Berachot in the Course of a Meal

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By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

There is a widespread misconception that one who is in the midst of a meal that includes bread is not required to recite a blessing on any other foods that are consumed in the course of the meal. As we will see, the Hamotzi blessing recited over bread at the beginning of a meal only exempts foods and their condiments eaten primarily in order to satisfy hunger.[1] Other foods will often require their own blessing even when eaten during the meal.

For example, foods that are eaten following the main course of a meal, such as deserts, fruits, and sweets, will often require their own blessing.[2]  There is an interesting exception, however. If such foods are eaten together with bread they will not require their own blessing. So although fruit eaten as a dessert requires its own blessing one would not recite a blessing on the fruit if one eats the fruit with bread in every bite.[3] 

It is interesting to note that in order for the Hamotzi blessing to cover any other food, one must be sure to eat a “kezayit” of bread, slightly more than an ounce, immediately after reciting the Hamotzi blessing. One should not eat any other food until this first ounce of bread is eaten. If this is not done, the ability of the bread to exempt even the main foods of one’s meal from a blessing is questionable.[4] One should never eat bread with the sole intention of exempting other food. So too, bread should not be used as a mechanism of exempting another food because one is unsure which blessing should be recited upon it.[5] 

As mentioned, bread will exempt all other food that is considered central to a meal. In fact, there is no requirement to eat bread together with such food. It is enough to have merely eaten a kezayit of bread at the beginning of one’s meal to exempt all other essential foods one will eat during that meal. Beverages are also exempt from a blessing.[6] Indeed, common custom is not to recite a separate blessing even upon drinks like scotch, schnapps,[7] coffee or tea[8] even though such drinks are rarely essential components of one’s meal. Due to their distinct status, however, wine and grape juice are exceptions to this rule and a blessing must always be recited before drinking them in the course of a meal.[9] One who made a blessing upon wine or grape juice immediately prior to the meal, such as in Kiddush, does not recite a blessing on wine that one drinks during the meal.

Fruit always requires its own blessing if eaten as a dessert. In the event that fruit is indeed one’s primary food at a given meal then a separate blessing is not required.[10] If one is unsure whether a particular food requires a blessing when eaten during a meal, one should eat a little bit of that food before beginning one’s meal.[11] The food can then be eaten during the meal without reciting a blessing upon it. Alternatively, one can eat that food together with bread, as mentioned above.[12] A blessing is always required for candies, chocolates, ice cream and the like no matter when they are eaten during the course of a meal. 

There is considerable debate over the need for a blessing over cakes, cookies, and other “mezonot” items eaten as a dessert and readers comments, customs, and rulings on this issue is especially welcomed. Common custom seems to be that one who is fully satiated from a meal and is only eating cake and cookies as a dessert or because one enjoys their taste, recites a blessing upon them.[13] Authorities differ as to whether or not a blessing should be recited when one eats these items when not truly full from a meal.


[1] O.C. 177:1

[2] Mishna Berura 177:4

[3] Sha’ar Hatziun 177:13. See footnote 12.

[4] Mishna Berura 167:15,35, Be’er Heitev 167:9,

[5] Magen Avraham 177:1, Mishna Berura 177:3

[6] Mishna Berura 174:7

[7] Mishna Berura 174:39

[8] Misgeret Hashulchan to Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 43:7

[9] O.C. 174:1

[10] O.C. 177:3

[11] Mishna Berura 177:10

[12] In certain situations it is enough to eat bread at the beginning and end of the questionable dish. In other situations one would be required to eat bread with every bite. Ask your rabbi for more information.

[13] Mishna Berura 168:41

About Ari Enkin

Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (8 volumes), Rabbinic Director of United with Israel and a RA"M at a number of yeshivot. www.rabbienkin.com

32 comments

  1. “There is an interesting exception, however. If such foods are eaten together with bread they will not require their own blessing…if one eats the fruit with bread in every bite.[3]”

    This is not interesting or special for somebody that understands the underlying concept הבה ללפס בו הפת. actually one that understands it will not understand how people abuse the rule and pretend that dessert is like a lephes for the bread. Especially since must people do this only on the first and last bite add power the Chazohn Ish you neglected to mention.

    There are a few more inaccuracies and over simplifications but I am on my phone and cannot write so much.

  2. Should read as per the Chazon Ish

  3. RE: “There are a few more inaccuracies and over simplifications”

    It is simply not possible to write a detailed post (eg. 400-600 words) that is fully comprehensive and not oversimplified. Any “inaccuracies” is the effect of minhag upon hilchot brachot. The rulings cited are indeed accurate for those who go by them.

  4. Although we tend to be very machmir on Pesach, a piece of bread the size of an average olive (i.e. a kezayit) is much less than one ounce.

  5. “Indeed, common custom is not to recite a separate blessing even upon drinks like scotch, schnapps,[7coffee or tea[8] even though such drinks are rarely essential components of one’s meal.”

    When I was a bochur, I used to visit my grandparents in Holon, Israel, and would daven shacharis in a shul that started at 6:30 a.m. (which was considered the “late minyan.”) Every day after davening, the men there, many of whom were old enough to be my grandfather and then some, would start their day with a cracker and a shot of schnapps. This at about 7:15 in the morning! Believe me, they considered the schnapps “essential” to their breakfast.

  6. Mike S:

    As in all things, every “Humra” comes with a corresponding “Qula.” in this case, a violation of halakha. Those people who tell you to eat your own weight in maSSa’ on pesaH, are in effect telling you not to say birkath hammazon on nearly a whole slice of white bread– the volume of several olives. As always, common sense and rigorous attention to the rabbinic sources should prevail over what is mistakenly called “minhagh.”

  7. הבה ללפס בו הפת

    Don’t you mean
    הבא ללפת את הפת
    ?

    Is your spelling “also” correct because it’s “the Yiddish” spelling?

  8. Back in the day we were taught (I didn’t think to ask whether this was a community or family of geograhical definition) if you always had dessert , then it was part of the meal, no bracha rishona. I’m guessing now they say bnai torah don’t eat cake for dessert so as to avoid any questions (he said with a sigh).
    KT

  9. what about ‘hatov vehameitiv’ on different wine in the meal?

  10. Hi Rabbi Enkin, Excellent post!

    Just a comment regarding eating mezonot as dessert at the end of the meal. I have seen people specifically eat something that fits all three criteria found in the rishonim of pat haba bekisnin (filled, flavored dough, and crunchy), something like baklava or a wafer.

    I am under the impression that they do this because it is possible that if the item does not contain all three characteristics then it might be bread and therefore covered by the original Homotzei. Although in general the Shulkhan Arukh paskins that any of the three qualifies it as pat haba bekisnin, I guess when it comes to this case, in the middle of the meal, we are hoshesh for safek brakhot?

    Can you please shed some light on this?

    Thanks!

  11. Regarding the common custom to not say borei minei mezonos on cake had for dessert, because of the safek that it is pas gamur (what Gil above refers to), Rav Falk of Gateshead (Kos shel Eliyahu) suggests that if it is filled and flavoured one should say the brochoh since the crunchy opinion is a das yachid. He also says that when it is only pas haba b’kisnin according to one shita, if possible, one should say a shehacol (i.e. by separating some cream)and have in mind to exempt the cake, though I find this a bit hard to understand, since shehacol only exempts non shehacol things b’dieved.

  12. what about ‘hatov vehameitiv’ on different wine in the meal?

    That’s a birkat hashebach, like shehechiyanu, not a birkat hanaah.

  13. R. Enkin:

    R. Moshe Sternbuch in הברכות כהלכתן (p. 16) writes that some are machmir not to eat mezonot at all at the end of a se’uda:

    אבל יש נמנעים לאכול כל מזונות בסוף הסעודה אף שאינם ממולאים, דחוששין דכשאוכל לתענוג לא נפטר וצריך לברך עליה מזונות
    (עה”ש)

    …and cites the Arukh Hashulhan as saying this.

    However, looking at the AHS, he says no such thing (O”H 158:33):

    ולפ״ז אצלינו כשאוכלין באמצע טעודה פוט״ר קוכי”ן או קיכלא״ך עבים או כל מיני פלאדינ״ס הממולאים כפירות או בתבלין וודאי באים לשביעה להמשיך תאוות המאכל וא”צ ברכה כלל אבל כשאוכל לעקא״ך או טאר״ט וצוקע״ר עקא״ך ומאנדי״ל ברייטלא״ך וטייגלא״ך ופיריסקע״ם ורקיקין דקין מאד כמו ויזי״ן בלאזי״ן צריכין ברכה לפניהם דכל אלו  אין דרך לאוכלן לשם שביעה אלא תענוג בעלמא ולקינוח ואפילו טי שכוונתו לשביעה בטלה דעתו אצל כל אדם וכן יש להורות

    (Aside from the fact that incorporating such a chumra into popular practice goes against the AHS’s general style of pesak ) I’m just wondering if anyone has anything on this, or can we just chalk it up as a misquote on R. Sternbuch’s part.

  14. MiMedinat HaYam

    my father would often tell the story of the old country in hungary, a date would often be invited into the family’s living / dining room, and be offered various foods to test his knowledge of hilchot brachot. when given fruit cocktail (obviously, compote) one smart aleck dipped his bread (?) into the mixture, to one-up the prospective father in law by changing the test.

    regarding cake (and other items), there is little acceptance in (old) halacha of the modern concept of a snack. and i’ll extend this to desert. (even though the gmara discuss “parparot” and “kinuach”, i submit its not the same). so the AH tries to reconcile, and R shternbuch (not a real hungarian, in practice) tries to be machmir.

    2. at a yu high school (annual) dinner a few years ago, birkat hamazon preceded dessert (scheduling issues) and the grad / board member honored with birkat hamazon noted the halachic issues of changing the order.

  15. My Rebbe told me that R. Moshe Feinstein (I think in one of the posthumous teshuvot) held that ice cream/ices during dessert did not require a bracha because it melts, and is therefore like a drink.

  16. Lacosta-

    Re: Hatov V’hameitiv.

    Great posting idea.

  17. Gil-

    Thanks for that.

    Yes, there are many who only recite ‘mezonot’ if the dessert item meets all three or at least 2 of the definitions of b’h’b.

    There is sound logic in this approach.

  18. R’ Jacob-

    I have no idea why Rav Shternbuch quotes the AHS, but one thing I can tell you of interest, is that Rav Shternbach is a radical innovator. He is [in]famous for seeking out new-age practices and chumras.

    I examined this in depth once, and I gave a shiur on the halachic philosophies and positions of Rav Shternbuch. It was a major hit.

    Regards,

  19. R. Enkin – He is and he isn’t. I came across an interesting teshuva in the fifth volume of teshuvos vehanhagos (153), where he rejects the idea of having to drink wine every day of chol hamo’ed, in part based on the fact that it is not mentioned in earlier poskim.

  20. R Enkin,
    I hope you used the ultimate resource on all things Shternbuch related for you shiur- R Dovid Horwitz’s traidtion article from Fall 1982. It cannot be beat.

  21. Chaim-

    I dont know anything about it!

    If you have a copy you can scan Id be most grateful

  22. Thanks R’ Ari.

    I have also seen various indications of that in R’ Sternbuch’s rulings.

    What’s interesting to me abt the AHS’s pesak is his invocation of “batla da’ato etzel kol adam” to require one to make a beracha – i.e. when one eats cake at the end of a meal to fill himself rather than just as a dessert, he still should make a mezonot.

  23. If you an RCA member you have free access to traditions archives.

  24. R’ Enkin – Can your post next week be about R’ Shternbuch’s halakhic methodology? I assume it’d be a real hit here as well.

  25. R’Jacob,
    It is really an irony since aiui the AH”S and R’ Shternbuch are pretty much polar opposites on the derech hapsak (practice defender vs. practice setter). The meta question that fascinates me is how/why does one develop into one vs. the other. While the pulpit vs. the stage may explain some of it, imho there’s got to be a lot more, and I don’t think it’s just mesorah (be interesting to hear what % people think is mesorah)
    KT

  26. My Rav Shternbuch shiur is still in chicken scratch, but I will write it up soon. I will also get a hold of that Tradition article before I do.

  27. MiMedinat HaYam

    dani — ice cream. there is also the issue of eating / drinking less than a minimum shiur in less than the minimum time. (licking / slurping / whatever ice cream / ices / gelato does not generate enough “eating”. which of course brings up the issue of “modern” eating vs “talmudic” eating. (heard similar about drinking from a water cooler.)

    2. regarding 1 or 2 out of three — shulchan aruch harav has four defintions of p-h-b, and says one of four is enough. the forth is the (celebrated) apple juice issue.

    i guess they hold “two of three aint bad”. they must come from “the south side of chicago”. like ‘bama.

  28. MiMedinat HaYam

    ba — completely erroneous. (cake from batter is mezonot, and from dough is (safek) hamotzie.) and no one said that here, like the article claims.

    (personally, i would say if it comes from liquid batter, it is shehakol, cause thats what dunkin donuts, etc makes. but thats a whole other story.)

    regarding AH — doesnt r haym solovetchik (in rupture and transformatuon) say that AH is for practical day to day halacha, vs MB machmir halacha? make sure to mention that in your post, if you get into the AH.

  29. How do we account for cultural changes?
    I have heard it argued that the idea of dessert not being part of the meal originates with the Roman secunda mensa, or “second table,” where the table was completely cleared and reset: since today it is not so clearly separated, a beracha is not required for dessert.
    Also, the idea of things being eaten with bread comes from a grain-based diet: other foods were eaten basically just as a dip for bread. Today many of us do not eat bread at all during an ordinary meal. We have to make a point of “washing” on special occasions, and even then we don’t eat the rest of the food with bread.
    Fruit is not eaten to satisfy hunger? I have no idea what that means. It has calories, and why else would you eat? (Okay, I can think of a few reasons, but not ones that seem like valid halakhic rationales.)
    Also, I think we are reversing kula and humra here. After all, safek berachot lehakel.

  30. ….Cultural condsiderations on halacha.

    I like it. Interesting.

  31. MiMedinat HaYam

    david — safek berachot lehakel, except in birkot hanehenin.

    cultural considerations — exactly my point. if its so interesting, maybe a post. (actually, a book. will be banned, etc.)

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