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Shabbat Parashat Korach | 5769

Ask the Rabbi: Beracha acharona

Question: If I eat half a k’zayit of a food that gets a Me’ein Shalosh (the long beracha acharona that summarizes Birkat Hamazon; it is often called Al Hamichya, for one of its possible openings) and half a k’zayit of a food that gets Borei Nefashot, what beracha acharona do I make, if any?


Answer: We will focus on only a few of this question’s permutations. We first assume that the foods are eaten seperately (e.g., a piece of cake and a piece of apple), not in a combined manner.

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 reciting 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 says Borei Nefashot. The Machatzit Hashekel explains that Borei Nefashot applies on a basic level to all foods. If a food has 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 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 connects 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 the simple beracha of Borei Nefashot after eating any amount of any food where a higher beracha acharona is not recited.

To recite Borei Nefashot on less than a shiur (the amount of food that requires a beracha) of two foods that combine to reach the shiur, the foods must have the same shiur. Thus, half a k’zayit of a solid and half a revi’it of a liquid do not require Borei Nefashot (Magen Avraham 210:1).

Regarding the beracha rishona on foods that combine different ingredients (regarding beracha) in one food, as long as there is a significant amount of flour from the major grains, one makes Mezonot. Regarding beracha acharona, one needs to have a k’zayit of the major grains not inclduing 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. Some say one would make Al Hamichya only if there is a k’zayit of flour; others say that 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.)

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