In our previous article we raised the problem facing one who can not remember if he or she recited a Birkat Nehenim. We also divided the berachot into two groups, those said before and those recited after eating. Further we subdivided the groups according to the three different berachot recited after eating. In our discussion we examined the status of the brachot before and after eating bread and the consequent Halachik conclusion as to whether a beracha would be needed in the case of the above mentioned problem. In this article we will deal with the other berachot. (For further details see in Parsha sheet, Parshat Behar)
When consuming fruits and their derivatives such as wine and olive oil that are part of the Shivat Haminim (seven species the Landof Israelwas blessed with) or baked goods made of grain that is not categorized as bread, we recite a Beracha Me’ein Shalosh at the conclusion. This beracha is one beracha containing the central ideas of all three berachot of Birkat Hamazon sometimes referred to as Al Hamichya. In the commentaries we find differing opinions as to the status of this beracha.
The Mishna (Berachot 44a) records a dispute between Raban Gamliel and Chachamim as to what beracha should be recited after eating grapes, figs or pomegranates (of the Shivat Haminim). Raban Gamliel is of the opinion that Birkat Hamazon should be said while Chachamim state that the proper beracha is Beracha Me’ein Shalosh. The Gemara explains that Raban Gamliel’s understanding is that the Shivat Haminim are mentioned in the same context with bread and then the Torah concludes “Ve’achalta ve’savata u’verachta et Hashem Elokecha…” (the source for Birkat Hamazon, see Devarim 8/8-10). The Torah puts them in one contextual setting to teach us that the fruit of Shivat Haminim require a Birkat Hamazon just as bread does. Chachamim on the other hand argue that since the Torah separated the Shivat Haminim with an unnecessary mention of “Eretz” it meant to teach us that only bread (mentioned after this Eretz.) requires a Birkat Hamazon and not Shivat Hamnim.
It is the opinion of all authorities that we rule like Chachamim and not Raban Gamliel. Yet, where the Rambam (Hilchot Berachot 8/1,12) and Rabeinu Yona (Rifon Berachot 32a) are of the opinion that Beracha Me’ein Shalosh is mi’derabanan, the Ritva (Berachot 44a) understands that it is mi’deorita. The opinion of the Rambam seems straightforward since Chachamim argue that the Pasuk requiring Birkat Hamazon does not apply to the Shivat Haminim then there is no source in the Torah for such a beracha but rather it was instituted by the Rabbis. The Ritva on the other hand explains that though the Torah excluded the Shivat Haminim from a Birkat Hamazon, they were included in the same context to teach us that there is a requirement of “u’verachata” and you shall bless on these foods as well. Accordingly, as we saw in our previous article if the beracha is mi’deorita, as the Ritva suggests, then when in doubt whether a Beracha Me’ein Shalosh has been recited, the beracha must be recited at that time. If the beracha is only mi’derabanan as the Rambam and Rabeinu Yona state then a beracha need not be recited in questionable circumstances.
According to the understanding of the Rashba (see our previous article mentioned above) that there are Tanaim who are of the opinion that where we learn a requirement to recite a beracha after eating from the Torah then the beracha before eating is mi’deorita as well. In the event, we would conclude that the beracha after eating Shivat Haminim is mi’deorita then the beracha proceeding the eating of Sivat Haminim may be mi’deorita as well.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 209/3) rules that all berachot other then Birkat Hamazon are mi’derabanan and therefore when a question arises the beracha should not be recited. This ruling applies to both Birkat Me’ein Shalosh and the beracha that is recited proceeding the eating. Many of the Achronim (later authorities, such as the Taz, Mishna Berurah, Aruch Hashulchan) state that being many of the Rishonim are of the opinion that Beracha Me’ein Shalosh is mi’deorita, therefore, one should not depend on the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch. Thus they recommend to eat a Kezayit of fruit (that requires a Beracha Me’ein Shalosh) and then recite the beracha.
As for those foods for which a Borei Nefashot is recited there seems to be agreement that it is mi’derabanan. Therefore, following the rule that when in doubt if a beracha mi’derabanan was recited a beracha need not be recited, in the case of Borei Nefashot we would not recite a beracha. This would seemingly apply to the beracha recited before eating.
One possible exception would be the opinion found in the Talmid Rabenu Yona (Rif, Berachot 25a) that all berachot proceeding the eating are mi’deorita. According to Talmid Rabenu Yona, when the Gemara (Berachot 35a) states that any person who eats without reciting a beracha is considered a Moel (one who gets pleasure from property belonging to God), it means that he would need to bring a sacrifice for each such transgression. Since sacrifices are brought only for prohibitions that are mi’deorita, it would indicate that Talmid Rabenu Yona is of the opinion that reciting a beracha before eating is a requirement of the Torah.
The opinion of Talmid Rabenu Yona is not accepted by the Poskim. Therefore, all Berachot recited before eating are viewed as being miderabanan. Consequently, no beracha is needed when there is a doubt whether a beracha has been recited. The same would be true in reference to Borei Nefashot. The status of Beracha Me’ein Shalosh, on the other hand, is seen as an open question and we therefore create a requirement to recite the beracha, as mentioned above, to avoid problems.