16. Sequence of Brachot – Part 1
When eating two foods that have the same bracha, we say the bracha over the more important food.
As we know from previous classes, the Sages prescribed different brachot for different types of foods. In this lesson we'll learn that they also mandated a particular sequence in which to recite these brachot.
These are some of the most complex laws that we'll encounter, due to some differing rabbinic opinions and also nuances in the halacha. We have tried to simplify things here as much as possible, but the next two classes will be a bit more complicated than usual. So put on your thinking cap and let's get started:
When it comes to deciding the order in which to recite brachot, there are two common situations you'll encounter:
- Same bracha: When eating different foods that require the same bracha, which food should you eat first?
- Different brachot: When eating different foods that require distinct brachot, which bracha should be said first?
Two Foods with the Same Bracha
When eating two foods that have the same bracha, e.g. an apple and a pear that both require Ha'aitz, one bracha covers both foods.1 So in determining which food to actually say the bracha over (and consequently which food to eat first), the principle is:
Say the bracha over the more important of the two foods,
thereby expressing more honor for the bracha.
"Importance" is determined based on the following factors:
1) Seven Species: The Torah enumerates seven species in praise of the Land of Israel. These foods are considered more "important" than foods not of the seven species. Within the seven species themselves, there is also a particular order of importance. This will be explained below.
2) Shalem: A whole, unbroken food is called a shalem ("complete"). A shalem food has greater importance than a non-shalem food.2
3) Chaviv: A food that you specifically desire is called chaviv ("preferred" or "favorite"). A food that is chaviv is considered more important than a food that is not chaviv.3
4) Larger: A larger piece of food has greater importance than a smaller piece.4
We will now explain these guidelines in more detail. To make things easier to remember, we will be creating some mnemonic devices, which we'll refer to as List #1, List #2, List #3, and List #4.
The Seven Species
The Torah (Deut. 8:8) praises the Land of Israel for producing seven species:
This verse teaches us two things. First, the fact that the Torah enumerates these particular fruits and grains in its praise of Israel indicates that these species are more important than other foods.
The seven species are therefore the trump card: When faced with two foods of the same bracha – e.g. dates and plums – you would say Ha'aitz on the dates (one of the seven species).5 This is true even if only the plums are whole (shalem), and even if plums are your favorite fruit (chaviv).6
[This rule applies even to non-Israeli produce. Although, with all things being equal, produce grown in Israel has bracha-preference over produce from the Diaspora.7]
Secondly, this verse teaches us the order of importance within the seven species themselves, as follows:
A fruit or grain that is mentioned closer to the word "land" is considered of higher importance than those ordered later in the verse. This means that a food made out of wheat ("wheat" immediately follows "land") is more important than a food made out of barley, and is certainly more important than grapes, figs or pomegranates.
Let's look at the verse again:
"A land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs and pomegranates,
a land of olives which produce oil, dates which produce honey."
Notice that the Torah repeats the word "land" in the middle of the verse. Therefore, olives and dates, because they are mentioned immediately after the second "land," are considered more important than grapes, figs and pomegranates (which appear third, fourth, and fifth from the first mention of the word "land").8
So now we have our first memory aid, List #1. Within the seven species, the order of importance is:
To memorize this list, it may be helpful to group them in three sections as follows:
wheat-barley / olives-dates-grapes / figs-pomegranates
Some have suggested memorizing this ditty (the highlighted letters correspond to the first letter of the seven species, in order):
We Believe One Day George will Fix the Plumbing
To summarize, when making one bracha on two foods:
• If one of the foods is of the seven species, the bracha should be recited over that food. So when faced with a bowl of grapes and cherries, say Ha'aitz on the grapes since they are of the seven species.
• If both foods are of the seven species, the bracha should be said on the one that is closest to the word "land" in the verse quoted above. So when it comes to grapes and olives, say the bracha on the olives, because they are mentioned closer to "land" than grapes.
When the Seven Species is Not a Factor
What about a case where two foods require the same bracha, but the seven species is not a factor? For example:
- neither food is of the seven species, or
- both foods are from the same of the seven species (e.g. a cracker and pasta)
In such a case, the determining factor is:
Shalem – If one of the foods is complete (i.e. whole and unbroken), and the other is not, the bracha should be recited on the one that is complete.11 So if you open a package of cookies and find that some are broken, make sure to say a bracha on one that is whole.
Similarly, imagine that you packed an orange and an apple in your lunch: If the orange is quartered, you should say a bracha on the apple.
Chaviv – Now let's take things a step further. What if the seven species is not an issue, and shalem is also not an issue (either because both foods are complete, or neither is complete). In that case, the bracha should be recited on the food that you generally prefer (chaviv).12 So if you packed your lunch with a whole apple and a whole peach, say a bracha on whatever is your favorite.13
Hmmm... what if you generally like both foods equally? In such a case, the bracha should be said on the food that you currently desire more.14
Larger – And finally, what if the seven species, shalem and chaviv are all not factors. For example, you want to eat two apples, and they are both whole? Or if you want to eat two slices of apples? In that case, you should say the bracha on the larger piece, since that is considered more important.15
This concludes List #2 – our discussion of two foods that have the same bracha. A good way to remember these rules is to memorize a pithy phrase. Here's what I use:
This short phrase reminds us that when two foods have the same bracha, the order of priority is: 1) seven species, 2) shalem, 3) chaviv, 4) larger.
Exception: Two Mezonot Foods
Now let's learn an exception to this rule, an additional factor which manifests within the category of "mezonot."
Let's take the example of two "mezonot" foods, both made of wheat, such as crackers and spaghetti. Recall what we learned in class #11 that eating a "meal's worth" (Kiday Seuda) of crackers (or other Pat Haba'ah B'Kisnin) would require you to say Hamotzee. This is not the case, however, with pasta (or other Ma'aseh Kedeira), whose bracha is always Mezonot. So we see that Pat Haba B'Kisnin is a more important "mezonot" food than Ma'aseh Kedeira.
Therefore in our example, when you want to eat both crackers and spaghetti, the factor of Pat Haba B'Kisnin "leapfrogs" into the #2 spot in the priority order, ahead of factors like shalem, chaviv, and larger. So in our case, you would say the bracha Mezonot on the crackers – even if the crackers are shalem, and even if the spaghetti is chaviv.16
Note that all the halachot we've learned regarding the proper sequence of brachot apply only when:
- you want to eat both of these different foods now, and
- in terms of culinary tastes, it doesn't matter to you which food you begin with17
That means if before eating crackers, you want to start with a fruit, then by all means go ahead and first say the bracha on the fruit. Or if you are very thirsty and want to say Shehakol on some water before eating your salad, go right ahead.
This concludes our discussion of two foods requiring the same bracha. I the next class, we'll two foods requiring different brachot.
- To say a separate bracha on each of these foods would be unnecessary bracha, and hence forbidden, as we’ll see in class #23.
- Orach Chaim 168:1
- Orach Chaim 168:1
- Orach Chaim 168:2
- Orach Chaim 211:1. These rules do not apply to drinks made from the seven species (Magen Avraham 182:2; Sha’ar Hatziyun 211:9).
- Chayei Adam 57:5
- Birkat HaBayit 13:7
- Orach Chaim 211:4
- Spelt is considered in the category of “wheat” (Orach Chaim 211:6, with Mishnah Berurah).
- Oats and rye are considered in the category of “barley” (Orach Chaim 211:6, with Mishnah Berurah).
- Orach Chaim 168:1; Mishnah Berurah 211:4
- Orach Chaim 211:1
- Mishnah Berurah 211:10, 11
- Mishnah Berurah 211:35; Halachos of Brachos, pp. 170-171
- Orach Chaim 168:2. This applies only if the fruit is also cleaner; if not, then the cleaner one should be used for the bracha (Mishnah Berurah 168:6).
- Shulchan Aruch HaRav – Seder Birkat HaNehenin" 9:7; K'tzot HaShulchan, Badey HaShulchan 54:6
- Halachos of Brochos pg. 181, citing Ritva (Hilchot Brachot 3:9)