Shiur #29 The Blessing Before Fruits and Vegetables (1) Borei Peri Ha-Etz and Borei Peri Ha-Adama

  • Rav David Brofsky

Introduction

 

The mishna (Berakhot 35a) teaches that there are two blessings designated for “fruit”:

 

What blessings are said over fruit? Over fruit of the tree one says, “Borei Peri Ha-Etz” (Who creates the fruit of the tree), except for wine, over which one says, “Borei Peri Ha-Gafen” (Who creates the fruit of the vine). Over that which grows from the ground one says, “Borei Peri Ha-Adama” (Who creates the fruit of the ground), except over bread, for which one says, “Ha-Motzi Lechem min Ha-Aretz” (Who brings forth bread from the earth). Over vegetables one says, “Borei Peri Ha-Adama” (Who creates the fruit of the ground).

 

The mishna distinguishes between “fruit of the tree,” before which one says “Borei Peri Ha-Etz,” and “fruit of the land,” as well as “vegetables,” before which one says “Borei Peri Ha-Adama.” This is in contrast to bread, wine, and “that which does not grow from the ground,” over which one says Ha-Motzi/Mezonot, Borei Peri Ha-Gafen, and She-Hakol, respectively.

 

The mishna teaches that not only are Borei Peri Ha-Etz and Borei Peri Ha-Adama different in that they are said over different foods, but Borei Peri Ha-Etz is also more specific. Therefore, “if one says over fruit of the tree the blessing, ‘Borei Peri Ha-Adama,” he has performed his obligation; but if he said over produce of the ground, ‘Borei Peri Ha-Etz’, he has not performed his obligation” (Berakhot 40a). As we will see, this may not only reflect that one blessing is more general than the other, but also that one is “superior” to the other.

 

Over the next few weeks, we will focus on the blessings recited over “fruits,” the status of changed or processed fruits and vegetables, fruit and vegetable by-products, and the relationship between these two blessings.

 

Definition of a Fruit – Seeds and Peels

 

Generally, a fruit is defined as an edible seed of a plant. This definition, of course, leads us to discuss over which parts of the tree one says Borei Peri Ha-Etz, and over which parts one says Borei Peri Ha-Adama. For example, does one recite a blessing, and which blessing, upon eating the peals, shells, and seeds of fruit? Some Rishonim turned to the laws of orla for guidance.

 

Regarding the laws of orla, the Torah (Vayikra 19:23) states:

 

When you come to the Land and you plant any food tree, you shall surely block its fruit [from use]; it shall be blocked from you [from use] for three years, not to be eaten.

 

During the first three years, one may not eat the fruit of a tree. What is considered to be “fruit” for the laws of orla?

 

            The mishna (Orla 1:8) states: “The skin of a pomegranate and its sproutings, the shells of nuts, and fruit-stones, are prohibited in respect of ‘orla’.”The Rishonim debate whether the principle expressed in this mishna, i.e. that the laws of orla apply to the entire fruit, including the nuts and peels, applies to the laws of berakhot as well.

 

Tosafot (Berakhot 36b, s.v. kelipi; see also Rosh Berakhot 6:4) insists that we learn from this mishna that “one should say the blessing Borei Peri Ha-Etz upon eating the pits of cherries, the pits of peaches and apples, ands well as all other seeds of fruits.” The Rashba (Berakhot 36b s.v. kelipi) disagrees, and insists that the seeds and peels are not considered to be a part of the fruit, and therefore the blessing of Borei Peri Ha-Etz may be inappropriate. He explains that the laws of orla apply to them due to an additional work in the verse, “et”.

 

The Shulchan Arukh (202:3) rules:

 

Fruits seeds, if there are sweet, one says [upon eating them] Borei Peri Ha-Etz. If they are bitter, one does not say a blessing at all.

 

The Mishna Berura (202:23) writes that some Acharonim disagree, and rule that one should say Borei Peri Ha-Adama before eating seeds.

 

            The Shulkhan Arukh continues:

 

And if they were improved by heat, one says [upon eating them] She-Hakol.

 

The Magen Avraham (202:7) questions this ruling. He asks, if we rule in accordance with the Tosafot and Rosh, and say Borei Peri Ha-Etz before eating seeds, which should it matter if they were improved by heat? He suggests that only seeds which are naturally sweet are considered to be part of the fruit; if, however, they need to be improved through cooking, they are not considered to be part of the fruit and one therefore one says She-Hakol.

 

            The Mishna Berura (202:25) cites this debate, yet insists that we should adhere to the ruling of the Shulkhan Arukh. (In addition, he notes that some Acharonim (Gra 202:8, for example; see also Sha’arei Teshuva 202:2) reject completely the Shulkhan Arukh’s ruling, and insist that one should say She-Hakol before eating all seeds, or possibly Borei Peri Ha-Adama.)

 

Practically speaking, one should say Borei Peri Ha-Adama before eating sunflower seeds, as the seeds is considered to be the “fruit”. In addition, one should say Borei Peri Ha-Adama before eating pumpkin and watermelon seeds, as they are grown for this purpose and the seeds are certainly considered to be the “fruit”. However, before eating pumpkin or watermelon seeds prepared at home, from melons or pumpkins which were grown for their fruit, and not their seeds, some Acharonim (see Ve-Zot Ha-Berakha, and Piskei Teshuvot 202:9) rule that one should say She-Hakol.

 

Regarding peels, the Taz (204:15) rules that one should say Borei Peri Ha-Adama before eating sweetened orange peels. The Magen Avraham (202:17) disagrees and rules that, like seeds, one should say Borei Peri Ha-Etz. Some Acharonim (see Peri Megadim, Eshel Avraham 202:17) rules that one should say She-Hakol, as they are not planted which the intention of eating the peel. The Mishna Berura (202:39) cites these views, and concludes that one should say She-Hakol.

 

Definition of a Tree

 

In scientific literature, it is common to distinguish between the seeds of an annual plant – a plant that lives for only one year – and a perennial – a plant that lives for two or more years. The former are known as vegetables, while the latter are known as fruits. Does the Halakha accept his definition?

 

The Talmud (Berakhot 40a) questions the difference between the fruits of a “tree” and the fruits of the “land”:

 

Therefore, we are told that we say Borei Peri Ha-Etz only in those cases in which if you take away the fruit, the stem still remains to produce fruit again. In cases in which if you take the fruit, the stem does not remain to produce again, the blessing is not Borei Peri Ha-Etz, but rather Borei Peri Ha-Adama.

 

The gemara suggests that the difference lies in the tree’s ability to regenerate. The Rishonim, however, disagree as to whether the gemara refers to the branches, the roots, or the trunk.

 

Rashi (s.v. gavza), for example, implies that the gemara refers to a tree’s branches. Accordingly, if a tree’s branches do not grow back once they are cut it is not considered to be a tree. The Rosh (Berakhot 6:23) explains that “anything which brings forth fruit year after year is called a ‘tree’; anything which must be planted each year is called ‘fruit of the land.’” In other words, the Rosh understands that if the roots themselves do not remain and must be replanted each year, even if the stump remains, the blessing is Borei Peri Ha-Adama. The Ra’ah (Berakhot 40a s.v. ve’al davar; see also Geonim cited below) apparently disagrees, and explains that as long as the fruits continue to grow from the same “tree” (i.e. trunk), the proper blessing in Borei Peri Ha-Etz.

 

The Tur (OC 203) summarizes this debate, citing two of the opinions:

 

Upon fruits of the tree, [one says] Borei Peri Ha-Etz. There is a sign for determining what is the fruit of a tree and what is the fruit of the ground: All trees that bring forth fruit each year are called fruits of the tree. However, any plant whose roots do not stay in the earth and one must plant them each year are called fruits of the land.

Therefore, R. Yitzchak would say that one says Borei Peri Ha-Etz before [eating] berries that grow from a bush, as it is a type of tree. R. Yosef wrote that one should say Borei Peri Ha-Adama because he found in the Geonic responsum that one says Borei Peri Ha-Adama over any tree which dries out in the winter and its branches fall off, and then its roots grow again. My father, the Rosh, would act in accordance with R. Yitzchak.

 

R. Yitzchak and the Rosh maintain that one says Borei Peri Ha-Adama over the fruit of any plant which must be replanted each year. R. Yosef and the Geonim maintain that even if the stump remains, if the roots must regenerate yearly, one says Borei Peri Ha-Adama before eating the fruit.

 

Bananas and Pineapples

 

The Beit Yosef (203), commenting on the Tur cited above, adds:

 

The [Geonic] responsum concludes: Thus said the Gaon: … These “muzi,” since their branches dry up completely and their roots re-grow, one says over them Borei Peri Ha-Adama.

 

One says Borei Peri Ha-Adama before eating “muzi” because their roots must regenerate each year.

 

Many Acharonim (see, for example, R. Ovadia Yosef, Yechave Da’at 6:13; see also Iggerot Moshe OC 1:86) maintain that the Shulchan Arukh refers to bananas (as “muzi” are bananas in Arabic). Wikipedia describes the growth of the banana as follows:

 

Plants are normally tall and fairly sturdy, and are often mistaken for trees, but what appears to be a trunk is actually a "false stem" or pseudostem… When a banana plant is mature, the corm stops producing new leaves and begins to form a flower spike or inflorescence. A stem develops which grows up inside the pseudostem, carrying the immature inflorescence until eventually it emerges at the top. Each pseudostem normally produces a single inflorescence, also known as the "banana heart". After fruiting, the pseudostem dies, but offshoots will normally have developed from the base, so that the plant as a whole is perennial.

 

The banana plant is perennial in that it does not need to be replanted, but each year, a new stem develops, growing through the existing “pseudostem” and produces the fruit. While the Rosh maintains that one should say Borei Peri Ha-Etz in such a case, the Geonim disagree. The Shulchan Arukh (OC 203:3) rules in accordance with the Geonim, and it is therefore the common practice to say Borei Peri Ha-Adama before eating bananas.

 

Interestingly, the Acharonim discuss whether the Shulchan Arukh’s ruling regarding bananas was out of doubt (safek) or certainty (vadai). As a result, they also disagree as to what one should do if he is served an apple and a banana: should he first say Borei Peri Ha-Adama and intend not to cover the apple (Rav Poalim 2:27), or recite Borei Peri Ha-Etz and have in mind not to cover the banana (Yabi’a Omer 8:26)? It is customary to follow the latter view.

 

Incidentally, pineapples are grown in a similar manner to bananas, and their blessing is therefore also Borei Peri Ha-Adama.

 

Eggplant and Papaya

 

Aside from bananas and pineapples, other fruits also challenge the conventional definitions of fruits and vegetables. Regarding the laws of orla, the Torah (Vayikra 19:23) states:

 

When you come to the Land and you plant any food tree, you shall surely block its fruit [from use]; it shall be blocked from you [from use] for three years, not to be eaten.

 

During the first three years, one may not eat the fruit of a tree. There are, however, some plants that led the Poskim to further sharpen the definition of a “tree.” 

 

For example, R. Ashtori Ha-Parchi (1280-1355), in his halakhic work on Eretz Yisrael, Kaftor Ve-Ferach, writes that “bendigin” (eggplants) are always forbidden, as they are considered to be orla. He explains that although the fruit grows only during the first year, the root of the plant remains for another couple of years, during which time it produces fruit.

 

R. David b. Zimra (1479 – 1573), known as the Radbaz, cites this opinion in his responsa and writes that because the status of the “bengidin” is subject to debate, it should not be eaten. However, he records that after immigrating to Israel (he was expelled from Spain in 1492), he saw that it was customary to eat the eggplant. Therefore, it must be that any plant that produces a fruit within the first year must be not be subject to the laws of orla (Radbaz 3:531). R. Chaim Yosef David Azulai (1724 –1806), in his Birkei Yosef (YD 294), cites this view in the name of the Arizal and maintains that this was also the opinion of R. Yosef Karo.

 

Although some (Halakhot Katanot 83; Chazon Ish, Dinei Orlah 12) question this ruling, common practice is to eat eggplants, known is Israel as “chatzilim.” R. Ovadia Yosef (Yechaveh Da’at 4:52) writes that the papaya, which also bears fruits very quickly, often within a year of planting, is not subject to orla, as it is not considered a tree. 

 

R. Yosef Chaim ben Elijah al-Chakam (1835–1909), author of the Ben Ish Chai, relates to this question in his responsa (Rav Po’alim, OC 2:30). He was asked what blessing should be recited before eating a papaya. He responded that just as one says a Borei Peri Ha-Adama before eating a banana, so too the proper blessing to recite over a papaya is Borei Peri Ha-Adama. This is R. Ovadia Yosef’s (see above) conclusion as well.

 

Low Bushes

 

The Poskim (see Mishna Berura 203:3) disagree as to whether one says Borei Peri Ha-Etz before eating the fruits of trees that are lower than three tefachim (about ten inches) from the ground. Cranberries, for example, grow very close to the ground, and it is therefore customary to say Borei Peri Ha-Adama. Some blueberries and raspberries, and even some garden strawberries, also grow on low, perennial bushes. Although the Mishna Berura (203:3) writes that it is customary to say Borei Peri Ha-Adama on these berries, R. Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe OC 1:85) writes that it is proper and customary to say Borei Peri Ha-Etz.

 

Flowerpots and Hydroponics

 

R. Avraham Danzig (1748 – 1820), in his Chayei Adam (51:17), asserts that plants grown in pots without holes (atzitz she-eino nakuv) are not considered to have grown from the ground. However, he concludes that one should still say Borei Minei Mezonot over foods made from the “five grains,” as they satiate. (This, of course, supports the idea that we have mentioned previously that Borei Minei Mezonot is not a blessing intended specifically for grains, but rather for foods which satiate.) The Acharonim disagree and rule that one should still recite the proper blessing, and not She-Hakol.

 

In recent years, it has become common to grow certain vegetables in water, a process known as hydroponics. Some Acharonim (Shevet Ha-Levi 1:205; Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot 2:149) maintain that one should still should say Borei Peri Ha-Adama before vegetables grown in this manner. Others (Yechave Da’at 6:12, Sefer Ve-Zot Ha-Berakha, Berurim 24) insist that one cannot say Borei Peri Ha-Adama or Ha-Etz on fruits that were grown in water.

 

 

Next week, we will continue our discussion of these blessings, as we focus on fruits and vegetables whose form has changed.