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Shabbat Parashat Vayechi | 5771

Ask the Rabbi: Kiddush on cake at night

Question: I will be making Sheva Berachot on the Shabbat that follows the fast of Asara B’Tevet (which falls on Friday). I am considering to, instead of going from Kiddush straight into the meal, first have cake and drinks and have the meal later. Does this raise any halachic issues?
Answer: The short answer is that your idea is permitted. Kiddush must be done at the place of a meal (Pesachim 101a). Yet we rule that it is sufficient for this meal to be a light one (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 273:5 – see there what is included). Although this is common specifically at the daytime Kiddush, which is in some ways a lighter obligation than that of the night, the halacha is cited in regard to the night (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 54:22). Thus, the type of snack you suggest, which includes cake, should suffice for Kiddush to take effect.
Yet, you asked about any halachic issues, and we will address some minor ones:
1) While the aforementioned Kiddush is valid, and one can eat after it, it is not unanimously held that this Kiddush is sufficient. Rav M. Feinstein (Igrot Moshe, OC IV 63) says that the Kiddush before a snack is valid enough to allow one to eat but that one needs another Kiddush before eating the full meal. His opinion is not the accepted one, but people often make Kiddush a second time as a stringency (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 52:16, who sees it as something nice but not necessary). Kiddush can be repeated in the daytime, when all one needs is to recite a few p’sukim and make a beracha of Borei Pri Hagefen. At night, where there is a beracha of Mekadesh Hashabbat, one has to take sides, as there is halachic risk for both omission (insufficient Kiddush) and commission (beracha l’vatala). Actually, the Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata (54:(76)), while not certain whether Rav Feinstein would require to repeat at night, himself says that one should not. (If you eat the second meal soon after the snack, even the repetition of the Borei Pri Hagefen is problematic.)
2) One is not supposed to eat, right before a bread-based meal, the type of food that would not require a beracha during the meal because that is an unnecessary beracha (see Mishna Berura 176:2). However, you are doing it because you feel that people will appreciate this snack to break the fast on, and that should be enough of a reason (at least for the great majority of your participants) to justify the beracha before the meal.
3) There is significant and complex halachic discussion about what one is supposed to do regarding a beracha acharona on a snack he eats directly before a bread meal (see the Mishna Berura (ibid.) and V’Zot Haberacha, ch. 9 for more detail). To make a long story short, the rule is that you should make a beracha acharona, butthe following are cases when one does not or perhaps does not make a beracha acharona: a) the food is one that increases one’s appetite for the meal in a significant way; b) the food requires a beracha even during the meal; c) one will be eating the same food during the meal in a manner that makes it considered a continuous eating; d) the food falls under the general broad category of bread-like foods (including most cakes). There is a machloket regarding drinks one has both before and during the meal, due to which Ashkenazim refrain from a beracha out of doubt (see V’zot Haberacha, ibid.). It is likely that you would have to choose between having many people make beracha mistakes and having some type of explanations or joint berachot, which some may view as tacky and cumbersome and is halachically not ideal (see Mishna Berura 193:2).
If you feel there is a real gain, you may choose to do the Kiddush as you suggest despite the issues, which are surmountable. The easiest way to obviate most of the complication is to wait around 15 minutes between the end of the first installment and the beginning of the proper meal (see V’zot Haberacha, ibid.), assuming people realize that they should then make berachot acharonot as they would at a “shul Kiddush”.
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