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Shehakol Nihyeh or Nehyah Bidvaro?

The Different Traditions

Followers of Rav Yitzhak Yosef, the current Sephardic chief rabbi (and son of Rav Ovadia Yosef), regularly witness him recite Shehakol Nihyah Bidvaro on the tea brought to him during his shiurim. This represents the widely accepted practice amongst all Sephardic Jews, as evident from many Sephardic siddurim, including the Moroccan and Syrian ones. This practice stems from the ruling of two of the greatest Sephardic halachic authorities, Maran HaHida (Birkei Yosef, Orah Haim 204:2) and the Kaf HaHaim (Orah Haim 204:18). Both note the common Sephardic practice is to say Nihyah. Mr. Tsuri Gadasi of Riverdale, New York, reports that Yemenite Jews also say Nihyah Bidvaro.

Most Ashkenazic Jews (other than Chabad followers) recite Shehakol Nihyeh Bidvaro, as noted by the ArtScroll Siddur (though the Koren and other Israeli Siddurim state Nihyah). The Aruch HaShulchan (Orah Haim 167:7 and 204:1) already reports that Ashkenazic Jews say Nihyeh.

What is the basis of this dispute?


The Sephardic and Yemenite Practice

The Gemara (Brachot 38) teaches that we must formulate brachot in the past tense. Rashi (ad. loc. s.v. D’Apik) explains that one must express that Hashem has already created the food that one is about to eat. Accordingly, Shehakol Nihyah Bidvaro seems most appropriate since it is in the past tense, “all came about with His word.” It is for this reason the Magen Avraham (167:8) prefers Nihyah. The Shulhan Aruch HaRav (Orah Haim 204:18) follows the Magen Avraham as is his wont. Chabad adherents follow the ruling of the Shulhan Aruch HaRav, as they usually do. Interestingly, Rav Yaakov Emden (Teshuvot She’elat Ya’avetz 104 and 105) rules in favor of Nihyah, as does Rav Shlomo Ganzfried in his Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (52:2).


The Ashkenazic Practice

Despite the many Ashkenazic poskim who rule in favor of Nihyah, it is widely accepted among Ashkenazic Jews to recite Nihyeh. There are foremost Ashkenazic authorities who support the Nihyeh position. The Magen Avraham cites the Hochmat Mano’ah, who prefers Nihyeh, and Teshuvot Me’il Tzedaka (number 42) concurs. The Vilna Ga’on (as reported in the authoritative Ma’aseh Rav, number 76) also subscribes to the Nihyeh view.

The Aruch Hashulhan offers a compelling explanation for the Ashkenazic tradition (I find it surprising that the Mishnah Berurah does not address this important topic). He writes that Nihyeh captures both the past and present tense. Moreover, he notes that the word “borei” in the brachot of Borei Pri HaEtz and Borei Pri HaAdama also refers to both present and past tense.

Borei and Nihyah’s past and present tense reflects that Hashem created the world and continues to sustain it. Thus, Nihyeh and Borei express that Hashem is “mehadesh b’chol yom tamid ma’ase Bereishit,” each day renews Creation.


Brachot 38

Brachot 38 supports the Aruch Hashulhan. This Gemara presents a dispute as to whether we say Motzi Lehem Min HaAretz or HaMotzi Lehem Min HaAretz. The argument hinges on whether the word HaMotzi is in the past tense. The Gemara concludes in favor of HaMotzi, which constitutes the universal practice. The distinct advantage of saying HaMotzi is that it captures both the present and past tense, expressing Hashem’s initial Creation and His ongoing renewal and management (hashgaha) of Creation.



The Gemara is not vowelized, so the question of the correct pronunciation of נהיה is open to dispute. Although we cannot determine our question from our traditional texts, its resolution lies in the ongoing traditions. Therefore, Ashkenazic Jews should continue their tradition to say Nihyeh, and Sephardic Jews must continue their convention of Nihyah.

Rabbi Haim Jachter is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck. He also serves as a rebbe at Torah Academy of Bergen County and a dayan on the Beth Din of Elizabeth.

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