Simanim 183-184 The Cup of Berakha

  • Rav Asher Meir
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mishna Berura
Yeshivat Har Etzion

SHIUR #114: Simanim 183-184


By Rabbi Asher Meir


            The following is a passage from Berakhot 51a-b:


Rebbe Zeira said in the name of Rebbe Abahu - others say it is taught in a beraita: Ten things were said of a cup of blessing.  It requires:

(1) Washing [hadacha] and (2) rinsing [shetifa], (3) live [chai] and (4) full [malei], (5) surrounding [itur] and (6) cloaking [ituf], (7) take it with two hands, and place it in the right, and (8) elevate it from the ground a tefach, and (9) gaze at it; and some say, (10) send it as a gift to household members.


Rebbe Yochanan said, we know of only four: Washing, rinsing, live and full.


A beraita teaches washing is on the inside and rinsing on the outside.


Rebbe Yochanan said: One who blesses on a full cup is granted an unbounded inheritance, as it is said (Devarim 33:23), "Filled with God's blessing, west and south he inherits."  Rebbe Yosi bar Chanina says, he merits to inherit two worlds, this world and the next world.


Surrounding: Rav Yehuda surrounded it with students, Rav Chisda surrounded it with cups.  Rav Chanan said, and live.  Rav Sheshet said, and in the blessing on the land.


Cloaking: Rav Pappa would wrap himself in a cloak and then sit down, Rav Ashi would wrap a shawl on his head.


Take it with both hands: Rebbe Chinena bar Pappa said, what is the Scriptural source - (Tehillim 134:2) "Raise your hands in holiness and bless God."


And place it in the right: Rebbe Chiya bar Abba said in the name of Rebbe Yochanan, our predecessors asked, what about supporting it with the left?  Rav Ashi said, since our predecessors asked the question and didn't reach any conclusion, we must be stringent.


And raise it a tefach off the ground: Rav Acha son of Rebbe Chanina said, what is the Scriptural source?  (Tehillim 116:13) "I will raise up a cup of salvation, and call on the name of God."


And gaze at it: in order not to turn his attention from it.


And send it to family members as a present: so that his wife should be blessed. 




The central dispute here is how many requirements apply to a cup of berakha.  Are there ten, as Rebbe Abahu suggests? Or only four, as Rebbe Yochanan says?  Or is there some intermediate number?


The GEONIM ruled like Rebbe Abahu, and concluded that all ten practices are obligatory.  The Beit Yosef points out that since Rav Yehuda and Rav Chisda were careful to fulfill "surrounding," each in his own way, and the same is true of Rav Pappa and Rav Ashi regarding "cloaking," we have evidence that Rebbe Yochanan's view was not accepted.


At the other extreme, the RAMBAM (Berakhot 7:15) mentions only the four requirements mentioned by Rebbe Yochanan.


TOSAFOT and the ROSH point out that Rebbe Yochanan himself tried to define the parameters of receiving the cup in the right hand, raising the question of support with the left.  Their conclusion is that Rebbe Yochanan himself also agrees with most of the list, excluding only surrounding (itur) and cloaking (ituf).  The fact that later scholars performed itur and ituf may have been a mere chumra (stringency).


RABBENU YONA draws a more minimalist conclusion from Rebbe Yochanan's comment, and decides that Rebbe Yochanan adds the proper way of receiving and holding the cup as a fifth requirement.  (This fifth requirement may be hinted at in the first four, for the Tur points out that the acronym of "hadacha, shetifa, chai, malei" can be arranged to spell "chamisha" - five.


How many are mentioned in the SA?




Wine that is "chai" ("live") usually means wine that is not mixed with any water.  The Rishonim are perplexed by this requirement, though, because such wine in the time of Chazal was considered undrinkable, as we learn from the following mishna:


We may not bless on wine until water is poured into it, says Rebbe Eliezer; and the Sages say, we may bless. (Berakhot 50a)


On this, the gemara on the following page elaborates: Rebbe Yosi son of Rabbi Chanina said, the Sages agree with Rebbe Eliezer that on a "kos shel berakha" (cup of blessing) we may not bless on it until water is poured into it.


Other passages tell us how much water is required.  For instance, on Shabbat 77a we learn that Rava asserted that unless there is at least three parts water to one part wine, it is not wine at all.  On Nidda 19a, we learn that wine from the Sharon region required less water.


So we have the paradox that on Berakhot 50b we learn that according to all opinions we can't bless on a "kos shel berakha" until it is diluted; whereas on Berakhot 51a we learn that a "kos shel berakha" must be chai - UNdiluted.


Several resolutions were suggested to this conundrum.


The RIF suggested that the cup is originally full strength, to fulfill the requirement of "chai," but that it is mixed with water during the second berakha of birkhat ha-mazon, that on Eretz Yisrael (birkat ha-aretz – the blessing on the land).  This is how the Rif understood Rav Sheshet's statement in the first passage above - the wine remains "live" until birkhat ha-aretz.  This symbolizes that the grapes of Eretz Yisrael produce a strong wine, which needs to be poured down.


RABBENU TAM objects that according to this practice the cup isn't full - which is also an obligation.  He explains (and perhaps the Rif agrees) that "chai" doesn't mean completely undiluted but rather diluted less than customary.  During birkhat ha-aretz the cup is merely "topped off" to complete the full dilution.


RASHI explains that undiluted wine should be poured into the cup, and then diluted by pouring in water.  But the wine should not be diluted in a decanter and poured from the decanter into the cup.


The Beit Yosef seems to me to favor the approach of Rabbenu Tam, which is also that of the Rosh and Rabbenu Yona.  But in the SA he rules differently.  Evidently he concludes that "full" is not necessary until birkhat ha-aretz.


The Rema mentions here a consideration mentioned many times in the Rishonim - that the wines of the time of the Rishonim were much weaker than those of the time of the Talmud and therefore do not require dilution.  (I would appreciate hearing from any reader who has any hard information that bears on this issue, and would help us understand how today's wines measure up.)


The Tur brings an alternative explanation, that "chai" doesn't mean undiluted wine but rather a whole, undamaged cup.  The Tur recommends fulfilling this view as well, and so the SA rules in se'if 3.






We start with a mishna in Berakhot:


One who ate and then forgot and didn't bless: Beit Shammai say, he must return to his original place and bless, and Beit Hillel say he blesses in the place where he remembers.  And how long may he bless?  Until the food is digested in his innards.

(Berakhot 51b)


The gemara on 53b points out that the mishna deals with one who forgot, but one who intended to eat in one place and bench in another must return to the original place, even according to Beit Hillel. 


Beit Hillel object that it is not fair to demand that someone climb flights of stairs to make a berakha; Beit Shammai point out that if he forgot his wallet upstairs he would certainly not hesitate to go back up and get it.


While halakha is according to Beit Hillel, the gemara tells the story of two students.  One forgot to bench before he left, but then decided to be stringent and return to where he ate, as Beit Shammai require; he was rewarded by finding a purse full of money.  The other purposely intended to save time by eating in one place and benching after he left; he was eaten up by a lion.


The gemara then discusses the period of time "until the food is digested":


What is the time of digestion?  Rebbe Yochanan said, as long as he is not hungry; Reish Lakish said, as long as he is thirsty from his eating.  Rav Yeimar bar Shelamia said to Mar Zutra - others say Rav Yeimar bar Shizva said to Mar Zutra - did Reish Lakish really say that?  Did not Rav Ami say in the name of Reish Lakish, how long is the time of digestion - long enough to go four miles?  There is no difficulty - this is for a large meal, this is for a small meal.


The general principle is that in a dispute between Rebbe Yochanan and Reish Lakish, halakha is according to Rebbe Yochanan, except is certain specified instances.  However, we still have some unanswered questions:


1.  Does Rebbe Yochanan also distinguish between a large and small meal - one having an absolute shiur and one a relative one?

2.  If so, is four miles [about seventy-two minutes] the shiur for a large meal or a small meal?

3.  Are these shiurim only for bread, or do they apply also to other foods?


The first two questions are the subject of dispute:


1.  The Tur doesn't mention the absolute shiur of four miles at all, but the Rema in Darkhei Moshe cites Abudarham that four miles is the shiur for a small meal. 


2.  Rashi writes that even a large meal is digested within seventy-two minutes, and a small meal in even less time.  But Tosafot disagree, viewing seventy-two minutes as a minimum period of time for digestion.  The Abudarham we just cited agrees with Tosafot.


Regarding the third question, the Rosh writes that for fruit and drinks also the shiur is until one is hungry.  But we still don't know if seventy-two minutes is relevant for these foods.


The MB writes in 190:8 that the shiur for drinks is less than that for eating, but regarding other foods he writes here in the MB and BH that seventy-two minutes should be considered a minimum for digesting any food.


Rav Pinchas Bodner in his book "Ve-ten Berakha" brings opinions that (apparently in accordance with Rashi) rule that for a small amount the shiur ikul (the amount of time for the food to be digested) is less than seventy-two minutes, but certainly not less than half an hour.  At any rate, the MB rules that no food is digested in less than seventy-two minutes.