April 14, 2024
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Eating Before the Shabbos Meal: The Five Connections

The men and yeshiva boys come home from shul. They make kiddush and eat right before the meal. Are they permitted to do so? When finished, do they make a bracha achrona—an after bracha? Or, is the food covered by the bentching that will be made after the meal?

 

Misnomer About Hamotzi

It is a fallacy that is somewhat prevalent in our community that the Hamotzi covers everything that will be eaten during the meal. Foods that are generally not eaten as part of the meal require their own bracha— even after a Hamotzi was made. For example, if someone decides to sneak a chocolate bar during the meal—a Shehakol would be recited.

The Five Connections

Let’s get back to our original question as to whether a bracha acharona is recited on pre-meal food items. When there is a valid halachic connection between the foods eaten before the meal and the foods eaten during the meal, then a bracha achronah on the pre-meal food would not be recited. There are a total of five possible connections that are mentioned in the poskim:

1. The Covered by the Bracha Connection—If the person wants to eat that food in the meal and it would have not been covered by the Hamotzi of the meal. An example would be chocolates. What he should do is have in mind that his pre-bracha of Shehakol should cover the chocolates that he will have during the meal itself. In such a case, the pre-meal food is connected to the meal food and he would not recite a bracha acharona. If he does not wish to continue eating chocolates in the middle of the meal—then he does recite a bracha achrona—the borei nefashos on the chocolate.

2. The Appetite-Whetting Connection—If the food is being eaten in order to whet the appetite for the meal, then an after-bracha is not recited (see Maseches Brachos 176:2,3). Nutrition experts explain that certain foods—such as cakes and heavily sugared items—not only do not fill us up, but actually whet our appetites even further. The reason is that the nutritional value in these products has been depleted during processing. They actually make our feelings of hunger worse, even if we have eaten a few minutes earlier. However, it is only true if one eats it for the purposes of whetting the appetite.

3. The One Drink Connection—An after-bracha is not recited when one wishes to continue drinking during the meal (Magen Avrohom 174:14 cited in Biur Halacha “Vafilu”). The issue is not simple, however, and many poskim advise people not to drink a safek amount.

4. The Cake Connection—Most cakes are baked and fall into the category of pas haba bekisnin and are considered safek bread—possible bread and are, thus, covered by Hamotzi (ideally, one should have in mind that it will be covered by the Hamotzi, however). Cooked mezonos such as lukshen kugel are not covered by Hamotzi and are not considered safek bread.

5. The Wine Connection—The Shulchan Aruch rules (Orach Chayim 174:6) that wine is an appetite-wetter, and thus, a bracha acharona would not be recited either. Regarding grape juice, it is more complex.

(For more information on these five connections, see Vezos Habracha, chapter 9.)

 

The Underlying Issue

The Gemora in Yuma 70b asks: Why is it that on Yom Kippur—the Kohen Gadol, when he reads the Torah, recites part of that reading by heart? (The Torah portion begins with the verse: “And on the tenth,” from the book of Numbers (29:7), he reads by heart.) Reish Lakish provides an answer: A second scroll should not be brought, due to the fact that doing so will cause an unnecessary blessing to be recited; since, before reading from a new scroll, the high priest would have to repeat the blessings required upon reading from the Torah. Therefore, it is preferable that he read it by heart. The Magen Avrohom (Orach Chayim 215:6) cites Reish Lakish’s view conclusively as the halacha as does the Ramah in Siman 291.

The underlying issue behind the matter of eating before the meal is the concept called “bracha sheina tzericha.” In other places, when the Gemara (and many of the poskim) discuss bracha sheina tzericha, it generally refers to something that we now exclusively call a “bracha levatala.” A “bracha levatala” is a bracha that is completely in vain. In other words, it should not be said at all. Indeed, the Gemara tells us that whomever recites it, it is as if he has violated taking the name of Hashem in vain.

But there is now another, somewhat more prevalent meaning for this term borne out by the Gemara in Yuma and the Magen Avrohom. What we now call a “bracha sheina tzericha” refers to having caused an unnecessary bracha. There are a few examples of this:

If someone has fruits in front of him—all of the same blessing—and the person specifically excludes some of the fruits and recites another blessing on those that he excluded.

Reciting a bracha achrona, terminating the eating session and, thus, having to recite another blessing again.

Changing one’s place in a manner that another blessing must be recited.

Eating the foods of the meal before one has washed under certain circumstances.

These halachos are for Ashkenazim, Sefardic Jews should consult with their own rabbanim to determine their halachos.


Rabbi Yair Hoffman, is a teacher, author, lecturer, and moreh d’asra. His columns are read by over five million readers each year. The author can be reached at [email protected]

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