Daily Blessings: Eating Snacks

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© Copyright 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Jordan Lee Wagner.

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We define a "meal" as:
any eating that includes bread made from wheat, barley, rye, oats, or spelt.  Such an occasion requires ritual handwashing and a blessing ("motzi") beforehand, and reciting Birkat HaMazon (The Blessing for Sustenance; also called The Grace After Meals) afterwards.
 
We define a "snack" as:
any occasion of eating that does not require a handwashing and "motzi" beforehand and a "Birkat HaMazon" afterward. Under ordinary circumstances, a "snack" is any eating that does not include bread.
 

Blessings before Snacks:  

Different classes of food have different blessings that are recited before eating them.  There are five different blessings that may pertain to snacks.  They are often referred to by their most distinctive words: "mezzonot", "hagafen", "ha-eitz", "ha-adamah", and "shehakol".

The last of these ("shehakol") is a generic blessing for everything that doesn't rate a special blessing of its own. All five blessings are described, transliterated, and translated below.  

If your snack includes several different foods that require the same blessing (e.g., an apple and some nuts), say that blessing only once to cover all of those foods. (Say it over whichever food is the most important one to you.)  

If you are eating a combination, but your primary intention is for just one item (e.g., oil on a salad, an alchoholic beverage with some food to mitigate its effects, or a sharp food with something else to dull its sharpness), you can recite just the blessing for the primary food if:

  • the other is only an accessory that would not otherwise be eaten,
  • you have no independent desire for the secondary food,
  • and you do not begin eating the secondary food before you begin eating the primary food  

If you are eating diverse foods that require different blessings (e.g., a piece of cheese and some cherries and a carrot), recite all of the different blessings that apply to the various elements of your snack.

For each blessing, hold the item in your right hand while saying the blessing, and eat some of it immediately thereafter. (If the food is not held, it should at least be present before you.)  

If saying multiple blessings, the prescribed order is to recite (and begin to eat) "mezzonot" before "hagafen", and then "ha-eitz" and "ha-adamah" before "shehakol". (This order of precedence is one of the reasons why the challah is covered during Friday night kiddush -- so it is not among the foods "present before you", or so that it shouldn't "see" that it is not getting its proper precedence.) The five blessings are described below:

Mezzonot:

Before eating foods (other than bread) made from wheat, barley, oats, rye, or spelt (such as cake, cookies, cereals, crackers, pies and pastry) recite:

Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-o-lam,
bo-rei mi-nei m'zo-not.

Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, King of the Universe,
who creates variety of sustenance.
The grains that the Bible associates with The Land of Israel are: wheat, barley, oats, rye, and spelt.  Because of this, they have their own blessing when consumed in snacks.  

When they are eaten in the form of bread, the repast becomes a "meal" rather than a "snack". A different blessing ("motzi") is then said, with ritual handwashing beforehand, and Birkat HaMazon (The Grace After Meals) recited afterward. However, these five species of grain are special even when not baked into bread, so they have their own blessing.

A loaf made from the five grains is not considered "bread" if the dough was mixed more with oil, honey, milk, and/or eggs than with water; or if the dough was formed into a pocket to hold fillings.  Thus cakes, cookies, crackers, pies, and pastries don't ordinarily count as bread.

However, if you make a big meal of them -- if they are eaten to thoroughly sate hunger in manner and quantity similar to bread, rather than to just enjoy their taste -- then they do indeed count as "bread", and handwashing, "motzi", and Birkat HaMazon apply, rather than the blessing above. 

However, dough that is applied as batter (e.g., "shake and bake"), or dough that is boiled in liquids (such as deep-fried in oil), doesn't acquire the status of "bread" even if a whole dinner is made of it.   

However, if boiled dough is subsequently baked thoroughly, then it does count as "bread".  (Examples include bagels and soft pretzls.)

Hagafen:

Before drinking grape wine or grape juice:

Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-o-lam,
bo-rei p'ri ha-ga-fen.

Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, King of the Universe,
who creates the fruit of the vine.  
The juice squeezed from grapes and olives is different from all other juices.  These two juices (in the form of wine and olive oil) were biblically required for holy uses, such as Temple operations. They are treated as their plants' essential produce. Wine is so important that it has this special blessing.

This is the wrong blessing to use for grapes or raisins.  But ex post facto it fulfils the obligation to recite a blessing.  For example: If one says this blessing over grapes and then realizes one's mistake, one continues eating the grapes without reciting the correct blessing. 

Ha-Eitz:

Before eating a cultivated plant's "essential" produce that grows attached to permanant limbs or stalks (such as most fruits, including grapes and olives, and most nuts):

Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-o-lam,
bo-rei p'ri ha-eitz.

Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, King of the Universe,
who creates the fruit of the tree.  

This blessing only applies to produce that is consumed in a normal delicious way -- cooked or raw, depending on the item. If cooked in (or with) something else, this blessing only applies if the flavor of the fruit is improved by the cooking and it is still the most important element of the food. For example: The presence of fruit in a meat stew, or nuts in a brownie, would not cause this blessing to be said. But a pear cooked with honey would take this blessing.   

If a tree has secondary produce other than its "essential" produce, the secondary produce is "demoted" and takes the following blessing (ha-adamah) rather than the blessing above (ha-eitz).  Examples include peels, shells, leaves, and petals.

(In the extremely rare circumstance that one would need to say a blessing over a drink of olive oil, this would be the bessing.)

Ha-Adamah:

Before eating a cultivated plant's "essential" produce that grows attached to limbs or stalks that are regrown each year (such as vegetables, herbs, beans, corn, peanuts, rice, and bananas):

Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-o-lam,
bo-rei p'ri ha-a-da-mah.

Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, King of the Universe,
who creates the fruit of the earth.  
This blessing only applies to produce that is consumed in a normal delicious way -- cooked or raw, depending on the item. If cooked in (or with) something else, this blessing only applies if the flavor of the vegetable is improved by the cooking and it is still the most important element of the food. For example: The presence of carrots in a meat stew would not cause this blessing to be said. But sauerkraut takes this blessing.  (Pickling is considered akin to cooking.)

If this blessing ("ha-adamah") is erroneously used for produce (such as fruit or nuts) that should have had "ha-eitz" recited, then ex post facto the obligation to recite a blessing has been fulfilled. For example: If one wrongly said it over an olive and then realized the error, one would continue eating olives without saying the correct blessing.

(Biologically, peanuts are not nuts that resemble peas, they are peas that resemble nuts.)

(If it is known with absoute certainty that your particular item was hydroponically grown, consult your rabbi.)

If a plant has secondary produce other than its "essential" produce, the secondary produce is "demoted" and takes the following blessing (she-hakol) rather than the blessing above (ha-adamah). Examples include fried squash peels, and pods eaten without the beans (when not cultivated with that intention).
 
 

Shehakol:

Before eating or drinking any other foods (such as water, meat, fish, dairy, mushrooms, and all beverages other than wine and olive oil, including fruit juice):

Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-o-lam,
she-ha-kol ni-h'yeh bid-va-ro.

Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, King of the Universe,
by whose word everything comes to be.  
This is a "catch-all" blessing.  Any snack item not covered by one of the above blessings is covered by this one.

Furthermore, although one is required to know and use the correct blessings for various foods, ex post facto this blessing fulfils the obligation to recite a blessing over the food. (For example: If you said this blessing in error and then realized the mistake, you would not have to say the correct blessing in order to continue eating.) This is true even if it was said for wine or bread.

If it is not scientifically known what biological category a food is from (or if there is unresolved doubt among halachic authorities about a food's blessing) then one may fulfill the obligation with this blessing, although it is better to remove all doubt by eating it with bread as part of a "meal" rather than as a "snack".

This is the correct blessing for all juices except from grapes and olives. "Juice" includes not only juice after it has been squeezed from the fruit, but even juice that is chewed directly from the produce (such as sugar cane or licorice) or sucked from seeds of otherwise inedible species of fruit.

Produce that is not normally eaten raw takes this blessing if eaten raw. Produce whose taste is diminished by cooking takes this blessing if cooked.  Fruit takes this blessing if it is severely unripe, or if it is slightly spoiled.

Inferior uncultivated (wild) produce that is inedible without cooking, but of a species that is normally edible raw when cultivated, takes this blessing. If a plant's high-quality fruit is *ordinarily* gathered from uncultivated examples (such as some nuts and berries) then the respective blessings are not demoted (e.g., ha-eitz for hazelnuts; ha-adamah for raspberries), but the blessing *is* demoted for wild herbs (shehakol) even though they can also be of quality.

One may recite "shehakol" over a glass of water with the intention of including all additional water consumption until the next meal.
 

Summary: Blessings Before Snacks
hagafen grape wine & grape juice
mezzonot cereals, cakes, cookies, crackers, pie, pastry
ha-eitz fruits that grow on trees, nuts, dates, grapes, raisins, figs, cherries, pomegranates, olives, olive oil, etc.
ha-adamah vegetables, fruits that grow from the ground, cultivated herbs, beans, corn, strawberries, raspberries, pinapples, bannanas, melons, whole rice and millet, peanuts, sunflower seeds,  rose hips, etc.
shehakol meat, fish, eggs, dairy, water, mushrooms, juices, coffee, tea, beer, other beverages, inferior uncultivated produce, spoiled produce, wild herbs, etc.

 

Blessings after Snacks:  

After eating or drinking, one recites a short B'racha Acharonah ("Blessing After").  B'racha Acharonah has two forms: Bo-rei N'fa-shot ("Creator of Souls") and B'racha Mei-ein Sha-losh ("The Threefold Blessing").  Depending on what foods you ate, one or both are said. Foods that the Bible associates with The Land of Israel take B'racha Mei-ein Sha-losh ("The Threefold Blessing").  Everything else takes Bo-rei N'fa-shot ("Creator of Souls").

The following foods are associated with The Land of Israel:

  • "mezzonot" (wheat, oats, barley, rye, and spelt),
  • "hagafen" (grape wine or grape juice),
  • "the five fruits" (dates, figs, pomegranates, olives, and grapes).

B'racha Mei-ein Sha-losh ("The Threefold Blessing") is recited only once, no matter how many diverse foods have been eaten that require it.  It is printed below with color-coded text.  When reciting it, follow whichever colored text applies.   If more than one color applies, include the text of both (or all three) colors. Include the colored text in order from left to right (i.e., first mezzonot, then hagafen, and lastly fruit) and connect them with the Hebrew prefix, [v'], which means "and". 

If the fruit (or the grapes from which the wine was made) was actually grown in the The Land of Israel, then substitute the words in parentheses for the words that they follow. (Note: The boundaries of The Land of Israel are biblically defined and do not correspond to the borders of The State of Israel).  

B'racha Mei-ein Sha-losh
"The Threefold Blessing"
Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai,
E-lo-hei-nu, Me-lech Ha-o-lam,
al ha-mich-yah
v'al ha-kal-ka-lah,
[v']  al ha-ge-fen
v'al pri ha-ge-fen,
[v']  al ha-eitz
v'al p'ri ha-eitz,
v'al t'nu-vat ha-sa-deh,
v'al e-retz chem-dah to-vah ur-cha-vah
she-ra-tzi-tah v'hin-chal-ta la-a-vo-tei-nu
le-e-chol mi-pir-yah
v'lis-bo-a mi-tu-vah.

Re-chem^na, A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu,
al Yis-ra-eil a-me-cha,
v'al Y'ru-sha-la-yim i-re-cha,
v'al Tzi-yon mish-kan k'vo-de-cha,
v'al miz-ba-cha-cha
v'al hei-cha-le-cha.

U-v'nei Y'ru-sha-la-yim
ir ha-ko-desh bim-hei-rah v'ya-mei-nu,
v'ha-a-lei-nu l'to-chah
v'sam-chei-nu b'vin-ya-nah,
v'no-chal mi-pir-yah
v'nis-bah mi-tu-vah,
un-va-re-ch'cha a-le-ha
bik-du-shah uv-ta-ha-rah,

On the Sabbath include:

ur-tzei v'ha-cha-li-tzei-nu
b'yom ha-Shabbat
   ha-zeh,
On Rosh Chodesh include:

v'zach-rei-nu l'to-vah
b'yom rosh ha-cho-desh
   ha-zeh,

Other insertions
are made
on other holidays.
ki a-tah A-do-nai tov u-mei-tiv la-kol,
v'no-deh l'cha al ha-a-retz
v'al ha-mich-yah. v'al pri ha-ga-fen
(gaf-nah).
v'al ha-pei-rot
(pei-ro-te-ha).
Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai,
al ha-a-retz
v'al ha-mich-yah. v'al pri ha-ga-fen
(gaf-nah).
v'al ha-pei-rot
(pei-ro-te-ha).


After eating foods that do not require B'racha Mei-ein Sha-losh ("The Threefold Blessing"), one recites Bo-rei N'fa-shot ("Creator of Souls").  Bo-rei N'fa-shot ("Creator of Souls") is recited only once, no matter how many diverse foods have been eaten that require it.  

Bo-rei N'fa-shot
"Creator of Souls"
Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai,
E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-o-lam,
bo-rei n'fa-shot ra-bot v'ches-ro-nan,
al kawl mah she-ba-ra-ta l'ha-cha-yot ba-hem ne-fesh kawl chai,
ba-ruch chei ha-o-la-mim.


If one's snack included some food that requires The Threefold Blessing and other food that requires Bo-rei N'fa-shot, one recites both, and The Threefold Blessing is said first.  

The only exception is if the only food that required Bo-rei N'fa-shot was "ha-eitz" (produce of the "tree").  In this case, The Threefold Blessing's mention of "ha-eitz" is sufficient and one does not also recite Bo-rei N'fa-shot.


When bread is included in a repast, it takes on the status of a "meal".  Judaism prescribes blessings before and after meals.

Judaism prescribes fixed benedictions for specific occasions that can occur anywhere and anytime.  

  • Some express praise and gratitude.  
  • Others focus kavanah (meditative intent) in preparation for performing a mitzvah (fulfilling a divine commandment).  
  • Others are associated with eating specific foods. (This page.)
  • And one is petitionary (Tefilas haDerech) and is associated with travelling.   

You can also return to the Table of Contents.    

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      Copyright © 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005 by Jordan Lee Wagner.

revision date: 1/13/2002

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