Ha-koses et Ha-chita: The Berakha on Unprocessed Wheat
Translated by David Silverberg
1. The Debate Among the Rishonim
"One who chews wheat recites over it the berakha of borei peri ha-adama. If one ground it, baked it and cooked it, then if the pieces exist [in their original form], one first [before eating] recites over it ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz, and at the end [after eating] he recites over it the three blessings [of birkat ha-mazon]. If the pieces do not exist [in their original form], then one first recites over it borei minei mezonot, and at the end berakha achat me'ein shalosh ['al ha-michya… ']."(Berakhot 37a)
It emerges from this berayta that the berakha of borei minei mezonot is recited only over grain products that have been made into food through the process of grinding/slicing and cooking/baking. One who eats whole grains of wheat, even if roasted, recites the berakha of borei peri ha-adama. Unprocessed wheat grains are treated like any other fruit that grows from the ground, and it thus warrants the berakha of borei peri ha-adama.
Regarding the berakha achrona – the proper berakha to recite after eating unprocessed wheat – several different views exist. Tosefot (s.v. be-koses) write:
"Afterward, however, it is unclear which berakha to recite, whether one recites al ha-michya ve-al ha-kalkala and concludes with al ha-adama ve-al peri ha-adama. For we find the berakha of al ha-michya ve-al ha-kalkala only when one first recites before eating borei minei mezonot. Rabbenu Tam added in his machzor the text al ha-adama ve-al peri ha-adama… but then retracted [this ruling], for nowhere do we find such a berakha. Later (44a), it specifies [the text of] the berakha achat me'ein shalosh and says that for the five species [of grain, the proper text is] 'al ha-aretz ve-al ha-michya,' and for the seven species [of fruit], 'al ha-aretz ve-al ha-peirot.' It does not mention 'al ha-adama ve-al peri ha-adama.' Furthermore, [we might bring proof] from what it says here regarding one who chews wheat, who recites borei peri ha-adama – it says explicitly, 'if one ground it and baked it as bread… if the pieces do not exist [in their original form] then one first recites borei minei mezonot and afterward, berakha achat me'ein shalosh.' From the fact that it does not say here regarding one who chews wheat that he recites afterward berakha achat me'ein shalosh, we may infer that in a case of chewing [wheat] there is no berakha me'ein shalosh afterward."
Tosefot questioned whether one who chews unprocessed wheat recites a berakha achat me'ein shalosh, or just a borei nefashot. Within the possibility that unprocessed wheat indeed requires a berakha achat me'ein shalosh, Tosefot wondered what text one would recite. Clearly, over wheat one would not recite al ha-etz or al ha-gefen, and, according to Tosefot, the text of al ha-michya is also not appropriate. Tosefot thus cite Rabbenu Tam's proposal to establish a new formula of berakha achat me'ein shalosh – "al ha-adama ve-al peri ha-adama." The Ra'avan, by contrast, ruled that one recites al ha-michya, whereas the Rambam (Hilkhot Berakhot 3:2) held that one recites borei nefashot.
In truth, this issue was already addressed by the Talmud Yerushalmi (Berakhot 6:1): "Rabbi Yirmiya asked: One who ate solet [ground wheat] – does he recite after it [a berakha achat me'ein shalosh]? Rabbi Yossi said: For this reason, Rabbi Yirmiya never ate solet in his life." Tosefot write, "It is proper to act stringently and refrain from eating roasted wheat or boiled wheat, except as part of a meal, in which case birkat ha-mazon exempts them." This is indeed the practical halakha: "Tosefot were uncertain whether after [eating] it one recites a berakha me'ein shalosh; they therefore wrote that it is proper not to eat it, except during a meal, where birkat ha-mazon exempts it" (Shulchan Arukh, O.C. 208:4). We will devote this shiur to understanding the various sides of this issue.
2. The Mechayev of Birkat Ha-mazon
The Mishna later (44a) states:
"If one ate grapes, figs or pomegranates, he recites afterward the three berakhot [of birkat ha-mazon] – this is the view of Rabban Gamliel. The Chakhamim say: one berakha [berakha achat me'ein shalosh]. Rabbi Akiva says: Even if one ate boiled vegetables, and this is his [main] food – he recites over it the three berakhot [of birkat ha-mazon]."
The Mishna presents three views regarding the birkat ha-mazon obligation. According to Rabbi Akiva, the mechayev (the factor that generates the obligation) of birkat ha-mazon is eating and satiation, as implied by the verse – "You shall eat and be satiated, and you shall bless the Lord your God." In his view, which food one eats is of no consequence; so long as this is his main food, it meets the criterion of "You shall eat and be satiated." Rabban Gamliel, by contrast, maintains that only the seven species mentioned several verses earlier generate an obligation of birkat ha-mazon, whereas the Chakhamim hold that birkat ha-mazon is recited only over bread.
In explaining the view of the Chakhamim, we might suggest that fundamentally, they agree with Rabbi Akiva, that sevi'a (satiation) is what generates the obligation of birkat ha-mazon. In their view, however, this includes only bread, since people base their meal on bread as the Psalmist declares, "lechem levav enosh yis'ad" – "bread will satiate the heart of man" (Tehillim 104:15). Alternatively, we might explain the Chakhamim's position as a combination of sorts between the views of Rabban Gamliel and Rabbi Akiva. That is, what generates the obligation of birkat ha-mazon is satiation from the seven species. Normatively speaking, wheat and barley are the only two of the seven species of which one eats to the point of satiation. And although bread can be produced from any of the five species of grain, and not merely from wheat and barley, the Gemara in Pesachim comments that the other three (oats, spelt and rye) are indeed included under the categories of wheat and barley. It turns out, then, that all five species of grain are included in the seven species requiring birkat ha-mazon. Indeed, the Gemara (35b) indicates that in theory, birkat ha-mazon should be required even after drinking wine, should a person establish a meal over wine:
"Wine has both [properties]: it satiates and brings joy… If so, then let us recite over it the three berakhot [of birkat ha-mazon]? People do not establish their meals over it. Rav Nachman Bar Yitzchak said to Rava: If one establishes a meal over it, what [is the halakha]? He said to him: When Eliyahu comes he will tell us whether it constitutes 'establishing'; but in the meantime, his position is negated by the normative position."
[We find a similar discussion with regard to dates, which are considered nourishing (see 12a).]
Now Rabbi Yochanan Ben Nuri held that rice is considered a species of grain, and therefore eating bread made from rice obligates one in birkat ha-mazon. It seems clear that even in his view, rice is not included under the category of wheat and barley. Necessarily, then, according to Rabbi Yochanan Ben Nuri, bread obligates one in birkat ha-mazon even if it is not made from the seven species. The Chakhamim, of course, disagree. Do the Chakhamim hold that rice does not qualify as a species of grain, and therefore rice bread does not qualify as bread? If so, then had there been a species of bread made from something other than the seven species, it, too, would have generated an obligation of birkat ha-mazon. Alternatively, however, the Chakhamim perhaps dismiss Rabbi Yochanan Ben Nuri's position on more fundamental grounds, arguing that there cannot be a birkat ha-mazon obligation for products other than the seven species. The Chakhamim do not consider rice a grain because it is not included under the categories of wheat and barley, and it is thus not among the seven species. Hence, the verse, "a land where you may eat bread without stint" (which appears in the context of the birkat ha-mazon obligation) does not address rice bread.
In summary, then, two possibilities present themselves in understanding the view of the Chakhamim, which has been accepted as Halakha. On the one hand, one might explain that bread generates an obligation of birkat ha-mazon simply because it is the food over which people generally establish meals, and not due to the importance of the seven species mentioned in the Torah. Alternatively, the Chakhamim perhaps held that bread obligates one in birkat ha-mazon because it is the only one of the seven species over which people generally establish a meal.
3. Berakha Achat Me'ein Shalosh
As mentioned, Rabban Gamliel requires reciting birkat ha-mazon after eating any one of the seven species, and the Chakhamim disagree: "If one ate grapes, figs or pomegranates, he recites afterward the three berakhot [of birkat ha-mazon] – this is the view of Rabban Gamliel. The Chakhamim say: one berakha [berakha achat me'ein shalosh]" (Mishna, 44a). We might explain that just as all seven species warrant birkat ha-mazon according to Rabban Gamliel, so does it generate an obligation of berakha achat me'ein shalosh according to the Chakhamim. In other words, the mechayev of berakha achat me'ein shalosh is partaking of the seven species, which includes, of course, wheat, barley and the other species of grain. After eating grain products one recites "al ha-michya," and over the other species one recites either "al ha-etz" or "al ha-gefen." Accordingly, it is clear why we do not recite al ha-michya after eating rice: although it falls under the category of mezonot (nourishing foods), and it therefore warrants a berakha of borei minei mezonot, it is not among the seven species mentioned in the verse, and it thus does not earn an al ha-michya.
Alternatively, one might claim that the Chakhamim acknowledge two different mechayevim of berakha achat me'ein shalosh. Earlier, we suggested that the Chakhamim require a combination of two factors – satiation and the seven species – to generate a birkat ha-mazon obligation. In light of this possibility, we might argue that satiation from nourishing food alone, as well as the consumption of one of the seven species alone, can each independently generate an obligation of berakha achat me'ein shalosh. Partaking of one of the seven species obligates one in the recitation of al ha-etz, whereas the consumption of grain products generates an obligation to recite al ha-michya. Indeed, the Gemara records the statement of Rabbi Yehuda, "Anything that is from the seven species and is not a species of grain, or is a species of grain but was not made into bread – Rabban Gamliel says [it obligates one to recite] three berakhot [of birkat ha-mazon], and the Chakhamim says [it obligates one to recite] one berakha" (37a). This would appear to indicate that we have here two separate factors, each of which independently generates an obligation of berakha achat me'ein shalosh. [Of course, this approach must explain why we do not recite al ha-michya after eating rice. We are forced to explain that rice lacks intrinsic importance due to the fact that it can never become bread. See our comments in this regard in the previous shiur.]
Tosefot (37a, s.v. natan) note a certain difficulty with Rabban Gamliel's view, requiring a full birkat ha-mazon, including zimun,after partaking of any of the seven species, if we accept the position that berakha te'una kos – the recitation of birkhat ha-mazon must be conducted over a cup of wine. If this is the case, after drinking from the cup of zimun, they will be obligated to repeat birkhat ha-mazon on the wine. Tosefot answer, "When one does not drink in an established setting, but rather just a cheek-full, Rabban Gamliel agrees [that one recites berakha achat me'ein shalosh, and not birkat ha-mazon.] For otherwise, does Rabban Gamliel never require a berakha achat me'ein shalosh?!" This final clause of Tosefot's answer – "does Rabban Gamliel never require a berakha achat me'ein shalosh?!" – seems very difficult to understand. After all, the Gemara explicitly states, "Anything that it is not from the seven species and not a species of grain, such as bread made from rice and millet – Rabban Gamliel says that [one recites] berakha achat me'ein shalosh, and the Chakhamim say that [one recites] nothing [meaning, simply borei nefashot]."
Apparently, Tosefot knew that according to Rabban Gamliel, partaking of nourishing food that is not among the seven species, such as rice bread, obligates one in the berakha of al ha-michya. But they searched for a case where Rabban Gamliel would require a berakha me'ein shalosh after partaking of one of the seven species. Clearly, then, at least according to Rabban Gamliel, two separate mechayevim exist for berakha achat me'ein shalosh.
The Gemara in Pesachim (101b) discusses which foods require the recitation of a berakha after eating specifically in the place where one ate. This halakha is subject to a dispute among the Rishonim. Tosefot (Pesachim 101b s.v. ela) write:
"It would thus appear that wine and all seven species are not included among those things requiring a berakha afterward [specifically] in their place, except for bread and all types of bread over which one recites ha-motzi. Or, perhaps all types of nourishing food containing one of the five species of grain are included among the things requiring a berakha afterward in their place."
Tosefot here distinguish between the berakhot of al ha-michya and al ha-etz. Al ha-michya, which was instituted for nourishing foods eaten in a manner resembling an established meal, must be recited in the place where the food was eaten. The berakha of al ha-etz, by contrast, which is a berakha one recites over foods from the seven species, need not be recited in the location where they were eaten.
4. Berakha Acharona After Partaking of Unprocessed Wheat
Let us now return to the dispute among the Rishonim with regard to eating unprocessed wheat. According to the Ra'avan, who requires an al ha-michya, it stands to reason that the mechayev of al ha-michya is eating grain products. If a person partakes of wheat, even if he did not eat it in the conventional manner, he must recite the berakha of al ha-michya. Rabbenu Tam, who suggested a new text of "al ha-adama," disagrees. He felt that although wheat is among the species of grain, if one ate it raw, rather than in the form of mezonot (nourishing food), he cannot recite the text of "al ha-michya." As Tosefot write, "For we find the berakha of al ha-michya ve-al ha-kalkala only when one first recites before eating borei minei mezonot." According to Rabbenu Tam, one who eats unprocessed wheat must recite a berakha achat me'ein shalosh because wheat is included among the seven species, and since he ate the wheat as a "fruit," as opposed to in the form of baked goods, he recites both before and after the berakha for fruits. Rabbenu Tam therefore considered formulating a text for a berakha me'ein shalosh for fruits that grow from the ground, corresponding to the berakha of al ha-etz.
According to both Rabbenu Tam and the Ra'avan, one who eats unprocessed wheat recites a berakha achat me'ein shalosh. Others, however, disagree, and require only a borei nefashot. To explain this view, we need simply to negate the two positions of Rabbenu Tam and the Ra'avan. According to the third view, just as we explained for Rabbenu Tam, wheat does not qualify as mezonot food. But furthermore, these authorities maintain, eating unprocessed wheat does not generate an obligation of berakha me'ein shalosh as one of the seven species. In their view, the importance of wheat and barley within the framework of the seven species does not stem from the status of fruit, as is the case regarding the other species. Rather, their significance relates solely to their function as mezonot. The Torah here does not refer to the consumption of wheat and barley raw, before they reached their ultimate goal. Therefore, they do not qualify for a berakha achat me'ein shalosh, and require only the berakha of borei nefashot, instead.
Sources and questions for the next shiur -
The Halakhic Definition of "Bread"
1. 37b – "Teroknin… kerinan bei."
2. Pesachim 37a – "Tanu Rabanan ha-sufgenin… hakha nami she-hirticho u-le-vasof hidbik."
3. Tosefot, Berakhot, s.v. lechem; Tosefot, Pesachim 37b, s.v. de-khulei alma.
4. Masekhet Chala 1:5 [with the Peirush Ha-Rash]; Ramban, Hilkhot Chala (printed after Masekhet Bekhorot), "Ha-sufgenin… hilkakh chayevet nami be-chala."
5. Talmidei Rabbenu Yona, Berakhot 27a in the Rif – "Ve-Ri Yitzchak Ha-zaken z"l… "
6. Orach Chayim 168 – Bach, Beit Yosef, Shulchan Arukh, Magen Avraham; Shulchan Arukh Y.D. 329:2-3.
1. Explain the dispute between Rabbenu Tam and the Ramban in understanding the Mishna in Chala (1:5)?
2. Would this debate yield ramifications with regard to berakhot?
3. What is Rabbenu Yona's position regarding this sugya?
4. Does the Shulchan Arukh side with Rabbenu Tam or the Ramban?