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Ask the rabbi Halacha Birkat Hamazon - Grace after the Meal

Bracha Achrona before washing Netilat Yadayim

Question
Dear Rabbi I was wondering on the following halacha. If one eats an appetizer in a restaurant before washing for the main meal (say for example they eat some vegetables and have some water), do they have to be concerned about making a bracha achrona? Also, say for example on Shabbos one has heard kiddish and shul and then goes to eat their meal and before they wash they have something to eat/drink. Again should one be concerned about a bracha achrona? Thanks
Answer
Shalom, Thank you for your question – it is a very good question indeed! You have hit upon a (little known) important law of saying blessings. There are very complex laws as to when an after blessing needs to be recited after eating food before a meal. In this short answer format I am unable to cover all the details, but will try to outline at least the beginnings of the subject. In general, one says an after bracha UNLESS there is some connection between the first food and meal to follow. For example – if the food was eaten for Kiddush shortly before the meal it does not need an after bracha (but if there will be a break before the meal, or one is going to a different place for the an after bracha is needed). Or, if the food eaten before the meal is the type of food that one would need to say a blessing on during the meal, and one plans to eat that food also during the meal, one does not say an after blessing (nor a new first blessing during the meal when eating that food). So, if you ate an apple before the meal, and plan to eat some more apple during the meal, you neither say the after blessing before starting the meal, nor a new "ha'etz" when eating the apple during the meal. Lastly, food eaten to arouse the appetite do not need an after blessing before the meal, and are covered with the birkat ha'mazon. (Some rabbis argue on this last point and advice one to avoid getting into such a situation). So, in answer to your questions – a lot depends on the particular case. May I suggest further sources so you can do some more learning about the subject? The work in English "The Halachos of Brochos" by Rav Y.P. Bodner has an extensive chapter on this subject (Chapter 19), and is an excellent place to start your learning. May you have only blessings.
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