Friday, Oct 15, 2021

Brocha Mistakes

In our last article we presented the background of the halochos germane to making mistakes while reciting brachos. In this week’s discussion we will build on that introduction, reviewing some of the basic concepts we touched upon and provide more examples of situations where mistakes are made.

Some Practical Advice

Before delving into the halachic aspects, we will provide some practical advice related to reciting a brocha. These suggestions are not required by halacha, but rather, by getting into the habit of following them, one can avoid many problematic situations that arise when reciting brachos (see Vezos Habrocha chap. 25).

1) Before beginning to recite the brocha, it is preferable for one to pause for a moment to consider what he is about to recite a brocha over, and what the correct brocha is for that particular item.

2) It is also preferable, where feasible; to recite the various brachos over all the different types of food one is planning on eating immediately at the beginning of the meal. By doing so, he will not have a situation where he is in doubt as to whether he recited a particular brocha.

3) Lechatchilah (preferably), when reciting a brocha during an eating session, one should have in mind either that the brocha should exempt all foods covered by that brocha, including those that are not on the table or that he is planning on eating as well. For example, when reciting borei pri ha’adomah over the salad, one should have in mind that this brocha should exempt all foods that have the same brocha, or that he intends on eating that are not necessarily in front of him.

The reason for this is because some poskim maintain that if the other food is not on the table when the brocha is recited, it is not covered unless one has it specifically in mind. Thus, using our salad example, those poskim would maintain that the pineapple that will be brought out for dessert is not exempted with the borei pri ha’adomah recited over the salad, unless one had it in mind (Rema 206:4; Mogen Avrohom 206:7; Shulchan Aruch Harav 206:9; Mishnah Berurah 206:23).

When should one have this in mind? Lechatchilah, one should think about this when he says Hashem’s Name, which is the main part of the brocha. He may also do so at the beginning of the brocha or immediately prior to reciting the brocha. If he has this in mind only at the conclusion, than bidi’eved (ex post facto), the intent takes effect (Vezos Habrocha 25:3).

Hashem’s Name Sets the Tone

As we saw in our previous discussion, the Gemara (Brachos 12a) maintains that the main part of the brocha is Hashem’s Name. Therefore, the poskim write that before reciting a brocha, lechatchilah, one should be cognizant of which brocha he is about to say so that when he mentions Hashem’s Name he will know what the ending will be (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 6:1; Ben Ish Chai, Bolok 1:14; Chayei Adam 5:14). This is based on the explanation of the Rishonim that if one has in mind the wrong intent when saying Hashem’s Name, it is possible that the brocha is invalid.

Do Not Change Tracks!

Please note that whenever we mention that one had a specific intent while saying Hashem’s Name, this also includes where he had the intent at the beginning of the brocha or immediately prior to it.

If one begins reciting a brocha, and when saying Hashem’s Name he had a particular brocha in mind, he should not change to a different brocha. Rather, he should conclude with the brocha he originally intended to make. This is because, according to some Rishonim, it is the intent during Hashem’s Name that sets the tone, and if one changes, according to one argument of the Gemara, the brocha is invalid. For example, if one intended to recite a borei pri ha’eitz, he should not change it to a borei pri ha’adomah (Mishnah Berurah 46:20).

This halacha, that one should not change the brocha from what was originally intended, is true even if he is halachically required to recite the second brocha first. For example, one wants to eat a peach and a piece of watermelon. In the situation where he likes both of them equally, the brocha of borei pri ha’eitz usually takes precedence over borei pri ha’adomah. However, when reciting the brocha, he mistakenly had in mind when saying Hashem’s Name that he was about to recite a borei pri ha’adomah. Before concluding the brocha, he remembered that he should be saying borei pri ha’eitz. Nevertheless, he should not change the brocha and he concludes with his originally intended closing (based on Chayei Adam 5:14). The reason for this is because the order of which brachos take precedence over others is not essential, but rather it is only the preferred method (Vezos Habrocha 25:6).

Changed From Original Intent

That which we have discussed until this point, that one should not change the ending of the brocha from that that which he intended when reciting Hashem’s Name, is the halacha lechatchilah – the preferred method. If, however, one does change the ending of the brocha, the brocha is valid and exempts the food that he is about to eat. This is because the Gemara never reached a conclusion concerning its question as to which part of the brocha is primary, and it remains a sofeik, a doubt. And, as we have already explained, the halacha regarding any sofeik concerning a Rabbinic requirement is that we rule leniently. In this case, that translates into not reciting another brocha.

Rectifying Toch Kedei Dibbur

If one has a piece of melon (borei pri ha’adomah), and he mistakenly believes that it is an apple, and recites the brocha of borei pri ha’eitz, if he then immediately realizes his mistake, and, toch kedei dibbur, rectifies the brocha by saying, “borei pri ha’adomah” (i.e., he said, “Boruch Atah… borei pri ha’eitz, borei pri ha’adomah”), he has fulfilled his obligation and may eat the melon.

This is because, as we mentioned, one may rectify a statement within toch kedei dibbur of the previous statement. Toch kedei dibbur is the amount of time it takes one to recite the Hebrew phrase, “shalom alecha, rebbi” (“peace unto you, my teacher”).

Let us now make this case a little more interesting and we will see a novel halacha. Using the above example, if the person reciting the brocha had an apple in front of him while holding the piece of melon, and he recited the brocha of ha’eitz, correcting himself to ha’adomah, that brocha covers both the melon and the apple. This is on condition that he does not talk from the time he concludes the brocha, until he eats from both the melon and the apple (Shulchan Aruch 209:2).

The reason for this is as follows: The brocha of borei pri ha’adomah is valid, as according to the Rif (which we discussed in the last article), the Gemara is dealing with exactly such a scenario, where one corrects himself toch kedei dibbur. And, since the Gemara leaves it as a sofeik, we rule leniently and do not require a new brocha. Also, the brocha exempts those foods covered by the borei pri ha’eitz, as this was his intent when he started the brocha, and the Gemara also deals with such a situation where one has a specific intent when reciting Hashem’s Name (Vezos Habrocha [5769 edition], pp. 213-4).

It is important to note that this halacha is true only where one fully intended to recite the original brocha and indeed recited it before correcting himself. However, if one intended to recite the correct brocha over the item he intended to eat, but he experienced a slip of the tongue, recited the wrong brocha, and then immediately corrected himself back to his original intention, he exempts only the type of food he originally intended.

For example: He held a borei pri ha’adomah item and intended to recite that brocha. However, when he reached the end of the brocha, he slipped and mistakenly said borei pri ha’eitz. He then immediately corrected himself and recited borei pri ha’adomah. He has fulfilled his obligation of borei pri ha’adomah, and if he wishes to eat any foods requiring borei pri ha’eitz, he must recite that brocha first. The reason for this is because he never had intention to recite the brocha of borei pri ha’eitz, and that momentary slip is not valid (ibid.).

And if He did Change Tracks…

Earlier (subsection “Do Not Change Tracks”), we learned the halacha that one should not change the brocha from his original intent, even if he is halachically required to recite the second brocha first. Let us now address the question of what will happen if he indeed changed the brocha.

A person has various items in front of him, some requiring borei pri ha’adomah and some borei pri ha’eitz. He picks up a piece of watermelon, and intending to recite borei pri ha’adomah, he indeed does so. Upon concluding, he realizes that he should have made a borei pri ha’eitz first on a fruit, so he immediately adds the words borei pri ha’eitz. As we saw, this was not only wrong, as he had the brocha of ha’adomah in mind, but it was also unnecessary, as bidi’eved, one may recite a ha’adomah before ha’eitz.

The halacha is that he has exempted the melon with his borei pri ha’adomah. This was his original intent, and this was the brocha that he recited first. However, there is some discussion in the poskim concerning whether the fruits were also exempted with the borei pri ha’eitz. Do we say, perhaps he has not exempted the fruit, because the rectification of toch kedei dibbur works only where the original brocha does not take effect on anything, but where it does, one cannot “fix” it. Or do we say, perhaps the fixing accomplished toch kedei dibbur is ineffective only where one is not obligated to recite the first brocha. In other words, since he was not obligated to eat the melon at that particular point, there is similarly no obligation to recite the appropriate brocha. That being the case, if a person wants to exchange it for a different one, the rectification takes effect.

The bottom line on this question is that there is a doubt whether the fruits were exempted with the brocha of borei pri ha’eitz, and if he wishes to partake of them he has three options:

1) Have someone else recite the borei pri ha’eitz on his behalf.

2) Recite the brocha of shehakol over something else, having in mind the fruit. Although normally one is not allowed to recite the brocha of shehakol over non-shehakol foods, since he cannot recite borei pri ha’eitz, he is allowed to do so.

3) He should change locations, (i.e., go outside) and when he returns he can recite the brocha of borei pri ha’eitz. This is because for non-mezonos and non-hamotzi foods, changing locations cancels the effectiveness of the brocha rishonah (Vezos Habrocha pp. 214-5).

Obligated in the First Brocha

In the scenario we just described, the person was not obligated to recite the first brocha and therefore it can be argued that when he changed to the alternative brocha, that change took effect. Let us now contrast this with a case where he was obligated to recite the original brocha.

First, a straightforward case: A person ate a piece of cake and drank a cup of juice and now must recite two brachos, al hamichyah and borei nefoshos. He begins his first brocha having in mind to recite borei nefoshos and then realizes that he should actually recite the al hamichyah first. The halacha is that he should not change and recite al hamichyah, since bidi’eved, one may recite borei nefoshos first.

Now, let us make it more complicated: Rather than continuing with borei nefoshos, as he is supposed to, he changes to al hamichyah. The halachic ruling will depend on where he changed tracks. If he did so immediately after the word “ha’olam,” or after reciting a few words into the borei nefoshos text, he has exempted his obligation of reciting al hamichyah. However, if he changed to al hamichyah after reciting enough of the text of borei nefoshos that he has already fulfilled his borei nefoshos obligation, his change to al hamichyah does not take effect. This is because, once he has recited enough of the borei nefoshos text, he is viewed as being obligated in borei nefoshos and he can longer change to another brocha.

At what stage in borei nefoshos has one fulfilled the obligation? It is unclear in the poskim, but it can be argued that if he recites the words “nefesh kol chai,” his changing to another brocha would no longer be effective. However, it is possible that he has already fulfilled his obligation at an earlier point as well (Vezos Habrocha, page 215).

Did Not Correct Himself

Let us now discuss some cases where a person made the wrong brocha and did not correct himself (or he did, but not within toch kedei dibbur).

1) One has both ha’adomah and ha’eitz items in front of him. He takes a carrot stick, and intends to recite borei pri ha’adomah. However, he slips and says borei pri ha’eitz. If he does not immediately correct himself toch kedei dibbur to borei pri ha’adomah, the brocha is invalid. He should immediately say, “Boruch Sheim Kavod Malchuso Le’olam Va’ed,” and then recite the proper brocha (ha’adomah). Even though there were ha’eitz items in front of him, they are not exempted with the mistaken borei pri ha’eitz, as his intent was to exempt the ha’adomah item he was holding.

2) If however in the previous scenario, he held an item and thought that the correct brocha was ha’eitz and he recited that brocha, and only then did he realize that he was holding a food requiring ha’adomah, he has exempted the ha’eitz items in front of him or those that he intended to eat.

The Mistaken Brocha Worked

Let us now examine a scenario where the brocha recited by mistake can technically take effect.

One has both fruits and vegetables on the table. He picks up a ha’eitz item, and although he intended to recite the correct brocha, erred, said borei pri ha’adomah and did not correct himself. The halacha is that the only item exempted is that which he is holding in his hand. This is because, if a person inadvertently recites borei pri ha’adomah over an item requiring ha’eitz, the brocha takes effect bidi’eved. However, he does not exempt the items requiring borei pri ha’adomah, since he did not have them in mind when he intended to recite borei pri ha’eitz. He also does not exempt the other items usually covered with borei pri ha’eitz because his borei pri ha’adomah is effective only bidi’eved for that particular item, and he cannot rely on it lechatchilah for other fruits (Vezos Habrocha, page 217).

The same would be true if one is holding a vegetable, intends to recite ha’adomah, but instead says shehakol. He exempts only the vegetable bidi’eved, but no other food.

It is important to note that this halacha is true only where the “wrong” brocha was said by mistake. However, if one intends to recite what is technically a “wrong” brocha, the brocha does exempt other items. For example, if one does not know which brocha to recite over a particular item and has no way to find out, he is allowed to recite the brocha of shehakol, as this brocha covers all foods bidi’eved. Since he intentionally recited shehakol, he exempts all other shehakol items that are in front of him or those which he intends to eat (ibid, page 218).

Did Not Think

The cases that we have discussed throughout the article were situations where the one reciting the brocha had a specific brocha in mind when reciting Hashem’s Name. That intent has set the tone for the brocha and we then have all of the various possibilities of changing tracks in the middle. However, if one does not have any specific brocha or item in mind when reciting Hashem’s Name (although this is not the preferred method), one can indeed change the brocha if he realizes that he is about to recite an invalid brocha. For example, if one is holding a piece of melon, and does not have anything specific in mind when reciting Hashem’s Name, but realizes in the middle that he is not required to recite this brocha, as the food was already exempted, he may change the brocha to cover some other food in front of him that still requires a brocha. Whereas, had he intended at the time he said Hashem’s Name to recite a specific brocha, he may not change it to cover another item. Instead, he would be required to recite “Boruch Sheim Kavod…” as is the case when reciting invalid brachos (ibid, page 218-9).

Learning is a Necessity

There are still many more examples and halochos that can be included in this topic, but our space is limited. This discussion as well as the previous one, should drive home the realization of the vastness and complexity of the laws of brachos. We hope that by discussing these halochos, people will be motivated to undertake a systematic learning program to understand this most important topic more thoroughly.

This writer found the sefer Vezos Habrocha helpful in preparing this article.

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