Reciting Brachos on Food Eaten During the Meal
This week’s article will discuss the halachos of brachos for food items eaten in the middle of a bread meal. When does the bracha of Hamotzi cover for other brachos, and when is an additional blessing required? Is there a case where an additional final blessing is required besides the standard Birkas Hamazon after a bread meal? The Shabbos meals may, at times, present a challenge – people who are trying to limit their carb intake wash for the challah, eat only a small bite and then they eat the entire Shabbos meal without any bread. Does one recite Birkas Hamazon after completing this kind of meal? What happens if one washed and ate only a small bit of bread, followed by slices of pizza whose blessing is questionable (mezonos/hamotzi) — would one recite Birkas Hamazon after this kind of meal? At weddings and other public meals waiters often remove the bread and dips from the table when the first course is over, in order to serve the main course. If there is no possibility to eat more bread, is one required to recite an additional blessing on the main course? What happens if the tables are already folded up, and dessert is served in butler-service style? These question are relevant this coming Shabbos, when the chometz will be removed from the table and Pesachdik foods will be served, sans the bread. The timing is also a topic of interest – are the halachos of brachos dependent upon the ability to eat bread or does it change after the final time for eating chometz has passed? How should the brachos be recited when eating chometz outside and then changing locations for the rest of the meal?
First and Last Brachos After Removal of Chometz on Shabbos Erev Pesach
This coming Shabbos, Erev Pesach, all chometz must be eaten by a specific early hour (end of the fourth hour of daylight). As it is Shabbos, and there is a mitzva to eat three bread-meals while matzah may not be consumed (as it is Erev Pesach), the Shabbos Seudos must be completed at a relatively early hour (for details, please refer to last week’s article). As the house is already chometz-free, and one cannot leave chometz over to be burned, many families will eat all chometz immediately after Hamotzi, then clear the table and reset it with Pesach dishes. This is to ensure the house does not get filled with chometz again and will not touch the Pesach dishes. This is especially relevant if eating close to the final time for eating chometz when clearing and cleaning the table is mandatory.
Some people prefer not to eat the chometz at the same table they will be eating Pesach foods, and prefer to eat elsewhere such as on the roof, porch, or yard. Then, they dust off and go into the house to continue their Shabbos meal with Pesach foods. Where should Birkas Hamazon be recited? Are additional blessings required if changing places and removing the bread from the table?
To determine the relevant halachos, we will focus on three specific points:
- a) When do Hamotzi and Birkas Hamazon exempt one from all the other blessings?
- b) What happens all year when beginning a meal with bread and then continuing it without, or changing locations and continuing a meal without bread in another location – are additional blessings required? And where should the final blessings be recited?
- c) In light of the above, we will determine the relevant halachos for the coming Shabbos.
The Gemara (Brachos 41b) mentions three general rules for these halachos:
Rav Pappa said:
- Food items that are secondary to bread and are eaten during the meal, neither require a blessing before eating them nor after eating them.
- Food items like fruit, that do not come due to the meal, but are eaten during the meal, require a blessing before eating them but do not require a blessing after eating them
- Food that is eaten after the meal, requires a blessing both before and after eating them.
There are three central explanations of this Gemara:
- a) Rashi explains that “food items that come due to the meal” are items eaten together with the bread as part of the meal. These items do not require any additional brachos.
Food items that are not eaten along with bread but in addition to it at a meal (Rashi mentions three examples: porridge, cabbage stew, and spinach stew) although served for nourishment, because they’re not eaten along with bread they require the first blessing. The last blessing, though, is included in Birkas Hamazon.
Fruit and other dessert items that are not part of the meal require a first and last blessing, whether they were served as first or last courses.
Most Rishonim disagree with this approach and it is not accepted l’halacha.
- b) The majority of Rishonim (Tosefos, Brachos 41b; Rabbenu Yona, Brachos 29b; Rosh, Brachos 6:26) rule that “food that comes due to the meal” includes every food item that is normally served at a meal — fish, meat, cheeses, eggs and vegetables, grains, pastries, and porridges, even if they are not actually eaten alongside the bread. These items are included in the Hamotzi recited at the start of the meal and Birkas Hamazon at the end.
Fruit or dessert which are served to end a meal require a separate blessing, but no additional final blessing.
After finished with bread, any additional food items eaten require their own first and last blessings. This includes any food items, whether or not they are meal-staples.
This approach is authoritative and ruled by the Shulchan Aruch (Orech Chaim 177:1-2).
- c) The Rashba (Brachos 41b) rules that every food item normally eaten in a meal, whether eaten as part of the meal or not, is included in the meal if Birkas Hamazon has not yet been recited and is exempted from both first and last blessings.
Foods made of the five grain species served for pleasure (cake, for example): if served as part of the meal – do not require a separate blessing. If eaten for dessert– the first blessing – mezonos – should be recited before eating, but no additional final blessing should be recited, even if the table was cleared before serving. [In early times, food was served on a wooden panel which was placed on four legs or a box, without a plate. Once no longer eating, the table-board was removed. Dessert or pastries were served after this stage. Clearing the table can be compared today to removing the plates from the table.]
Fruit eaten for dessert: if eaten with bread, even if not the normal way of eating, exempt the fruit from both first and last blessings. If eaten as part of the meal without bread (think: apple crisp, cranberry relish) require the first blessing but not a last one. If eaten as dessert, require both first and last blessings.
L’halacha, this method was not accepted, but the Achronim take it in account in rendering different rulings.
The Achronim’s Dispute
Most Achronim disagree with the Rashba regarding eating other dishes after the bread is removed from the table and will no longer be eaten. For filling carbohydrates, however, even if eaten after bread was removed from the table, the Biur Halacha writes that most agree that no further blessing is reqired.
The Chazon Ish (27:2-4) writes that even if bread is no longer on the table, if one knows he will be eating additional foods, those foods require no further blessing. However, once the meal has ended and the food is removed from the table with only dessert to be served, all agree that it requires a separate blessing.
Difference in Ruling for Different Foods — Reasons
The Rishonim mention two reasons why the blessings of Hamotzi and Birkas Hamazon exempt foods that would otherwise require a blessing:
1) Two foods eaten together require only one blessing — the blessing required for the main food item. The secondary one does not require blessing at all (crackers with peanut butter, herring on a cracker). Since bread is defined as the mainstay of human diet, any foods eaten along with it or inside a sandwich are considered secondary to bread. This is Rashi’s opinion, but the Rishonim extend it to meat, fish and all other foods normally eaten at a meal.
2) As bread is the mainstay of human diet, it takes the center stage at any meal it is served. Therefore, the blessing for any meal with bread will be Hamotzi. This blessing includes any foods eaten as the main part of the meal. Dessert, (although some see it as the main part of the meal…) requires an additional blessing, as it is considered an optional add-on to the meal. How Birkas Hamazon includes dessert is subject to various opinions, as mentioned above. Rabbenu Yona, the Rashba, and the Rosh mention only this reason.
As a result of the above reasons, difference s in halachic rulings arise:
The main difference mentioned in the Rishonim refers to a filling carbohydrate eaten without bread such as porridge or pilaf. The first reason would require the first and last blessings. According to the second reason, these foods are exempted from both blessings because they are part of the meal. This is even though eating a filling carbohydrate is instead of eating more bread, and not eaten together with bread.
The Shulchan Aruch (177:1) notes the reason that the foods are served alongside bread (reason 1), but the Mishna Brura (1,2) learns from the Shulchan Auch’s mention of porridge, which is eaten separately, that both reasons are accepted l’halacha.
Another scenario where the differences in opinion result in a dispute is when one eats only a small piece of bread at the beginning of the meal and then goes on to eat a full seudah. The Magen Avraham (177:1) rules that the other food items are not secondary to the bread. According to the reason 1 it is difficult to attribute the entire meal to the small piece of bread eaten at the beginning. However, according to reason 2 the entire meal can be attributed to the small piece of bread.
The Mishna Brura (177:3) mentions this halacha in the context of one who wishes to eat a food item whose bracha is unclear (such as pizza) and washes on a small piece of bread. Since he really does not want to eat bread and the reason for the bread is the pizza, one cannot say that the pizza is part of a bread-meal. However, the Mishna Brura writes that since a meal usually contains bread, therefore, even in this case, the pizza is counted as part of the meal. He does, however remain undecided in this matter, and rules that in this case it is better not to wash on a small piece of bread except on Shabbos and Yomtov when there is a mitzva to eat bread. On Shabbos and Yomtov one eats bread because there is a mitzva to eat bread. Therefore, even though he really does not want to eat it, it is enough to place the meal under the title of bread.
This difference in reasons also lead to a dispute regarding this week’s Shabbos meals, where bread will be eaten and then completely removed from the table before continuing the meal without bread. According to reason 1 it would be difficult to say that the rest of the meal follows the bread since it is no longer on the table (or possible to eat – after the last time for eating chometz), while according to the second reason, as long as the foods are eaten for nourishment, Hamotzi and Birkas Hamazon exempt these foods from any additional blessing.
Clearing the Table in Contemporary Times
The Shulchan Aruch (177:2) describes that mealtime practices in Mishnaic times ended the meal with removal of the bread along with the table and bringing out of fruit and wine. This appeared as a new meal. Therefore, after removal of bread, both the blessings of Hamotzi and Birkas Hamazon would not absolve anything eaten afterwards from both first and last blessings, whether the foods are those eaten as part of the meal, or as dessert.
Contemporary mealtime practices have changed, and today even if the bread is removed from the table, we do not totally refrain from eating more bread. A hungry person can always go into the kitchen and take more bread. Therefore, this ruling is somewhat irrelevant nowadays.
The Biur Halacha adds that at large festive meals (weddings, for example) where bread is no longer available once the table is cleared, seemingly the original halacha from Talmudic times becomes relevant again. He mentions a dispute among the Rishonim and ends that if the bread was removed but the table still remains, the accepted custom is not to recite any more blessings.
Seemingly, the Mishna Brura based his ruling on the principle that one is lenient when there is a doubt in brachos. However, as always, it is preferrable not to enter a doubtful situation.
Removal of Bread
The Shulchan Auch’s ruling that every food item requires additional blessings if the table was removed (as it was in Talmudic times) requires further clarification. The Magen Avraham (footnote 5) and Mishna Brura (footnote 11) write that the Shulchan Aruch is referring only to fish and meat. The Pri Megadim (footnote 5) wonders at the Magen Avraham – what is he excluding?
The Biur Halacha (ibid) proves that many Rishonim agree that if the table was removed but one intends to continue eating porridge, he is still exempted from the first and last blessings. This follows the rule of doubtful brachos situations. He adds that preferably, one should clearly intend to thank Hashem for his porridge during Birkas Hamazon.
As mentioned above, meat and fish are included in Birkas Hamazon because they are secondary to bread. Therefore, if no longer eating bread, it is impossible to say they are a part of a meal of bread. However, if eating filling food items such as porridge, the exemption is not because it is secondary to the bread but because it is a main course in the meal. In this case, the Rishonim agree that the first bracha pertains to the entire meal, from beginning to end, not only to the bread part. Therefore, although no longer eating bread, one can complete his meal without any additional blessing.
One who eats bread exempts all additional foods from the first and last blessings, besides for dessert items which require the first blessing. The halacha does not change if there is bread on the table or not. When the bread is removed from the table together with the tablecloth, the accepted custom is to be lenient and not recite any additional brachos. Preferably, though, one should refrain from eating any more (since it is unaccepted for guests to go to the kitchen to ask for another roll if he is still hungry after the meal has been cleared).
If the table itself is folded up, desserts served afterwards require a first and last blessing. If, however there remains a buffet with filling foods (kugel, chicken nuggets, stuffed peppers) the halachic authorities are disputed, and one should be lenient, although preferably, one should not enter a doubtful situation.
If bread remains on the head table (such as the large challah customarily made for weddings) from which hungry guests can eat, or a basket of rolls remain for bentching, the exemption remains throughout the meal. This follows the Tosefos in Maseches Brachos (42a) who write that their custom was to take care not to remove the bread from the table until after Birkas Hamazon. Several other Rishonim write likewise. This halacha is also mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch (180:1). The reason is discussed in the Zohar (quoted by the Kaf Hachaim, ibid, 1): blessing can only take effect when there is something there for the blessing to rest upon.
A more simplistic reason for leaving the bread on the table during Birkas Hamazon is quoted by the Levush: to clearly illustrate that we are blessing Hashem for His kindness and goodness by sustaining all of His creations.
Shabbos Erev Pesach
This coming Shabbos, Erev Pesach, three scenarios might fall under the halacha of “removal of the table” in which case additional brachos will be required:
- After eating the bread many will be removing the tablecloth, sweeping the floor, and resetting the table. Does this fall under the “removal of the table” halacha?
- Families who intend to eat the chometz in one location and continue the meal in another from which the first cannot be seen. Will that be considered “removal of the table”?
- One who finished eating his bread before the last time for eating chometz, cleans up the crumbs and wants to continue his meal with kosher-l’Pesach foods. Is this situation considered “removal of the table”?
Removal of Tablecloth and Bread
One who will be eating the entire meal in the same room but will be clearing the table and removing the chometz tablecloth before commencing his meal with other foodstuffs, is similar to the large meals mentioned earlier in this article, for which the general custom is to be lenient and not recite any additional brachos. However, as a rule, one should not place himself in a doubtful situation.
In this case, an additional leniency (the Chazon Ish) can be added to the equation – as long as one’s intention is to continue eating filling foods, all Rishonim agree that no additional blessings should be recited even if there was an actual “removal of the table” as in Talmudic times. In addition, we are told that Rav Eliyashiv was known to say that an additional leniency can be added: the reason one does not eat bread is not because he does not want to do so, but because of a side reason – he wants to keep his house chometz-free. This does not constitute removal of bread.
Eating in Another Room
According to the Mishna Brura, starting the meal in one room and continuing it in another would be considered “removal of the table” since the location of the meal changed. However, if going into the house or changing locations is done in order to continue eating a regular meal, there is still room for leniency not to recite any additional brachos.
Finishing the Meal After the Last Time For Eating Chometz
When the meal continues after the last time for eating chometz when eating or owning bread is no longer permitted, many talmidei chachomim opine that one can still be lenient and not recite any additional blessings. This is derived from the Tosefos (Brachos 41b): Rabbi Yehuda Hachasid notes the dispute between Hillel the Elder and the Sages how to fulfill the mitzva of eating the Korban Pesach “On Matzah and Maror” – should each item be eaten separately or all together? Rabbi Yehuda Hachasid asks how is it possible to eat matzah after the Korban Pesach as we know “Ein maftirin achar hapesach afikomen – no foods may be eaten after the Peasch sacrifice”? In that case, why does the korban Pesach not require a separate blessing? He answers because one is never turned off by bread, and the reason the bread (matzah) is no longer eaten is because of the prohibition – not due to disdain. Therefore, the reason for desisting bread consumption is a side reason and is not considered having removed ones’ self from eating bread for reasons of brachos.
[There still is room for discussion here: matzah at the Seder is no longer eaten after the Peasch sacrifice, but the sacrifice is served as a continuation to the consumption of the matzah. However, before Pesach, when no longer eating bread because the final time for eating chometz has passed, there is room for the claim that one has removed himself completely from eating chometz.]
- One may continue the meal with other foods without additional blessings even if the tablecloth is removed with the bread. (The accepted custom is to be lenient although there was initially room for stringency.)
- If one changes locations after finishing eating bread it is more difficult to exempt one from reciting brochos on non-carbohydrates. However, if eating filling carbohydrates along with the rest of the meal, one can be lenient and not recite any additional blessings. Preferably, one should cook the carbohydrate along with the fish or meat as one dish (i.e. chicken and potatoes).
- After the last time for eating chometz has passed, one can continue his meal with other foods, however preferably, it should contain a filling dish that includes carbohydrates.
- When completing the meal where the first place cannot be seen, the place for reciting Birkas Hamazon is questionable. Rabbi Aryeh Dunner shlita suggests finishing most of the bread in the first location and the final bite should be swallowed in the second one, thereby rendering the second place as a location of eating bread which would be the place for reciting Birkas Hamazon.
- It is preferable not to serve dessert at these types of Shabbos meals, because it is unclear if dessert would require an additional after-blessing or not. Dessert should prerably be served at another point during the day.