Siman 174 Wind Drunk During the Meal

  • Rav Asher Meir
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mishna Berura
Yeshivat Har Etzion

SHIUR #108: Simanim 174


By Rabbi Asher Meir







This se'if is based on the following passage:


Ben Zoma was asked, why is it said that those things which come due to the meal, during the meal, require no berakha, neither before nor after? He said to them, because the bread exempts them.  If so, then wine should also be exempted by the bread! Wine is different, because it causes its own berakha. (Berakhot 41b-42a)


As we will learn in siman 177, foods eaten during a bread meal don't require a special berakha, and the "motzi" and "birkhat ha-mazon" on the bread exempt them.  This includes also drinks drunk during the meal.  These drinks are a usual part of dining since a person doesn't eat without drinking a little to moisten the food and wash it down.


The students asked Ben Zoma why this doesn't apply also to wine - which is after all the dinner drink par excellence! Ben Zoma replies that wine "causes its own berakha."  This is a symbol of its importance, but there are varying opinions on the exact meaning of the phrase.


Rashi explains that the special importance of wine is that it causes a berakha even when we don't necessarily want to drink wine, namely a "kos shel berakha."  Kiddush, havdala, brit mila, chuppa, and sometimes grace after meals require a cup of wine even if no one is thirsty.


The Rash (Rav Shimshon of Sens) explains that the berakha that wine "causes" is "borei pri ha-gafen."  Most fruits undergo a "demotion" when turned into drinks, since on the juice we say only "shehakol" instead of "borei pri ha-etz."  But grapes get a promotion to the most specific blessing, "borei pri ha-gafen" (Tosafot).


Presumably, both rules (the requirement for wine at a kos shel berakha and the special specific blessing on wine) are merely consequences of wine's special importance, but there is a subtle difference between the two approaches.  A kos shel berakha can also be "chamar medina," any drink which has special local importance.  Quite a few people make havdala on whiskey, and I once heard Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg relate that wine was so rare in Russia that liquor was used even under the chuppa!  Rashi's explanation raises the possibility that liquor would also require its own blessing during the meal. 


And the MB in s.k. 39 cites many Acharonim who indeed rule that whiskey requires a berakha during the meal, and even the conflicting opinion does not say that whiskey lacks the importance of wine but rather that it is drunk in order to stimulate the appetite so that it is subordinate to food.  Perhaps this indicates that Rashi's understanding of "causing its own blessing" is accepted over that of the Rash.





The gemara Berakhot 41b asks what to do if fruit is brought in the middle of a meal.  The accepted opinion that the bread exempts only those foods that come "machamat ha-seuda" - due to the meal - is contrasted with the statement of Rebbe Chiya that "bread exempts ALL kinds of food, and wine exempts ALL kinds of drinks."


Since this passage pointedly rejects Rebbe Chiya's assertion regarding food, Tosafot here conclude that the halakha is also against Rebbe Chiya regarding drinks.  But almost all Rishonim (including the Tosafot on the following page) disagree with this Tosafot, and conclude that wine does indeed exempt all other drinks.


Let us first examine Tosafot's opinion.  While it is true that no one explicitly disagrees with Rebbe Chiya's ruling on wine, Tosafot's approach is quite logical.  Since we rule that bread exempts only foods that are essentially part of the bread meal, wine should exempt only those drinks that are part of the "mishteh." (I found no value-neutral equivalent English word - "binge" doesn't have quite the same connotation.)  Why do the other Rishonim disagree?


Perhaps we can explain this dispute, as well as many other rules brought in this siman, with a distinction made by the Nishmat Adam (klal 55).  The Nishmat Adam mentions two different reasons why one food could exempt another:


1) The exempted food is SUBORDINATE (tafel) to the main food.


2) The exempted food is UNIMPORTANT compared to the main food (i.e. the main food has more chashivut – importance).


We could explain the distinction as follows:


1) In the case of subordination, the more important food "adopts" the less important one; jam spread on bread becomes in effect part of the bread itself, and the same applies, to a lesser extent, to foods eaten not ON bread, but rather TOGETHER with it - "due to the meal."  In this case, the less important food is as it were "promoted" to the status of the more important one - whose berakha then exempts it.


2) When the criterion is "importance," the opposite happens.  The more important food DOMINATES the other food, depriving it of all importance.  We could say that jam may warrant a berakha by itself, but in the context of a bread meal it is too lowly to note.  According to this approach, the less important food is "demoted" to the status of something that requires no berakha.


Here is a possible logical practical distinction between the two reasons: According to the "subordination" criterion, it is vitally significant if the dominated food somehow relates to the dominant one; otherwise it can't get its free ride.  But according to the "importance" criterion, it is irrelevant if the less important food relates to the dominant food.


How does this apply to our situation?  Well, bread is both subordinating and important.  Other foods are eaten on, with, or because of a bread meal; in addition, bread is the most important food and has the most specific berakha. 


This is not the case with wine.  Other drinks are never drunk together with wine (even a very "wet" martini is only a quarter vermouth, making it essentially flavored gin).  The "subordination" criterion seems inconclusive.  However, wine certainly is a most IMPORTANT drink.  This is exactly why we make a blessing on wine in the middle of a bread meal, as we explained in se'if 1.


Now let us go back to the gemara.  According to the accepted opinion regarding bread, bread only exempts those foods that come due to the meal - those that are related to bread.  (Rashi limits this to foods that are actually eaten to flavor the bread, but Tosafot admit also foods that are sometimes eaten with bread.)  Here we clearly see the "subordination" criterion at work.  But Rebbe Chiya understands that this is irrelevant - evidently he supports the "importance" criterion.


We can suggest that Tosafot on Berakhot 41b understood that by rejecting Rebbe Chiya, we are rejecting the "importance" criterion as a guiding principle in berakhot.  Therefore, Tosafot conclude that wine, which works only through importance, does not in fact exempt other drinks.


What about the other Rishonim?  Two possibilities present themselves:


1) They may conclude that wine also has a limited ability to "subordinate" other beverages.  If we are having a proper "mishteh," wine is the occasion for the drinking, but soft drinks may also be drunk as part of the party.


2) They may conclude that wine's importance compared to other beverages is even greater than the importance of bread compared to other foods.  While we reject Rebbe Chiya's contention that bread can exempt other foods by mere dint of importance, wine does have the ability to exempt other beverages through its exalted status.


We see a clear application of the first approach in an influential early ruling.  The Mordekhai (Berakhot 150) rules that when there is "keviut" on wine, wine exempts even drinks that are brought after the blessing is made.  But when there is no "keviut," then it exempts only those drinks that were specifically in mind as the blessing was made.  The Mordekhai goes on to say that "in our day" (about 700 years ago) there is no "keviut" in drinking.  Sitting around and drinking wine for hours without eating was apparently not a popular activity among Jews in the Mordekhai's time.  The emphasis on "keviut" and on the simultaneous presence of wine and other beverages suggest that the operative criterion here is "subordination."  We do in fact reject Rebbe Chiya's assertion that wine exempts ALL kinds of drinks, but we accept that it can exempt certain drinks in the way that bread exempts certain foods.


Most Rishonim don't distinguish between the time of the gemara and modern times, and the SA doesn't distinguish between drinks on the table when the berakha is made and other drinks.  However, the MB (s.k. 3) does discuss this distinction.


The Nishmat Adam brings an example of the second approach as well.  Here is my reconstruction of his argument.


We explained above that one logical difference between the "subordination" and "importance" criteria is the need for the exempted food to relate or belong to the main food.  The NA suggests an additional criterion: the QUANTITY of the main food.  In order to subordinate other foods, some minimal significant quantity of the main food is required.  But importance is independent of quantity.


The Magen Avraham writes that a minimum quantity of bread is required to exempt other foods, and the NA interprets that according to the Magen Avraham, bread exempts other food by subordinating them.  But the Magen Avraham doesn't mention a minimum quantity regarding wine, and many Acharonim explicitly say that only a minimal amount of wine is required.  The NA interprets this opinion as saying that the wine exempts other drinks through importance - not through subordination.  This is the second approach we offered for the Rishonim who rule that wine does exempt other drinks.


However, the NA himself tends to the opinion that wine also exempts other drinks through subordination.  Therefore, he concludes that berakhot should be said on other drinks unless there is a "keviut" for drinking wine - a proper mishteh.


The Beur Halakha cites this Nishmat Adam and recommends making a blessing on other drinks unless at least a logma (half mouthful) of wine is drunk.  We pointed out that the MB cites the view of the Mordekhai.  We could explain that the MB is concerned that in rejecting Rebbe Chiya, we are indeed rejecting the "importance" criterion as an operative factor in exemption from berakhot, and therefore he limits wine's exemption of other drinks to cases where we have a reasonable basis to say the other drink is somehow subordinate to wine.





The mishna Berakhot 42a says: "If he blesses on the wine [drunk] before the meal, he exempts the wine [drunk] after the meal."  Rashi explains that it was customary in the time of the mishna to start drinking before the meal - just as a before-dinner drink (aperitif) is de rigor in a dinner party nowadays.


The gemara limits this rule to Shabbat and Yom Tov and a few other cases, when it was usual to drink wine after a meal.  In these cases, when the person makes a blessing on wine beforehand he has in mind that he will continue to drink after the meal.  Again, this reminds us of a dinner party where it is usual that drinks are offered both before the meal and afterwards. 


However, the Raavad understood that the restriction to Shabbat and Yom Tov was not a rule but rather the application of a rule - the fundamental rule being that there must be intention to drink after the meal.  Therefore, whenever and wherever it is usual to keep drinking after eating, the "borei pri ha-gafen" said before the meal is still valid afterward.  Many Rishonim agree with the Raavad, and this explains why the SA does not mention the limitation to Shabbat and Yom Tov (Tur, Beit Yosef).


The gemara then asks if wine drunk DURING the meal also exempts wine drunk after the meal.  The conclusion is that it does NOT exempt, because "zeh lishrot vezeh lishtot" - wine drunk during the meal is only to moisten the food and wash it down, whereas that drunk after the meal is really for drinking, which has greater importance.  This is brought down by the MB, in s.k. 7.