Going Kosher – Blessing When Eating – Chapter 18

Categories of Blessings

 

The requirements for reciting blessings before and after eating are many and complex and it would require a complete book, in and of itself, to do them justice. This being the case, they are quite beyond the parameters of this small book. However, here we will just give general guidelines as to which blessings to say over which foods and, if there are several foods that will be eaten, what order to say them in.

 

1) Bread is a special food because it satisfies the heart[1] and is used to constitute a meal. Therefore, it has a special blessing.[2] The blessing over bread made of wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye is:

 

ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם המוציא לחם מן הארץ.

Blessed are you HaShem our G-d, King of the universe, who brings out bread from the earth.

 

2) However, non-bread items such as cakes, cookies, biscuits etc., which also are made of wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye, are usually not used to constitute a meal, as is bread. Therefore, the blessing over them is:[3]

 

ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם בורא מיני מזונות.

Blessed are you HaShem our G-d, King of the universe, who creates kinds of sustenance.

 

3) Because wine is a special beverage which gladdens the heart[4] and is used in sacramental ceremonies, such as Kiddush and Havdalah, a special blessing is recited over it as well, different than the blessing over other beverages.[5] The blessing for grape wine, grape juice or raisin wine is:

 

ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם בורא פרי הגפן.

Blessed are you HaShem our G-d, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.

 

4) The blessing over tree fruits is:[6]

 

ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם בורא פרי העץ.

Blessed are you HaShem our G-d, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the tree.

 

5) The blessing over vegetables or fruits that do not grow on a tree is:[7]

 

ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם בורא פרי האדמה.

Blessed are you HaShem our G-d, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the earth.

 

Please note that bananas fall into this category, because, though it is tall, a banana plant is not considered to be a true tree. On the other hand, date palms are considered to be trees. Therefore the blessing over dates is, “Who creates the fruit of the tree”.

 

6) The blessing over anything that does not fall into the above categories, such as meat, fish, milk, eggs, cheese or all beverages other than grape wine, grape juice or raisin juice is:[8]

 

ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם שהכל נהיה בדברו.

Blessed are you HaShem our G-d, King of the universe that everything came into being according to His word.

 

Please note that mushrooms and other fungi, such as truffles etc. fall into this category, because they do not actually grow from the ground, but only attach themselves to it.[9]

 

 The Order of the Blessings

 If someone has several items in front of him, all of which he equally wants to eat, which blessing should he recite first?

1) If one of the items is bread, the blessing should be recited over it.[10] This is because, as stated above, bread satisfies the heart[11] and is used to constitute the meal. Therefore, the blessing over the bread includes all the other items as part and parcel of the meal and, for the most part, no further blessings must be recited.[12]

2) The above is generally true for everything except grape wine[13] which is a unique beverage, in that it gladdens the heart[14] and is used for sacramental ceremonies, such as Kiddush and Havdalah.[15] Therefore, if grape wine, grape juice or raisin wine is consumed in the middle of a meal, the blessing for wine is recited even though the blessing for bread has already been said.[16] Likewise, just as the blessing for bread includes all foods and no further blessings must be recited, so also, generally, the blessing for wine includes all beverages and no further blessings must be recited.[17]

3) If no bread is present, or if bread is present but he does not intend to eat it, the order of the blessings is in accordance to the following principles:

a) Food that is of greater importance take precedence over food of lesser importance.

b) When there are foods of equal importance the more specific blessing takes precedence over the more general blessing.

This being the case, the order of the blessings is as follows:

A) The blessing for non-bread items made of wheat, barley, oats spelt and rye is recited first, due to their importance.[18] When reciting the blessing “Who creates kinds of sustenance” (בורא מיני מזונות) all other foods that require the same blessing are included. No further blessing is required over them.

B) This is followed by the blessing for wine because it too is special, similar to bread.[19] However, when making Kiddush on the Sabbath and holidays, the blessing over wine precedes the blessing over bread. As stated above, generally, once the blessing “Who creates the fruit of the vine” (בורא פרי הגפן) has been recited, no further blessings need be recited over any other beverage.

C) Next is the blessing for the fruit of the tree.[20]  As stated above, once the blessing, “Who creates the fruit of the tree” (בורא פרי העץ) has been recited, no further blessings need be recited over other fruits that require the same blessing.

D) This is followed by the blessing for the fruit of the earth which is more general than the fruit of the tree because it also includes trees.[21] As above, similar to the blessing over tree fruits, once the blessing “Who creates the fruit of the earth” (בורא פרי האדמה) has been recited, no further blessings need be recited over other fruits or vegetables that require the same blessing.

E) The last blessing is, “That everything came into being according to His word”. This is the most general statement of all because it includes everything in it.[22] Again, once the blessing “That everything came into being according to his word” (שהכל נהיה בדברו) has been recited, no further blessings need be recited over other foods or beverages that require the same blessing.

4) If a person is in doubt whether an item that he wishes to eat grew from a tree or from the earth, he should recite the blessing for the fruit of the earth because it is more general and includes the fruit of the tree.[23] On the other hand, if he is altogether unsure of its origin he should recite the blessing “That everything came into being according to His word” (שהכל נהיה בדברו), which is all inclusive.[24]

5) If one of the special fruits, such as figs or grapes, which the Torah praises the land of Israel for,[25] is amongst other fruits, such as apples or oranges, even if they all require the same blessing, the blessing should be recited over that fruit.[26]

(The special fruits of the land of Israel are wheat, barley, grapes (including wine) figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. Though they are not specifically mentioned in the Torah, spelt, which is a type of wheat and oats and rye, which are types of barley, are also included.[27])

6) Nonetheless, if they require different blessings, such as grapes or figs, which require the blessing “Who creates the fruit of the tree” (בורא פרי העץ) and legumes, which require the blessing “Who creates the fruit of the earth” (בורא פרי האדמה), he may proceed with whichever fruit he wishes.[28]

7) However, if he is about to eat several of the special fruits mentioned in the Torah, and he favors all of them equally, the fruits mentioned first in the Torah verse that praises the fruits of the land of Israel, take precedence over the fruits mentioned later. The Torah states, “A land of wheat, barley, grape vines, figs and pomegranates: a land of olive oil and date honey.[29]” However, if he favors a fruit that is mentioned later in the verse over one mentioned earlier, he may recite the blessing over that one.[30]

8) Nevertheless, if food made of wheat or barley, which require the blessing “Who creates kinds of sustenance” [31] (בורא מיני מזונות), is included in the items to be eaten, it takes precedence, even if he favors the other fruits.[32] However, if both wheat and barley are included, the wheat takes precedence over the barley.[33]

9) All the above is applicable if a person favors the items equally. However, if he favors one food over another, in some cases he may change the order and recite the blessing over the favored food and in other cases he may not. As stated above, the intent here is only to give some general guidelines on the subject of blessings, rather than to go into a fully detailed explanation. This would take us far beyond the scope of this small book and would require a complete book, in and of itself. There are several fine books on this subject available in English and it is highly recommended that you avail yourself of them.

10) It is a Torah mitzvah to recite grace after meals after eating a meal that involved the consumption of bread. As stated above, it is specifically bread that constitutes and establishes a meal.  The “grace after meals” is called, Birkat HaMazon (ברכת המזון) and may be found in most Jewish prayer books.

11) After eating any of the five grains; wheat, barley, oats, spelt and rye or the other fruits which the Torah praises the land of Israel for; i.e. grapes (including grape wine, raisin wine and grape juice), figs, pomegranates, olives and dates, a special blessing is recited. This blessing is called “The blessing that includes three blessings” (ברכת מעין שלש). It too, may be found in most Jewish prayer books.

12) A special short blessing is recited after consuming all remaining foods that do not fall into the above two categories, as follows:

Blessed are You HaShem our G-d, King of the universe, who creates many souls and what they lack; for everything that You created to enliven the souls of all living beings. Blessed is (the One who is) the life of the worlds.

ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם בורא נפשות רבות וחסרונן על כל מה שבראת להחיות בהם נפש כל חי. ברוך חי העולמים.



[1] Psalms 104:15 תהילים קד:טו,

[2] שו”ע הרב סדר ברכת הנהנין א:ב.

[3] שו”ע הרב סדר ברכת הנהנין א:ג.

[4] Psalms 104:15 תהילים קד:טו,

[5] שו”ע הרב סדר ברכת הנהנהין א:ב.

[6] שו”ע רב:א, שו”ע הרב רב:א, שו”ע הרב סדר ברכת הנהנין א:ב.

[7] שו”ע רג:א, שו”ע רה:א, שו”ע הרב רג:א, שו”ע הרב סדר ברכת הנהנין א:ב.

[8] שו”ע רד:א, שו”ע הרב רד:א, שו”ע הרב סדר ברכת הנהנין א:ב.

[9] שו”ע הרב סדר ברכת הנהנין ז:א.

[10] שו”ע הרב לוח ברכת הנהנין ג:יד.

[11] תהילים קד:טו, שו”ע הרב קסז:א, שו”ע הרב לוח ברכת הנהנין א:ב.

[12] שו”ע קעז:א.

[13] שו”ע הרב, סדר ברכת הנהנין א:ב.

[14]  תהילים קד:טו, שו”ע הרב קסז:א, שו”ע הרב לוח ברכת הנהנין א:ב.

[15] שו”ע רב:א, שו”ע הרב קעד:א, וראה משנ”ב רב:א.

[16] שו”ע קעד:א.

[17] שו”ע קעד:ב, שו”ע הרב קעד:ד, שו”ע הרב ברכת הנהנין א:כא, משנ”ב קעד:ג.

[18] שו”ע הרב לוח ברכת הנהנין ג:ח.

[19] שו”ע הרב לוח ברכת הנהנין ג:יג.

[20] שו”ע הרב לוח ברכת הנהנין ג:ז.

[21] שו”ע הרב לוח ברכת הנהנין שם.

[22] שו”ע רד:א, שו”ע הרב רד:א, שו”ע הרב סדר ברכת הנהנין א:ב.

[23] שו”ע הרב, סדר ברכת הנהנין א:ד.

[24] שו”ע הרב שם.

[25] Deuteronomy 8:8 דברים ח:ח,

[26] שו”ע הרב לוח ברכת הנהנין ג:ח.

[27] שו”ע הרב לוח ברכת הנהנין ג:יב.

[28] שו”ע הרב ברכת הנהנין שם.

[29] דברים ח:ח.

[30] שו”ע הרב לוח ברכת הנהנין ג:ט.

[31] שו”ע הרב לוח ברכת הנהנין ג:יא.

[32] שו”ע הרב לוח ברכת הנהנין ג:י.

[33] שו”ע הרב לוח ברכת הנהנין ג:ט.

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