Berakhot 41

One blessing to rule them all.

Today’s page mostly concerns blessings before and after meals. As we have been discussing, different foods require different blessings. When multiple kinds of food are served, the blessings can quickly pile up.

The rabbis spend a great deal of time deliberating over which blessings take precedence over other blessings, and a hierarchy of blessings is created, debated, and occasionally reconfigured. Just when the complexity reaches a point that the edifice seems unlikely to hold, Rav Pappa comes in with a clarifying statement that continues to inform Jewish practice today:

Rav Pappa said that the halakha is: Food items that come due to the meal, which are eaten together with the bread as part of the meal, neither require a blessing before eating them nor after eating them, as they are considered secondary to the bread. And food items like fruit, that do not come due to the meal, as part of the meal, but may be brought during the meal, require a blessing before eating them and do not require a blessing after eating them. If they come after the meal, they require a blessing both before eating them and after eating them.

Rav Pappa offers a very simple rule: If there is bread at a meal, the blessing over the bread covers everything eaten as part of that meal. Anything that is not essential to the meal, or not eaten with the meal, is not covered.

Of course, it can’t be quite that simple. Rav Pappa notes that fruit which is incidental to the meal requires its own blessing before beign eaten (but not afteward), and fruit eaten well after the meal — perhaps as dessert served after Birkat Hamazon — needs to be thoroughly blessed, both before and after consumption.

There is one exception to this rule: wine. Even if wine is essential to your meal — and let’s be honest: for a not insignificant number of diners, this is akin to mosaic law — the wine still requires its own blessing. As the Gemara explains at the very bottom of today’s page:

Wine is different, as it causes a blessing itself.

Wine is unique in Jewish tradition. It is a symbol of joy and sanctity. It also has special ritual functions, including Kiddush and Havdalah. As such, it cannot be subsumed under the blessing for bread as just another part of the meal — it always requires its own blessing.

On Friday night, when Jews make blessings at the Shabbat table, they follow exactly this halakha by reciting separate blessings over wine and bread. The Kiddush renders the wine ready to drink and also sanctifies the sacred day of rest. Then, Hamotzi is said over bread, kicking off the rest of the meal.

Read all of Berakhot 41 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on February 13, 2020. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

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