June 16, 2024
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Mistakenly Recited Bracha on Dairy During the Six Hours

A Halachic Dilemma

What if one mistakenly recites a bracha on dairy food during the six hours after eating meat? Is it better for him to eat a bit of dairy food or refrain? The downside of refraining is that the bracha he recited will be in vain, a bracha l’vatala. If he eats, he violates the prohibition to eat dairy within six hours of consuming meat. Similar dilemmas arise if one mistakenly recites a bracha on food on a fast day or non-kosher food.

 

Choosing the Lesser Avera

Rav Ovadia Yosef (Teshuvot Yechave Da’at 4:41) summarizes the many opinions regarding the dilemma regarding dairy food. He and his sons also address the issues regarding fast days in their writings.

Two compelling guiding principles emerge from the Yosef family rulings. First, one should choose the lesser Avera when confronted with such a situation. The Gemara (Yoma 82a) instructs us, regarding a dangerously ill individual who must eat forbidden food, to give him the less severe of two prohibitions. Similarly, in our situation, we should choose the less severe sin.

 

Shev V’Al Ta’aseh Adif

Second, if both options involve violating averot of equal severity, one should be inactive (shev v’al ta’aseh). Poskim frequently state that one should do nothing in an irresolvable dilemma. For example, if God forbid, one is faced with the choice of killing an innocent person or being killed, he must allow himself to be killed. However, he does not have to forfeit his life if he is inactive. Since in such cases, we do not know whose blood is redder, the default is shev v’al ta’aseh (Tosafot, Pesachim 25b s.v. Af and Sanhedrin 74b s.v. V’ha Ester).

 

Bracha L’Vatala: A Torah or Rabbinic Prohibition

The next question we must address is the severity of a forbidden bracha. Rav Ovadia Yosef, following the Chida, insists that Sephardic halacha follows the Rambam (Teshuvot number 84), the geonim, and the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 215:4) that a bracha l’vatala constitutes a Torah level prohibition. However, the Mishna Brura (215:20) insists that most Rishonim believe a bracha l’vatala constitutes a rabbinic-level prohibition.

Now, we are ready to deal with the full gamut of dilemmas that arise.

 

Bracha L’Vatala vs. Eating Dairy After Meat

For Sephardic Jews, waiting six hours is a rabbinic requirement overridden by the Torah-level prohibition of a bracha l’vatala. Ashkenazic Jews, though, view waiting six hours as a custom and a bracha l’vatala as a rabbinic prohibition. What emerges is that both Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews who mistakenly recite a bracha on dairy food during the six hours should take a tiny bit of the dairy food to avoid a bracha l’vatala. In that way, the less severe sin is chosen.

 

Fast Days

The four short fasts—Shiva Asar B’Tammuz, Tzom Gedalia, Asara B’Tevet, and Ta’anit Esther—today are observed only as a matter of custom (Rosh Hashana 18b and Maggid Mishneh to Hilchot Ta’ani’ot 5:5). Thus, if one mistakenly recited a bracha on food on these days, Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews should take a tiny drop of food to avoid a bracha l’vatala.

Eating on Tisha B’Av is a rabbinic prohibition. Therefore, a Sephardic Jew who mistakenly recites a bracha on food that day should eat a tiny drop, but an Ashkenazic Jew should refrain.

Eating on Yom Kippur is a severe sin (involving karet), and therefore, even a Sephardic Jew who inadvertently made a bracha on food that day should refrain from eating it.

 

Forbidden Foods

Some foods are forbidden on a Torah level, and others are rabbinically prohibited. Regarding biblically forbidden foods, even Sephardic Jews mistakenly made a bracha should not eat even a drop. If it is only rabbinically not allowed (such as food cooked in violation of bishul akum), then Ashkenazic should not eat, and a Sephardic Jew should take a minuscule drop.

 

A Bizarre Scenario

Once, I saw a high school student try to pressure a classmate to share his French fries. The classmate refused to give him the food, so the student recited a borei pri ha’adama on the French fries to pressure him to relent.

On the one hand, maybe he should give him a French fry to avoid a bracha l’vatala. On the other hand, if one gives him the food, he facilitates the student’s violating lo tachmod, the prohibition to pressure others to relinquish their property. One breaks lo tachmod only if the pressure yields the coveted item (Shulchan Aruch C.M. 359:10 and Teshuvot Minchat Asher 1:108). Thus, it might be better to withhold the food even if it results in a bracha l’vatala.

I think giving the student one tiny drop of food is the proper resolution. In this way, one did not support a bracha l’vatala but did not violate lo tachmod. The student did not desire a tiny drop of a French fry; thus, giving him a little morsel of the coveted food does not satisfy his desire and violates lo tachmod.

 

Conclusion

TABC talmid Eytan Goldstein observes that brachot help us be more mindful about our food. We must contemplate the proper blessing before eating the food. Thus, the dilemmas we outlined should arise only in theory. We should be sufficiently aware of the halachic day, our halachic status, and the food we eat so that the questions we outlined never arise.


Rabbi Jachter serves as the rav of Congregation Shaarei Orah, rebbe at Torah Academy of Bergen County, and a get administrator with the Beth Din of Elizabeth. Rabbi Jachter’s 17 books may be purchased at Amazon and Judaica House.

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