (VII, 14) also equate haftara to kriat hatorah regarding someone other than the oleh reading.
The Chayei Adam (31:40, accepted by the Mishna Berura, ibid.) says that the Gra instituted a change in minhag. Instead of having the oleh for maftir make the berachot and lain the haftara, he separated the two by insisting that a klaf be used, which can be read only by experts. This raises the next question: does the reading along need to be from the klaf, when it is used, or not? First, we should understand that the idea to require a klaf was raised by the Levush (against the prevalent minhag of his time, cited by the Mishna Berura 248:1), who assumed that the rules of what a haftara is read from is like that of a Torah or a megilla. Despite the fact that the Magen Avraham (284) and Taz (284:2) justified the old minhag (see Divrei Yatziv, OC 129 at great length), the use of klaf spread with the encouragement of later Acharonim. It is quite accepted that if people read along from a chumash, they are covered even if the maftir does not read from a klaf (see Biur Halacha to 284:5). Therefore, if the oleh for maftir reads along because he cannot make berachot without reading, even reading from a printed haftara suffices. If one feels that one must read from a klaf because it is no different from Torah reading, then just as a regular oleh must read from the Torah, so must the oleh for maftir/haftara read along from the klaf. The latter approach appears to be a chumra, but it is hard to track minhagim.
We suggest that if an oleh can easily read along with the lainer from the klaf he might as well do so. However, one need not insist on this, and it could be counterproductive for an oleh who cannot read effectively without punctuation.
beracha acharonaIf I have half a k’zayit of one food that gets a Me’ein Shalosh (the long beracha acharona that summarizes the elements of Birkat Hamazon; it is often called Al Hamichya, for one of its possible openings) and half a k’zayit of another food that gets Borei Nefashot, what beracha acharona do I make, if any?
We will focus on only a few of this question’s many permutations. We first assume that you refer to foods that are eaten as separate entities (e.g., a piece of cake and a piece of apple), not in a combined manner (e.g., a k’zayit of cake that has fruit filling).
The general rule is that one cannot fulfill the obligation of Me’ein Shalosh by reciting Borei Nefashot or vice versa, even b’dieved (Mishna Berura 208:62). (An exception is that if one is already making an Al Ha’etz on fruit of the seven species, this exempts him from Borei Nefashot on fruit of trees that are not of the seven species- Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 208:13). Therefore, when one is not sure whether he should recite Me’ein Shalosh or Borei Nefashot, he is in a bind because if he guesses wrong, he will be making an inappropriate beracha (see Rama, Orach Chayim 208:18 and Mishna Berura 208:80). We do not say that Borei Nefashot is a generic beracha (as its text may imply) that works b’dieved for any food as we do regarding Shehakol (Magen Avraham 208:26). Some Acharonim (Igrot Moshe, Orach Chayim I, 74; Kaf Hachayim 202:79) argue at least partially and say that if it will be impossible (for halachic or technical reasons) to recite Me’ein Shalosh, then saying Borei Nefashot is not a beracha levatala and is better than saying nothing.
Nevertheless, the Magen Avraham (210:1) says that if one ate half a k’zayit of Me’ein Shalosh food and half a k’zayit of a Borei Nefashot food, he makes a Borei Nefashot. The Machatzit Hashekel explains that Borei Nefashot does apply on a basic level to all foods. If a food is of a higher level of importance, so that it receives a Me’ein Shalosh, Borei Nefashot becomes the wrong beracha, and one is not yotzei with it. However, if there are certainly not grounds for Me’ein Shalosh (i.e., he had less than a k’zayit of that type of food) then the basic applicability of Borei Nefashot can connect it to another food to warrant a joint Borei Nefashot. The Sha’ar Hatziyun (210:2) adds another justification for the Magen Avraham’s ruling. That is that some Rishonim say that just as one must make a beracha before eating any amount of food, so must one recite at least the simple beracha of Borei Nefashot after eating any amount of any food where a higher beracha acharona is not recited.
In order to recite Borei Nefashot on less than a shiur (the amount one needs to eat to require the beracha) of foods that join together to be a shiur, it is necessary that the two foods share a shiur. Therefore, half a k’zayit of a food and half a revi’it of a liquid do not join to require Borei Nefashot (Magen Avraham 210:1).
Regarding foods that combine two different ingredients (regarding beracha) in one food, there are different opinions and minhagim. Regarding a beracha rishona, as long as there is a significant amount of flour from the major grains, one makes Mezonot, but regarding beracha acharona one needs to have a k’zayit of the major grains without the help of other grains (Shulchan Aruch, OC 208:9). The question is, though, if the flour is joined by only supplementary foods such as sugar and spices, whether one would make Al Hamichya only if there is a k’zayit of flour or even a k’zayit of cake is sufficient. (The Mishna Berura 208:48 takes the latter opinion, but some argue. Further discussion is beyond our present scope.)
Birkot hamitzvaHow can we make the beracha on netilat yadayim (=neya) in shul some time after we washed our hands, as birkot hamitzva are always recited at the time the mitzva is performed shul?
The gemara (Berachot 60b) describes the morning berachot as being recited as one performs each action the berachot relate to (e.g., opening one’s eyes, putting on shoes, washing hands, putting on tzitzit, etc.). These days, we make the birkot hashachar, which praise Hashem for providing us with our physical needs, at one time, usually at the beginning of davening. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 46:2) provides two reasons for our present practice: our hands are dirty when we get up, making it improper to make a beracha; some people cannot make the berachot themselves, so in shul the chazan says it on their behalf. Your query revolves around the question whether the beracha on neya stays in its place, at the time of the washing, or also moves.
The Beit Yosef (OC 6) cites two approaches to the matter. The simpler one, which he accepts (Shulchan Aruch, OC 6:2) is, as you argued, that the beracha should be close to the mitzva. Admittedly, unlike other birkot hamitzva, the beracha on neya is recited after the mitzva, as before the washing, one’s hands are likely to be too dirty to make the beracha (see Tosafot, Pesachim 7b). However, it still can be done either before one wipes his hands or soon thereafter, as opposed to after a long break (see Mishbetzot Zahav, OC 6:4). However, the Beit Yosef justifies the minhag to make the beracha on neya in shul, which Ashkenazim accept (Rama, ad loc.), based on the Rashba’s approach to the reason for neya. He says that as one embarks on the day as a new creation, he must thank Hashem and wash his hands like a kohen in preparation for these thanks. As the washing is related to these birkot hashachar, just as they are done in shul, the beracha on neya is also done there. The Perisha (6:3) understands that this beracha is not a standard birkat hamitzva.
The Rosh (Berachot 9:23) says that neya and its beracha were instituted as a preparation for tefilla. Therefore, says the Chayei Adam (7,6), if one were to wash his hands when waking up and then went to the bathroom and washed his hands again before tefilla, it is the second washing that must receive the beracha. While he only seems to make an issue of this when one expects to use the facilities between neya and davening, the Gra (Maaseh Rav 3) says that the Rosh’s approach mandates making the beracha specifically in shul before tefilla (he appears not to require another neya if he does not use the facilities in between). However, the Gra is an extreme opinion in this matter, as he accepted the Rosh so much as to require neya with a beracha before Mincha and Maariv (ibid.), which we do not.
In these matters, we would suggest that Ashkenazim and Sephardim follow their respective minhagim. The question is when a lot of time passes between neya upon arising and tefilla. The Chayei Adam suggests that the person go to the bathroom again, making the beracha after the second time. However, the Biur Halacha (to 4:1) raises the issue that, according to the Rashba, the beracha will not relate to the neya that requires it, upon awakening. This appears to be an issue if a long time goes by, even if he did not use the facilities in between (see ibid.). The Rama (6:2) leans toward making the beracha earlier in this case, whereas the Biur Halacha leans toward the Chayei Adam. The safest thing, in the case of a long break, is to make to make the beracha on neya at home, followed by birkot hashachar, which is the beginning of davening (Mishna Berura 6:9). (Realize that, according to all opinions, a long time goes by between the beracha on neya and Shemoneh Esrei).
netillat yadayim with a beracha on clean hands?With concern about “swine flu” so high, many would consider it hygienically prudent to wash their hands with soap and water before doing netillat yadayim with a jointly used washing cup and eating. Is it possible to do netillat yadayim with a beracha when you know that your hands are clean already? If one can, should he dry his hands before doing netillat yadayim?
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 165:1) deals with the problem of one who has just left the bathroom and is ready to eat. If he does netillat yadayim once for both needs, he will have a problem of whether he should first make the beracha of Asher Yatzar for doing his needs, or first make the beracha on the netillat yadayim followed by Hamotzi and only afterward recite Asher Yatzar. Either way, there are issues of hefsek (improper break) in between the time the second beracha became necessary and when it was recited. Therefore, the Shulchan Aruch says to wash two times, the first to be followed by Asher Yatzar, and the second one by Al Netillat Yadayim. So we see that the fact that the hands were just washed does not preclude doing another formal washing for eating bread.
Does that mean that a second netillat yadayim is a mitzva that requires a beracha even if it adds nothing practical, except that now it is done for a bread meal? That seems to be the subject of a machloket. The Beit Yosef (OC 158) understands from Tosafot's (Pesachim 116b) statement regarding the two washings that we do on seder night that if one does a lower level obligation netillat yadayim for non-breads dipped in liquids and then needs to do one for bread, the latter netillat yadayim is a full obligation. However, the Darkei Moshe (as the author rules in the Rama, OC 158:7) says that this is so only when a while passed in between washings so that we can assume that he took his mind off his hands. Otherwise, one would not make a beracha on the second netillat yadayim.
Similarly, in the former context, the Mishna Berura (165:2) cites Acharonim that the first washing done to enable reciting Asher Yatzar should be a washing of cleanliness, not one of a valid halachic nature. One way to do this is to not use a washing cup (and preferably not use the first spurt of water from the faucet- see Tzitz Eliezer VIII, 7), which is a requirement for netillat yadayim. If one touched a covered part of the body or some other "dirty" thing that makes netillat yadayim necessary in between the washings, the netilla would be necessary (I imagine that this would undo much of the hygienic gains you want to accomplish).
This leaves the matter of whether one should dry his hands in between the hygienic cleaning and the netillat yadayim. There is a similar case that is discussed by the poskim. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 162:2) talks about pouring some of the netillat yadayim water on the hands to remove dirt prior to the main netilla. The Biur Halacha (ad loc.) says that there is no mention of a need to dry the hands after doing this, which could be necessary if we said that the water becomes tameh (impure) in the process and would ruin the netilla. He says that this is either because this pre-washing is part of the netillat yadayim process, whereby water can become tameh and be removed by the second washing, or, to the contrary, that other than regarding poorly executed netilla, water that gets on the hands is not considered tameh (based on the Magen Avraham 162:10). While the Yalkut Yosef (OC 159:1) agrees with this approach, there are significant poskim, both Ashkenazi and Sephardi, who disagree (Ben Ish Chai, Shemini 11; Chazon Ish 24:20; K’tzot Hashulchan 33:4). They say that in that case, one should dry the hands from the questionable water before commencing the real netillat yadayim. Without getting into the intricacies, it would seem that our case is more lenient than the one these poskim discuss, and thus it would seem that drying the hands that were washed for hygienic reasons is not necessary.
Pat haba’ah b’kisninHow can it be that whether or not you wash on pizza depends on how much you eat? I would think that either it is bread or it is not bread.
The gemara (Berachot 42a) discusses a category of food called pat haba’ah b’kisnin (phbbk), which is a baked grain-based food that shares qualities with bread but also is distinguished from normal bread. The gemara says that whether one recites Hamotzi or Mezonot on it depends on whether one is kovei’a seuda (sets a meal) on it. The Shulchan Aruch says that the other special halachot of bread apply to phbbk when one is kovei’a seuda, namely, that one recites Birkat Hamazon on it (Orach Chayim 168:6) and has to wash before eating it (ibid. 158:1). Let us now discuss pizza.
For something to be a candidate for bread status, it must be made from the five main grains and be baked or look like bread (corn bread and spaghetti are not treated like bread no matter how much one eats of them - see Shulchan Aruch, OC 168:10). Of foods that pass those tests, there are still characteristics that can make a food phbbk instead of bread. The Shulchan Aruch (ibid.:7) cites three opinions: it has a pocket of sweet filling; its dough contains significant amounts of ingredients such as sugar and oil, besides flour and water; it is thin and crisp. It is unclear whether these opinions are mutually exclusive or whether any significant non-bread characteristic makes it phbbk (see Biur Halacha to 168:8).
Pizza might be phbbk for one of the following reasons: 1) its dough may contain a lot of liquid other than water (e.g., oil, apple juice, milk); 2) it is baked together with pizza sauce and cheese, which make it similar to the pocket of filling above. However, it might not be phbbk. #1 requires that there to be a lot of other liquids (for Sephardim, enough to taste; for Ashkenazim, a majority of the non-flour element - Shulchan Aruch and Rama, OC 168). This is often not the case. Regarding #2, it is not clear that all fillings remove the bread status. The Shulchan Aruch (ibid.:16) says that a pashtida (knish-type food) filled with meat, fish, or cheese receives the beracha of Hamotzi on any amount. The Mishna Berura (ad loc.:94) explains that classic phbbk is made from sweet fillings that make it dessert-like (e.g., cake), as opposed to these that are more meal-like. The Taz (168:20) says that all fillings are the same, and the matter is usually treated like a doubt.
Furthermore, the Beit Yosef (OC 168; see also the Aruch Hashulchan, OC 168:25) says that phbbk is something that, because of its characteristics, one does not usually center a meal around. One can argue that people eat regular pizza as the main food for a meal, rather than as a minor part of the meal or as a snack between main meals. So, indeed, this respondent treats pizza like bread, for any amount (see Am Mordechai, Berachot 25). Many distinguish between water vs. fruit juice based dough or treat the matter as a doubt to be avoided (see V’zot Haberacha, p. 217).
In any case, according to the prevalent custom that pizza is phbbk, how much does one have to eat to require the halachot of bread? The Shulchan Aruch (OC 168:6) says that one has to eat the amount that most people consider having a meal. In another halachic context, the size of 3 or 4 eggs suffices. It is a question whether that suffices here or a full meal’s worth is needed (the Mishna Berura 168:24 leaves the matter open). There is also a question whether in the meal discussed the phbbk by itself is filling, or whether it is sufficient for it to be a filling meal that is centered around the phbbk (Mishna Berura ibid.) Rav M. Feinstein (Igrot Moshe, OC III, 32) goes a step further, saying that nowadays, when bread’s role in meals is less than it once was, even a small amount of phbbk in the midst of a meal would require washing, Hamotzi, and Birkat Hamazon. Nevertheless, the most famous practice is that only two or perhaps three slices of average sized pizza are treated like bread.
Birkat HakohanimSome kohanim in my shul do not go up to do nesi’at kapayim (=duchenen =birkat kohanim =bk) at the proper time. Sometimes, one washes his hands right after Kedusha, goes back to his place, and does not remember to move toward the duchan (platform or any area in the front of the shul where bk is done) when the rest of the kohanim do. Other times, someone will get a late start toward washing and is still doing so during R’tzei. Are they allowed to do bk under such circumstances?
The gemara (Sota 38b) says that just as Aharon is described as blessing the people at the time of avoda (bringing of korbanot – Vayikra 9:22), so too kohanim should go up for bk at avoda (the beracha of R’tzei, in which we request that the service will return to
Regarding a case where he went to wash during R’tzei and did not make it back toward the duchan by the end of R’tzei, the matter depends on a machloket. The Ateret Zekeinim (on the Shulchan Aruch, ibid.) says that only going toward the duchan counts. The Pri Megadim infers from the following Magen Avraham (128:10) that going to wash is considered like akar. The Radvaz said that if a kohen was on his way to shul during the time he should have been approaching the duchan, that is not considered like akar and he may not do bk. However, says the Magen Avraham, if he left his house that was close to shul (for the purpose of coming to do bk – Chayei Adam 32:13) but arrived after the end of R’tzei, that is considered akar. The Pri Megadim (ad loc.) posits that the logic is that a movement, even if it is not one of approaching the duchan but of preparing to do bk, counts as akar. According to this approach then, he says, it is even clearer that going to wash one’s hands suffices. Thus, there is room for leniency to allow a kohen who went during R’tzei to wash to continue on for bk, especially if the way to wash is generally in the direction of the duchan (see something similar in the Mishna Berura 128:27). (Realize that the requirement to go on time is apparently rabbinic - see Mishneh Halachot VIII, 15). Under such circumstances, one should certainly not try to stop a kohen who assumes he may go up from doing so. (It might be worthwhile to educate him pleasantly to avoid the situation in the future.)
The other case you raise is more problematic. If he went to wash soon after Kedusha and subsequently lost track of time, there are two reasons to say that going to wash is less effective than above. Firstly, it is possible that akar works only after the chazan has started R’tzei (Kehunat Yitzchak, pg. 32), whereas here he went to wash well before R’tzei (Shevet Halevi VIII, 23 says it is preferable not to go early but that doing so is not disqualified after the fact). Secondly, washing likely works as akar only when it is followed directly by proceeding to the duchan. However, when one plans to and does go back to his own place, it turns out that the washing was quite preliminary. This possibility is particularly plausible considering that according to some opinions, one can rely on the washing that he did before coming to shul (see Shulchan Aruch 128:6 and Mishna Berura 128: 20). Therefore, it is important for the kohanim to leave their place to go toward the duchan before the end of R’tzei.
The Beracha on SchnitzelI have heard people question what I thought was simple - that the beracha on schnitzel is Shehakol. What is the truth?
The truth is actually not simple. You will see that much of the difficulty is not halachic but culinary: why is it that many people prefer schnitzel (breaded cutlets) to cutlets that are not breaded?
Clearly, the ikar (main part) of schnitzel is the poultry inside. In general, we make a beracha on the ikar, which exempts us from a beracha on the less important ingredients (Berachot 44a), and this is usually determined by the majority (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 208:7). However, an exception to this rule is that if the minority is from the major grain species (which includes standard flour), we make Mezonot on the mixed food (Shulchan Aruch ibid.:2). This exception is on condition that the grain product has a significant role in the food’s character. A minority of Rishonim seem to understand that the grain rule is just an application of the assumption that grain usually shapes the character of the food even when it is a minority. According to this approach, in a case like ours where the poultry is clearly the main ingredient, the beracha should be Shehakol. However, the more accepted approach is that grains have a halachic precedence, because of which the beracha follows them even when it they certainly are not the main ingredient, but a significant one (see Shulchan Aruch, ibid.). The classic case where it is not considered significant is when the grain product is there to make the other food stick together (ibid.; Tosafot, Berachot 36b).
The question then is what contribution schnitzel’s coating makes. We have seen claims of all of the following elements (after each, we will write what beracha is appropriate if this is the factor): 1) The coating tastes good, as a nicely seasoned doughy food (Mezonot). 2) It captures the oil from the pan and gravy from the cutlet in one rich (albeit not so healthy) layer (the beracha can go either way, as the doughy part tastes good, but mainly because of what it absorbed; still, it would seem to indicate Mezonot). 3) It causes the spices that are placed on top of the cutlet to not slide away (Shehakol). 4) It keeps the cutlet from drying out (Shehakol). 5) It allows frying at a high temperature with a reduced chance of burning (Shehakol). Although a majority of these theories point toward Shehakol, it does not mean that that should be the end result. This is because if all of the above are true, then there are important food elements to the coating, which make Mezonot appropriate, irrespective of additional “Shehakol” benefits.
Regarding the bottom line, some important poskim say that one should make Mezonot on schnitzel when the coating is relatively thick and Shehekol when it is thin (see opinions in V’zot Haberacha, pp. 256-261). Some contemporary authorities differ if “standard” schnitzel has a thick or thin coating (ibid., Birkat Hashem III, ). Rav M. Feinstein is cited as requiring berachot on each, as neither element is dominant enough to outweigh the other; others suggest first eating a little of each separately to avoid doubt. (This solution makes halachic sense, but we do not like mandating convoluted practices to avoid making halachic decisions). Of crucial importance is that the minhag is quite clearly to make Shehakol. Admittedly, such minhagim often develop because Shehakol is the safe beracha, as one always fulfills his obligation after the fact with Shehakol (Shulchan Aruch, OC 204:13). This makes particular sense since the ruling can change depending on the time, place, and piece of schnitzel. Although some say Mezonot is also a “catch-all” beracha for almost all foods (Biur Halacha 167:10), this is far less certain. Therefore, although we think that most schnitzels deserve Mezonot, there is not enough certainty in the matter to instruct people to change the standard practice of reciting just Shehakol.
What to do if the moon gets hidden behind a cloud in the middle of Kiddush LevanaAfter starting to recite Kiddush Levana with the moon visible, the moon goes behind a cloud. Should we continue reciting or should we stop?
The Ramah (426: 1) writes that one should only recite Kiddush HaChodesh at night when the moon is shining and while benefiting from its light.The Mishnah Berurah explains that this is when its light is recognizable on the ground.
If the moon is covered by clouds, one can recite the blessing if the cloud is thin and one could still see the moon and benefit from its light. (cf. Pri Chadash, sif katan 8, who cites the Chidah and Eliyahu Rabba who say that one shouldn’t recite the blessing if the moon is obstructed by any cloud, even a thin one). If the moon was obstructed in the middle of one's Bracha – the Mishnah Berurah cites the Magen Avraham who says that one should complete the blessing. However, if prior to his blessing one estimates that the size of the moon will become covered before completing the blessing, one shouldn’t begin reciting the blessing.
This Halakha applies to the actual blessing. It is unnecessary for the moon to be revealed during the recitation of the scriptural references and psalms that are recited after the blessing. The critical point at which it must be seen is prior to the Bracha, and not during the introductory psalm that precedes the blessing.
The Biur Halachah cites a leniency that was established by Rabbi Chaim Tzanzer. He says that the Bracha can be recited “toch kdei dibur” [the time span in which it takes to recite “Shalom Aleichem, Rabi u’Mori”, 4 seconds] of seeing the moon, even if the moon became covered during the blessing.
This idea of "toch kdei dibur" applies to the bracha on seeing thunder and lightning. The Biur Halachah debates over whether these brachot are comparable, since the blessing over thunder and lighting was affixed in appreciation of the natural occurrence. In contrast, the blessing over the moon is recited for the benefit from its light. He compares this to reciting the blessing of bread, which could only be recited during the meal, as long as he can still eat without reciting a new bracha, and not afterwards. This implies that one cannot recite the bracha after the benefiting is over, even “toch kdei dibur”.
It seems that the Rabbi Chaim Tzanzer held that the need for benefiting from the moonlight, as the Radvaz mentions in his responsa (volume 1, siman 341), isn’t like birkat nehenin [a blessing in which recites on the benefit that he receives]. This blessing too is in appreciation of the natural occurrence. Nevertheless, we only make brachot on what we can experience at the time(otherwise we'd be making all the different brachot all of the time!). In our case, that would be only when a person could benefit from the moonlight.We generally say that when one is in doubt whether to recite a blessing, it is better to refrain from making the Bracha. Making a bracha l'vatala(needless blessing) is worse than missing out on a bracha. Therefore, one mustn't make the Bracha if he can estimate that the moon will be covered with thick clouds before one finishes reciting the blessing, as mentioned above. However, there is no need to estimate that the moon will become covered while reciting the scriptural references and psalms that we are accustomed to recite after the blessing.
Are women obligated to Daven MinchaI (a woman) try to daven Shacharit and Mincha but not Ma’ariv every day. Not infrequently I forget to daven Mincha. When that happens, am I supposed to daven Ma’ariv that night, and if so, once or twice?
One thing that this matter depends on is whether women are obligated in Mincha. The Rambam (Tefilla 1:2) says that women are obligated by Torah law to daven daily. Since the Torah law is for any request once a day and the rabbinic idea that one daven twice or three times a day is time-based, women might not be obligated in the structure of Shacharit and Mincha as we know them. Many women follow this approach (Magen Avraham 106:2). The Mishna Berura (106:4) prefers the Ramban’s opinion that tefilla is entirely a rabbinic obligation but because of its importance as a request of mercy from Hashem, the Rabbis obligated men and women equally. According to this approach, women are obligated in at least the essentials of Shacharit and Mincha like men. The difference is in regard to Ma’ariv, which is essentially a voluntary tefilla (Berachot 27b). While men accepted it upon themselves as an obligation, women did not (Mishna Berura, ibid.). Another difference is that women who are especially busy, especially those responsible for the unpredictable needs of small children, may be exempt from Shacharit and Mincha, either by relying on the lenient opinion or because their involvement exempts them (see Ishei Yisrael 7:7).
You categorize yourself as one who davens Shacharit and Mincha but not Ma’ariv, and thus your situation is as follows. If you are obligated as men, you should do tashlumin (the makeup prayer) like them. However, tashlumin was instituted as a makeup tacked on to the set tefilla at the next tefilla slot (in this case, Ma’ariv). In fact, if one does something that shows that the first tefilla was the makeup, preceding the set one, he does not fulfill tashlumin (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 108:1). Thus, if you do not daven Ma’ariv, you will not be able to do tashlumin; it cannot be done at Shacharit, as it must be done at the next tefilla period (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 43:(110) in the name of Rav S.Z. Auerbach). (One could raise the argument that for a woman, Shacharit is the next tefilla after Mincha, but Rav Auerbach rejects that logic). Even if you are not obligated in Ma’ariv, if you decided to daven it, you could then do tashlumin (see Mishna Berura 263:43). However, it is unclear whether you would be required to go so far as to daven Ma’ariv in order to make tashlumin possible (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata, ibid.).
The following claim is incorrect. Between Mincha and Ma’ariv a woman is obligated in one tefilla, classically Mincha. If she davens Ma’ariv voluntarily, in effect she got to the correct number of tefillot. The above is incorrect because she had an obligation for Mincha that turned into one for tashlumin for it. A normal Ma’ariv is neither. In fact, once you would daven Ma’ariv, you would be required to do the tashlumin of Mincha (see Ishei Yisrael 36:(15)). Thus, while it is questionable whether you have to daven Ma’ariv, it is a question of two or nothing.
If one falls into the category of one who has not accepted upon herself the obligation to daven Mincha then she obviously cannot be obligated more in tashlumin than she is in the original tefilla. The question would only be if one tries to daven Mincha quite regularly except when she is quite busy, but on a given day she forgot without a real excuse. In this case, she presumably is not obligated since, in the final analysis, she does not treat Mincha as a full obligation.
Again, in your case, it is unclear whether you should say two Shemoneh Esrei’s at Ma’ariv. While it is hard to outright require it, it can be worthwhile (see Halichot Shlomo, Tefilla 13:8), especially if it makes you feel better or will help you remember about Mincha in the future.
Proper berachot on breakfast cerealsHi, What bracha is "corn chex" cereal? The 1st ingredient is corn and the 2nd is milled corn- but even though the 1st ingredient is corn it really doesn't seem to have any corn texture.
The Acharonim have determined that even if the fruit or vegetable’s form changed, as long as it hasn’t been grinded, we wouldn’t declare that its form has changed.
In cases where the form of the fruit or vegetable has completely changed, one recites “Shehakol.”
Therefore, the blessing on cold cereals made from corn meal is “Shehakol.”
However, the blessing on cold cereals made from ungrounded corn is “HaAdamah.”
Chocolate made from cocoa beans, which has completely changed its form, or soy powder derived from soybeans, which have completely changed their form, require the blessing of “Shehakol.”
Status of papayaIs the papaya a fruit tree?
A number of reasons have been given for this:
1. It gives fruit within a year of its planting.
2. Its trunk is hollow.
3. Its fruit decline over the years.
4. The fruit grows each year in a different spot on the tree.
5. The leaves and the fruit grow directly from the trunk and not from branches.
Who leads zimun when some eat dairy and others meat?I understand that if three people eat together, where some are eating dairy and some eating meat, the one who is eating dairy leads the zimun because he can eat from his friend’s food but not vice versa. Is the same so if four people are eating, three meat and one milk, as the three do not require the dairy eater for the zimun? Should the dairy eater do zimun even if one of the others is a kohen?
The gemara (Arachin 4a) says that the Tannaic statement that kohanim and regular Jews can join together for zimun is obvious and posits that it is needed for a case where kohanim ate teruma (which is forbidden for a non-kohen) while the others ate regular food. The reason that they can join, says the gemara, is that the kohen can eat the food of the others.
Rishonim extend the concept to parallel cases, based on which the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 196:3) says that if the kohen ate something non-kohanim may not and the others ate a non-Jew’s bread, which the kohen is careful not to eat (a halachic question- see Yoreh Deah 112), they do not form a zimun. The Magen Avraham (196:1) raises the matter of dairy and meat and points out that they can join together because the one eating dairy can also eat meat. (Acharonim discuss what happens, according to the various opinions, regarding the necessary break between dairy and meat- see discussion in Piskei Teshuvot 196:10).
The Magen Avraham also raises your issue that when this group bentches, the dairy eater, who is the one who unites the individuals into a group for zimun, should “make the beracha to exempt the other.” One would have thought that the point is moot because the eating that creates the obligation of zimun is that of bread, which is classically pareve, and why should one care that the “side dishes” are meat and dairy, respectively. The Magen Avraham is sensitive to this and points out that the discussion applies to a case where the bread is “soiled” with meat and dairy. B’tzel Hachochma (IV, 169) points out that in a case (e.g., like at the seder), where one eats a k’zayit of bread, creating the zimun obligation, before meat is brought out, this matter does not apply. There is a machloket about a case where that which one ate was off limits to the other but bread which everyone can partake of is available (see Taz 196:2), but we assume that the matter is determined by what was eaten (see Hitorerut Teshuva III, 61).
It is not clear why, when they form a group for zimun, it makes a difference who leads the zimun (Aruch Hashulchan, OC 196:8), and indeed some Acharonim do not cite this ruling (see opinions in Sha’ar Hatziyun 196:12). Even those who cite it view it as a minhag, not an absolute requirement (Chayei Adam I, 48:19; Mishna Berura 196:9; Aruch Hashulchan, op. cit.). One can also point out that the Magen Avraham cites the practice regarding a case where the mezamen does the bentching and exempts the others, whereas current practice is that all bentch separately and the stakes regarding zimun are much lower. Therefore, it should not be surprising that the Sha’ar Hatziyun (op. cit.) says that if one of the meat eaters is a kohen, the more established halacha of giving respect to kohanim trumps the preference of the dairy eater.
Regarding your case of four eating together, where there is a zimun anyway, the matter probably depends on the Magen Avraham’s reasoning, which is not spelled out. If we prefer the person who is most connected to everyone, it still pays to have the dairy eater do the zimun. If it serves as a reminder that who ate what can affect the viability of the zimun, then when the zimun does not depend on the dairy eater, it should not be necessary. However, one can raise counter arguments. In any case, the matter is of so little importance that it does not warrant worrying which possibility is more likely, and one can do as he likes.
(Our answer does not relate to the precautions one should take when some are eating dairy while others are
Saying Tefillat Haderech by MicrophoneI often take an intercity bus ride with a group of peers. One person has been reciting Tefillat Hederech over a microphone, and everyone answers Amen. Are we properly fulfilling the mitzva by microphone?
Tefillat Haderech is an obligatory prayer for protection from danger, instituted in beracha form under certain set circumstances (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 110: 4-7). As such, there is strong reason to believe that it follows the basic rules for fulfilling the obligations of other berachot and prayers.
One of the most basic rules of being yotzei (fulfilling) an obligation by means of another person is that the latter must be obligated in the mitzva (Rosh Hashanah 29a). Even answering Amen requires one to hear the beracha from a person whose beracha is meaningful (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 215:3 regarding a small child’s beracha). Therefore, all agree that one is not yotzei and does not answer Amen to that which he hears on a recording, as he does not hear something being said now by a person.
Almost all poskim agree that one cannot fulfill the mitzva of hearing shofar via microphone or other electronic means because one must hear the direct sound of a man blowing a shofar (see Rosh Hashana 27b). The ruling regarding Megilla reading via microphone is less clear. Although one does not hear the actual voice of a valid ba’al koreh, it is better than a recording in two ways. First, the sound is produced directly based on the sound waves from the ba’al koreh, not by means of someone else pressing a button. Secondly, the reproduction is heard at the same time the ba’al koreh reads. Therefore, although most poskim believe one cannot fulfill the mitzva via microphone, the lenient position is somewhat tenable (see Tzitz Eliezer VIII, 11; Minchat Shlomo I, 9 in the name of the Chazon Ish; Igrot Moshe OC II, 108).
The gemara (Sukka 51b) minimizes the importance of hearing the voice of the person reciting, if one knows what is being said. It discusses a huge structure in
The much stronger position is that one cannot be motzi others via microphone, including in Tefillat Haderech. On the other hand, while few Orthodox shuls use a microphone for Megilla, it is commonplace for people to say Tefillat Haderech over a microphone. Can the two practices be reconciled? The answer is: arguably yes. Firstly, it is generally assumed that the level of obligation of Tefillat Haderech is of a lower level than that of set tefillot, thus making leniency in a case of machloket easier. On a bus, there is often another reason for leniency. Rav Ovadya Yosef (Yechaveh Da’at III, 54) assumes that whoever could hear without the microphone can be yotzei even if he hears primarily the microphone. While one can take issue with this assumption, it is a reasonable one (see Bemareh Habazak, I, 26). Most times most people could hear without a microphone, just not so well or every word. (For Megilla, there is a need to hear every word.)
It seems halachically preferable for people to say (along) their own Tefillat Haderech, especially those who could not have heard without the microphone, although doing it noticeably when the group does not could cause problems of yohara (looking haughty). We note that regarding many drives, there is actually a machloket whether Tefillat Haderech should be said, at least with its beracha ending. One may answer Amen based on the
Bracha on ground cherriesSomeone brought a new fruit on Rosh Hashana: "ground cherries." Despite the name, we were not sure of the beracha because it's likened to both a gooseberry and a tomato. When ripe, tastes sweet like pineapple.
The beracha is Boreh Pri Ha'adama.
Beracha on tabouleCan you please tell me what the proper beracha on taboule is, and why?
Regarding foods made from the five types of grains there are four possible berachot:
1. Shehakol – if it is eaten in a way usually considered inedible, such as eating dough.
2. Ha'adama – if eaten in an edible fashion which is not the normal way of eating, such as eating the seeds ("koses chitim").
3. Mezonot – if cooked.
4. Hamotzi – if grinded to flour and then bread made from it.
"Koses Chitim" is when the seeds are eaten whole and the peel was not removed from them (Orach Chaim 208, 4). The Mishna Berurah (ibid 15) states that if the peel was removed, some say that one should bless mezonot and some say ha'adama. However, this is only if the seeds are whole. If they are not whole then the blessing is mezonot. Burgul (what the taboule is made from) is cracked wheat from which the peel was removed, and is soaked in hot water, and therefore is not "koses chitim" and thus the blessing is mezonot.The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 208, 2) states that regarding a dish containing mezonot, even if the majority of the dish is not mezonot, one still blesses mezonot because of the importance of the five grains. However, if the grains were only put in the dish as an adhesive, then the blessing is not mezonot, and it follows the most significant ingredient. By taboule, even if the burgul is not the majority, since it is put in to be eaten and not just as an adhesive, the blessing is mezonot.
Beracha on cacoa beansWhat is the bracha on raw cacao bean? Since most people don't eat it in the natural state is it like eating raw potatoes (shehakol) or is it ha'etz since it is nonetheless edible and they sell them in nutrition stores?
Most people would not eat raw cacoa beans, and therefore the beracha is Shehakol. That is part of the reason that on cooked chocolate we make Shehakol.
Shehecheyanu on Fruits for TravelersI have come from England, where avocados are available all year long, to Israel, where it is primarily a winter-spring fruit. Do I recite Shehecheyanu upon eating it in Israel?
Let us start with some background. The beracha of Shehecheyanu is a proper response to the happiness of something enjoyable returning to our lives. Regarding produce, Shehecheyanu applies only when there are distinctive seasons during the course of the year (Shulchan Aruch and Rama, Orach Chayim 225:6). The Rama continues that for this reason we do not make Shehecheyanu on a vegetable, “for it stands in the ground all year.” He expounds elsewhere (Darchei Moshe, OC 225:2) that it is hard to discern which vegetable is from the old crop and which is new.
A common question regarding is what to do if, despite there being different growing seasons, they are available almost all year without interruption. This depends on how to understand the aforementioned Rama (“stands in the ground”). The Mishna Berura (ad loc.:18) points out that almost every vegetable has distinct growing seasons, making the Rama’s generalization about vegetables hard to understand. (Due to use of hothouses, it is now common for vegetables to be grown throughout the year.) One of his explanations is that the Rama was referring to vegetables stored in the ground for long periods. In other words, even if something does not grow all year long, if it is available throughout, we do not recite Shehecheyanu on it. When fresh produce is far superior to refrigerated produce, there is likely cause to make Shehecheyanu on the new fresh fruit (B’er Moshe V, 65). This is particularly understandable in light of the Rama’s stress that it must be noticeable whether a given fruit is from the new season or the old (see V’zot Haberacha, pg. 161).
Certainly, if a species is available only canned, one makes Shehecheyanu on new, fresh produce. Another situation where produce is available throughout the year is when it is imported from regions with different growing seasons, in which case, we do not make Shehecheyanu on either local or imported fruit. The determining factor is not the agricultural phenomenon of a new crop, but the consumers’ experience upon reaching a new season of availability.
Is the determining factor the individual consumers or general society? Regarding one who has not partaken for a long time in fruit that has been available, the Mishna Berura (225:16) says: “Although he did not eat it, others did.” Thus, it is not enough that it is new for certain individuals. You ask about the opposite case, where it is new in the society where you presently find yourself, but it is not personally new to you. Teshuvot V’hanhagot (II, 151) and Halichot Shlomo (based on Rav S.Z. Auerbach’s writings) say that one who travels from a place where the season had already come to a place where there is a new season makes the beracha again in the new place. However, both require that thirty days of lack of access to the fruit must pass in the interim. In other words, there has to be a basic level of renewal both for the individual and for the society. If it has been available without a minimum interruption for either society or the individual, then the individual does not make Shehecheyanu.
The newcomer’s thirty days can be a combination of time in his place of origin and in the new place. It is not clear whether the individual’s break follows having eaten the fruit for thirty days or having access. (We should note that the original halacha is that the beracha is on seeing the fruit, but the minhag is to make it only upon eating it (Shulchan Aurch, OC 225:3)). Since we refrain from berachot out of doubt, we recommend that the traveler not make a beracha unless he spent a combination of thirty consecutive days without access to the fruit and the fruit should locally be one that is not widely available all year long. In your case, only if you spent thirty days in
Bracha and hashgacha on chewing gumIs a bracha required on chewing gum? Also what is the problem with non kosher gum?
The general consensus seems to be that one should indeed make a bracha on chewing gum. What follows is a brief summary of two of the central issues discussed (a fuller discussion, together with sources, we can send you in Hebrew if you wish):
1) One does not recite a bracha on food unless one's palate enjoys it (eg. no bracha is made on tasteless food eaten for health purposes, water drunk only to clear one's throat, etc.). However, most chewing gums are indeed chewed (initially) for their taste and therefore they require a bracha.
2) When eating a "main" food together with an "ancillary" food (eg. one eats a piece of bread solely to make it easier to eat a very salty or spicey food), one does not recite a bracha on the ancillary food (the bread). Some suggest that the gum's sugary taste is ancillary to the main rubbery gum base [which people want specifically for the (non- palate related) chewing], and therefore no bracha should be recited on the taste. However, others point out that the above rule only applies when one is making a bracha on the main food- in such a situation, the ancillary food's bracha is exempted by that of the main food. But since no bracha is being recited on the rubbery gum base, a bracha is indeed required for the sugary taste.
Regarding the issue of kashrut by gum:
The flavor can be non-kosher
The gum base is made with glycerine which can be from an animal source.
Adding water to wine or grape juice for kiddush or havdalahIf one does not have enough wine/grape juice for either kiddush or havdalah, are you allowed to add water? If so, how much?
One may make Kiddush and fulfill the Mitzvah of four cups on the Seder night with wine mixed with water, so long as it is still considered wine, which is so long as its blessing is "Boreh Pri Hagafen".
According the Shulchan Aruch (SA) wine residue may be mixed with water and a "Boreh Pri Hagafen" may be said so long as the wine residue is at least 25%. However, this is only regarding the wine in the time of the Gemara which was very strong, but nowadays that the wine is less strong then one should follow the common practice as to mixing wine with water in his place.
Sefardic authorities are of the opinion that according to the SA there is no distinction between wine residue and wine. Also, they claim that since nowadays the wine is weaker one should be stringent and not mix wine with more than 50% water (as many wines are already mixed with water, one should not add water unless one knows exactly what percentage of water was already added).
The Remma rules that there is a difference between wine residue and wine, and wine may be mixed with water even if the wine will be a seventh of the mixture. However, this again is only regarding the strong wine which was common in the times of the Gemara, but by our wines one should follow the common practice as to mixing wine with water in his place. According to this, several authorities wrote that one should be stringent that there should not be a majority of water. Therefore, practically there is no difference between Sefardic and Ashkenazic authorities. However, some authorities wrote that one may bless "Boreh Pri Hagafen" even if the wine is only a seventh.
 Shulchan Aruch (SA) Orach Chaim 272, 5 and Mishna Berurah (MB) 14-16, and SA 272, 9 and MB 28.
 Orach Chaim 204, 5.
 Kaf Hachaim Orach Chaim 204, 31' Chazon Ovadiah 1-2. Or Letzion vol. 2, 20, 18, Birkat Hashem 4, 3, 7, 49.
 Orach Cahim 204, 5.
 MB 204, 32.
 Pri Megadim (Eshel Avraham 204, 16), Vezot Haberacha (ed' 5769 page 115), Piskei Teshuvot (vol. 2, 204).
 Mikraie Kodesh (Harari) Hilchot Leil Haseder page 140 based on the Remma and the Mishna Berurah and in the name of Rabbi Israeli (although from the MB it appears that a seventh is only sufficient by a strong wine).
Reciting R'tzei After HavdalaAfter finishing seuda shlishit I forgot to recite Birkat Hamazon until coming back from Ma’ariv. Was I supposed to say R’tzei in Birkat Hamazon at that point?
This question tests the primacy of the following competing halachic rules. One is that once one becomes obligated in one of the additions to Birkat Hamazon, he is to recite it even after the time that it normally applies. The other is that during times that can relate to the preceding period or the following period, we do not allow there to be an internal contradiction (tartei d’satrei) and apply it to both. Let us survey sources and applications of each rule before coming to an answer.
The first rule is actually not unanimously held. The Rosh (Shut 22:6) says that if one starts seuda shlishit before sunset but bentches after the day is over, he does not recite R’tzei. To the contrary, if he ate a meal before Shabbat but recited Birkat Hamazon only on Shabbat, he would then recite R’tzei. The Tur (Orach Chayim 695) says that according to [his father] the Rosh, one who did not bentch on his Purim seuda until nightfall after Purim he would not recite Al Hanisim. In other words, we always follow the time that one is ready to make the pronouncement. However, we do not adopt the Rosh’s opinion as standard halacha. Rather, we follow the time that one ate and say that if he ate in a way that caused an obligation of a special pronouncement such as R’tzei or Al Hanisim, he is to make it even when its time ostensibly over (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 188:10). (An exception to this is Sheva Berachot that finish after the week is over, as one cannot make independent berachot after the time period- see Sha’arei Teshuva 188:8 based on the Ginat Veradim).
The next rule, that we avoid tartei d’satrei situations, has far too many applications to address, and we will stick to those close to our topic. One discussion is about one who started a seudat Purim on Erev Shabbat and continued it on Shabbat, making Kiddush in the middle. When he eventually bentches, there is reason to say both Al Hanisim, due to that which he ate during the day, and R’tzei, due to that which he ate after Kiddush. The Magen Avraham (695:9) says that one recites Al Hanisim, apparently in addition to R’tzei (see Sha’ar Hatziyun 695:19), whereas the Chayei Adam (155:32) says that you cannot say both Al Hanisim and R’tzei in the same Birkat Hamazon when the two relate to different days.
Another case where the issue of tartei d’satrei arises regarding R’tzei is when one starts eating on Shabbat and continues eating bread after night begins and Rosh Chodesh starts. There is a theoretical obligation to say both R’tzei and Ya’aleh V’yavoh but, again, the two belong to two different days. Here, the Magen Avraham (188:18) says that one cannot say both and since it is more clear that there is an obligation of Ya’aleh V’yavo than it is that there is an obligation of R’tzei, one says just Ya’aleh V’yavo (we will not deal with reconciling the Magen Avraham’s two rulings). The Taz (188:7) says that one may say both despite the apparent contradiction, and the Mishna Berura does not come to a clear distinction.
There is some logic to say that tartei d’satrei exists only when one has to say two contradictory things in the same context, e.g., within Birkat Hamazon. If so, since there is nothing in Birkat Hamazon that indicates that it is Motzaei Shabbat, saying R’tzei would not be a problem. However, the consensus of poskim is that davening Ma’ariv is such a strong indication of ending Shabbat that it is not possible to say R’tzei in bentching afterward (see implication of Beit Yosef, OC 188, Magen Avraham 188:17; Mishna Berura 188:32; Aruch Hashulchan 188:27). The loss of R’tzei is also not a critical matter. Because not all agree that one has to eat bread at seuda shlishit, if one forgets R’tzei at sedua shlishit, he does not repeat Birkat Hamazon (Shulchan Aruch, ibid. 8). What some major poskim (Magen Avraham 263:33; Rabbi Akiva Eiger to Magen Avraham 188:17) are unsure about is if one said Hamavdil but did not daven, whether that precludes saying R’tzei.
When to count Sefirat Haomer when accepting Shabbat earlyIf we bring in Shabbat early before nightfall and daven Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv, when do we count the Omer ? Is it during the service before "alainu"or does one have to wait till after dark?
One has to wait until it is somewhat dark. Exactly how long after sunset is a good question and can depend a little bit on latitiude, but somewhere between 20-30 minutes (usually not reached at an early Shabbat minyan).
The Basis for a Meal of Thanksgiving After Recovery from IllnessPlease explain the sources in the Torah and halacha for the custom to make a seudat hodaya (meal of thanksgiving) following recovery from a serious illness or surgery.
One of the korbanot the Torah describes is a Korban Todah (sacrifice of thanksgiving) (Vayikra ). However, the Torah does not say when one offers it. The gemara (Berachot 54b), in the context of Birkat Hagomel (blessing after surviving dangerous situations), says that the “survivors” of four situations have to give thanks: a voyage at sea, traversal of the desert, illness, and captivity. The gemara demonstrates how each of these situations is described in Tehillim 107, the mizmor that deals with thanks after being saved from difficult situations. Even at the time of the Beit Hamikdash, it appears that people such as these were not obligated to bring a Korban Todah. Rather those are among the appropriate situations to volunteer one (see Rashi, Vayikra and a thorough presentation in Nishmat Avraham, Orach Chayim 219:1).
Eating is a major element of the Korban Todah. This korban included 40 loaves of meal-offering, 36 of which were to be eaten. The Abarbanel and the Netziv (both on Vayikra 7) famously explain that the Torah required a lot of eating in a short amount of time to encourage the thankful person to bring together many people where he would hopefully give proper public thanks to Hashem.
What do we do without a Beit Hamikdash to bring a Korban Todah? The Rosh (Berachot 9:3) and the Tur (OC 219) say that Birkat Hagomel was instituted in place of the Korban Todah. While the simple reading is that Hagomel is an obligatory beracha, the Magen Avraham (beginning of 219; Pri Megadim, ad loc. disagrees) suggests that it might be optional. In any case, it provides a defined opportunity to thank Hashem publicly (it must be recited before a minyan, preferably including two distinguished people- Shulchan Aruch, OC 219:3).
Whether or not the Korban Todah or Birkat Hagomel is obligatory, a seudat hodaya for being saved from dangerous illness is certainly not obligatory. This may explain its absence from explicit discussion in most classical works (including the Shulchan Aruch). However, significant sources provide precedent and support for the idea of doing something more than saying Hagomel, including a seuda. The Mishna Berura (218:32, in the name of “Acharonim”) says that one who was saved from possible death (apparently even if the salvation was natural) should do the following. He should set aside money for tzedaka and say that he wants it to be considered as if he spent the money on a Korban Todah, donate things that help the public, and on every anniversary find a special setting to thank Hashem, be happy, and tell His praises. Certainly, a seudat hodaya is an appropriate setting for it, but it is not part of a set formula.
The gemara (Berachot 46a) tells that when Rabbi Zeira was sick, Rabbi Avahu promised that if he recovered, Rabbi Avahu would make a festive meal for the rabbis, which, baruch Hashem, occurred. Some say that not just the meal but the promise to make it is significant, as the promise of such an event if the sick person recovers is a segula (good omen) for the recovery (see Gilyonei Ephrayim, ad loc.). This would evidently only work if the seuda of that nature is desirable. The Chavot Yair (70; see also Pri Megadim, Mishbetzot Zahav 444:9) in discussing different meals that are a seudat mitzva, mentions the seuda after being saved from danger. While some seudot mitzva are obligatory, many are not but are positive ways to give prominence to noteworthy events.
We will end off on a hashkafic note. Rav S.Z. Auerbach explained (see Mizmor L’todah (Travis) p. 185) that by eating in the context of thanksgiving to Hashem one expresses the following idea. A person should know and show that the goal of life and the physical world that he is enjoying after his recovery is to serve as a medium through which to further his spiritual life and give thanks to Hashem.
A woman making hamotzi for her husband and guestsCan my wife can make Hamotzi on Shabbos and it be Halachically valid for all our guests?
It is clear that a woman can make a beracha before foods to fulfill the obligation of men. To what extent this is a general practice that is advisable depends on many things including the nature of one's community and is difficult for us to decide regarding a specific case whose specifics we are not aware of. However, in general, the family and/or its spiritual advisors, should determine what the change from the traditional practice would be coming from and where it is likely to lead. If the involvement in this manner of the wife is done in order to increase the fear and love of Hashem in the family, it is a proper step. If it is done as a protest to a perceived male domination of religion, it is a negative thing.
Beracha on drinks for a blood donorI am a long time(close to 40 years) blood donor.I always drink plenty before donating.even with this they usually make me drink a cup or two before donating. In addition to this I am supposed to drink after.In which of these cases do I say a bracha? Thank you. I have about two weeks before I plan to donate again.
If you are not at all thirsty and drink water for health reasons, you do not make a beracha.
If you are thirsty or are drinking some type of flavored drink, then you make a beracha.
Kiddush and “Hamotzi” for Those in Need of Gluten-Free DietsBecause some family members are gluten-intolerant, we started baking two kinds of cakes, etc. that look and taste almost identical. Are the “Shehakol” pastries acceptable for the “Mezonot” foods that usually follow Kiddush?
According to the consensus of poskim and many (not all, and it may depend on the type of sensitivity) health experts, oats can be used as a wheat substitute for gluten-sensitive people, and the halachot are identical to those regarding the other major grains. While you look into the health feasibility, this answer is written for one who cannot eat anything that is Mezonot.
The gemara (Pesachim 101a) says that Kiddush must be done in the place where “a meal” will follow. On the other hand, it refers to “tasting” after Kiddush, implying that a full meal is unnecessary. While some say that this taste must include bread, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 273:5) rules like the Geonim that wine can also be used. While there are opinions in either direction, the consensus is that a revi’it (approximately 3 fl. oz.) is needed and sufficient (see Mishna Berura 273:22, 27).
The Magen Avraham (273:11) reasons that if the Geonim can accept wine in this context, then it is true of anything made from the grains, which is more meal-like than wine (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 291:5 regarding the laws of seuda shlishit). This is the source of the common practice of having cake for the post-Kiddush “meal.” Along these lines, the Pri Megadim (Eshel Avraham 273:11) permits dates for this purpose, based on the halacha that if one mistakenly made Birkat Hamazon on dates, it is valid after the fact, because dates are particularly filling (Shulchan Aruch, OC 208:17). The Tosefet Shabbat argues, and most Acharonim say that one should not normally rely on dates for eating after Kiddush (see Kaf Hachayim, OC 273:42; Yabia Omer VII, OC 63).
While according to the spirit of the law, there may seem to be little difference between the Shehakol and Mezonot pastries, the former do not fit the halachic parameters for the eating after Kiddush. As we have seen, there are other alternatives. For cases where there are not viable alternatives, we mention two fringe leniencies. There is an opinion that in a case of need, any food can be used (Chayei Adam 6:22). There is also an opinion that Kiddush works for all assembled if one person eats the requisite amount (see B’tzel Hachochma IV:2). If one must rely on one of those opinions, it is proper for him to eat something that fulfills the spirit of the law.
We will now discuss a related context where the spirit of the law is important (and might fit the letter of the law also) – the full meal. One needs to have two loaves of bread/challa, eat a k’zayit, and recite Birkat Hamazon at the end of the meal, and these require halachic grain. It would be regrettable for a gluten-sensitive person to consider himself as incapable of fulfilling the mitzva of seuda, prompting some to do whatever they feel like. It is proper (we cannot create an outright obligation) to have two nice loaves of bread, of whatever flour one can use. There actually is halachic precedent of bread that is not subject to Hamotzi and Birkat Hamazon. The halacha is that an eiruv chatzeirot must consist of bread, but the bread can be from rice or lentils (Shulchan Aruch, OC 366:8), because that is considered legitimate bread (Mishna Berura ad loc. 47). Notice also that the concept of loaves of bread is learned from the manna in the desert, and that was not made from normal grain. What is important is that this was their bread (see overlapping idea in Minchat Yitzchak III:113). For the gluten-intolerant, these are their breads. While we would not suggest such an approach if one has the opportunity to follow the regular rules (including using oat challa), one who is in such a situation should view his meal as a seudat Shabbat.
It is also worthwhile to drink enough wine, or eat dates or another relevant food, to enable the recitation of a long Beracha Acharona, which contains the basics of Birkat Hamazon and mentions Shabbat.
Hamapil for Those Who Take a Long Time to Fall AsleepI recently discontinued the practice of saying Hamapil because I don’t fall asleep quickly, and I find that I sometimes end up talking. Besides Rav Moshe Shternbach’s opinion not to recite Hamapil, am I justified?
Reciting the beracha of Hamapil is mandated by the gemara (Berachot 60b) and codified as halacha (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 239:1). We say it in conjunction with Kriat Shema prior to going to bed, which is also an obligation, and other p’sukim and texts that relate to our desire for divine protection while sleeping. There are different opinions as to the order of recitation, but the prevalent one is to say Kriat Shema, then Hamapil, and then the other p’sukim (see Mishna Berura 239:2). Hamapil’s main content is to thank Hashem for the benefits of sleep and request a pleasant sleep without fright or improper thoughts.
Your reference to Rav Shternbach is apparently a mistake. He just conjectures (in Teshuvot V’hanhagot II:131) why many individuals and some prominent groups do not say Hamapil (we will mention one of his ideas). In the final analysis, he says that the problems that may arise are overshadowed by the need to follow the gemara.
Let us see the extent of the problem to speak between Hamapil and falling asleep, which will help determine whether you made the right choice. The gemara says that one makes the beracha as he prepares to lie down in bed to sleep. The Rama (OC 239:1) says that one should not eat, drink, or talk between Kriat Shema and actually sleeping. Most assume that this applies as much or more to interruptions between Hamapil and sleeping.
A break could be particularly problematic after Hamapil for two reasons. First, if one made a break after Kriat Shema, he can repeat Kriat Shema upon returning to bed, whereas one cannot recite Hamapil, which is a beracha, at will (Mishna Berura 239:4). Furthermore, there is a fundamental question as to Hamapil’s function. The Chayei Adam (35:4) says that the beracha is a general thanks to Hashem for providing sleep, and it is appropriate to recite it at night, when people generally go to sleep. He says that the beracha was appropriate even if one did not end up falling asleep, because other people did sleep. This is similar to the idea of reciting Birkot Hashachar for things from which people benefit in the morning, even for one who did not benefit that day (Shulchan Aruch, OC 46:8). On the other hand, many cite the Seder Hayom, who says that Hamapil should be said very close to the time one falls asleep, as the beracha relates to one’s personal sleep. The Biur Halacha (239:1) strengthens this opinion by pointing out that Hamapil was composed in the first person, implying it refers to the sleep of the one reciting the beracha (see Shaarei Teshuva 46:12). Rav Shternbach (ibid.) understood that those who do not recite it reason that it must be said close to falling asleep and it is hard to determine when that will be.
The Biur Halacha is uncomfortable deciding between these two approaches and recommends not reciting Hamapil if one is not confident he will fall asleep. The Biur Halacha does not uproot the obligation out of concern that one will unexpectedly not fall sleep.
We will take a similar approach for you. If you have specific reason to believe you will be unable to refrain from speaking before falling asleep, then it may be safer to not make the beracha (even though we prefer the opinion that your intention at the time of the beracha is the critical factor- see Yechaveh Da’at IV:21). If you recite Hamapil and a long time passes before you fall asleep, it is unclear how great the need has to be to be allowed to speak or eat (see Ishei Yisrael 35:9 and Piskei Teshuvot 239:3). We believe that one can be lenient on the matter (see Tzitz Eliezer VII:27). However, if you want to avoid the situation of doubt of whether you can eat or talk for an extended period of time, you can wait until you are getting closer to falling asleep to recite Hamapil. If you fall asleep before reciting it, you are not to be blamed.
Beracha on Homeopathic MedicineI understand that one does not make a beracha on medicine. This raises a question for Orthodox users of homeopathic medicines (which are normally sweet). Should they listen to their homeopaths, who consider it medicine, and not make a beracha or listen to conventional doctors, who say it is not medicine, and make a beracha on it?
There is disagreement on the topic of alternative medicine. Like in most topics, extreme opinions are rarely right. It is clear that some treatments under the umbrella of alternative medicine are helpful, and it is clear that some are quackery and serve as a placebo at best. There is also a significant category of medicines and treatments (homeopathic or conventional) whose efficacy is unclear or varies greatly from person to person. We are not in the position to take a stand on the important question as to which treatments fall into which category.
These questions are relevant regarding cases where we want to do something which would otherwise be forbidden in order to heal the sick (see Orach Chayim 301, 328). However, your question does not depend on this matter. It is not that the status of medicine uproots the need for a beracha. Rather, berachot were instituted for the benefits of food (primarily, taste), not for medical benefits alone (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 204:8). If one receives both benefits, he must recite a beracha (ibid.). Therefore, if any medicine’s taste is good, a beracha would be required on it. If there is not a good taste, then even if there is no medicinal value either, there would be no beracha. (Indeed, there is no beracha on swallowing paper).
However, there is still a question about the beracha for anything taken for medicinal purposes that has additives that give it a somewhat positive taste. The Sha’ar Hatziyun (204:37) says that medicinal food does not need to have a particularly good taste; the main thing is that it does not have a bad one. One might claim that the classic sources discuss cases where the therapeutic agent has a reasonable taste but that if the medicine tastes bad and sweetener improves it, the sweetener is the medicine’s less important part and should not count regarding berachot (see Berachot 36a). However, the rule that the beracha follows a food’s more important ingredient for berachot applies only when the important part has a beracha, but if the medicinal part has no beracha, we should make a beracha on the sweetener (Pitchei Halacha, Berachot pg. 246; Yalkut Yosef, Berachot, pg. 442).
Yet, there still are cases where a beracha is doubtful. If one swallows a pill, it is not considered a manner of eating in regards to berachot even if it leaves a sweet taste on the tongue before swallowing (V’zot Haberacha pg. 311). Also, Rav S.Z. Auerbach is quoted by several as minimizing the cases in which a beracha is called for. Nishmat Avraham (IV, OC 204:8) quotes him as saying that if the sweetener is on the outside of a chewable pill and one enjoys the taste before getting to the medicinal part there is a beracha, but if the tastes are all mixed together, there should not be a beracha. This is based on the assumption that the mixture does not have a taste which would interest anyone as a food. V’zot Haberacha (pg. 312) cites Rav Auerbach from a different angle. If the active ingredient’s taste is neither bad nor particularly good, the minor taste enjoyment suffices for a beracha. However, for an external taste to turn a non-food into a food, the medicinal mixture must have an actually good taste overall. Not all agree with Rav Auerbach (see ibid.), and it is logical to say that as long as one appreciates the positive element, the fact that the negative element neutralizes it somewhat does not take away from the beracha. However, it is hard to require a beracha against Rav Auerbach’s opinion. There also will be borderline cases regarding how they are to be considered according to the different opinions. In a case of doubt, one should not make a beracha (one who wants, can eat something else first, having in mind to cover the medicine).
Shehecheyanu, Clothes, and Renovations During SefiraMay one buy and wear new clothes, do work on his house, and recite Shehecheyanu during the Sefira period? (I have recently been hearing that this is forbidden.)
The halachot of aveilut (mourning) for a deceased relative and the national mourning over the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, during the days/weeks before Tisha B’av are discussed in the gemara. The minhagim of national mourning over the death of Rabbi Akiva’s students are not found in the gemara. There are both overlap and differences in the details for these different time periods.
Regarding the aveilut of the Sefira period, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 493) cites prohibitions on marriages and hair cutting (and work after sunset – which is not widely accepted). The Mishna Berura (493:3) mentions the minhag of not dancing, which many have applied to all forms of instrumental music (see Igrot Moshe, OC I:166). These standard sources make no mention of the things about which you inquired.
Let us look briefly at minhagim about Shehecheyanu, clothes, and work on the house, as they appear in regard to the period before Tisha B’av. One is to reduce certain activities before Tisha B’av, including building projects (Yevamot 43a), but according to the Shulchan Aruch (OC 551:2), this is only during the Nine Days and not the Three Weeks. There is also a recommendation, which not all accept (see opinions in Mishna Berura 551:98), not to recite Shehecheyanu during the Three Weeks (Shulchan Aruch ibid. 17). The logic is that Shehecheyanu expresses our gratefulness to have made it to “this time,” which may not be appropriate at a particularly sad time on the calendar.
While the standard sources do not mention these issues during the Sefira period, there are some sources that do, especially in regard to Shehecheyanu (see several opinions cited in Bein Pesach L’Shavuot 16:(2)). There is basis for this extension on two grounds. First, there is logic, as this is a nationwide sad period (as opposed to aveilut over a relative, which is personal- see Mishna Berura 551:98). Secondly, it is relatively easier to transfer minhagim when there is a model for such halachot, by doing, so to speak, “copy and paste” from one time to another.
However, the logic and the model are also reasons, paradoxically, to ignore the minority strict opinions and the practice of some to refrain from some or all of the matters you mentioned, for the following reason. People can get confused as to what practices apply when. They remember that there is a concept of not saying Shehecheyanu and not doing renovations during national mourning periods, and they may have heard of someone knowledgeable who says to act this way during Sefira. They then may start adopting the practice, not based on a decision with knowledge of the sources and indications and a desire to accept the stringency. Rather, they think these are the standard minhagim. This is called a minhag ta’ut. In such a case, even one who has already followed the stringent practice may suspend it without hatarat nedarim.
Rav Ovadya Yosef has an interesting approach to these questions. First he explains (Yechaveh Da’at I:24) that one cannot call Sefira, which is actually the bridge between the joyous holidays of Pesach and Shavuot, a tragic period of time, as we call the period leading up to Tisha B’av. Therefore, he is against refraining from Shehecheyanu on fruit at that time. He is not against the stringency to avoid wearing new clothing that warrants Shehecheyanu, out of extra mourning. Regarding moving into a new home or doing work on an existing one, he simply permits the matter (ibid. III:30). The Tzitz Eliezer (XVIII:41) is perhaps more resolute in rejecting the appropriateness of stringency in these matters.So, one need not be stringent and if he has been, he may continue if he likes, but he should consider whether his (family’s) practice is more based on confusion than a conscious decision to accept minority stringencies.
Staging a Fake Pidyon HabenI often serve as the kohen for pidyon haben. A friend told me he was a kohen at a fake pidyon haben: the mother had previously miscarried, and they were embarrassed to tell, so they faked the pidyon. If such a situation arises, what should I do?
Poskim (see Yabia Omer, VIII, Yoreh Deah 32; B’er Moshe VIII:237) discuss the case of a woman who had been pregnant before marriage. Her husband did not know, so he assumed their firstborn boy required a pidyon haben. Could she allow him to do so, including two berachot l’vatala, to save embarrassment and possible repercussions to the marriage? The consensus is that considerations of k’vod hab’riyot (preserving human dignity- see Berachot 19b) allow her not to tell.
One factor of leniency is that most Rishonim hold that a beracha l’vatala is only a rabbinic prohibition (see Tosafot, Rosh Hashana 33a; Mishna Berura 215:20), and k’vod hab’riyot overcomes rabbinic laws (Berachot 19b). (The content of most berachot, e.g., Hashem commanded us, generally, in the mitzva of pidyon haben, is always true and positive.) Also, the wife just did not stop her husband from making a mistake, and the Rosh (Kilaei Begadim 6) says that in such cases, k’vod hab’riyot supersedes even a Torah law.
This case is worse in a few ways. First, the father knowingly is making a non-mandated beracha. Granted, he can make Shehecheyanu over new clothing and mumble the beginning of the main beracha and not utter Hashem’s Names. Still, there is a problem that those assembled will answer Amen to what is not a valid beracha, which is forbidden (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 215:4 and a parallel case of answering a non-beracha in Minchat Shlomo I:9). One cannot invoke the aforementioned Rosh because the father is presenting a “beracha” to which it is forbidden to respond. This ostensibly violates the Torah-level prohibition of lifnei iver – facilitating a person’s act of sin, certainly when one consciously causes others to do so unknowingly (see Dagul Meirevava to Shach, YD 151:6).
Yet there still may be grounds for leniency. It is forbidden to daven when one has to use the facilities, and if the need is acute, his tefillot and berachot are invalid (Shulchan Aruch, OC 92:1). Yet, the Biur Halacha (ad loc.) says that a chazan in that situation who will be very embarrassed to walk out in the middle may continue davening. Here one knowingly makes improper berachot to which people will answer Amen, and it is permitted due to k’vod hab’riyot. On the other hand, that case may be better, as the berachot are intrinsically valid, just that there is a side violation due to his physical state, one which k’vod haberiyot can lift. Here, the nonsensical nature of the beracha should make the amen problematic.
There are further reasons for leniency. According to some, Amen l’vatala is not nearly as severe as a beracha l’vatala (see Pri Megadin 215, Eshel Avraham 1.) Perhaps more fundamentally, saying Amen is not intrinsically problematic and much depends on context. Possibly, if from the perspective of the person who is saying it, there is every reason to believe the beracha was appropriate, then the responder did nothing wrong even if it was not a good beracha, (see Yabia Omer ibid. who cites those who use this logic even regarding a beracha). Additionally, a “non-beracha” that people considered a beracha may be better than a beracha l’vatala (see similar matter in Yechaveh Da’at II:68). Finally, since the exact parameters of lifnei iver are elusive, setting up such a situation may not be forbidden.
Nevertheless, it pays to encourage people not to make a fake pidyon haben when not necessary. Not always is the fact that a few close friends and relatives find out about a miscarriage as embarrassing as it seems. Furthermore, one can say the delivery was caesarian, which exempts from a pidyon haben (Yoreh Deah 305:24), or that the delivery was with forceps, which calls for a pidyon without berachot (Otzar Pidyon Haben 1:16). However, every case and every person are unique.
Al Ha’eitz for Those Who Have Eaten a Variety of FruitsDoes the bracha acharona of Al Ha’eitz include other fruits eaten (not from the seven species)? Is it preferable to recite the beracha acharona of Al Hamichya / Al Ha’eitz before Borei Nefashot?
The beracha acharona of Al Ha’eitz, the Me’ein Shalosh (often colloquially called Al Hamichya) for fruit of the sevens species (olives, dates, grapes, figs, and pomegranates) is an interesting hybrid. It is similar to Birkat Hamazon in terms of content; it is a single beracha , similar to Borei Nefashot, yet it begins and ends with a beracha form, and is of a higher level (see below); it does not mention the specific fruit, unlike the beracha on wine.
With this background, let us answer your first question. One who ate both fruit of the seven species and other fruit should make Al Ha’eitz to fulfill all the obligations (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 208:13). Since Al Ha’eitz thanks Hashem for fruit generally, this stronger beracha can cover “lesser fruit” as well. The Mishna Berura (207:1) says that even if one recites Al Ha’eitz improperly (e.g., after eating only an apple), he still exempts himself from Borei Nefashot. Since the exemption is based on the language of Al Ha’eitz, it does not apply regarding fruit that does not grow on a tree, i.e., those fruit whose beracha is Borei Pri Ha’adama (Shulchan Aruch ibid.; Sha’ar Hatziyun 208:64). Admittedly some say that even “fruit of the ground” are included in tenuvat hasadeh and are exempted by Al Ha’eitz, and according to Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer, V, OC 17), one who already recited it should not make Borei Nefashot (see below). The logic is stronger according to those who end off Al Ha’eitz with the words “al hapeirot,” as opposed to “al pri ha’eitz,” as the former refers to fruit generically and not to the fruit of the tree.
Regarding the order of the berachot acharonot, conceptually it is proper to recite the Me’ein Shalosh first because it is a higher level beracha than Borei Nefashot for one or more of the following reasons. According to some (see Beit Yosef, OC 209), it is actually a Torah-level obligation; it is longer and more extensive; it is more specific than Borei Nefashot (Pri Megadim, Eshel Avraham 202:206; Be’ur Halacha 202:11). However, some say that because of the opinions above that Me’ein Shalosh fulfills the obligation for all sorts of fruit, it is preferable to make Borei Nefashot first, for if not, it will be unclear if he should or should not recite Borei Nefashot afterward. If the Borei Nefashot is needed for something that does not grow from the ground (e.g., meat, water) and according to many if one is drinking fruit juice (which lost its status of fruit regarding berachot –see Mishna Berura 208:63), this is not an issue (Yabia Omer ibid.), and it would be preferable to recite the Me’ein Shalosh first.
The Magen Avraham (202:26) is not concerned with the opinion that one should say Borei Nefashot first, and this is the accepted ruling and practice for Ashkenazim (see V’zot Haberacha p. 54). For Sephardim, it is hard to say. The Shulchan Aruch seems to not believe that “ha’adama fruits” can be included in Me’ein Shalosh. Furthermore, Ohr L’tzion (Rav Abba Shaul, II:14:24) employs very strong logic – one who plans to say Borei Nefashot after Me’ein Shalosh is considered like one who has in mind not to have the Al Ha’eitz cover the Borei Nefashot fruit, in which case there are ample sources that it is not effective for those foods. (One would do well to have this in mind explicitly.) On the other hand, the Kaf Hachayim (208:73) says it is better to avoid the situation and recite Borei Nefashot first (V’zot Haberacha cites Rav M. Eliyahu as agreeing). Rav Ovadia Yosef (ibid.), basing himself on the rule he champions to avoid doubtful berachot even when the Shulchan Aruch approves them, says that if one already said a Me’ein Shalosh, he should not make a Borei Nefashot . Given his authority, it is hard to tell a Sephardi to not follow his position, at least in regard to l’chatchila.
How Can the Mesader Kiddushin Recite the Chatan’s Beracha?I was told that the berachot made by the rabbi (mesader kiddushin) under the chupa are berachot that the chatan should be making, but because some do not know how to do so, the rabbi does so. Is it possible to have someone who is not obligated make the beracha?
Conceptually and historically there are different approaches to the issues of the function of the berachot under the chupa and to whom they relate. We will focus on birkat eirusin, the second beracha, “…asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al ha’arayot...” There is what to say about the beracha on the wine, considering that usually the rabbi does not even take a sip from it, but that is a separate, albeit related, topic. The seven berachot at the end are apparently not the chatan’s responsibility (see Yabia Omer VII, EH 17).
The Rambam (Ishut 3:23) states that the chatan (or his agent, if he performs the kiddushin) makes the birkat eirusin. However, the practice has been for many hundreds of years that someone else (usually the mesader kiddushin) is the one who makes the berachot.
The Rama (Even Ha’ezer 34:1) cites the minhag that someone other than the chatan recites the beracha. The Derisha (EH 34:1) explains that the Rama is based on the Rosh’s (Ketubot 1:12) approach that kiddushin is not a mitzva per se. It follows, says the Rosh, that the beracha is not of the category of berachot on mitzvot but of berachot of praise to Hashem, in this case, for providing us with halachot and procedures to navigate them. Once the beracha is general and not connected directly to the performance of the mitzva, there is no reason why someone other than the chatan cannot recite it. According to some (see Tuv Ta’am Vada’at III, YD 98; Har Tzvi, YD 1), these two approaches also explain another machloket. The Rambam (ibid.) says that if the beracha was not said before the kiddushin, it cannot be said afterward, while the Ra’avad (ad loc.) says that it can. The Rambam is consistent, since the beracha, as one on the action of a mitzva, must be before the mitzva. In contrast, the Ra’avad can follow the Rosh’s approach that it is a beracha of praise, and, therefore, as long as it is connected to the marriage process, it is appropriate.
The Noda B’Yehuda (II, EH 1) follows the Rambam’s approach, yet understands that the Rambam allows for the minhag that the mesader kiddushin recites the beracha. It is simply based on the rule that one who is generally obligated in a mitzva, but practically not now, can make the beracha on behalf of someone who is presently obligated in it. The conditions are that the listener hears the reciter and each has the intention that the reciter is doing it on the listener’s behalf, either individually or as part of a group (see Rosh Hashana 29a).
So, then, we have one nafka mina (practical ramification) between the two approaches. According to the Rambam/ Noda B’Yehuda, the chatan and the rabbi should intend that the rabbi’s beracha covers the chatan, whereas according to the Rosh/Derisha such intention is not required. Another nafka mina is when the chatan and kalla are deaf, so that they cannot hear the rabbi’s beracha. In that case, the Noda B’Yehuda says that the rabbi cannot make the beracha on their behalf. (The Noda B’Yehuda raises a dilemma whether it would be enough for the kalla to be able to hear, as it is not clear whether a woman, who is not obligated in p’ru u’r’vu (procreation), has a mitzva to get married.) Rabbi Akiva Eiger (to Taz, YD 1:17) and the Tevuot Shor (YD 1:(59)) take the Rosh’s approach and say that the rabbi can make the beracha for a deaf couple.
Not only is it possible for someone other than the chatan to make the beracha, but it has also become customary that the chatan should not make it. The Mordechai (Ketubot 131) says that it would be seen as showing off for the chatan to do it. The Beit Shmuel (34:2) says that in order to avoid embarrassing to those chatanim who do not know how to recite the beracha properly, we do not let any chatanim do so.
Statute of Limitation on Hagomel After BirthMy wife gave birth this winter and has not yet recited Birkat Hagomel. Can she still do so?
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 219:5) says regarding the timing of Birkat Hagomel: “If one delayed, he has as long as he wants, and it is correct not to delay three days.” Does the Shulchan Aruch really leave this totally open-ended? Considering that three days is not proper, maybe he did not extend it by months. The three day period comes from the opinions cited in the Beit Yosef (OC 219) that after three days, it is too late to make the beracha. Similarly, others give a five day deadline (the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 219:7) cites it as a minority opinion). It is clear from the Shita Mekubetzet and Ra’ah (Berachot 54b) that it can be recited more than a month after the obligation began, but how long?
For a long time, the prevalent minhag was that women did not recite Birkat Hagomel at all; nowadays it has become prevalent after birth, but it is rare for women to say Hagomel for other things, certainly not for a trip for which her husband recites it. The Magen Avraham (beginning of OC 219) explains the minhag based on the conjecture that it is generally an optional beracha. The Halachot Ketanot (II:161) says that according to the opinion that Hagomel cannot be done without ten men, it makes sense that women were excluded from the obligation due to tzniut issues. Har Tzvi (OC I:113) suggests an interesting reason for new mothers specifically not to say Hagomel, due to the language of “l’chayavim” – for the guilty. The danger a person was in could be a sign that he is guilty of something, whereas the danger of a woman giving birth stems simply from her participation in the most natural, wonderful mitzva.
Whatever the reason for exemption, why should a woman put herself in the position of a possibly improper beracha in which she is likely not obligated. Furthermore, there are “safer” alternatives. There was, for example, a minhag (see Torat Chayim, Sanhedrin 94a) that the husband would get an aliya the first time the woman returned to shul. When he blessed Hashem with “Borchu…” and she answered “Baruch Hashem …” they would have in mind to thereby thank Hashem. This avoids an extra, questionable beracha. She can also wait for a man who has to say Hagomel and have him make it for the two of them (see Living the Halachic Process II, B-7). However, while we are generally not opposed to finding ways to obviate questionable berachot, here we are confident that it is appropriate for your wife to recite Hagomel even months later, as we will explain.
The opinions about saying Hagomel within three or five days relate to Hagomel after a trip, as the Beit Yosef brings sources about how long is considered “after a trip.” There it makes sense that the next trip may be “around the corner.” In contrast, births (other than twins) are usually considerably more than a year apart. The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 219:7), going on the Shulchan Aruch’s language of “as long as he wants,” excludes cases where so long has passed that the matter is forgotten. Halachically, the prominent cutoff time for remembering is twelve months (see Bava Metzia 24b; Berachot 54b; Shut Chatam Sofer, Even Haezer I, 119). Furthermore, while a trip is often forgotten relatively quickly, memories of a birth linger on for much longer. While the memories usually focus on the happy parts of the birth and the beracha relates to the danger, the two are related and thoughts of labor also linger for a long time. Additionally, the time to start saying Hagomel and thus its general time frame is not clear. A sick person says Hagomel when he is fully recuperated (Mishna Berura 219:2). When does a woman recuperate from birth? There are halachic cutoffs after seven days (probably the most common, but not unanimous, position regarding Hagomel) and thirty days (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 330:4). A lot depends on the specific case.
In summation, a woman within twelve months of birth can and should be encouraged (barring a personal reason to the contrary) to recite Hagomel.
Continuing to Eat Based on an Initial BerachaIf I make a beracha on one food and then later decide to eat other foods of the same beracha, do I need to make a new beracha, or does the initial one cover them?
There are two basic halachic precedents and one major distinction for the halachot that apply here, with poskim offering differing opinions regarding in-between cases.
The Rashba and others infer from Rav Pappa’s rules (Berachot 41b) about which foods need a beracha at different stages of a meal that foods that are brought to the table during the meal are generally covered by the original beracha. This serves the Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 206) as a source that berachot generally cover foods that were not present at the time.
The Taz (ad loc. 7) rejects this broad application, as a meal has a special ability to subsume many foods. He and the Magen Avraham (ad loc. 7) prefer the precedent of a shochet who makes a beracha before shechting several animals and then other are brought. The Tur (Yoreh Deah 19) cites several opinions as to whether a new beracha is needed: it depends if the animals are of the same species (Itur); it depends if the new animals were brought while some original animals had still not been shechted (S’mak); it depends if one had in mind to cover animals that were not yet present (Tur). The Shulchan Aruch (YD 19:7) follows the S’mak’s distinction, and the Rama (YD 19:6) follows the Itur.
Yet, in the Laws of Berachot, these pillars of halacha do not make such distinctions. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 206:5) seems to say without distinction that one does not make a beracha on the newly brought food. The Rama (ad loc.), while not necessarily arguing, says that one should preferably have in mind that the beracha goes on all the food that will be brought, and Sephardi poskim agree that this is worthwhile, considering that the Beit Yosef cites differing opinions (Yalkut Yosef 206:21).
Let us now put things in perspective. All agree that if one had in mind to eat only certain foods or amounts of the foods (e.g., those with dietary goals), the beracha is limited to that (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 174:5). All agree that explicit intention for other foods works in all but exceptional cases. The machloket between the aforementioned Taz and Magen Avraham and the accepted reading of the Shulchan Aruch is in regard to cases where one did not give the matter thought or come to a conclusion.
Based primarily on distinctions found regarding shechita, Ashkenazi poskim say that a new beracha is needed on food upon which one did not have clear intention unless one of the following situations exists: 1) the food was before the person when he made the beracha (Mishna Berura (206:20); 2) the new food is of the exact same type as that upon which he made the beracha (ibid. 22); 3) he was not finished eating the original food when he decided to eat the new food (ibid.); 4) he sat down to eat a significant amount of this type of food (ibid.); 5) the person in question is dependent on others to determine what he will be offered to eat, e.g., a guest (Mishna Berura 179:17 – see V’zot Haberacha, p. 68).
The exceptions in which (some of) these factors do not help to exempt from a beracha include: 1) when the new food came from an unexpected place, e.g., a guest brought it after the beracha was made (Shulchan Aruch, OC 177:5); 2) if, according to the rules of order of berachot, the beracha should have been made on the second food, only explicit intention allows the first beracha to cover it (based on Rama 211:5). (For more details, see V’zot Haberacha pp. 65-67; Piskei Teshuvot 206:18).
Since the detailed halachot are hard to remember and many of them are based on machloket, it is best to follow the Rama and have clear intention to cover a wide variety of foods. If one does so on a regular basis, he should not need very clear intention each time (possibly not all agree with this – see V’zot Haberacha p. 65 – but this seems like the correct ruling).
Birkat Hamazon for Those Who Have Left the Place of Eating?If I leave my place in the midst of a meal including bread by myself without first bentching (reciting Birkat Hamazon), can I bentch when I remember? If so, how much time do I have to come back to bentch? If I had been eating with two other men and I eventually return before the others have benthced, can I join a zimun with them?
Your first question is about the ability to come back to bentch where you ate. There is no question that you are able to come back; the major question is whether you are required to come back in order to bentch. Beit Shammai (Berachot 51b) said that if one forgot to bentch at the end of the meal and remembered when he was in a different place, he is required to return to bentch in the original place. Beit Hillel says that he is permitted to bentch where he remembered. The gemara (ibid. 53b) says that if he purposely left the place of eating without bentching, Beit Hillel agrees that he must return. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 184:1) cites two opinions among the Rishonim whether we accept Beit Shammai or Beit Hillel’s ruling regarding returning after forgetting to bentch and does not give a clear indication of which opinion he accepts. The Mishna Berura (184: 6,7) says that one should return if it is not difficult, and that in any case, it is better to return if he is willing to. If one has bread in the new place and is willing to eat even a small amount of it, he need not return to bentch the original place as the new place is also a place of eating (Shulchan Aruch ibid. 2).
As far as how long he has to bentch, there is no difference between whether he is in the same place or a different one. The mishna (Berachot 51b) says that one has until the “food has been digested in the intestines.” We accept the explanation that this means that a feeling of hunger has not begun to return (Berachot 53b; Shulchan Aruch ibid. 5). This depends on how much one ate; it is also difficult to pinpoint the moment. Therefore, we usually work with the assumption is that one has, from the last eating, the amount of time it takes to walk four millin, which most hold is 72 minutes (Mishna Berura 184:20).
There are other significant questions regarding leaving the place of eating. One is when one continues eating upon his return. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 178: 1,2) rules that unless one left behind people who continue eating in the original place, there is a break between the returner’s two eating sessions and he has to first bentch for the first part and then recite a new beracha for the second installment. The Rama (ad loc.) rules that if the food one had eaten mandates a beracha acharona before he leaves, then the meal continues without additional berachot. It is a matter of debate what is included in that category of food (see Mishna Berura 178:44), but a bread meal certainly. Still, it is not proper to leave for any extended period from the place of the meal with the intention to return without first bentching without a pressing reason to do so, including the need to perform a mitzva elsewhere (Rama ibid.). Although Sephardim generally accept the Shulchan Aruch’s rulings over those of the Rama, this is an example of the counter rule that one does not recite a doubtfully justified beracha even if the Shulchan Aruch says to recite it (see Kaf Hachayim, OC 174:1; Yalkut Yosef, OC 178:(1)). For a Sephardi, though, it is even more important to leave with the intention to return and continue eating, as this creates a situation where he will not be able to comply with the Shulchan Aruch’s ruling to make new berachot (see V’zot Haberacha pp. 63, 142).
If one ate with others who remain, his connection to the original eating is certainly a strong one (one ramification is that the Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) agrees that he does not require new berachot). There is no question that in such a case, where he had an obligation before he left to join his counterparts for a zimun, he can do so upon returning (see the related discussion in the Shulchan Aruch, OC 194:2).
What to do if one is unsure if said a beracha acharonaAfter eating, some time later, I will often not recall if I said the appropriate after-bracha or other required bracha. In such instances, what should I do? Do I say a bracha or not?
The general halachic rule, which applies to you and to others, is that in cases of doubt regarding berachot, one does not make a beracha that might be a repeat. Technically, the exception to the rule would be Birkat Hamazon, but we would not want you to unnecessarily recite that more than once either.
We would generally suggest that you take some combination of the following two courses of action, which will be helpful in regard to non-ritual activities as well.
1) Get used to taking care of matters as soon as they become feasible - in this case, it would mean making berachot right away, e.g., right after washing one's hands after leaving the bathroom, right after finishing eating, etc. Then if the question arises later whether the berachot were made, one can say with greater confidence that they were and there is no need to repeat them. Indeed if you get used to that approach, the beracha will usually have been said.
2. Get used to having reminder systems - so many older people use the pill box method for making sure they are keeping to schedule with medications. One can have similar systems for berachot as well. One possible example - one has a place at the table where he puts a bentcher when he starts eating and another place where he puts it when he has finished bentching.
We do not mean that you have a halachic obligation to do X and Y. These are just general ideas that you can use to give you more of a sense of security regarding religious obligations, as you deserve as much security as you can for all elements of your life. See what works for you.
Again, though, the most basic rule regarding forgetting whether you made berachot, is not to make berachot out of doubt.
Whether one should make a beracha when smelling something fragrant to identify itI work with wood, and sometimes I want to know which kind of wood a certain piece is, which can sometimes be determined by its smell. If I smell pleasant smelling wood, like Santos Mahogany, should I make a Boreh atzei besamim?
If one smells something just to identify it, he does not recite a beracha. The same thing is true if he tastes something to identify its ingredients or to decide if it needs more spicing - there is no beracha.
Saying Birkat Hagomel After Using Makeshift SystemQuestion (part I): It has been a couple months since I had a baby. May I still say Birkat Hagomel? Answer (part I): [We sent the new mother our response that appeared in Pinchas 5773, in which we explained that a woman can recite Hagomel at least up to twelve months from the time of the birth.] Question (part II): Before I sent you the question, I followed a ruling I found on-line that if one is not sure whether he needs to recite Hagomel, he should have in mind during the morning beracha of “… hagomel chasadim tovim l’amo Yisrael” that it should also serve as thanks in lieu of the regular Hagomel. After doing that, can I still follow your ruling and recite the regular beracha or would that now be a beracha l’vatala?
The advice you found on the Internet has complicated matters, not because it is illegitimate, but because it has a significant basis, as we will explain after viewing the background.
One is supposed to recite Hagomel in front of ten people including two scholars (Berachot 54b). What happens if there was not a minyan? The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 219:3) cites two opinions as to whether he fulfilled his obligation after the fact and concludes that in this situation of doubt, he should recite Hagomel without using Hashem’s names. As far as what one gains with such a declaration considering that berachot must include Hashem’s name, there are two main answers: 1. According to a minority opinion, one fulfills the beracha in this form (see Birkat Hashem, IV, p. 453 ); 2. There is a value to a non-beracha declaration in order to thank Hashem, even if it does not fulfill the formal obligation (Divrei Halacha (Weber) 214).
The idea you saw – having intention during the morning beracha to fulfill a doubtful Birkat Hagomel – seems to come from Halichot Shlomo 23:8 (put together from writings and teachings of Rav S.Z. Auerbach), as a “better alternative” to the Shulchan Aruch. The language of the beracha shares with the accepted beracha the word “hagomel” (who grants) and the root “tov” (goodness), but differences exist. However, Rav Auerbach noted that our text of the gemara (Berachot 54b) uses the words of the morning beracha, “
On the other hand, there are a few problems. First, you said the text to yourself, and as mentioned, there is a doubt whether that works for Hagomel. Second, we did not find an earlier mention of Rav Auerbach’s idea. While it has logic and he does not need “permission” to present a good novel idea, there is something fundamentally missing in the language of the morning beracha. That is that there is no mention of a personal chesed that the blesser received but rather the general “good kindnesses to His nation
Despite our doubts with your implementation of Rav Auerbach’s idea, we would not tell you to make another beracha considering that according to almost all poskim, the rule that one does not make berachot in cases of doubt applies to Hagomel (see S’dei Chemed, vol. VI, p. 315-7 for notable exceptions). Although you are not required to do anything further, the possibility of using the Shulchan Aruch’s approach of publicly reciting Hagomel without Hashem’s name certainly exists. A seemingly better and fully accepted option (see Shulchan Aruch ibid. 5), which may be more convenient for you considering you need not rush, is to have another new mother who makes Hagomel have you in mind.
Counting Sefira with a Beracha When One Expects to Miss a DayI rarely succeed in counting all 49 days of sefirat ha’omer. Considering that I seem to always discontinue making a beracha at some point, should I refrain from making one from the outset?
Your idea to not say the beracha from the outset is based on the thesis that sefirat ha’omer is one long “all-or-nothing” mitzva; i.e., if you miss a day, you will not have fulfilled any mitzva, retroactively rendering your berachot l’vatala. We will build up this reasonable conclusion (before rejecting it).
Tosafot (Ketubot 72a) asks why a zava does not make a beracha upon counting seven days toward purification and answers that it is because “if she sees, the count will be undone.” In contrast, regarding sefirat ha’omer and beit din’s counting of 50 years toward yovel, there is nothing to stop the count. Some Acharonim infer from this that it is forbidden to make a beracha on a mitzva when there is real concern it will later turn out that it was irrelevant. In our context, the Chida (Avodat Hakodesh, Moreh B’etzba 217) warns people to take precautions not to forget a day of sefira, for if they do, their berachot will retroactively be l’vatala.
Nevertheless, there are several reasons to allow counting with a beracha until one misses, even if we were certain he will be unable to finish with a beracha. (B’tzel Hachochma V:45 discusses a man who was told he had only a few days to live; Shraga Hameir VI:31 discusses someone scheduled for surgery that would incapacitate him for an entire day.) First, we note that the ruling that one cannot continue with a beracha after missing a day (the Behag’s opinion) is far from unanimous (see Tur, Orach Chayim 489). The Shulchan Aruch (OC 489:8) accepts it only out of doubt and says that if one is not sure if he missed a day, he should continue with a beracha due to a double doubt (maybe he didn’t miss; maybe it does not disqualify the mitzva- Mishna Berura 489:38).
Second, even if one may not continue with a beracha, it does not necessarily mean the count was worthless. While some explain this approach as positing that the 49 countings constitute a single mitzva, this may be an overstatement. One indication (not a proof) is the fact that we make a berachot 49 times. Rav Soloveitchik (Mesorah, ed. III, p. 35) explains that the Behag agrees there is a mitzva every day, just that the counting must be consecutive in order to fulfill the mitzva. Therefore the mitzva ceases to be operative only after one misses a day.
Third, the Rav Pealim (III, OC 32) suggest that the fact that we recite the beracha on sefirat haomer without an assurance we will succeed in completing the mitzva shows that the value of a partial fulfillment of a mitzva prevents the berachot from being retroactively l’vatala. Why then does Tosafot say that concern of non-completion precludes a beracha on a zava’s count? Some say the Behag does not agree with Tosafot. Some distinguish between a nominal value of a partial sefirat ha’omer as opposed to no value for a suspended count for a zava. Still others say that a future problem does not retroactively invalidate berachot, and Tosafot was only explaining that the Rabbis chose not to institute a beracha for a mitzva that lends itself to suspension (see discussion in Yabia Omer I, YD 21).
There are also philosophical arguments to reject consideration of the assumptions in almost all scenarios. How can one decide he will not survive to the end of the count or when surgery will incapacitate him? Certainly, how can one not recite the beracha in which the Rabbis obligated him if nothing prevents from success (especially if he can adopt practices, e.g., davening with a minyan every night, that mitigate the concern)?
Practically, there is a clear consensus among poskim and in minhag for men (see Mishna Berura 489:3) to start saying sefirat haomer with a beracha. Even the Chida, the most prominent apparent naysayer, did not write to start without a beracha; he just warned not to miss a day (see B’tzel Hachochma ibid. who distinguishes).
The Timing on the Beracha on Tzitzit After Being Up All NightMost people, after learning all night on Shavuot, do not make a separate beracha on their tzitzit but use the beracha on their tallit, when they start davening. Since I do not wear a tallit, should I make a beracha on my tzitzit as soon as it becomes halachically possible?
We will first discuss the practice of many men to always use the beracha on their tallit to cover the tzitzit they put on earlier.
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 8:10) says that one who puts on tzitzit when his hands are dirty from the night should recite their beracha only later – after purposely handling the tzitzit or when he puts on another pair of tzitzit. The Darchei Moshe (OC 8:3) relates the minhag to make a beracha only on the tallit he wears at Shacharit, which also covers the tzitzit. The Mishna Berura (8:24) cites various reasons for the Darchei Moshe’s practice. One is that it is wrong to make two interchangeable berachot in close proximity, as one could suffice (beracha she’eina tzricha). The Darchei Moshe (ibid.) was bothered by the possibility that the tzitzit garment will be to small to fulfill the mitzva and warrant a beracha. The Mishna Berura adds other factors that could make a beracha inappropriate for the tzitzit.
This practice does raise problems. Berachot are supposed to precede a mitzva’s fulfillment, whereas here the beracha on the tzitzit comes afterwards. Rabbeinu Yonah (see Beit Yosef, OC 8) says that it is sufficient that the beracha precedes part of the performance of the mitzva, i.e., the continuation of wearing them. The Taz (8:9) adds that when one cannot make the beracha right away because his hands were dirtied during the night, the delay is justified.
You have a different reason not to make a beracha when their time comes (app. 50 minutes before sunrise). The Shulchan Aruch and the Rama (ibid. 16) rule that one who wore tzitzit all night makes a new beracha on them in the morning (as they remain on him) because nighttime, which is not the time of tzitzit, is a break in the mitzva. However, many poskim argue based on Rishonim who posit that the mitzva continues and there is no need or justification for a new beracha. The accepted practice, at least for Ashekenazim (Yalkut Yosef, OC cites both opinions), is to not make a separate beracha due to doubt (Mishna Berura 8:42; Tzitzit (Cohen), p. 66)). While there are other possible ways to deal with the doubt, the Mishna Berura recommends the system of using the beracha on the tallit. What is different in your case is that you do not have a tallit to make that beracha. On Shavuot night, when many people are together and with the phenomenon of certain berachot being said by one on behalf of others, someone usually says his beracha on the tallit out loud (those with their tallitot have no need to be yotzei with a central person).
In one way, there is actually an advantage to being yotzei with another’s tallit in comparison to the daily practice of many to having their own beracha on the tallit go on the tzitzit. One should have intention to include the tzitzit, which is easy to forget when preparing to put on the tallit. While some recommend solving by mentioning the tzitzit (Ben Ish Chai, I, Bereishit II) or handling them at that time (see opinion in Tzitzit, p. 42), few do so. There are strong grounds to say that b’di’eved, the intention for the tzitzit does not have to be cognitive when it is one’s standard practice (ibid., p. 43). In any case, in the ceremonious manner it is done by many on Shavuot morning, people are generally reminded that the recited beracha on one person’s tallit is for the tzitzit of all who need it.
Regarding timing, while one could argue to have a beracha made as soon as possible, it is easy to justify the minhag to wait until it is time to daven (Minchat Yitzchak II:4.1). If the daily minhag allowing one to actively put on tzitzit well before the beracha will be made is fine, one who just keeps them on has less problem waiting for the beracha (see Taamei Haminhagim, p. 8).
Permissibility of a Personal BerachaI am often overjoyed that Hashem granted me the zechut to live in Israel for many years, causing me to make a “spontaneous” beracha. A friend told me it is forbidden to compose my own berachot, as one can only use those Chazal composed. Is Judaism not all about thanking Hashem for all the wonders of creations and providence? Would I be precluded from thanking Hashem for something important to me?
Your assumption that one’s relationship with Hashem should be personal and overflowing is poignantly and refreshingly correct. On the other hand, one does not have free reign to serve Hashem as he desires, as evident from such halachot as bal tosif (not adding on to the mitzvot) and beracha l’vatala (unwarranted beracha). Let us seek perspective and guidelines.
The gemara (Berachot 33a) says that one who fulfilled a beracha requirement and then made an unnecessary one violated the prohibition of saying Hashem’s Name in vain. Tosafot (Rosh Hashana 33a) argues that uttering Hashem’s Name to praise Him cannot be in vain, but that it is a Rabbinic prohibition that “leans” on the pasuk. The Rambam (Berachot 1:15) seems to hold that beracha l’vatala is a Torah prohibition (Magen Avraham 215:6).
All agree that uttering Hashem’s Name without any purpose is an isur aseh (low-level Torah prohibition – Temura 4a). Yet, using Hashem’s Name in the context of praising Him is positive and permitted. In fact, the Rambam (Shvuot 12:11) says that if one mistakenly uttered the Name, he should immediately turn it into an appropriate praise of Hashem, and one of his suggested texts of spontaneous praise begins with “baruch.”
Where do we draw the line between appropriate praise and a beracha l’vatala? One approach is that the crucial factor is intention and context. If one intends to recite a required beracha when he is actually not required or if a mistake disqualifies the beracha, it is a beracha l’vatala. If the same words are said as an expression of personal gratitude, it is permitted (Chavat Da’at 110, Beit Hasafek 20; see Minchat Shlomo II:3). The Chavat Da’at cites a precedent for the distinction: one is allowed to repeat Shemoneh Esrei (which is comprised of berachot) with the intention it is voluntary, but not with an intention for an obligation (see Rosh, Berachot 3:15).
Others distinguish based on the text used, which is most severe when one utters a classic name of Hashem. Some say that if one recites the beracha in a language other than Hebrew so that the Name is equivalent only to a kinuy (a descriptive reference) of Hashem, it has the benefits of a beracha without the fear of beracha l’vatala (see opinions cited in Shut R. Akiva Eiger I:25, Pitchei Teshuva, YD 328:1, Piskei Teshuvot 209:7). R. Akiva Eiger (ibid.) and the Netziv (Ha’amek She’ala 53:2) argue that in the recognized, sensitive context of a beracha, even a kinuy or foreign language Name can be forbidden, as we find regarding an oath. The Netziv says that the problem is a Rabbinic issue of appearing to recite a beracha l’vatala. Therefore, the closer the text (and/or the context) is to that of a beracha, the more likely it is to be forbidden. The Minchat Shlomo (ibid.) explains that one should not act in a way that challenges the rules the Rabbis set. However, those rules were not set to forbid expression of personal thanks to Hashem.
We summarize as follows. Your desire to praise Hashem is commendable. Paradoxically, the more creative the text and style are, the clearer it is that it is permitted. Convention is that an individual should generally refrain from using Hashem’s main Names, which we leave primarily to Chazal and to great rabbis who have composed prayers and praises throughout history. Saying “Hashem,” “Hakadosh Baruch Hu,” “Ribbono Shel Olam,” or a Name not in Hebrew is safer and as profound. It is at least preferable not to recite anything that resembles a beracha of Chazal by content, by context (e.g., in Birkot Hashachar) and/or by regularity. That still leaves you with room for much self-expression.
Making Berachot on the Animals in a ZooTo date I have not made berachot on animals I have seen in the zoo, but it seems from sifrei halacha that one should. Should I start doing so, and, if so, what are the basic rules?
(We will not discuss the beracha for beautiful animals, which the Mishna Berura (226:32) already said is not really in practice in our times). A baraita (Berachot 58b) says that when one sees an elephant, a monkey, or a kafof (the exact species is unclear), he recites the beracha “…meshaneh haberiyot” (who makes diverse creations). This beracha is also cited regarding abnormalities within humans. Matters of abnormalities are likely to involve an element of subjectivity, as we will mention later.
Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach is cited as saying the beracha applies to any unusual animal (Halichot Shlomo 23:35). Others say that the list is a closed one (see V’zot Haberacha, p. 156), which can be true for a few reasons. Perhaps Chazal saw a unique characteristic in those animals (see Meiri, Berachot 58b). Even if it could theoretically apply to other animals, it is difficult to know what to consider unusual, and therefore it is best to recite such berachot only when we are sure. (I do not why we are sure what type of monkey Chazal were referring to – a gorilla looks quite different from a chimpanzee, or a mandrel, etc.)
There is also a question as to how often to make the beracha. Rav Auerbach is cited (Halichot Shlomo, ibid.) as instructing zoo-goers to recite the beracha on the first animal one finds definitely fascinating and intend to cover the other animals. This approach can be justified on several grounds. When one expects to have different occasions in close proximity where a certain beracha applies, it is often better to make one beracha for all of them (e.g., regarding eating; see Yoreh Deah 19 regarding shechita). It also removes doubt that will arise when it is not clear if a beracha is again necessary. There is also logic to view the trip to the zoo as one experience, as I will explain. Perhaps, it is not that each animal needs to have or be included in a beracha, as different foods do. Rather, seeing unusual animals makes one reflect on the wonder of creation, and the entire trip to the zoo is focused on that.
It seems that most religious Jews do not make a beracha on animals in the zoo, including elephants. Does this have any justification? First, it is far from clear that when the beracha is appropriate, it is obligatory (see a brief discussion in Yabia Omer IV, OC 20). Additionally, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 225:9) says that this beracha should be said only the first time in a lifetime for each unusual sight, when it has its greatest impact. If one neglected to make the beracha or was a child at the first opportunity, the beracha is not made up later (see Birkat Hashem, IV, 3:28). While the Rama (ad loc.) says that the clock is reset every thirty days, as is often the case regarding similar berachot, the Mishna Berura (225:30) suggests making the beracha without Hashem’s name.
More fundamentally, we must recall the beracha’s subjective nature and note that times have changed. Once upon a time, a person could go through a lifetime without seeing a monkey or even a picture of one, and the excitement of seeing one made a beracha more natural. Nowadays, people go to the zoo periodically and whenever they want, and they have seen images of elephants and exotic animals many times (all agree the beracha can only be said on seeing them in person). Therefore, the excitement is not the same. (Seeing one in its habitat is likely different.)
Therefore, those who do not make the beracha at the zoo do not need to begin doing so. However, those who do say or want to start, especially those who get excited by the animal kingdom with whom Hashem has us share the world, do not have to fear beracha l’vatala (see Yabia Omer, ibid.), at least on monkeys, elephants or astounding animals. One can certainly make the beracha without Hashem’s name and should certainly think of Him often during the visit.
Berachot on dessertsDoes one have to make a beracha on dessert, for example, a crembo?
In general one makes beracha rishona on dessert, but there are exceptions. One is cake, because it is possible that it is a form of bread, in which case it is included in the beracha on the meal. The cream part of the crembo gets a beracha of Shehakol. Regarding the biscuit, it is questionable whether it is clear that it is not at all bread like and gets a beracha, and out of doubt we would suggest not to make a beracha of mezonot.
Birkat Haoreach (blessing of a guest for the host) when eating one’s own foodI was wondering if I should be saying Bircat Haoreach when I eat my own food at a friend's home.
There is no obligation to say birkat haoreach if you are eating your own food (see Mishna Berura 193:27 and 201:7 that the beracha is for the one who provides the food and is not dependent on where you are eating)
Beracha on Vegetable SoupWhat beracha do I make on vegetable soup when I consume just the broth? What beracha do I make on vegetable soup when I consume just the broth?
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.
Beracha on a Newly Renovated HomeIf I did major renovations in my home, do I recite Shehecheyanu on it?
The mishna (Berachot 54a) says that one who builds a new house or buys new “utensils” recites Shehecheyanu. While the gemara (ibid. 59b-60a) cites an opinion that this beracha is only for the first such acquisition, which would exclude the possibility of a beracha on renovations, we follow the opinion that it applies even if one built a second house (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 223:3).
But are renovations comparable to a new house? The gemara in Sota (mishna, 43a; gemara, 44a) discusses the halacha that one who builds a new house that he has not inaugurated returns from the battlefield. The first opinion identifies building projects on his property that do not qualify as building a house. Rabbi Yehuda says that even if one rebuilt the house on its previous site, he does not return from battle. However, the gemara posits that extending the house’s height does qualify. The Mishna Berura (223:12) says that this serves as a halachic precedent for Shehecheyanu as well. Contemporary poskim (see Halichot Shlomo 23:14 in the name of Rav S.Z. Auerbach and V’zot Haberacha, p. 166 in the name of Rav M. Eliyahu) assume the same is true for any significant extension of the house, even without acquiring new land. However, renovations that do not include expansion, but just improvement of the house’s appearance or functionality, are not comparable to building or buying and do not warrant a beracha (ibid.). The time for the beracha is when the new area is ready to be used, which coincides with the time for attaching a mezuza (V’zot Haberacha ibid.). (We are not relating to the new furniture that often accompanies renovations, which itself likely warrants a beracha.)
A few factors could raise questions about the beracha. The first is that there is a minhag cited by several Sephardi poskim to not make a beracha on a new house. It is hard to determine this minhag’s exact origin, reason, and extent. The Pri Megadim (223, Mishbetzot Zahav 4), who is Ashkenazi, suggest that there is a minhag to not make Shehechiyanu on clothes and utensils, and he suggests that these people must rely on the opinion that Shehechiyanu for such events is merely optional. The Ben Ish Chai (I, R’ei 5-6) is not impressed by this logic, but he confirms the minhag concerning a new house. He recommends solving the problem by following a different minhag. One makes a chanukat habayit upon entering the house, at which point he wears a new garment and recites Shehecheyanu with intention for the house in addition to the garment. I do not know if there is such a minhag of a chanukat habayit for renovations. However, those who want to follow the minhag, as opposed to the established halacha to make the beracha (Yalkut Yosef 223:2 and Birkat Hashem 2:57 do not believe the minhag should uproot it), can solve the issue with a new garment.
Rav Chayim Palagi and the Kaf Hachayim (OC 223:18) say that one who bought a house on credit does not make a beracha because of the trouble he may have paying up and the possibility he might have to return it to the seller. Besides the strong questions on the basic opinion (see Birkat Hashem 2:(250)), the situation is uncommon regarding renovations, as even one who takes loans for that purpose rarely is nervous about his ability to pay, and the renovations will not be “returned”.
Is Shecheyanu the correct beracha? The rule is that for acquisitions that benefit more than one person, Shehechyanu is replaced by Hatov V’hameitiv (Shulchan Aruch, ibid. 5). The gemara talks about buying a house with a partner, but this also applies to family members (see Shulchan Aruch ibid. and Be’ur Halacha to 223:3). If there is a question of doubt between the two berachot, Shehecheyanu is the safer one, as it can work even when Hatov V’hameitiv is appropriate (Be’ur Halacha to 223:5). This is apparent from those (including above) who suggest using the beracha on new clothes to cover the beracha on a new house.
Beracha on Pureed Vegetable SoupI read your recent response about the beracha on the broth of vegetable soup. Is the halacha any different for pureed vegetable soup?
You will remember that according to most fundamental approaches, based on the gemara (Berachot 39a), the beracha on the clear broth of vegetable soup is Borei Pri Ha’adama. On the other hand, there are enough factors against saying Ha’adama to convince most contemporary poskim to prefer Shehakol. Pureed soup shares certain factors, but other factors point in different directions.
We dealt with an apparent contradiction with the gemara (ibid. 38a) that says that the beracha on most fruit juices is Shehakol. Another reason to not make Ha’adama on vegetable soup broth is the contention of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and others that these soups often lack sufficient vegetable taste to justify it. These issues do not apply to pureed soup because one is not consuming just the juice/broth but the whole essence and taste of the vegetables.
However, in another way, the situation points more toward Shehakol than toward Ha’adama. We saw the Rosh (Shut 4:15) who says that the broth’s beracha is Ha’adama when and because it is normal for people to cook the vegetables to eat them. The broth is thus dependent on the vegetables, which generally exist even if one is eating only the broth. In this case, though, the vegetables cease to exist as a solid, clearly recognizable entity. V’zot Haberacha (p. 404) entertains the possibility that the beracha should be determined as Ha’adama when it was cooked, before it was pureed. However, he concludes that we follow the form in which it is eaten, certainly when the intention when cooking it was to puree it before eating. Since the soup is actually a semi-liquefied form of mashed vegetables, it is necessary to determine what the beracha is on mashed vegetables.
The gemara (Berachot 38a) says that when one takes dates and crushes them into terima, their beracha remains Borei Pri Ha’etz. What is terima? The Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 202:7) say it is totally crushed to the point that it is “like dough,” and yet the beracha is unchanged. The same should apparently apply to a mashed vegetable. On the other hand, Rashi (ad loc.) says that terima is only partially crushed, and based on this, the Terumat Hadeshen (29) and Rama (OC 202:7) say that mashed fruit (and presumably vegetables) should get the safer beracha of Shehakol. This does not necessarily turn into a clear machloket between Ashkenazim and Sephardim, as the Rama says that if one recited the beracha of the fruit/vegetable he can assume he was yotzei. Sephardi poskim also disagree whether to follow the Shulchan Aruch or to also make the safer Shehakol in light of this machloket Rishonim (see V’zot Haberacha, p. 99, Birkat Hashem 7:26-29).
Based on the above, we should, on the practical level, distinguish between different levels of puree. If the vegetables are pulverized to the point that there are no or few pieces of discernable vegetables, even if the soup is thick, then the more accepted beracha is Shehakol. However, if the soup is lumpy, then the beracha should be Ha’adama (V’ten Beracha (Bodner), p. 434). This distinction is similar to what many say regarding types of apple sauce and peanut butter. Those who make Ha’adama even for smooth pureed soup have what to rely upon, especially considering the fact that the stronger fundamental opinion regarding mashed potatoes, even if this not usually suggested, is to recite Ha’adama (see Mishna Berura 202:42).Another logical distinction within the case of totally crushed vegetables is whether they are still recognizable based on their characteristics, which is a major reason to warrant Ha’adama (see Birkat Hashem, p. 404-6). It would seem then that if the pureed soup has several vegetables that form its basis, then it is more difficult to recognize its component parts and harder to justify reciting Ha’adama unless there are many small pieces.
Hamapil for Those Who Go to Sleep Before DarkDo people who go to sleep before nightfall (e.g., night shift workers, the old and ill during the summer) recite Hamapil before going to sleep?
The gemara (Berachot 60b) mentions Hamapil for one “entering to sleep on his bed,” without noting time of day. However, the Rambam (Tefilla 7:1) writes “when one enters his bed to sleep at night.” Despite varied opinions of Rishonim (see Meiri, Berachot ad loc), this guideline is accepted (see Be’ur Halacha to 239:1; B’tzel Hachochma V:166). However, this position’s rationale impacts your question.
The above gemara continues with the berachot upon awaking, starting with Elokai Neshama, which some see as a bookend along with Hamapil (see B’tzel Hachochma ibid.). We recite these berachot only once a day. In both cases (although some distinguish), there are questions as to whether the berachot are only for those who sleep or they are general praises to Hashem related to sleep and awaking at the classic times.
Most poskim saying that one recites Hamapil only before a serious sleep (see gemara above). The connection to night is that this is the average person’s time of serious sleep, based on which the beracha was instituted (which is apparently the Rambam’s basis).
B’tzel Hachochma (ibid.) understands the element of night very formalistically – there is no obligation and thus no ability to say Hamapil before night, even if one is embarking on a full night’s sleep before nightfall. He compares Hamapil before night to a beracha on sitting in a sukka before Sukkot starts when one plans to remain there (a beracha is not made there).
However, there are sources and logic that night is a criterion for Hamapil on practical rather than fundamental grounds. The Chayei Adam (35:4) says that regarding day sleep we are concerned he will not fall asleep, it is improper to sleep, and/or it is not effective sleep. These reasons do not apply to the cases you raise of one who has a valid reason to start sleeping before nightfall (although sometimes we say lo plug- see ibid.).
Several poskim (see Teshurat Shai I:82; Teshuvot V’hanhagot I:198) explain why it might be proper to recite Hamapil before one’s major sleep after dawn when one did not sleep at night (e.g., Shavuot morning). One could add to the equation the opinion that one may recite a birkat hashevach (of praise) even when there is a doubt whether it is necessary because the content of such berachot are never inappropriate (Halachot Ketanot I:264). However, the consensus is that safek berachot l’hakel (in doubt, refrain) applies to there as well (Yabia Omer VII, OC 29).
However, in cases where the sleep is primarily at night, the argument to say Hamapil is much stronger. Notice that the Rambam (ibid.) talks about Hamapil preceding going to sleep at night. My reading is that the point is that sleep done at night defines it as justifying Hamapil, not that it is forbidden to recite Hamapil during the day. Thus, if the majority of one’s sleep will be during the night, the fact that it begins earlier need not preclude Hamapil.
Whether the case for reciting Hamapil is stronger or weaker if one goes to sleep soon before nightfall is interesting. Many halachot of night begin at plag hamincha, so perhaps one who sleeps then for the night is considered to be just extending slightly the time of night sleep, which in summer nights in northern latitudes is also common. Note that one who wakes up after midnight may recite the morning berachot including Elokai Neshama (Shulchan Aruch, OC47:13), presumably because morning regarding wake up is flexible. Perhaps the same is true in the evening. On the other hand, perhaps Chazal would not have extended a beracha for going to sleep for the night at a time when one cannot fulfill the mitzva of Kri’at Shema of the night.
The rules of practical p’sak point toward not risking reciting the beracha of Hamapil before nightfall, despite my inclination to the contrary. However, one who does so before his major sleep that extends well into the night has what to rely upon.
Beracha Acharona on Fruit of Non-Jews in IsraelIf I eat nochri (field in Israel owned by a non-Jew) fruit that gets an “Al Haetz”, do I end the beracha with “… al hapeirot” or “…al peiroteha”?
While this sounds like a Shemitta (whose halachot continue regarding fruit) question, it applies every year. It also applies to orchards sold through heter mechira.
We start with the main sources on the change of wording of the beracha. The gemara (Berachot 44a) cites both versions of the beracha and first says that in chutz la’aretz one says “peiroteha” (on its [the Land’s] fruit) and in
The Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 208) cites a machloket between Rabbeinu Yona and the Rashba whether one says hapeirot or peiroteha on fruit grown in
There is a major machloket, raised most prominently in Gittin (47a), whether a non-Jew’s acquisition of land in Eretz Yisrael uproots the laws that apply to Eretz Yisrael. The halachic conclusion is not fully clear (see Rambam, Terumot 1:10). There are macholokot in different applications, including the one between Rav Yosef Karo (Avkat Rochel 24) and the Mabit (I:11) whether the fruit that grows under a non-Jew’s ownership has Shemitta status. The former’s opinion, that Shemitta status is removed, is the more accepted one (see Shabbat Ha’aretz (R. Kook), Mavo 15). One could then claim that such fruit is uprooted from Eretz Yisrael status regarding our question as well.
However, I have been unable to find a hint in classical texts or rulings in more recent sources that indicate a distinction within Eretz Yisrael between the fruit of Jewish-owned fields and non-Jewish fields. There are some opinions (see discussions in Birkei Yosef, OC 208:11 and Kaf Hachayim, OC 208:59) that on fruit from sections of Eretz Yisrael that lost kedushat ha’aretz with the Babylonian exile and were not restored to kedushat ha’aretz in the Second Temple, we do not say peiroteha. Not all agree. After all, these areas are still Eretz Yisrael regarding many spiritual matters (see Shabbat Haaretz ibid.). Hashem gave them to us, we will return, and, according to most, we still presently have a mitzva to live there (see Encyclopedia Talmudit, Yeshivat Eretz Yisrael, ftnt. 28-29). Our question is about areas with the kedusha from the time of the
Does the beracha acharona of al haetz include other fruitsIf one eats an apple and some dates, does the beracha acharona of al haetz include the apple?
Yes, it is all inclusive of other fruits.
Waiting Between the Beracha and the Kri’at HatorahIn my shul (I am the rav), it is often too noisy to start laining right after the beracha. (How long/) may we delay the beginning of the aliya?
We must investigate different distinctions in the laws of hefsek. (Realize that many sources equate talking between a beracha and the food it goes on to talking between a beracha and the mitzva it goes on.) 1) Speaking is a more problematic break than silence. For example, a single word is a hefsek, while the time it takes to say a single word is not (Mishna Berura 206:12). 2) The most sensitive time is between the beracha and the start of the matter to which it pertains. For example, if one speaks a pasuk or more into an aliya, he does not have to make a new beracha (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 140:2). If he spoke inappropriately in between the beracha and the beginning of the laining, he would have to repeat it (Mishna Berura 140:6). 3) A break that serves a purpose for that which the beracha relates to (e.g., one who asks for salt between the beracha on bread and eating it) does not necessitate repeating the beracha (Shulchan Aruch, OC 167:6).
In your question, waiting silently before the beginning of the aliya, there are two factors for leniency (silence, for a good reason) and one of stringency (before beginning the aliya). Let us consider the extent of the leniencies.
The Beit Yosef (OC 206) cites a Shibolei Haleket who says, based on his understanding of a Yerushalmi, that if one pauses between the beracha and its subject (regarding food and mitzvot), for more than k’dei dibbur (1-2 seconds), he must repeat the beracha. However, the Magen Avraham (206:3) paskens against this, at least regarding after the fact (i.e., not repeating the beracha), citing the following discussion in the Beit Yosef (OC 140). On Chanuka/Rosh Chodesh they opened the wrong Torah first and had to roll it to the right place (from Naso to Pinchas) after the opening beracha. Some argued that they should have made another beracha for two reasons: 1. The delay for rolling was too long. 2. The beracha was made with an intention for the wrong place. The Avudraham rejects reason #1 because a break of silence does not disqualify, and the Beit Yosef seems to agree. Regarding reason #2, the Beit Yosef is unsure (he cites both opinions in the Shulchan Aruch (OC 140:3)). Regarding #1, some learn from the fact we do not cut loaves of bread until after the beracha (Berachot 39b) that a moderate delay is not a problem (unless people took their mind off the fact the beracha was made (Mishna Berura 206:12)).
The Rama (206:3) does say not to wait more than k’dei dibbur between a beracha and the food. This is even for waiting silently but, on the other hand, this is only to be avoided l’chatchila – the wait does not necessitate repeating the beracha (see Mishna Berura 206:12; Mor Va’aholot OC 1).
The Rama (OC 167:6) says that one should avoid where possible talking even for a purpose related to the subject of the beracha. We see from the above discussion that according to the Shibolei Leket, a silent break is a problem even if one is involved in getting the mitzva done (e.g., rolling the sefer Torah). (Apparently, this is talking about time beyond normal transition time, as regarding laining and shofar, for example, it is very common to take a few seconds to find the right word or place the shofar at the right spot.) It is unclear if according to those who accept the Shibolei Leket only l’chatchila, we should avoid a silent break when the silence plays a productive role.
We summarize as follows. It is certainly preferable to wait for quiet before the berachot and if there is only a slight disturbance, to read at least one pasuk before stopping. If one is going to stop, it is best for it to be less than the amount of time to recite the birkat Hatorah (see Ritva, Megilla 21b) or at least the amount of time it takes to read the first three p’sukim (see discussion in Mor Va’aholot ibid). However, if the need to wait is acute, even a moderate break can be justified.
Al Hamichya on a FruitI 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?
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).
The Beracha on Making a Roof-Top FenceThe investment team I am part of is currently renovating a building we own, including making a roof usable for tenants. The roof has a fence (ma’akeh), but we have contracted a non-Jewish company to remove and replace it. Can I make a beracha on the new fence even though non-Jews are installing it? Does one make a beracha on a fence that replaces a previous one?The investment team I am part of is currently renovating a building we own, including making a roof usable for tenants. The roof has a fence (ma’akeh), but we have contracted a non-Jewish company to remove and replace it. Can I make a beracha on the new fence even though non-Jews are installing it? Does one make a beracha on a fence that replaces a previous one?
Let us start with the bottom line. You should not make a beracha. You have identified some of the several doubts about the need for a beracha. One does not make a beracha unless there is a significantly better than even chance it is called for (safek berachot l’hakel), and that is not the case here. We will take a quick look at some of the indications on various doubts.
There is a machloket Rishonim whether one ever makes a beracha on the mitzva of ma’akeh. The reasons against a beracha include the following: it is done to remove danger, rather than being a classic positive mitzva; it is mitzva that is rooted in natural logic; there is a concern that the one building the ma’akeh will not carry through. However, despite the principle of safek berachot l’hakel, there is enough consensus of Rishonim and Acharonim to generally justify a beracha (see Yalkut Yosef, Sova Semachot p. 676).
A non-Jew is not able to be a halachic agent, certainly including regarding doing mitzvot on behalf of a Jew (Kiddushin 41b). Therefore, your non-Jewish workers’ actions ostensibly cannot fulfill the mitzva on your behalf. It is not that the ma’akeh is invalid and needs to be redone, as it suffices that the danger was obverted. However, a beracha, as well as much of the positive mitzva opportunity would be missing (see Menachot 42b).
On the other hand, the Machaneh Ephrayim (Shluchin 11) says that if the non-Jew is your salaried worker, we apply the rule that a “the worker’s hand is like the employer’s hand” (Bava Metzia 10a). This enables the Jewish homeowner to fulfill his mitzva through his non-Jewish employees’ actions, and a beracha is appropriate. Many Acharonim reject the Machaneh Ephrayim’s thesis. Their main claim is that the rule that a worker is like his employer does not apply to a non-Jew’s performance of mitzvot on behalf of his Jewish employer, and this is the stronger position. Certainly there is enough doubt to eliminate a beracha in such a case (Yabia Omer IX, Choshen Mishpat 10). Furthermore, the Pitchei Teshuva (CM 427:1) says that the Machaneh Ephrayim applies only to salaried workers and not to contractors (which you are talking about).
You imply that there are other investors. The mitzva of ma’akeh applies even when the property is co-owned (Chulin 136a). However, not all agree that this is true when the partners include non-Jews, and Rav B. Zilber (Birur Halacha, p. 249) claims that this is enough reason to not make a beracha in such a case.
The fact that the fence will replace an existing one raises an interesting question. There is discussion on whether one who switches one mezuza scroll for another has to make a new beracha (see Yabia Omer II, Yoreh Deah 17), as well as similar discussions regarding tzitzit and tefillin. There are major similarities between the cases but also possible distinctions (see Avnei Shlomo (Bloch) p. 41). The matter may also depend on how long the interim period with no functioning ma’akeh will be or on whether the roof required a ma’akeh before renovations make the roof more accessible.
Finally, it appears that before you got involved, there were already people renting apartments in the building, in which case, the tenants were obligated in ma’akeh (Bava Metzia 101b). The Minchat Chinuch (#546) says that although renters are obligated, the landlord might also be obligated. However, others say that the Rabbis uprooted the mitzva from the landlord and gave it to the renters. According to them, although you could argue that the renters are making you an agent for making the ma’akeh, it is still not simple that, if there were a beracha, you would be the one to make it.
Missing the Beginning of HavdalaThis week, I did not hear the beracha of Borei Pri Hagafen during Havdala. Was I required to hear Havdala again?
Clearly the most important beracha of Havdala is the final one of Hamavdil, which contains its basic content. The berachot on besamim and on fire are not crucial obligations (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 297:1; ibid. 298:1), and while they are preferably attached to Havdala, they can be said at other times as well (Rama, Orach Chayim 298:1). Thus, if one did not hear those berachot, it does not affect Havdala (Mishna Berura 298:3), but he should make the berachot when he is able to during the course of the night.
In contrast, the cup of wine that one uses for Havdala is part and parcel of the mitzva on a Rabbinic level. Realize that normally we have already fulfilled the Torah-level mitzva of Havdala previously, during Ma’ariv. We recite Havdala again in order that the second time it will be with wine. In your case, on the one hand, you heard the beracha of Havdala recited by one holding a cup of wine. On the other hand, you did not hear the beracha of Borei Pri Hagafen on that wine. Is that lacking enough to prevent you from fulfilling the mitzva of Havdala?
The Magen Avraham (296:10; see Pri Megadim ad loc.) discusses one who heard a complete Havdala but had in mind to include himself in the beracha of Hamavdil but not of Borei Pri Hagafen. He says that such a person fulfilled the mitzva of Havdala, just that he cannot drink the Havdala wine without making a new beracha. The Mishna Berura (296:33) explains that whereas Hamavdil is the essential beracha of Havdala, Borei Pri Hagafen is needed only to enable one to drink the wine.
Several Acharonim (including Shulchan Aruch Harav, OC 172:(2); Igrot Moshe, OC III:45; Chelkat Yaakov I:91) demonstrate the extent of this distinction’s cogency by comparing the beracha structure to that of the parallel mitzva of a holy declaration performed on Shabbat over a cup of wine – Kiddush. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 271:4) posits that one who was in the midst of a meal in which he had already made a beracha on wine when Shabbat began makes Kiddush without reciting Borei Pri Hagafen. Admittedly, regarding Havdala during seuda shlishit that included wine, there are two opinions in the Shulchan Aruch (OC 299:3) whether one recites Borei Pri Hagafen. However, the stronger opinion is that he does not need to (see Mishna Berura ad loc. 10). In any case the issue is whether Havdala is considered part of the meal (ibid.), and not whether Havdala counts without Borei Pri Hagafen, which it clearly does.
Your case, when Borei Pri Hagafen was said but you did not hear it, is no worse. There is even a question whether Borei Pri Hagafen is crucial for the one who makes Havdala and is not in the midst of the meal. Rav Moshe Feinstein (ibid.), based on the rule learned from the aforementioned Shulchan Aruch that the beracha is only important to allow one to drink, posits that if one mistakenly recited Shehakol on Havdala wine, he fulfills Havdala, as he is able to drink. He further proposes that even if one forgot to make any beracha but already drank the Havdala wine, he fulfilled the mitzva. (If one did not drink a sufficient amount of wine, there is uncertainty about whether he has fulfilled Havdala (see Shulchan Aruch Harav, OC 190:4; Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 30:36)).
Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata (vol. III, notes to 60:(91)) cites Rav Auerbach as saying that since one needs to drink the wine and needs the beracha for that, Borei Pri Hagafen is a part of Havdala that listeners need to take seriously. However, concerning after the fact for one who missed it, Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata (60:30) agrees that there is no need to hear Havdala again, and he cites several poskim who agree. This covers cases of one who came in after Borei Pri Hagafen was said, or he did not hear it or concentrate on it. While you would have needed a beracha before drinking the wine, there was, of course, no need for you to do so.
Berachot on Snacks and Drinks Throughout a HouseWhen I am home for extended periods, I take snacks and drinks on no particular schedule, and I move from room to room and floor to floor. A similar situation exists at work, where I am based in one office but also go to other rooms. Should I make berachot each time I eat or drink?
The Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 273) deals with an apparent contradiction between the Bavli and Yerushalmi regarding making Kiddush in one place and eating in another. The Yerushalmi says that if this was his original intention, the Kiddush is valid, whereas the according to the Bavli, it is invalid. Rabbeinu Nissim (see Rosh, Pesachim 10:5) says that there is no machloket, as it depends on location. Under one roof, even in separate rooms and separate floors, intention to go from one to another connects the locations, whereas it does not help for different houses or from indoors to outdoors. The Ran says that there is a machloket, and we accept the Bavli that intention does not waive the requirement to eat in the room where he made Kiddush.
The Rama accepts Rabbeinu Nissim (OC 273:1) and, based on that, rules that one can make a beracha in one room or floor with the intention to exempt food he ate in a different one (OC 178:1). If you regularly move around the house, that counts as your standard intention (see Mishna Berura 206:20). If you normally eat in those other places, you do not need a new beracha if under the same roof (ibid.). If you usually eat only in one room and did not intend otherwise, you would need another beracha to eat in a different room not visible from the first (see Mishna Berura 178:12). However, going normally to other rooms does not obligate you in a new beracha upon return (Mishna Berura 178:3).
Although the Shulchan Aruch is non-committal about Rabbeinu Nissim regarding Kiddush (OC 273:1) and is silent on the matter in OC 178:1, the above seems true for Sephardim. Yalkut Yosef (OC 273:5) relies on Rabbeinu Nissim b’di’eved regarding Kiddush and rules like the Rama in OC 273:1 (ibid. 178:9), as the Shulchan Aruch (OC 178:3) implies.
After seeing the beracha can extend, we should consider how to best time the berachot. We wrote about berachot strategy during sporadic drinking during a hike in Living the Halachic Process (II, B-4) and will summarize what we need to know to get started here. There are a couple of halachic doubts regarding breaks in drinking: If one does not continue before becoming thirsty again, does the beracha rishona’s efficacy cease? After how long should we assume one becomes thirsty? Should one make a beracha acharona when he finishes a round of drinking and the next round is not far away, and how does that affect the beracha rishona?
Regarding a hike, we distinguished between “frequent sippers” and “occasional gulpers.” Frequent sippers should make one beracha in the beginning and one beracha acharona at the end (if they drank a revi’it in one shot at some point). Occasional gulpers are to make a set of berachot for each drinking.
While indoors without exertion, one is likely to eat and/or drink less frequently, but on the other hand, he will probably not get as hungry/thirsty as quickly, which “extends the life” of the beracha rishona and allows one to wait for the beracha acharona. Assuming people will not eat or drink very often, the standard practice should be to make a set of berachot for each “unit” of eating and drinking. Despite this, one should train himself to expect to move around before finishing each food session and not make additional berachot necessary. Regarding cups of tea, coffee, or water, it is halachically preferable to drink a revii’it at one point so that he can make a beracha acharona at the end of a cup and thereby also solve any beracha rishona questions as well. If that does not suit his needs, it is usually best (except for “chain drinkers”) to have in mind that the beracha is effective for just one cup and then (plan to) not take another cup until at least a couple dozen of minutes pass, so that a new beracha is appropriate then.
Answering Devarim Shebekedusha During One’s BerachaWhat are the halachot regarding someone who is saying a beracha (e.g., Asher Yatzar) and then starts hearing Kaddish or Kedusha? If she can finish before “amen yehei shmei rabba” (=aysr), should she just say the beracha quickly?
First, we must understand that there are two reasons not to speak external matters during a beracha: the disgrace to the beracha; it can render the beracha nonsensical.
Answering the main parts of Kaddish (Kadosh, Baruch k’vod) and Kedusha (aysr and amen to “…da’amiran b’alma”) are so important that one stops even in the midst of a perek of Kri’at Shema or its berachot (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 66:3). This is based on the mishna (Berachot 13b) that one may respond to greetings extended by a distinguished person. Most Rishonim posit that answering these group praises of Hashem is no worse than responding nicely to a person. If this is true during Kri’at Shema and almost anything else but Shemoneh Esrei (Shulchan Aruch, OC 104:7), then Asher Yatzar is certainly not too prominent to be interrupted without it being a disgrace.
The complication is regarding making the beracha nonsensical. The Kesef Mishneh (Tefilla 10:16), in one of his explanations for an unclear phrase in the Rambam, says that one does not answer “aysr” during birchot hanehenin (on food) and birchot hamitzva. He does not say what makes these berachot special, but Acharonim (including Chayei Adam 5:13) posit that these are examples of short berachot (see Tosafot, Ketubot 7b), as opposed to the berachot of Kri’at Shema, which are long.
Actually, it is not that short berachot are more important than long ones, but that they are more likely to be “messed up” by extraneous statements. As the Ben Ish Chai (I, Shemot 6) comments, reciting “Baruch ata … melech haolam kadosh kadosh …” does not make sense. It is not like interrupting one topic to go to another and then return. Rather, it makes the opening of the beracha worthless, which is a problem when it includes Hashem’s name in beracha form. We must not do that, even for the sake of answering Kedusha or Kaddish.
In truth, the distinction is not between long and short berachot per se, but on where in a beracha one is stopping. There are no good places to stop in a short beracha. A long one has some good places and some bad ones. The Mishna Berura (51:2) discusses the second half of Baruch Sheamar (from “Baruch ata…”), which is a long beracha with a short “beracha ending” (baruch ata Hashem melech mehulal batishbachot). He rules that one cannot answer Kaddish and Kedusha from the “Hashem” until “batishbachot.” Ishei Yisrael (19:4) applies the logic to the beginning of long berachot, namely from “baruch ata Hashem” until one has said a coherent idea that gives the beracha significance that allows him to interject a response to Kaddish or Kedusha. Let’s apply these concepts to Asher Yatzar. After “Baruch … asher yatzar et haadam b’chochma,” (one could argue, until “…chalulim”) the beracha is significant, and one can answer until Hashem’s name at the beracha’s end.
What about stopping in the middle of a phrase in the midst of a long beracha? The Shulchan Aruch (OC 66:3) rules that one stops for Kaddish and Kedusha even in the middle of a pasuk of Kri’at Shema. There is a machloket whether this is only at a coherent stopping point in the pasuk (see Mishna Berura 66:10). While he urges planning, to avoid this situation, the Mishna Berura allows stopping anywhere but says that after answering, he should return to the beginning of the pasuk. So too, it is proper to be at a good place in mid-beracha to pause to answer, but if necessary, one can answer in the middle of a long beracha and then return to a place that makes the continuation coherent.Finishing up quickly is fine if you can say the beracha with sufficient kavana. However, if you finish the beracha at the same time you need to answer amen, you should not say amen (other than to aysr) because it looks like you are saying amen to your own beracha (see Mishna Berura 51:3).
Answering Birkat Kohanim when One Kohen Finishes LastIn my shul, one kohen regularly finishes Birkat Kohanim after the others. When should I answer amen?
The gemara (Sota 39b) says that the congregation should not answer amen before the kohanim have completed each beracha. Is this halacha referring to all the kohanim completing the berachot or is a majority enough?
Let us check parallel contexts. Rav Chisda (Berachot 47a) says that while the one cutting the loaf of bread should wait until those present answer amen to his beracha, he does not wait for a minority who unnecessarily stretch out amen. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 124:9) rules that during chazarat hashatz, a chazan needs to wait only for the majority to answer amen and not for a minority that takes an unnecessarily long time. The Mishna Berura (ad loc. 38) says that an exception is in a context in which one is continuing with a beracha that each member of the congregation has a personal obligation to hear. In our case, although the congregation’s involvement may have importance (Sefer HaCharedim, Aseh 4:18), the kohen who is has not finished is apparently not deprived of any obligation. (On a practical note, the introductory beracha and the first two p’sukim end with a vowel, “ahava,” “v’yishmerecha,” and “viychuneka,” respectively, so that when it is stretched out, the last word is usually complete. The main problem is with the last beracha, where the “o” of shalom is stretched out before the “m” is pronounced.
Why must the congregation not answer amen to Birkat Kohanim too early? The B’er Sheva (Sota 39b) says that it is a simple application of a rule regarding berachot. The gemara (Berachot 47a) refers to an improper amen called amen chatufa, which some say is answering before the beracha is completed (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 124:8). This is probably worse than a chazan starting a new beracha before all have finished amen to the previous one, so perhaps a majority is not enough. However, it is hard to imagine that this would be a problem after most of the kohanim finished a beracha, as the amen is aimed on the beracha of the majority, who have finished.
The Halachot Ketanot (II:48, cited in Mishna Berura 55:4), regarding Kaddish, talks about answering different reciters who finish at different times. He says that if they finish within toch kdei dibbur (approximately, 1.5 seconds) of each other, one can choose to answer after the earlier or the later; if they are separated by more than that, one should answer both separately. The Birchot Horai (9:(9)) posits that the same is true for an unevenly finished Birkat Kohanim. He cites, without a source or explanation, Rav S.Z. Auerbach as preferring waiting until the later person is finished.
Should it make a difference that here there is a clear majority? We have seen that we follow the majority regarding the end of the recitation of amen for Hamotzi and in chazarat hashatz. However, that is apparently because of the assumption that the majority, not the minority, is doing things correctly, but if the majority is fast and the minority is at a nice pace, one should wait for the minority (Be’ur Halacha to 124:9). This is because of a specific issue with stretching out amen, which can distort the word (Tosafot, Berachot 47a; Mishna Berura 167:85), and it is unlikely this is a problem for the words of Birkat Kohanim. Therefore, on a basic level, it is better to wait for the last person.
The kohanim are expected to recite Birkat Kohanim in unison (see Tosafot, Sota 39b), although they are not angels, who can do things exactly. However, it is not ideal for one to stretch out words significantly longer than his friends. Therefore, the lack of conformity could arguably make the slower person’s recitation inappropriate and make it preferable to follow the majority. However, such a determination, especially with the potential for hard feelings it could cause, is not something we can make a call on from a distance. It is also not appropriate for an individual congregant to “take a stand” in a publicly discernable manner.
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