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Follow up to Bracha on hydroponic vegetables

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Rabbi David Sperling

Elul 8, 5781
Question
Not to disagree with an authority such as Rav Ovadia. But... For background, hydroponics (not just) in Israel are usually grown is a small container of a soil mix (maybe 75ml, plus or minus) that is floating on a pool of water... inside a building with a translucent roof. Epcot Center has a hydroponics project using Zero soil. It is fascinating but not the production norm. Meanwhile, an Apple has a bracha rishonah of haetz. But since the Etz ultimately grows in the ground, ha’adamah is also acceptable (as is shehakol, obviously). In a similar way, hydroponically grown vegetables are either the direct descendants of the same species of plant that grew in real soil, or a cutting from the very same plant that grew in real soil. So, like an Apple, ha’adamah as the secondary bracha for hydroponically grown vegetables makes perfect sense since their ultimate source is the ground. Then of course there is shehakol as the tertiary bracha and of course the ultimate bracha of last resort. This brings us back to the question of bracha rishonah. It makes no sense that for hydroponically grown vegetables the bracha rishonah is shehakol, bracha shniyah is ha’adamah, and then the fall back is again shehakol. It would makes more sense that the hydroponically grown vegetables do not have a bracha rishonah, only a bracha shniyah of ha’adamah, and then the fall back is again being shehakol. This would make both pieces of broccoli - although different - the same on a Practical level. Is this totally off base ?
Answer
Shalom, Thank you for your question. First of all, thank you especially for the technical information you sent in about the specifics of hydroponics. As to your halachic logic – bottom line it agrees with one of the major opinions we quoted. That being so, it can’t be to far “off base”. That is, on a practical level you agree that one should say the same bracha as a “normal” fruit or vegetable, which is certainly a valid opinion. Whether the fact that the original cutting grow in the soil carries weight, and whether the fact that the ideal bracha might be the same as the “fall-back” bracha, have halachic weight is not so clear to me. Those arguments would need to be supported by back-up from the Talmud and Rishonim. They might apply – but it is possible that they are not the strong halachic arguments. In any event – it is a pleasure to “talk” Torah with you, and be part of such a fascinating discussion. Blessings.
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