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When the sunshine makes its much-anticipated appearance, along with it come delicious and refreshing summer drinks. While freshly squeezed lemonade, energy-boosting vegetable juices, and creamy smoothies are indeed something to look forward to, they raise interesting halachic questions that need to be addressed. 

What is the appropriate berachah for fresh fruit and vegetable juices? How about a smoothie? Why do we recite a special berachah on grape juice while all other juices seem to be Shehakol? Are all fresh juices kosher? Am I really allowed to blend “insect-prone” strawberries? If I can’t eat them whole, why can I blend them?

In this article we will explore some of these intriguing questions.

Berachot: The Source

From a young and tender age, we teach our children the importance of Birkat Hanehenin, reciting a blessing prior to consuming foods. The Gemara (Berachot 35a) searches for a Biblical source for this mitzvah, only to conclude that it is Rabbinic in nature, based on simple, logical deduction.

The pasuk in Tehillim states:

לַה’ הָאָרֶץ וּמְלֹאָהֹּ תֵּ֝בֵ֗ל וְיֹ֣שְׁבֵי בָֽהּ:

“Hashem created this world, the earth, and all that it contains is His.”

Clearly, then, it is appropriate that prior to benefiting from what this beautiful world has to offer, we should first praise Hashem and request His permission. As the Gemara teaches, anyone who benefits from this world without reciting a berachah resembles one who benefited from a consecrated item from which one is forbidden to derive pleasure.

Gratitude and Thanksgiving

One may ask, with such logical reasoning for making a blessing prior to eating — to the point that the Chachamim established a Rabbinic mitzvah based on it — why did the Torah itself not explicitly command it as one of the 613 mitzvot?

One answer is that the logic obligating one to bless prior to eating is derived from the fundamental basics of hakarat hatov and derech eretz. Just as hilchot derech eretz were not included in the count of the 613 mitzvot, the obligation of berachah rishonah was likewise not included. As Rav Chaim Vital zt”l teaches,[1] good middot and Torah ethics are the fundamentals and prerequisites of all the 613 mitzvot and are therefore are not included in the count.

Greatness and Piety

We all understand the importance of reciting berachot and are careful not to eat before doing so. However, what we may not realize is how complex and intricate this topic truly is. At times, our lack of knowledge and awareness may even lead us to inadvertently err in reciting an unnecessary or wrong berachah.

The Gemara uses an interesting analogy when describing greatness: “He is a great man and proficient in the laws of blessings.”[2] We find a similar statement elsewhere:[3] “One who wants to be a chassid (pious) should be meticulous[4] in the laws of blessings.” The Elyah Rabbah expounds further,[5] explaining that a chassid is someone who, rather than relying on the principle that Shehakol exempts all foods, chooses to learn and become proficient in all matters of hilchot berachot.

The intention of this article is not to teach halachah l’maaseh; it is to sensitize readers to both the importance and complexity of hilchot berachot. This will hopefully encourage and motivate us to educate and familiarize ourselves regarding this fascinating and important topic.

The Four Food Groups

The nusach (phraseology)of the blessings as we know them today was established by Ezra HaSofer and his beit din, the Anshei Knesset Hagedolah.[6] However, the concept of blessing prior to eating existed long before[7]  the nusach was formally introduced. As we find already by David HaMelech, who lived two hundred years prior to the Anshei Knesset Hagedolah, instituted the custom of reciting one hundred blessings a day, which is kept to this very day.

The Anshei Knesset Hagedolah, rather than authoring one all-inclusive text, decided to get a little more expressive and specific in our praises of Hashem. They categorized the various food items into four general categories — fruits, vegetables, grains, and all others — each meriting a blessing of their own.

For fruits that grow on a tree, we make a Boreh Pri Ha’etz, while for vegetables that grow on the ground, we make a Boreh Pri Ha’adamah. On food produced by any of the five grains — wheat, barley, spelt, rye, and oats — we make a Boreh Minei Mezonot (when certain conditions are met). Although logic dictates that grains should have been included in the category of Boreh Pri Ha’adamah, due to their satiating nature the Anshei Knesset Hagedolah saw fit to formulate a special blessing for them. On all other food items, whether a food or a drink, the appropriate berachah is Shehakol.

The exceptions to this rule are bread and wine.[8] Because bread is a grain in its preliminary stage, and wine is a fruit, they should have been included under Mezonot and Ha’etz respectively. However, as a result of their elevated stature above all other foods, the Anshei Knesset Hagedolah saw fit to designate them a special nusach of their own: Hamotzi Lechem Min Ha’aretz and Boreh Pri Ha’gefen.

Berachah on Fruit Juices: Mei Perot

How about freshly squeezed fruit juice? We all know that the berachah is Shehakol but have you ever wondered why this is so? If we say Boreh Pri Ha’etz on the fruit itself, why do we make a Shehakol on the freshly extracted juice? Does it not come directly from the fruit itself? What factor causes the juice to be downgraded to Shehakol?

The Gemara[9] in Masechet Berachot (38a) teaches that the appropriate berachah for date honey is Shehakol. Even though the honey is directly extracted from the dates, and the dates themselves are Ha’etz, the honey is nonetheless Shehakol. The reason for this is that we consider the extracted liquid as “zeya b’alma — merely sweat,” which can be loosely explained as “secondary to the fruit itself.” It is therefore “downgraded” to a Shehakol.

The logic here is that Chazal established the nusach of Boreh Pri Ha’etz on what can actually be defined as “the pri,” i.e., the main fruit of the tree. Anything secondary[10] to that would simply not qualify for this blessing.

This principle is true not only for date honey. All other fruit juices are likewise not considered the main usage of the fruit and are therefore halachically downgraded to a Shehakol.

The exception to this rule is wine. Wine not only maintains its status; it even merits a special nusach of its own. What is the difference between wine and other juices that are derived from fruit? Since trees are generally planted for the purpose of producing fruits, the fruit juice is considered secondary. However, regarding wine, Chazal identified wine as “the pri” of the grapevine, i.e., the “principal fruit” of the tree, and it therefore qualifies for retaining the berachah of Ha’etz. As mentioned above, other halachic considerations then upgrade the wine to a Boreh Pri Hagefen.  

Regarding olive oil, see footnote.[11]

We will refer to this topic as the “sugya of mei perot.”

Mei Shlakot: Is Vegetable Broth Ha’adamah?

However, later in Masechet Berachot (39a), the Gemara[12] seems to contradict this principle, extrapolated from sugya mei perot. Here, the Gemara implies that if one were to boil vegetables and only drink the vegetable broth, the appropriate berachah would remain a Ha’adamah, just as one would recite on the vegetables themselves. This sugya is referred to as mei shlakot.

If so, the question is obvious. How can it be that one recites a Ha’adamah on vegetable broth, while on date honey and freshly squeezed juice one only recites a Shehakol? Both are composed of and contain the liquid extracted from the produce and should therefore logically be subject to the same halachah.

Mei Shlakot or Mei Perot?

In order to answer this question, we would need to identify the chiluk (difference) between boiled vegetable broth (mei shlakot) and fruit juice (mei perot). However, answering this question is no simple task. The Rishonim each differ as to how they address this question. This results in multiple halachic debates on the accurate definition of and guidelines to what would qualify as “mei shlakot” and retain its original berachah, and what would resemble “mei perot”and bedowngradedto Shehakol. While this may be intriguing on a scholarly level, it creates much confusion on a practical and halachic level.

Below we will list some of the halachic opinions, as well as practical applications based on their reasoning.

The Rishonim Weigh In Mei Perot vs Mei Shlakot

The Rosh: Boiling versus Squeezing

The Rosh[13] differentiates between boiling and squeezing. Only the liquid of a cooked item — whether a fruit or a vegetable — retains its original berachah (mei shlakot). Elsewhere[14], the Rosh adds an extra condition: that his intention was to boil the vegetables for the sake of the vegetables. In such a situation, the broth retains the original berachah of Ha’etz or Ha’adamah. However, squeezed vegetables or vegetables boiled for the sake of enhancing the taste of the liquid are Shehakol.

Application: According to the Rosh, both fruit and vegetable soup broth will generally require a Ha’etz or Ha’adamah. However, when squeezed, a Shehakol should be recited. Brewed coffee, tea, and beer, although cooked, are Shehakol since the liquid is not cooked with the intention to enhance the beans or grains themselves.

The Rashba: Conventional Practice

In the case of a species that is generally planted with the intention for it to be juiced or cooked, the liquid maintains its original berachah (mei shlakot). However, if that species is generally eaten as is rather than squeezed or cooked, since it is no longer in its conventional state, the extracted liquid (whether squeezed or cooked) is downgraded to a Shehakol (mei perot).

Application: According to the Rashba, the berachah on vegetable soup broth is Ha’adamah. Common freshly squeezed fruit juices such as orange juice may retain their original berachah of Ha’etz. Following this reasoning, brewed coffee, tea,[15] and beer should logically retain their original berachot (Ha’etz, Ha’adamah, and Mezonot, respectively). However, cooked fruit broths and juiced vegetables are Shehakol since the intention for their main usage is not to cook the fruits or juice the vegetables.

TheRambam:[16]Three Conditions[17]

In order for a liquid to inherit the berachah of the vegetable, three conditions must be met: (1) it should be a species that is generally boiled, (2) the liquid needs to be a socially recognized drink, and (3) the vegetable must have been originally boiled with the intention to drink its liquid.

Application: Vegetable soup broth, brewed coffee, and tea maintain their original berachah. However, boiled vegetables that were not intended as a soup may be subject to a Shehakol as the main intention is for the vegetable and not to drink its liquid.

The Raavad:[18] Intentionally Squeezed

When the fruit or vegetable is intentionally cooked or squeezed, the juice maintains the original berachah (mei shlakot). However, when the liquid oozes out on its own, the liquid is considered as simply zeya (sweat), and a Shehakol should be recited (mei perot).

Application. All pressed fruit and vegetable juices maintain their original berachah. However, the liquid that oozes out of a watermelon, for example, would be Shehakol since it was not originally extracted with the intention to drink it. Note that this would apply only if one were to just drink the liquid. If they were to eat the watermelon too, the berachah on the fruit would exempt one from making a berachah on the liquid.

The Mordechai:[19] Food or Drink?

When the extracted liquid is intended to be eaten with bread, for example, as a dip, the liquid is defined as a food and therefore retains the berachah of the original fruit or vegetable(mei shlakot). (Note: ground vegetable dips, such as olive dips, are subject to a different halachah.) When the liquid is intended to be a drink,[20] even when cooked or intentionally squeezed, the berachah is downgraded to a Shehakol (mei perot).

Application: Since bread is commonly dipped in vegetable soup, the broth will retain its original berachah. On the other hand, fruit juices, coffee, tea, and beer are defined as drinks and are therefore Shehakol.

The Ra’ah: All Liquids Are Shehakol

Liquid extractions in all circumstances are always a Shehakol. This is true even if the vegetable is commonly cooked[21] or squeezed.

Application: All liquids, including vegetable broth, are a Shehakol. Note: The Ashkenazic poskim seem not to be concerned about the Ra’ah’s opinion and would therefore make a Ha’adamah on vegetable soup broth. However, the Sephardic poskim are concerned about the Ra’ah’s opinion and hold that vegetable broth is Shehakol. See note.[22]

סב”ל: Safek Berachot L’Hakel

Confused? It’s OK! The good news is that the accepted custom on virtually all liquids is to anyway recite the all-inclusive berachah of Shehakol.[23] As the Mishnah (Berachot 40a) teaches, one who recited a Shehakol over any food item has fulfilled his obligation.

Why is this so? Since berachot involve mentioning the name of Hashem, the Poskim are very cautious out of fear of reciting the “wrong” berachah and transgressing the prohibition[24]  of “לא תשא את שם ה’ אלוקך לשוא,” mentioning Hashem’s name in vain. (Note: A Shehakol can only be relied upon in a bedieved, post-factum, situation or when the poskim are unsure what the accurate berachah is.)

Should one involve himself in this debate between the greatest Torah giants and decide who is correct? How can one carry the responsibility on his shoulders and recite a Ha’etz on freshly squeezed orange juice like the Raavad, if according to the Rosh, the appropriate berachah is Shehakol and his Ha’etz was therefore said in vain?

For this reason — especially on this particular halachah, which has many opinions — we prefer to play it safe and apply the principle of safek berachot l’hakel and make a Shehakol.

Conclusion? Well…Not Quite

This would have been a great place to conclude this article, and wish us all a great, safe, and healthy summer. However, we have one little problem. Staying on the safe side and relying on a Shehakol works wonderfully in just about all situations, except a few. How about the berachah acharonah, the after-blessing. While a Boreh Nefashot is recitedfollowing the consumption of most foods, certain foods merited a special after-blessing. These include bread, foods that are Mezonot, wine, and the seven species with which the land of Israel was blessed. The seven species are composed of two grains and five fruits (grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates). These special fruits merit their own special ending to the after-berachah of “Al Haperot.”

So, here is where we get stuck. Which after-blessing, for example, should one make on soaked (or cooked) date or raisin juice? According to the Rashba, since the berachah prior to drinking is Shehakol, the after-blessing is without a doubt is a Boreh Nefashot.However, according to the Rosh, soaked or cooked fruit juice retains the berachah of Ha’etz. Therefore, since dates and raisins (dry grapes) are both from the seven species, such juice should qualify for the special after-blessing of Al Haperot like the fruit itself.

This presents a unique situation in which one is without a doubt obligated to make an after-blessing, but it is unclear which one to make. For this reason, halachahstates that a Jew with yirat Shamayim should avoid this kind of situation and only consume such a drink if partaking in a Hamotzi meal where he can rely on Birkat Hamazon to exempt it.[25] Luckily such drinks are not so common.

Wait — It’s Not Over Just Yet

How about one who “erroneously” recited a Ha’etz on freshly brewed coffee beans or orange juice? Should he go ahead and recite a new “correct” blessing of Shehakol?

Let’s explain. According to the Rambam, coffee may actually be Ha’etz, and according to the Rashba and Raavad, orange juice might also be Ha’etz. If one were to go ahead and recite a new “correct” blessing of Shehakol, since according to these opinions, he may have already been acquitted with the blessing of Ha’etz, he may now be transgressing with a berachah she’einah tzrichah, an unnecessary blessing. Therefore, bedieved,[26] he should consider his Ha’etz effective, and no new blessing is required.[27]

Some apply this calculation one step further.[28] If one has an apple and a cup of orange juice in front of him, it is advisable to make a Shehakol on the cup of orange juice prior to blessing Ha’etz[29] on the fruit. The reason for this is that according to some Rishonim, he may have already acquitted the orange juice with the Ha’etz on the apple.

Note: Juice from concentrate is not subject to this discussion and is without a doubt Shehakol.

In Summary

In order for a liquid to retain its original berachah, we need to satisfy many of the above mentioned opinions. So, in practice, most liquids would in any case not qualify. Therefore, the appropriate blessing on most fruit and vegetable juices, coffee, tea, and beer is Shehakol.

One of the only liquids that meets the majority of these conditions is vegetable soup broth. One who wishes to drink the broth without eating the vegetables should recite a Ha’adamah, just as they would on the vegetables themselves. This is the custom of many Ashkenazim. Sephardim,on the other hand, consider the opinion of the Ra’ah as well and therefore recite a Shehakol on the brothif eating the broth without eating the vegetables. If one eats the vegetables, a Ha’adamah is recited, which will acquit the broth as well.

However, since the approach of always reciting the all-inclusive berachah of Shehakol is due to the doubt over which blessing is truly the accurate one, no new blessing should be said in a post-facto situation, since, according to some opinons, he may have already acquitted himself with the already recited “erroneous” blessing.

At Last, the Conclusion

A berachah is testimony to Hashem’s presence and constant involvement in this world. We are privileged one hundred times a day to participate in creating this awareness both for ourselves and others around us. Let us take the time to learn the appropriate blessings for all foods and proclaim our recognition that “Hashem created this world, the earth, and all that it contains is His.”

Have a safe, great, healthy, and kosher summer!

[1]  שערי קדושה ח”א פרק ב’

[2] ברכות ל”ח (ע”א)

[3] בבא קמא ל (ע”א)

[4] ע”פ מ”ש רבינו חננאל שפירש שנזהר בהלכות ברכות כגון באיסור ליהנות מהעולם הזה בלי ברכה.

[5]  סימן ר”ב ס”א

[6]  רמבם הל’ ברכות (א,ה). וכן הל’ קריאת שמע (א,ז)

[7]  כמ”ש הבן איש חי שנה א’ בהקדמה של פרשת בלק ד”ה ודע.

[8] ברכות לה ע”ב איתא הא דקבעו ברכה מיוחדת על הפת ויין משום דסעיד, ואע”ג דכתיב (תהילים קד,טו) ויין ישמח לבב אנוש ולחם לבב אנוש יסעד וגו’ לאו למימרא דנהמא סעיד ויין לא סעיד אלא ה”ק חמרא אית ביה תרתי סעיד ומשמח נהמא מסעד סעיד שמוחי לא משמח. והא דלא מברכים על היין ברהמ”ז משום לא קבעי אינשי סעודתייהו עלויה  

[9] ברכות לח ע”א ואמר מר בר רב אשי האי דובשא דתמרי מברכין עלויה שהכל נהיה בדברו מ”ט זיעה בעלמא הוא. וכתבו התוס’ ד”ה האי וכן משקין מכל מיני פירות בר מתירוש ויצהר – ייו ושמן.

[10]  יש שפירשו דהוי זיעה מחמת סיבה, שאינו דבר חשוב. ועיין ברכת אברהם לח (ע”א) ענף ב’ אות ה שפירש בדעת הרשב”א שאינו מטעם הנ”ל אלא הוא מעטם שאין משקה היוצא מהפרי עיקר תכליתו ואופן אכילתו של אותו הפרי, וכתוצאה אי אפשר להגדירו כהפרי לענין הלכות ברכות. ומשו”ה ברכתו שהכל.

[11]  הא דמברכים שהכל על שמן זית משום דאזוקי מזיק ליה. ברכות לה (ע”ב). וכמ”ש השו”ע סימן ר”ב סע’ ד. ולולי ההיזק היה מברך עליו העץ. והטעם דלא הוי זיעה בעלמא כשאר מי פירות כתב רש”י לח (ע”א) ד”ה ור’ יהושע פוטר פירש משום דזיתים ניתן למשקה. והיינו ע”ד מה שכתב רש”י לעיל לו (ע”א) וז”ל אבל השמן מיד בא בשנויו לכלל דרך אכילתו ועיקר הפרי לכך נטעוהו הלכך פרי הוא. עכ”ל. משא”כ שאר פירות.

[12] ברכות לט ע”א אמר רב פפא פשיטא לי מיא דסלקא כסלקא ומיא דלפתא כלפתא ומיא דכולהו שלקי ככולהו שלקי. פירשו התוס’ שם שמברכין עליה (על המים) בורא פרי האדמה אף על פי שאין בה אלא מים וטעם הירקות מברך עליהן כאשר יברך על הירקות אע”ג דאמרינן לעיל דמי פירות זיעה בעלמא הוא יש לחלק.

[13] רא”ש ברכות  פרק ו’ סי”ח

[14]  תשובת הרא”ש כלל ד’ סט”ו. ומובא בב”י סימן ר”ה סע’ ב’.

[15]  לכאורה כולהו דרכו בכך ומתחילת נטיעתם  נטעי להו אדעתא דהכי. ועיין באר היטב סימן רב ס”ק י”ט, שמעיקר הדין היה ראוי לברך על תה וקפה כברכת הפרי אלא שנהגו העולם לברך שהכל. וכ”כ הפמים מאירות ח”א סימן צ”ה. וכ”כ נמי בחלק ב’ סימן ק”צ שהוא בעצמו לא בירך שהכל אלא כדי שלא יהא מאחת מהמתמיהים.    

[16] עיין מגן אברהם סימן ר”ה סק”ו

[17] וז”ל הלכות ברכות (ח,ד) ירקות שדרכן להשלק – שלקן מברך על מי שלק שלהן בורא פרי האדמה, והוא ששלקן לשתות מימיהן, שמימי השלקות כשלקות במקום שדרכן לשתותן. עכ”ל. משמע דבעינן ג’ תנאים. דרכן לשלקן כהרשב”א. דרכן לשתות מימיהם. וששלקן כדי לשתות מימיהם.

[18]  מובא בחידושי הרשב”א לח ע”א. ועוד עיין האור לציון ח”ב פרק י”ד הל’ ל”א שחושש לראב”ד.

[19]  עיין מגן אברהם ר”ה ס”ק ו. וכ”כ רבינו יונה ברכות לט ע”א בסוגייא דמיא דסלקא לחלק בין מאכל לשתייה.

[20]  עיין סימן ר”ד לענין שכר שעורם שהוא שהכל. וכתב המ”ב הואיל והוא צלול ועומד לשתייה אינו נחשב כלל תבשיל וכו’ שיברך בורא מיני מזונות שאין מברך במ”מ  אלא על מאכל. וכ”כ בס”ק (י”ז) מברך שהכל שלא נעשית כי אם לשתייה.

[21] הרא”ה בדף לט (ע”א) וביאר דההיא דמיא דסלקא איירי שאם בירך על הירק שפוטר את המים מדין עיקר וטפל אבל אם בא לשתות המים לחוד ברור שאינו מברך כברכת הפרי, אלא מברך שנ”ב.  דלעולם לא אמרינן שמברך על המים כברבת הפרי.

[22] והביאו הכף החיים סימן ר”ה סק י”א. וכ”פ האור לציון ח”ב סימן י”ד הל’ ל”א והילקוט יוסף  סימן ר”ה הל’ ג לחשוש לשיטת הרא”ה. שמעתי שמדייקים מהמשנה ברורה דס”ל שלא לחשוש כלל לשיטת הרא”ה בזה, עיין שער ציון סימן ר”ב ס”ק ס”ו.  וכנראה שהמנהג נמי מורה כן שהרבה מברכים על מי המרק כברכת הפרי. דאילו חששו לשיטת רא”ה היו מברכים שנ”ב משום סב”ל. וכמ”ש הכה”ח האל”צ והילק”י כנ”ל.  

[23]  דתנן בברכות (מ ע”א) ועל כולם אם אמר שהכל נהיה בדברו יצא. וכך נפסק להלכה שבדיעבד יוצא בשהכל. ברם לכתכילה אסור לאכול עד שילך אצל חכם וילמדנו כדאיתא שם (לה ע”א) מאי תקנתיה, ילך אצל חכם מעיקרא ולימדנו ברכות. והיכא שהוא מסופק מהו ברכתו דינו כדיעבד. וכמ”ש השו”ע ס”ס ר”ד (סע’ י”ג) וז”ל כל דבר שהוא מספק בברכתו, יברך שהכל. עיין במ”ב שם (ס”ק ס). וכ”פ הרמ”א ס”ס ר”ב (סע’ י”ח) וז”ל ואם הוא מסופק בו וכו’ ואם אינוֹ יודע מה הוא, מברך שהכל. ע”כ. וכנ”ל שהיינו דווקא אחר שלמד אבל מי שלא למד לא יאכל עד שילך אצל חכם ללמדו. ובנד”ד כיון שמסופק כדיעבד דמי.

[24]  ברכות (לג ע”א).

[25]  עיין שו”ע סימן ר”ב סי”א.

[26]   עיין מ”ש לעיל בהערות לענין קפה. ועיין באר היטב ר”ב ס”ק י”ט. ועיין ילקוט יוסף סימן ר”ד סי”ד ובהערות שם.

[27] וכך נפסק להלכה בשער ציון ר”ב ס”ק נ”ד וכן בסימן ר”ה ס”ק כ”א.

[28]  וכך כתב הזאת הברכה בספרו השני ליבון הלכה סימן ט”ו הל’ ד’. עיי”ש.

[29] כך משמע שחשש המשנה ברורה סימן ר”ה ס”ק נ”ד. היכא שבישל הפירות עם המים, ועיקר כוונתו למים באופן שהם העיקר ואינו טפל לפירות. רק שאכל מהפירות שבישל תחילה. להרשב”א צריך לברך ברכה שניה על המים כיון שברכתם שהכל מעיקר הדין, ברם להרא”ש א”צ לברך שוב, שהרי שמעיקר הדין ברכתם העץ כברכת הפרי ובדיעבד יצא. עיין השער ציון שם (ס”ק ס”ו וס”ז.)

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