Interruptions between the Bracha and Eating

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Halachos of Hefsek by talking between the beracha and Betzia

Situation: There is a family sitting down to a bread meal after washing. The father (or mevarech) makes the beracha on the bread with intent that the beracha should count for the others, and all present listen to the beracha with kavana to be yotze with the father’s beracha. The listeners are Reuven and Shimon. They answer Amen. The following cases are different scenarios that occur after that sequence of events.

Case #1: Reuven begins to talk before anyone has a chance to eat.

  1. S”A (O”C 167: 6) rules that one who talks after the beracha before eating must make a new beracha in order to eat. This applies as well to one who hears the beracha from another in a case where no one has eaten yet (see below for cases where one eats before any talking occurs).

Ruling: Reuven needs to make a beracha before eating.

Case #2: The father eats a bite of the slice he cut for himself. Reuven and Shimon then break into conversation before eating themselves.

Ashkenazim: If the Mevarech or listeners talk before the tasting the bread

  1. The Rema (167:6) writes that if the mevarech (one making the beracha) eats and then the listeners speak before they get the chance to eat of the bread themselves, the listeners would still be allowed to eat the bread without a new beracha.

[1]

  1. Mishna Berura (167: 43) writes that nearly all the Achronim argue on the Rema (see Be’ur Halacha there and previous reference for the outline of the discussion).
  2. The Sha’ar Hatzion (there) lists the achronim who disagree with the Rema and they include: Taz, Magen Avraham, Eliyah Rabbah, Likutei HaPri Chadash, S”A Harav, Chayei Adam, Shiurei Bracha, Halacha Berura, and possibly the Gra.
  3. Piskei Teshuvot (167: 11) explains that we don’t say Safeik Brachot L’Hakeil in this case as the Achronim conclude. Therefore, if the listeners talk before eating themselves, they will require a new beracha to eat.

[2]

Sephardim:

  1. Ben Ish Chai (Emor 16) rules in accordance with the Rema above based on the concept of Safeik Berachot L’Hakeil. Thus, as long as the mevarech ate before any talking took place, the listeners may and should eat without a new beracha.
  2. This is also the opinion of the Yalkut Yosef (167:11 in Kitzur S”A) Additionally, he rules that even if another listener ate before the talking, then all may eat the bread without any issue of a hefsek. One who talked in such a case can also think the beracha in his head before eating as this counts as a beracha for the Rambam and Smag yet wouldn’t be a beracha l’vatala.

[3]

Ruling: The consensus for Ashkenazim is that Reuven and Shimon must make a beracha before they eat of the bread. The consensus for Sephardim is that Reuven and Shimon may eat the bread without a new beracha. (Preferably, they should think the beracha before tasting.)

Case #3: Shimon goes ahead and eats a bite of his slice. The father hasn’t had a chance to eat yet. (Ideally, Shimon should’ve waited for his father, (S”A O”C 167) but such isn’t relevant to our case.) Reuven then begins to talk.

Ruling: Halachically, the case has the same result as in case #2. (see above discussion) For Ashkenazim, Reuven needs a new beracha, whereas for Sephardim, he doesn’t.

  1. The source for this opinion is from the Rokeach (brought down in the Beit Yosef (Tur Siman 167)). Such also seems to be the opinion of the Or Zarua from the Rema above. The logic is that once the mevarech eats of the bread, the beracha counts for all those who wish to be yotze with that beracha, whether they eat of the bread or not. The Rokeach draws the parallel to Kiddush where the rule is that only the one making Kiddush is actually required to drink for the Kiddush to count for all those present at the table. The Beit Yosef, however, responds that the beracha in our case is different. When the mevarech says the Hamotzi, it is as if everyone says Hamotzi by the law of shomea k’oneh. Each person individually must ensure to eat before talking or else they’ll require a new beracha. Kiddush, on the other hand, is considered a Birkat Hamitzva where one Jew can discharge the obligation of another Jew. In that case, the listener tags along with the one making Kiddush in terms of the entire mitzvah (i.e. the Kiddush itself and the subsequent drinking). The Aruch HaShulchan (167:6) defends the side of the Rema by saying that by Kiddush too, all are required to drink as part of fulfilling Kiddush on an individual level. Even so, the listeners are yotze with the drinking of the mekadesh. By Hamotzi, when the mevarech obligates himself to eat, the listeners are yotze with his eating alone. For more discussion, see Yalkut Yosef (167 footnote 5 in detail).
  2. There is a dispute among the authorities surrounding the issue, and one would expect to encounter the rule of safeik berachot l’hakeil (by a case of doubt by a beracha, one should omit the beracha). The Kaf HaChaim (167 note 58) explains that there is no safeik beracha case here because the listeners didn’t make the beracha themselves. It is true that one who listens to a beracha with intent to be yotze may not subsequently make his own beracha. Even so, as the person in our case is just a listener, he can make the beracha again after accidentally talking without the fear of a beracha l’vatala by the second beracha as the case is slightly different than the case of one who made the beracha himself. See Yalkut Yosef (167 footnote 5) where he argues on this reasoning.
  3. For a lengthy discussion of these rulings in light of the complexity of the issues, see Halichot Olam (vol. 1 pgs. 346-350).