27. Introduction to Shinuy Makom
Changing locations can terminate a bracha's effectiveness.
In previous classes, we learned that brachot have certain limits. A bracha can be limited by your intent – it is only effective on the foods that you intend to eat when reciting the bracha. A bracha's effectiveness is also limited in time – as soon as you decide that you are finished eating (hesech hada'at), your bracha is no longer in effect.
The same is true in terms of space. Eating is generally done in one place. Therefore, a bracha is only effective as long as you remain in the same place where you said the bracha. As soon as a significant change of place occurs, the original bracha is no longer effective, and a new bracha is required if you want to continue eating. This is called shinuy makom – literally, "a change of place."1
What is "Shinuy Makom"?
The concept of shinuy makom is closely related to the idea of hesech hada'at. When you begin eating in a particular place and then leave that place, it signals your intent to finish eating. You have severed your connection, so to speak, with the original bracha, and therefore the efficacy of that bracha is terminated. So if you want to continue eating in this new place (or even come back and continue eating in the original place), it is considered a new beginning, and a new bracha is required.
This applies whether you leave for a long time, or even for a short time.2
In determining when a change of place effects a shinuy makom, the halacha takes three factors into account:
- What type of location change did you make: a minor change (e.g. from room to room), or a major change (completely out of the house)?
- What type of food were you eating?
- Were you eating alone or with others who remained in the original location?3
We'll be discussing the topic of shinuy makom in the next four classes. Note that in our discussion of shinuy makom, we are only addressing the issue of saying a new bracha rishona; the rules of bracha achrona may differ, and will be discussed in class #36.
This class will begin dealing with the first of these factors: What type of location change is considered a shinuy makom?
Not every change of place signifies the end of an eating session. Only a major change – i.e. one that you would not normally make in the middle of eating – terminates your bracha. Let's explore the parameters:
Moving Within a Room
If you say a bracha and begin eating on one side of a room, and then decide to move to the other side of the room, this is not considered a shinuy makom. This is true even in a large banquet hall where one place may be very far from the other – even to the point where you can't see your original location!4 As long as you remain in the same room, the meal was never discontinued and no shinuy makom has taken place.5
Sarah wasn't thrilled with the table she'd been assigned to for the wedding dinner. After sitting down to eat, she noticed an empty seat at the far end of the hall. She scurried over there and continued eating, without saying a new bracha – even though the size of the room and the furnishings made it impossible for her to see her original seat.
So far we've learned that moving within one room is not a shinuy makom, and we'll learn in the next class that leaving the house completely is a shinuy makom. What about changing from room to room within the house?
That depends, based on two factors:
Factor #1 – When you said the original bracha, did you "have in mind" that you might subsequently change rooms?
Factor #2 – After changing rooms, can you still see the place where you began eating?
If the answer to either of these questions is "yes," then changing rooms is not considered a shinuy makom. The reasoning is simple. If you originally had in mind to change rooms while eating, then doing so is not an indication that you are finished eating – i.e. you remain within the parameters as intended at the time of your original bracha.6 Similarly, if you can see your original location from the second room, then it connects you to that original location and is considered as if you are continuing the same meal.7
So for example, let's say you're reading in bed and are feeling a bit hungry. You go to the kitchen, pull an apple out of the fridge, say a bracha and eat. Your intent (even though not specifically stated) was to continue eating that apple back in your bedroom. Therefore, you may do so without a new bracha.
That's an example of factor #1. Now let's look at factor #2:
You're enjoying a cup of hot tea in the kitchen, and get up to answer a knock at the door. If you can actually see the kitchen from the front door, you may continue drinking without a new bracha. It is not necessary to see the specific spot in the kitchen where you began; it is sufficient that you can see at least part of the room.8
The truth is, many people normally move from room to room during a meal. If that is your habit, then the rules of shinuy makom between rooms will not apply. Since it is common for you to change locations while eating, it is automatically assumed that you had in mind to do so when you said a bracha.9
Michelle's little children kept her so busy that she rarely sat down for five minutes to eat without being interrupted. Michelle knew that for her, leaving the room was definitely not a shinuy makom.
Additionally, if there is a room that you normally enter during a meal, then going to that room is not considered a shinuy makom.10 For example, let's say that you leave the dining room to go into the kitchen... to sneak an extra piece of cheesecake. Even though you didn't "have in mind" to switch rooms when you started eating (and you can't see the dining room from the kitchen), no new bracha is necessary: Since you often go to the kitchen during the meal, it's as if you had it in mind.
Okay, now here's a twist: According to some authorities, moving from one room to another is not a shinuy makom at all. As long as the two rooms share the same roof, they regard it as just like moving from one place to another within the same room, which does not terminate your eating session.11
So from the standpoint of practical halacha, if you want to eat in another room:
- It is preferable to have had in mind (while saying the bracha) to change locations, or have your original place visible from where you want to continue eating.
- However, even in the absence of these factors, you should still not say a new bracha.12
This concludes class #27 on Hilchot brachot. In the next lesson, we'll continue learning about shinuy makom.
- Talmud – Pesachim 101b
- Mishnah Berurah 178:2
- Orach Chaim 178:2
- Chayei Adam 59:4
- Orach Chaim 178:1, with Mishnah Berurah – Intro, 9, and 23
- Rema – Orach Chaim 178:1
- Mishnah Berurah 178:12; Biur Halacha – s.v. b’bayit echad
- Mishnah Berurah 178:12; V’Zot HaBracha, pg. 58
- V’Zot HaBracha, pg. 58
- V’Zot HaBracha, pg. 58
- See Biur Halacha 178:1 (s.v. b'bayit echad) for a lengthy discussion of this issue.
- Biur Halacha 178:1 – s.v. b'bayit echad