Parshas Ekev.


Laws of Brochos.



1. The Torah requires us to bless the Creator for eating bread until satisfaction. Our sages also instituted blessings before and after eating all other foods. They also instituted blessing over nicely smelling substances as well as many other blessings. The detailed laws of blessings are quite complicated and they are usually being learned and reviewed all life. Just as one is not allowed to eat without a brocha, so too, it’s forbidden to make extra blessings. Therefore, one can’t make blessings whenever he is not sure they are needed, just in case. Only thorough study of the laws of brochos can help avoiding unnecessary and incorrect blessings.


2. There are altogether six different brochos before eating:


בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, הַמּוֹצִיא לֶחֶם מִן הָאָרֶץ




This blessing is recited over the bread made from wheat, barley, spelt, rye or oats. If the bread is made out of any other grain (corn, rice, etc) we make “Shehakol” on it. The bread has to be baked in the stove. If it is cooked or fried in a pan, we recite “Borey Miney Mezonos” over it. However, if the bread was first baked, and then also cooked or fried, it does not lose its status unless small pieces are cooked (even if they get stuck together like matzo balls). The dough has to be made primarily with water, and not be filled with other ingredients. If the main liquid in the dough is juice or if the dough is full of sugar, so it tastes like cake, the brocha is “Borey Miney Mezonos”. However, if small amounts of raisins or sugar are added to the dough, we still make “Hamotzi” on this bread. Even cake may require “Hamotzi” in case one eats it in large quantities (equivalent to three or four eggs). Anytime we eat bread that requires Hamotzi, we need to wash hands outside the bathroom prior to eating. According to most customs, each hand is washed twice with a cup, but most Sephardim wash each hand three times. It’s very important to make sure that the water is poured over the entire hand up to the wrist. One should pour a lot of water; if needed, the cup can be refilled after each pouring. After washing the hands but before drying them, the blessing is made:


בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל נְטִילַת יָדַיִם




If one eats a piece of bread less than the size of an egg, he should not recite the brocha “Al Netilas Yodoyim” on the washing. After washing, one should not talk until the blessing on the bread is made and a piece was eaten and swallowed.


 בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא מִינֵי מְזוֹנוֹת




This blessing is made on the foods other than bread, which contain wheat, barley, spelt, rye or oat flour. According to many opinions, we also make this blessing on the rice, even though in all other laws rice does not have the same status as the other Mezonos.


 בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגֶּפֶן




This brocha is recited over grape wine and grape juice. Wine that is made from anything but grapes requires only Shehakol. It is preferable not to mix grape wine with water or other liquids since otherwise there is a dispute what blessing to make on the mixture.


בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָעֵץ




This blessing is made on any fruits that grow on trees or high bushes, this may include certain berries and nuts. The definition of fruits of the tree according to halacha – is those fruits that grow back on the branches year after year. For this reason, bananas, which grow on the tree only once, are not considered to be “the fruits of the tree,” and their brocha is “Borey Peri Hoadomoh”. According to most authorities, papaya also requires “Borey Peri Haadamah”.


בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה




We make this blessing on all vegetables and grain products that don’t contain flour. However, on mushrooms we make “Shehakol” since fungi don’t receive their sustenance from earth. If one eats edible fruit pits he makes “Shehakol” but if he eats the fruit itself together with the pits, the brocha on the fruit coves the pits. If one eats edible fruit shells, he makes “Bore Peri Hoadomoh” on them.


בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁהַכֹּל נִהְיָה בִּדְבָרו




This brocha is made over all foods that don’t grow from earth. Even if the ingredients of the food grow from earth, if they are processed in the manner that they are no longer recognizable, this blessing is recited. If one accidentally made this blessing on any food, even bread or wine, he fulfilled his obligation after the fact.


3. When an improper blessing was recited, sometimes it is valid after the fact, but in most cases when an incorrect blessing is made, one does not fulfill his obligation. He needs to say:


בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד




and recite the correct blessing.


4. There are specific laws regarding the order of blessings. In general, the more important brocha is usually recited first. Thus, the order of brochos is as follows: “Hamotzi”, “Borey Miney Mezonos”, “Borey Peri Hagofen”, “Borey Peri Hoetz”, “Borey Peri Hoadomoh”, “Shehakol”.


5. When one is eating various foods that require the same blessing, the brocha is made on the most important of the foods, and other foods are covered by it. If one has various types of bread, the brocha on wheat bread is made. If there is no wheat bread, one should make the blessing on barley bread, since the other three types of grain (rye, oats and spelt) are not mentioned explicitly in the verse praising the Land of Israel. If one has an unbroken piece of bread, the brocha should be made on it, if he has a piece of wheat bread and unbroken barley bread, he should put the slice of wheat bread under the barley bread and make the brocha on both. When one has various fruits, and one of seven species is among them, he should make the brocha on it. Otherwise, he should recite the blessing on the fruits he usually likes the most. If he usually does not have any preference, he should make a brocha on the fruit he prefers now. All the above laws apply only if one wants to eat all the foods mentioned. However, if one has some food in front of him, and he is not planning to eat it, he does not make a brocha on it first, even if it is considered a more important food according to the above rules.


6. When one is eating a mixture of foods, he usually makes one brocha that is appropriate to the majority ingredient and it covers others as well. Thus, if the food contains rice and meat, if there is more rice, its brocha covers the meat as well. Similarly, if one had both fruits and vegetables in a salad, if the vegetables constitute the majority, only “Bore Peri Haadama” is made. In case each of the ingredients is easily recognizable in a mixture, there is a dispute whether the blessing on the majority covers the rest or whether two brochos should be made. To fulfill the obligation according to all opinions, one should take some other food that has the same brocha as the minority ingredient, and its blessing will then cover that ingredient in the salad as well. If the food one is eating contains flour, “Borey Miney Mezonos” is made even though the flour does not constitute the majority. However, if a little bit of flour is added only to keep the food together, like in the case of gefilte fish, we don’t recite “Borey Miney Mezonos”.


7. In case one made a blessing on the bread, he does not make any other blessing before or after the foods eaten during the meal. This rule does not apply to the fruits and sweets eaten as desert. The blessings are made before them but not after, for Birkas Hamazon covers them. There are different opinions whether a blessing is needed if one eats some of the fruits during the meal together with bread and some without bread. Therefore, it’s better to always eat fruits only in the end as desert. Similarly, there is a dispute regarding whether one should make a blessing on cookies and cakes brought as desert. The Ben Ish Chai suggests making “Shehakol” on some other sweet desert and to keep in mind to cover the cakes as well. The one who drinks the wine during the meal makes a blessing before but not after. Moreover, the blessing on the wine also covers other drinks.


8. The blessing before eating is made on any amount of food. However, after the meal, we only make a blessing if we ate at least Kezais – somewhat more than an ounce of food. The food has to be eaten within a certain time period, according to various opinions it could be two minutes or possibly four or more minutes. Regarding drinking, we only recite the blessing afterwards if we drank a Reviis of liquid. This amount is somewhere between 3 and 5 ounces. According to some opinions the blessing is only made if one drank quickly while others hold that even if drinking was finished within two or possibly four minutes, the blessing is made. Because of all these uncertainties, when one is eating or drinking relatively small amounts, he should pay attention to either not exceed the smallest of the sizes, or make sure to eat or drink the minimal amount according to all opinions so that he can then recite the blessing.  According to Kaf Hachaim, it is preferable to always eat or drink enough in order to be able to recite a brocha.


9. After eating bread, Birkas Hamazon is recited. First, the fingers are washed and one is not allowed to talk until he finished making the brochos. If at least three men ate together, zimun is made. One of them – the leader – invites others to praise the Creator for the food they ate. It is preferable to recite zimun on a cup of wine, after Birkas Hamazon, the leader makes “Borey Peri Hagofen” on it and drinks it.


10. If one did not eat bread, but ate food made of seven species for which the Land of Israel is praised, he makes a special blessing on them. This blessing is a short summary of the entire Birkas Hamazon. There are three possible wordings in this brocha – one after eating food made of flour (Mezonos), another, in case one drank wine or grape juice, and the third – for eating grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives or dates. In case one ate the food falling in more than one category, he recites all of what applies to him. For example, the one who ate Mezonos, drank wine and ate figs will say “Blessed are you ADONOY our God, King of the universe, for the nourishment and sustenance and for the vine and the fruit of the vine and for the tree and the fruit of the tree …”


9. In case one ate the foods that don’t require the above blessing, the Borey Nefashos is made on them. This blessing can be recited even at a location different from where one ate; still, it is preferable not to leave the table until the blessings after the food are recited.


10. There are also many specific laws about interruptions during eating, leaving the place where one ate and wanting to eat more of the food that he did not have in mind at the time he made the brocha. One also has to know how long after the meal, he can still make the blessings as well as the laws of compensations of possible mistakes made during the brochos before or after eating. For example, what should one do if he forgot to mention Shabbos during Birkas Hamazon. All of these laws are quite complicated and it’s a big mitzvah to thoroughly study them using appropriate books.


11. Besides the blessings on food, our sages established many other brochos. All of them can be found in Sidurim, we will try to describe only some of them in brief. Before performing most commandments we need to make a blessing. We already mentioned the blessing before taking off challah, immersing new vessels in the Mikvah, putting on Tefillin, etc. The general principle of the blessings over mitzvos is that they contain the words “ASHER KIDSHONU BEMITZVOSOV VETZIVONU” – “Who sanctified us with His mitzvos and commanded us regarding …” Other blessings express our gratitude to the Creator for everything, that He gives us. Thus, rising in the morning we say set of blessings printed in the beginning of the Sidur. We thank the Creator for giving us understanding and sight, strength and protection, clothes and shoes. Every morning we wash our hands three times and recite a blessing as the new day begins with renewal of our body. The matter is that during the sleep, the connection between the soul and the body weakens: our sages teach that a dream is one sixtieth of death. When we wake up, we are as though born anew. In the morning we also say the blessing “Asher Yatzar”, after going to the bathroom. If our body does not function normally and we cannot relieve ourselves, this brings awful suffering and can even lead to death. We have to recite this blessing each time after we went to the bathroom. Another frequent blessing is “Shehechiyonu” – we thank the Creator for allowing us to live till this time, and it is said under various circumstances. We recite it after purchasing new expensive clothes, when fulfilling rare mitzvos like redeeming the first-born, and also on each holiday. A lot of blessings were established by sages on various sensations – what our eyes see, our ears hear and our nose smells. Just as there are different blessings for different kinds of food, so too there are different blessings on various smells. All details of these blessings are described in Sidurim. The blessings on what we see include the brochos on high mountains, great seas and oceans. The blessings on what we hear include for example the brocha on hearing thunder, or hearing good news. It is necessary to recite all the blessings with concentration – this is one of the greatest ways to feel the presence of the Creator in our everyday life. Arizal told his students that his main success in understanding the Torah was reached through concentration during the recital of brochos.