י״ח באלול ה׳תשע״ב (September 5, 2012)

Berakhot 35a-b: Blessing Over Food

The origins of blessings of enjoyment, which are recited before partaking of any kind of pleasure, are ancient. The sixth perek of Massekhet Berakhot seeks to clarify the details of these blessings, but not to establish the essential obligation to recite them. Consequently, the fundamental issue throughout the chapter is the question of parameters and definitions. What do these blessings include? Which blessings are appropriate for which items? Blessings over food range from the general to the particular, from general blessings recited over different types of food to blessings recited over very specific items.

  • The most comprehensive blessing: “By whose word all things came to be,” is applicable to all foods.
  • The blessings over the fruit of the earth are more detailed and include a separate blessing for fruit of the trees.
  • Within this category, there is an even more specific blessing over wine: “Who creates fruit of the vine.”
  • Within the category of fruit of the earth, there is also a specific blessing for cooked grains: “Who creates the various kinds of nourishment,” and there is even a blessing recited exclusively over bread: “Who brings forth bread from the earth.”

These are merely preliminary determinations. The criteria for defining the objects of the blessings must also be established. What constitutes fruit of the tree and fruit of the ground, for these purposes? What is considered a cooked food and what, exactly, is bread? Although some foods clearly fall into a specific category, there are many food items whose categorization is less obvious and whose blessing must be determined. Consequently, most of the discussion in this chapter focuses upon the categorization of these borderline items. There is one underlying principle common to all of these deliberations: A more specific blessing is preferable. The higher the quality and the more extensive the processing of the food item, the more specific and exceptional the blessing. Therefore, the discussion is an attempt to delineate those parameters and to determine the quality and degree of processing of each item.

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