Siman 177 Non-Bread Food Eaten in the Middle of a Bread Meal

  • Rav Asher Meir
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mishna Berura
Yeshivat Har Etzion

SHIUR #110: Simanim 177


By Rabbi Asher Meir





We introduced this subject in chapter 174, in order to compare and contrast it with the parallel rule regarding wine.  Now we will be able to discuss this subject in depth.


The gemara relates:


If figs and grapes are brought before them during the meal:

Rav Huna said, they require a blessing before, but not afterwards, and so said Rav Nachman. 

And Rav Sheshet said, they require a blessing both beforehand and afterwards, because the only food that requires a blessing beforehand but not afterwards [if eaten in the middle of a bread meal] is pastry [pat ha-ba'ah be-kisanin].

And Rebbe Chiya disputes this, for Rebbe Chiya said that bread exempts all kinds of food, and wine exempts all kinds of drinks.

Rav Pappa said, the halakha is as follows: Those [foods] which come BECAUSE of the meal, during the meal, require no berakha neither before nor after; those that come NOT because of the meal during the meal require a berakha before but no berakha afterwards; AFTER the meal, they require a berakha both before and after.

(Berakhot 41b)




Rashi's explanation of this passage is most elegant.  The following is my understanding of Rashi's approach.


According to Rashi, the "ha-motzi" blessing exempts BREAD, whereas the birkhat ha-mazon exempts "MAZON," food eaten to fill up on.


Food eaten BECAUSE of the meal means, according to Rashi, food that is generally eaten together with bread.  In our terms, this could correspond to food eaten in a sandwich.  These foods are actually subordinate to the bread, and are considered like bread itself.  Both the motzi and the birkhat ha-mazon naturally apply to it.


Pastries (pat ha-ba'ah be-kisanin) are definitely "mazon," and are definitely not "bread" for the purposes of ha-motzi, as we explained in chapter 168.  They are also never eaten together with bread.  Therefore, all agree that the motzi does NOT exempt them, and that the birkhat ha-mazon DOES exempt them.


Rav Huna and Rav Nachman consider figs and grapes also to be "mazon," since people eat them to fill up.  But they too are not bread nor are they eaten on sandwiches, so they have the same status as pastry.


"[Food coming] AFTER the meal" Rashi understands (and evidently even reads) foods of the KIND which are usually eaten after the meal, as a kind of dessert.  These are a third kind of food, neither bread nor "mazon," and so they can be exempted neither by ha-motzi nor by birkhat ha-mazon.


(Rebbe Chiya's approach was discussed in chapter 174.  There we explained, based on the Nishmat Adam's analysis, that Rebbe Chiya thinks that bread "overwhelms" other foods.  Other foods are not only subordinate to bread, but are actually unimportant in comparison; therefore, no blessing is necessary.)




It follows from Rashi's approach that ordinary meal foods, even a main course like meat, is not exempted by the ha-motzi blessing if not eaten together with bread.  Most Rishonim disagree.  According to Rashi, there is no news in the rule that foods coming "because of the meal" are exempted by ha-motzi, because this is just an application of the GENERAL rule that subordinate foods are exempted by the blessing on the main food.  Rather, the other Rishonim understand that this is a NEW rule that, specifically regarding bread, food that is usually eaten at the same MEAL with bread is also considered subordinate to (or perhaps overwhelmed by) bread, and is exempted by ha-motzi.




The SA seems to have hedged his ruling on this issue.  He writes that foods coming due to the meal are those that "are customary to fix a meal on them [the approach of most Rishonim] to flavor bread [the approach of Rashi]." The Beur Halakha understood that the second condition is not critical, and is given only as an example, and that the SA rules like most Rishonim.  Presumably this is because the examples the SA brings of foods eaten "because of the meal" correspond to the approach of the other Rishonim.


The Beit Yosef writes that fundamentally we rule like most Rishonim, but he cites Mahari Abuhav (author of "Menorat HaMaor" and an authority heavily relied upon by the Beit Yosef) that out of concern for Rashi's approach, foods that are not USUALLY eaten together with bread should be eaten ONLY together with bread - because in this case they are automatically subordinate.




The gemara we just discussed relates to fruit brought as an addition to a meal - figs and grapes brought as a kind of side dish.  How do we relate to fruit that, contrary to usual practice, is a main course of a meal?  This question is the subject of an extensive discussion in the Rishonim.  More than an entire page of the printed Tur is devoted to the Beit Yosef's explication of this discussion.  The following discussion is based primarily on the Beit Yosef, not on the primary sources.


The main source is the following passage in the Yerushalmi:


Rav Huna ate dates with bread.  Rav Chiya bar Ashi said to him, do you dispute [Rav,] your Rebbe? You should have left them until after the meal and then made a blessing both before and after [according to the ruling of Rav]!  He replied, these are my main food.

(Yerushalmi Berakhot 6:5)


There is no question that Rav Huna acted properly in making no blessing on the dates eaten together with bread.  That is, he didn't omit any obligatory berakha, even according to Rav.  What exactly was wrong with his behavior? One explanation is that eating them with bread hints that he was afraid that eating them afterwards might not require a berakha, implying that he didn't want to rely on Rav's ruling.  (See Pnei Moshe.)  Another explanation is that there is an advantage in increasing the number of berakhot (commentary of the Sefer Charedim), as long as we don't artificially change our eating habits to do this.  (Such an artificial change can be considered making an unnecessary berakha, a "berakha she-eina tzerikha," at least on weekdays.  On Shabbat, when reaching the designated quota of one hundred berakhot is much more difficult, some authorities are a little more lenient than usual regarding changing the order of eating in order to obligate ourselves in extra berakhot.  The "extra" berakha is necessary, in order to fulfill the obligation of one hundred berakhot.)


What rules of blessings can we infer from this story?


The Rosh and the Mordekhai reason as follows: It can't be that dates eaten as part of the meal require a blessing both before and after.  Otherwise, Rav Chiya bar Ashi wouldn't have suggested that Rav Huna wait until after the meal - he would have suggested eating the dates ALONE, during the meal itself.


It could be that dates eaten as part of the meal don't require ANY berakha.  Since they are a main course, they are like sandwich meat for a normal meal.  However, this seems unlikely.  Fruits are seldom eaten as a main course, and we should say that such an intention is too unusual to create a private norm.


Why then did Rav Huna eat the dates together with bread? If he had eaten them separately, he would have gained a blessing!  It seems that when such fruits are not only PART of the meal, but are actually the MAIN COURSE of a meal, then they must be considered as "due to the meal."  Although dates are an unusual main course, if that is the whole meal then they are clearly considered a meal.  So Rav Huna would not have needed to make a berakha even if he had eaten the dates WITHOUT bread.


The final fruit analysis is as follows, assuming that the general custom is that fruit is not eaten as a regular part of a bread meal:


1.  Fruit eaten as dessert requires a blessing both before and after, since it is neither subordinate to bread nor is it eaten to fill up on.  This is a straightforward application of the rule of Rav Pappa regarding "after the meal." (Se'if 2 in SA.)


2.  Fruit brought during a meal as a kind of side dish requires a berakha beforehand (borei pri ha-etz), but not afterward.  This is the ruling of Rav Huna and Rav Nachman in the first passage cited, whose opinion is accepted over that of Rav Sheshet.  These fruits are not subordinate to bread, but they are being eaten as part of the meal, so they may be considered "mazon." (Se'if 1 in SA.)  Even if one particular person considers them a main course and eats most of the fruit with bread, this can not establish a norm to exempt the fruit he eats alone BEFORE eating the rest with bread.


However, if he began and concluded eating the fruit WITH bread, this is enough to establish the fruit as subordinate to bread for the whole meal, even if some is also eaten without bread. (Se'if 1.)


3.  Fruit that is the entire main course, as in the story of Rav Huna in the Yerushalmi, is exempt from a blessing even if eaten without bread.  If a person merely DECIDES that fruit for him is like a main course, his decision is outweighed by common practice.  But if he PROVES that fruit is a main course by eating nothing else with the bread, then circumstances testify that fruit is indeed a main course, and no berakha is necessary.  This is the view of the Rosh and Mordekhai, and is the first opinion mentioned in se'if 3.




A number of other Rishonim state in a general way that fruit eaten as part of a meal requires a blessing.  The Hagehot Maimoniot (Berakhot 4:9) seems to imply that ALL fruit eaten as part of a meal requires a beginning berakha; the Beit Yosef points out that food actually eaten on bread is certainly an exception.  The Tosafot (Berakhot 41b) say that a blessing is required unless the food is eaten together with bread.


The Beit Yosef first suggests that these and other Rishonim agree that fruit eaten as part of a meal can not be made into a main course merely by eating a little bit with bread.  The fruit eaten with bread is indeed exempt, but if he wants to eat other fruit afterwards WITHOUT bread a berakha is required.


However, ultimately the Beit Yosef inclines to the view that those who disagree with the Rosh and the Mordekhai concur that eating a little fruit with bread makes the rest of the fruit also subordinate to the bread.  Where they differ from the Rosh and the Mordekhai is in the case of the Yerushalmi, where fruit is the whole meal.  They conclude that even in this case the meal must at least begin with eating a little fruit on the bread.  It seems that the logic of this view is that even if there is no main course besides fruit, it could very well be that the bread itself is the main course, and the fruit only a side course.  Only by starting the meal by eating the fruit on bread does the diner demonstrate that he considers the fruit the main course.


This is the second view recorded as "yesh cholkim" in se'if 3.




Fruit eaten after the meal requires a berakha acharona.  What is considered "after the meal?"


If there is still bread on the table, then it is certainly NOT after the meal.  (End of se'if 2.)  If the table is removed together with the bread (as was common in the time of the gemara) then it definitely IS after the meal.


Today, it is very common to take away the bread but not the table.  This case raises some doubts, and is discussed in the Beur Halakha d.h. "teunim" and d.h. "limshoch."


From the discussion in the Beur Halakha, it seems to me that one solution is to leave bread on the table during dessert, even if people seldom eat it.  No one today is careful to make a final berakha after dessert before birkhat ha-mazon, and even a careful person is faced with the fact that the table is not removed.  In this way we are decreasing the chances that no berakha acharona is required.


Another, very common solution is to bench before dessert.  A third possibility is to bench in the middle of dessert.  When offering dessert, announce that it will stay on the table after benching as well.  People will intend to keep eating after benching, and will not intend to exempt the dessert in their benching.  Therefore they will be careful to say a final blessing on dessert.  (This has a certain advantage since some people view benching as a cue to leave the table.  Leaving dessert until after benching risks depriving some guests of dessert.)