In Israel, the first solid food many children are given is Bamba, a peanut flavored puffy corn snack. Bamba is as ubiquitous in Israel as a Hershey bar is in America. And the newest rabbinic controversy in Israel is over what blessing to say before eating Bamba.
What blessing should a pious Jew make on the popular snack Bamba and its many surrogates?
This arcane dispute, relevant to a religious minority of Jews, has been thrust to the forefront of a power struggle between two sons of Sephardi Jewry’s most influential halachic authority – Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual mentor of Shas.
Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and Rabbi David Yosef, the two sons, are vying to become the next chief sephardi rabbi of Jerusalem.
In a surprise opinion, Yitzhak Yosef, who heads the Hazon Ovadia Yeshiva and authored the Yalkut Yosef – a compilation of halachic opinions that quote heavily from his father’s rulings – argued that the proper blessing for Bamba, which is made out of ground corn, is borei pri ha’adama (Blessed are You, the Creator of the fruits of the earth).
Yitzhak Yosef argued that since the corn was grown especially for the production of the Bamba, this was the proper blessing even if the corn were no longer recognizable.
In contrast, David Yosef, head of the Yechaveh Da’at Yeshiva and rabbi of Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood, ruled in a more mainstream opinion that the proper blessing was shehakol (Blessed are You Who brings everything into being by His word).
I’m not a huge Bamba fan, but amazingly, I just got a bag of bamba this weekend in a gift basket. If I hadn’t read this article I would have had no doubts about saying shehakol, but now I think I’ll avoid the controversy and the calories by just handing the Bamba off to someone else.