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Shabbat Parashat Shelach 5773

Ask the Rabbi: Al Haeitz for Those Who Have Eaten a Variety of Fruits

by Rav Daniel Mann

Question: Does 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?

Answer: 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.  
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