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Prioritizing Blessings The Proper Order of Brachot

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Parsha Halacha – Parshat Eikev/Shabbat Mevarchim Chodesh Ellul

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The Torah portion of Eikev speaks about the qualities of the land of Israel. In describing the fruits of Israel, the Torah says (Deut. 8:8), “[It is] a land of wheat and barley, grapes, figs and pomegranates, a land of oil producing olives and [date] honey.” The species in this list are called the Seven Species of the Land of Israel.

Seven Species that Grow in the Diaspora

Although the seven species also grow in other lands, Israel is considered their main source and the fact that they grow elsewhere is considered secondary.[1]This is similar to the Talmudic teaching[2] that the primary (spiritual) source of the world’s rain is the land of Israel and that the rain in other lands is secondary to that rain.
Some say that there is no other land where all of these seven species grow (as native species).[3]

Fruits with High Spiritual Energy

The land of Israel is the resting place of G-d’s Shechina (Divine Presence). As such, the fruits that grow there, especially the ones that are uniquely associated with that land, have a greater level of holiness than other fruits. As a result of this, they are also more physically satisfying. This concept can be extended to include the seven above-mentioned species even when they grow in other countries as these fruits are associated with the land of Israel. This explains why our sages instituted a special blessing after eating these fruits.[4]

Why the Repetition of the Word “Land?”

The commentaries question why the verse repeats the word “land” twice (“a land of wheat… a land of olives…”).
·        Rabbi Shmuel Laniado (of 15th–century Allepo) explains[5] that first the verse praises the holy land in that it produces the species of wheat, barley, grapes, figs and pomegranates, then the verse continues and speaks about the fact that the land is of such high quality that it produces fruit which can be processed to make superior products (a land of olives, all of which can produce oil, and dates, all of which can produce honey).
·        In addition, Rabbeinu Bachaye explains that when speaking about the land of Israel (in the verses before and after the above verse) the Torah repeats the word “land – eretz” seven times. This alludes to the fact that there are seven climates in seven different parts of the world (Israel has the best climate of the seven) and that all of these climates are (spiritually) nourished by the land of Israel.
·        Another reason for this repetition is to allude to the correct order in which one should say brachot (blessings), as will be explained below.

Order of Blessings

The Talmud says[6] that when one has a choice over which foods to recite a blessing, one should give preference to the seven species. In addition, if one will be eating more than one of thespecies, one should say the blessing on the species mentioned earlier in the verse.

Why Is the Order Significant?

The commentaries question this Talmudic teaching as one might argue that they were placed in that order randomly since after all they could not be written all at once. They offer several explanations (quoted in the Pardes Yosef):
·        The Brisker Rov explained[7] that, since the Torah is given by the Almighty G-d, it is impossible to say that the Torah “had to” be written in an order. The Torah could have found a way to express itself in a different manner if it wished to. (For example, it could have said it first in one order, then in another.) As such, every time there is a list in the Torah, the order is important.
·        The Sefat Emet explains[8] that, although the Torah “had to” write this list in an order, it listed them in the most logical order, from the most to the least important. (It is highly unlikely that all these species are of equal importance. So they must have been listed in the order of their importance.)
·        Rabbi Yechezkel Landau of Prague explained[9] that by repeating the word “land” (see below), the verse indicates that the order of these plants is significant. As will be explained, the plants closest to that word are more significant.[10] If the order were random, that word would not be necessary.

Priority in Blessings

There are many laws regarding the correct order of reciting blessings on various foods. The rest of this article will focus on one who is eating different types of fruit that grow on a tree. Different laws apply when eating foods over which one recites different blessings.

Priority to the Seven Species

As mentioned above, if one wishes to eat various fruits and one of the fruits he wishes to eat is one of the seven species, he should recite the blessing on that species.[11] By doing so, one is saying the blessing on the most important of the foods he will be eating.

Priority within the Seven Species

If one is eating various fruits of the seven species, one should give priority to the fruits mentioned earlier in the verse. As explained above, the fruits listed closest to the word “eretz – land” are considered more significant.[12]
As such, the order of the fruits of Israel over which should recite the blessings is
·        Olives
·        Dates
·        Grapes
·        Figs
·        Pomegranates

Priority to One’s Personal Preference

Another factor one must take into account when making blessings on food is that it is best to make the blessing on a food which one prefers. In Hebrew this is called chaviv (dear or beloved). Some say this is referring to the item he usually prefers and some say it refers to the item he prefers at this time. In practice, one should give priority to either of these types of preference.[13] If there is a conflict between these two (i.e., there is one item he usually prefers and a different item he prefers at this time), he may say the blessing on either item.[14] Some say he should recite the blessing on the one he usually prefers.[15]

Priority to Uncut Items

A complete fruit is considered more significant that a cut fruit. As such, if one has various fruits that he wishes to eat and some are whole and some are cut up, one should say the blessing on the whole item.[16] Similarly, one should preferably make the blessing on a whole fruit (or a whole loaf of bread) before cutting it up.

Conflicting Factors

Here are the rules in a case where there is a conflict between the above factors:
·        One should make the blessing on a cut piece of the seven species rather than a whole fruit that is not from the seven species.[17]
·        One should make a blessing on a whole fruit rather than a cut piece of fruit that he prefers.[18]
·        In a case where he has a fruit of the seven species and a fruit that he prefers which is not one of the seven species, there is an argument as to over which one he should recite the blessing. The Alter Rebbe rules[19] that one may recite the blessing over either one as the argument hasn’t been decided while the Mishnah Berurah rules[20] that one should make the blessing on the fruit that is one of the seven species.
·        If one has three fruits, one of which is from the seven species, another which is the one he prefers, and the third is whole, according to the Mishnah Berurah he should make the blessing on the one from the seven species. According to the Alter Rebbe, it would seem that he can make the blessing on any of the three.[21] (Obviously, once he makes the borei pri ha’etz bracha, he can then go on to eat any of the other fruits as well.)

Only Food on the Menu

The discussion above applies only to a situation in which one wishes to eat the various products that were discussed, whereas if one has species of fruit in front of him that he doesn’t plan to eat, the above order of priorities does not apply. (For example, if there is a fruit bowl that is full of different types of fruit and one is only interested in eating one of those types.) The laws of priorities in blessings only apply to foods that one is planning to eat.[22]

Only Factor in Food That Is Present

If the fruit that has priority in terms of a blessing is not presently in front of the person, he need not bring it in order to recite the blessing on it. Rather he may recite the blessing on a fruit that he has at this moment, but he should have in mind that this blessing also covers the other fruit.[23]

No Need to Eat in Order

Once one has said the blessing and taken a bite of the fruit, one need not eat the other fruits in any particular order. The order of priorities above is only for the blessing, not for the order of eating the other species.
(On Tu Bishvat some people are particular to eat the fruit in a certain order.[24])
May Hashem Bless us to Know how to Always Bless Him Appropriately!
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom UMevorach!
Copyright 2019 by Rabbi Aryeh Citron
[1] Chidushei UBi’urei HaGra al HaShas, Brachot 35a quoted in Pardes Yosef on the verse.
[2] Ta’anit 10a. See also there 21b
[3] Imrei Pinchas on Parshat Eikev, ot 416
[4] Notes on the Chidushei UBi’urei HaGra al HaShas, ibid, based on Bach O.C. 208, D.H. Vekatav Od Veyesh Omrim VeNochal
[5] In Kli Chemda on the verse
[6] Brachot 39a
[7] Peninei HaGriz, Anaf 2, Siman 18
[8] Chagigah 12b
[9] Tzla”ch on Brachot 41a. See also She’ilat Ya’avetz, vol. 2, Siman 194
[10] The ones closest to the first “land” are more significant than those closer to the second “land.” As such, the order in terms of importance is; wheat, olives, barley, dates, grapes, figs and pomegranates.
[11] See Brachot 40b and O.C. 211
[12] Brachot 41b
[13] See O.C. 211:1 and 2 and Mishnah Berurah
[14] Seder Birchos HaNehenin 10:15
[15] Mishnah Berurah ibid 13. But see there number 11.
[16] See O.C. 168:1
[17] Seder Birchos Henehenin 10:8
[18] Ibid 6
[19] Ibid 8
[20] 211:13
[21] The seven species and preference are considered equals. And a complete fruit is more significant than a preferred one but less significant than one of the seven species. See Vezot HaBracha (pg. 327) who rules in a similar situation, that one may say the blessing on whichever he chooses.
[22] Seder Birchos HaNehenin 10:2
[23] Ibid 17
[24] See Mo’ed Lekol Chai by Rabbi Chayim Palagi, 30:7 and 8
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom UMevorach!

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