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Important Eating

Which Bracha do I make on a plate with two kinds of Brachot? This article defines Ikar and Tafeil in Brachot.


Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff

Kislev 5768
Question 1 : You made a Bracha on a cup of tea and sipped it, and then decided it needed more sugar. Do you need to make a Bracha on the extra sugar?

Question 2 : You cooked a delicious vegetable-barley soup. What Bracha do you recite before eating it? Does it make any difference whether you want to eat the barley?

Question 3 : I eat my potato latkes with apple sauce. How many Brachot and which ones do I recite before eating them? Does it make a difference if I finish the latkes but am still eating the apple sauce?

We apply the rules governing ikar and tafeil, literally the "primary" item and the "secondary" one, numerous times throughout the day. Whether we are eating cereal with fruit and milk for breakfast, macaroni and cheese for lunch, chicken with rice for supper, or ice cream in a cone for a snack, these Halachot apply. It definitely behooves us to be sure we are applying the Halachot correctly.

First an introduction:
The Mishnah (Berachos 44a) which discusses Brachot recited before eating states, "This is the rule: Whatever is primary and is accompanied by something secondary, one recites the Bracha on the primary and absolves the secondary item." Thus, the secondary item does not receive its own Bracha, but is included in the Bracha of the primary item.

There are two general categories of situations included in the Halachot of ikar and tafeil; (1) enhancers and (2) mixtures .
(1) Enhancers: This category includes food items where the tafeil food is being eaten to make the ikar food taste better. Some common examples include: Cereal with fruit and milk, where the fruit and milk enhance the taste of the cereal; eating latkes with apple sauce; stirring your herbal tea with a cinnamon stick; breading fish or meat (schnitzel). In all of these cases, the Bracha is recited over the ikar, that is, the cereal, latkes, tea, or meat, and the tafeil is included with this Bracha.
The category of enhancers also includes cases where the ikar is too spicy or sharp to eat by itself. Thus, eating a cracker or piece of bread with a very sharp food to make it edible is a case of ikar and tafeil and one recites the Bracha only on the sharp food (Mishnah Berachos 44a).
We should note, however, that the tafeil item loses its Bracha only when one eats it together with the ikar or afterwards. But if one eats the tafeil before one eats the ikar, one does recite a Bracha on the tafeil. Thus, if someone eats a food before drinking a schnapps to soften its "bite," he recites a Bracha on the food since he is eating it before imbibing the schnapps. When this situation occurs, the poskim debate what Bracha one recites on the tafeil. We will discuss this case shortly.

(2) Mixtures : This category includes cases where one item of food is not enhancing the other item, but rather, both items are important. For example, someone eating macaroni and cheese, blintzes (they always contain a filling), cholent, kugel, or stew is interested in eating all the different foods that comprise the dish. The same halacha applies when eating soups, which typically contain vegetables, meat or chicken, noodles, barley, or flour. In these cases, all the food items eaten are important and no ingredient is a seasoning or enhancement for the other food. However, since these mixtures have the status of one complete food item, they should have only one Bracha. Thus, the concept of ikar and tafeil is very different here - it is the rule used to determine which Bracha we recite on the entire food. In this case, the Bracha of the ikar, which is usually the majority item, is the Bracha on the entire item.

There are three rules that determine which Bracha to recite on a mixture.
1. If one of the items in the mixture is clearly the most important, then that item determines the Bracha (Pri Megadim, Pesicha Koleles, Hilchos Brachot s.v. HaTenai; Mishnah Berurah 212:1). For example, the Bracha on a chicken soup that includes vegetables is shehakol since the chicken is the most important flavor component in the soup. However, if it is a vegetable soup with some meat added for flavor, the Bracha would be ha’adamah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 205:2 and commentaries).

2. When none of the components are clearly the most important, the Bracha is usually determined by the majority item in the product. Thus, the Bracha on a peanut bar that contains peanuts, honey, and sugar is ha’adamah since peanuts are the major ingredient, and the Bracha on a tzimmes consisting of prunes and sweet potatoes depends on which item is the major ingredient.

3. However, when the mixture contains one of the five grains (wheat, barley, spelt, oats, and rye) then the Bracha is usually mezonos, unless the flour or grain product is included only to hold the food together (Shulchan Aruch 204:12; 208:2,3). Because these grains are important, they are the ikar of the mixture even if they are a minority ingredient. However, when the flour’s purpose is only to hold the item together or to provide texture, then it is not the ikar of the food.
Therefore, the Bracha on vegetable-barley soup is mezonos and similarly, the Bracha on a trifle containing cakes and ice cream is mezonos even if there is more ice cream than cake, since the cake is a grain product.
However, the Bracha on potato kugel that contains flour, bread crumbs, and/or matzoh meal to provide texture is ha’adamah. Since the grain product here functions only to hold the kugel together, it is tafeil and does not affect the Bracha. Similarly, flour added to thicken soup is tafeil (Mishnah Berurah 212:1). When the flour provides taste or makes the product satisfying, then the flour is the ikar and the Bracha is mezonos (Shulchan Aruch 204:12; 208:3). Thus, the Bracha on vegetable-barley soup is mezonos. However, if the barley is completely dissolved, the Bracha on the soup is usually ha’adamah. Similarly, if you do not want to eat the barley but a few pieces ended up in your portion anyway, the Bracha is ha’adamah.
The same rules apply in the case of licorice candy whose Bracha is shehakol even though it contains a significant amount of flour, since the flour is there only to give it a stiff texture. On the other hand, the Bracha on kishka is mezonos, since the main ingredient is the flour.
Many breakfast cereals are made from a corn flour that has oat flour added. Before reciting a Bracha on these cereals, one must try to determine whether the oat flour is included to add taste or substance, in which case the Bracha is mezonos; or if it is included simply to keep the pieces of cereal from falling apart, in which case the Bracha is shehakol. If one cannot determine why the oat flour is added, one should recite shehakol.

Does a "meat and potatoes" roast require one Bracha on both ingredients, or is it two items that require separate Brachot?
Is the Bracha on a mix of raisins and peanuts ha’eitz or ha’adamah?
Is a fruit salad containing melon or pineapple in addition to pears, apples, and peaches a mixture that requires one Bracha or separate Brachot?
When dealing with the correct Bracha on a food mixture, one of the key questions one must ask is whether the food is indeed a mixture that requires one Bracha or if it is considered two (or more) separate foods that each require a separate Bracha.
Here is an obvious example: Suppose you dine on a chicken dinner with side dishes of noodle kugel and string beans. Although you are eating them all at the same time, these foods are not a mixture. Therefore, each item requires its own Bracha.

Do the ingredients of a fruit salad that contains both ha’eitz and ha’adamah items require two separate Brachot or is the salad a mixture requiring one Bracha? Whereas in a soup, peanut bar, or tzimmes, the foods were cooked or blended together and are difficult to isolate from one another, in most fruit salads the different fruits can be clearly distinguished from one another and separated. On the other hand, because the pieces are small, one usually eats the different varieties together.
The poskim dispute whether fruit salad warrants one Bracha or two. According to most poskim, one should recite only one Bracha over a mixture of this type. Following their opinion, one would recite a Bracha on the majority item in a fruit salad. However, the Chayei Odom contends that when the items can be clearly distinguished from one another they are not to be considered a mixture and one should recite separate Brachot on the components of the dish. Thus in his opinion, one should recite a ha’eitz on the tree fruits and then ha’adamah on the melon in the fruit salad.
(I noted in a different article that although we recite ha’adamah on bananas, pineapples, and strawberries, there are early poskim who contend that one should recite ha’eitz on these fruits because they are perennial, that is, the root remains from one year to the next. Because the poskim dispute whether the correct Bracha on these types of perennial fruits is ha’eitz or ha’adamah, we recite ha’adamah to resolve the doubt. However, since we recite this Bracha only to resolve a safek. There are several ramifications of this ruling, one of which directly affects our case. If one will be eating both these fruits and definite ha’eitz fruits, one should recite the ha’adamah on these fruits and taste them before one recites ha’eitz even though one would normally recite ha’eitz first. This is because according to the opinion that the correct Bracha on any perennial is ha’eitz, if one recited a ha’eitz on the tree fruits, reciting a different Bracha afterwards on the banana, pineapple, or strawberry is a Bracha li’vatalah, a Bracha in vain. Although we do not rule like this opinion, we should also not ignore it.)
The same dispute exists regarding a mix of raisins and peanuts; most poskim contend that one should recite the Bracha of the majority item and the Chayei Odom rules that they require two separate Brachot.
The Mishnah Berurah (212:1) concludes that safek Brachot lihakeil, when in doubt we do not recite a Bracha and therefore one should recite one Bracha on both items. The Bracha should follow whatever Bracha one would recite on the majority of the mixture even if it consists of different fruits (M’kor HaBeracha pg. 182). If one cannot determine whether the majority is borei pri ha’eitz or borei pri ha’adamah, then one should recite borei pri ha’adamah since when one recites pri ha’adamah on an item that is pri ha’eitz one fulfills the requirement, but not vice versa.
Following the majority opinion that one recites one Bracha on the mixed fruit salad or the peanuts and raisins, we still need to clarify a very important issue. At what point do we consider the two items to be different foods requiring separate Brachot? In the case mentioned above of a chicken dinner with side dishes of noodle kugel and string beans, it is obvious that they are different items. But is a roast of meat and potatoes or a shepherd's pie (consisting of layers of ground meat and potatoes) considered one item or does it require two separate Brachot?
The poskim rule as follows: When the two items are eaten together in one spoonful then one recites one Bracha, even if there is an occasional spoonful where one is eating only one of them. However, if each spoonful usually contains one item exclusively, then they should have separate Brachot. Thus, meat and potatoes cooked together would have two separate Brachot since the meat and potatoes are usually not eaten together in the same forkful. However, shepherd's pie or soup would require only one Bracha since each forkful or spoonful will probably contain parts of at least two different foods. In this case, one recites one Bracha even if an occasional forkful/spoonful has only one of the ingredients (Aruch HaShulchan 212:2).

A cholent consisting of barley, kishka, meat, potatoes and beans, contains some items whose Bracha is mezonos (the barley and kishka), and others whose Bracha is shehakol (the meat), or ha’adamah (potatoes and beans). Is cholent a mixture like a soup and requires only one Bracha, or is it like eating a meat and potatoes roast where several Brachot are recited on the components? Truthfully, it depends on the consistency of the cholent. If the cholent is made in such a way that each forkful contains a mix of the various ingredients, than its Bracha is mezonos if it includes barley or kishka. However if the potatoes or meat are large discernable items, then they will require their own Brachot (Pri Megadim, Pesicha Kolleles, Hilchos Brachot s.v. klal amru; VeZos HaBeracha pg. 110).

The rules of ikar and tafeil also apply to the Bracha acharonah (Shulchan Aruch 212:1). Thus, if one eats cereal with milk and fruit, and the cereal’s Bracha acharonah is al hamichyah, one does not recite a borei nefashos on the milk or the fruit.
Rav Moshe Feinstein discusses the following interesting case: Someone ate a small amount of food that was the ikar of his meal, but he did not eat enough to recite a Bracha acharonah. However, he ate a sufficient amount of the tafeil to require a Bracha acharonah. What Bracha acharonah does he recite? Rav Moshe rules that he recites borei nefashos even if the tafeil item would ordinarily require a different Bracha acharonah (Shu’t Igros Moshe 4:42).
Let us explain his ruling with an example. Someone made hamotzi on bread before eating a meal at which he ate several olives, but then ate less than a kizayis of bread, too little to require bensching. Later, he was planning to eat some pastry that included raisins, and he ended up eating less than a kizayis of pastry but more than a kizayis of raisins. He does not recite bensching or al hamichyah because he did not eat enough of the ikar item. Therefore he must recite a Bracha acharonah on the tafeil. However according to Rav Moshe, he should recite borei nefashos even though he is reciting a Bracha acharonah on olives and raisins, items which usually require the longer Bracha acharonah of al ha’eitz ve’al pri ha’eitz! What happened to the long Bracha acharonah?
The answer is that a tafeil is considered unimportant and therefore does not warrant a Bracha any more. However, because one cannot benefit from this world without making a Bracha before and after eating food, only the minimum Bracha, borei nefashos, is required.
Rav Moshe proves this approach in the following way. The halacha is that after eating enough bread to be completely full, the requirement to bensch is min haTorah, whereas the requirement to recite Brachot after eating in general is only midirabbanan. Rav Moshe points out the following. What would happen if someone ate a very spicy pepper, and in order to be able to eat it he must consume a huge amount of bread- but he is eating the bread only because of the spicy food. What Bracha acharonah would he recite afterwards? Since the bread in this case is tafeil to the pepper, one would recite only a borei nefashos after eating the bread and pepper (over the pepper). Rav Moshe points out that although the bread satisfied him completely, the full bensching, which is usually required min haTorah, is completely suspended. This proves that by becoming a tafeil the bread loses all significance; it is no longer bensching material. Thus, we see that a tafeil loses all importance and the only reason we recite a Bracha is that we are prohibited from benefiting from this world without a Bracha.

Until now we have been discussing situations when you are eating the ikar and tafeil together. What do you do if you are eating the tafeil item either before or after you eat the ikar?

A tafeil loses a Bracha only when it is eaten together with the ikar or afterwards, but not when it is eaten before. Again, the reason for this becomes fairly clear once we think about it. A tafeil’s Bracha is subsumed by the Bracha on the ikar. This helps us as long as one has already recited the Bracha on the ikar. However, if one has not yet recited the Bracha on the ikar, how can one eat the tafeil without reciting any Bracha at all since we are forbidden to benefit from the world without first reciting a Bracha? Thus, it must be that we recite a Bracha on the tafeil when eating it before the ikar.
However, this does not tell us whether the Bracha on the tafeil is the same Bracha one would usually recite on it, or whether it is automatically reduced to a shehakol. Let us say that someone is going to drink a powerful beverage or a very spicy pepper, and in order to tolerate it, he is first going to eat some bread or crackers. What Bracha does he recite on the bread or cracker?

The Rama (212:1) rules that one recites a shehakol on the bread or cracker!

The Rama’s ruling is based on an earlier psak of the Terumas HaDeshen, who discusses a case of someone who wants to drink wine, but can not drink the wine on an empty stomach. Therefore he eats some seeds whose Bracha is usually ha’eitz before imbibing the wine. The Terumas HaDeshen rules that he recites a shehakol on the seeds since he is not getting his primary benefit from the fruit (Darchei Moshe 212:2). However, the Beis Yosef disagrees and rules that he should make ha’eitz on the seeds.
On what concept is this dispute dependent? One could explain that this dispute reflects two different ways of explaining why one does not recite a Bracha on a tafeil. The Terumas HaDeshen contends that a tafeil is unimportant and therefore does not warrant a Bracha, however, one cannot benefit from this world without a Bracha -- therefore one recites shehakol. On the other hand, the Beis Yosef holds that the Bracha on the ikar counts as the Bracha on the tafeil and therefore one does not need to make a Bracha on it- but if the tafeil were to require a Bracha, it does not lose its status or its Bracha.

What do you do if you finished eating the ikar, but you have not yet completed the tafeil. Do you recite a Bracha on the tafeil since you are no longer eating the ikar, or do we say that the Bracha on the ikar still suffices? For example, you finished your cereal, but there is still some milk left, or you finished the barley of the soup, but there is still more soup to eat. Do you recite a new Bracha on the rest of the soup?
The halacha is that if you finished the ikar first, and a small amount of tafeil remains, one does not recite a Bracha on the remaining tafeil. However, if a large amount remains, one does recite a Bracha (Mishnah Berurah 168:46).
At the beginning of the article I asked the following shaylah, "You made a Bracha on a cup of tea and sipped it and then decided it needed more sugar. Do you need to make a Bracha on the extra sugar?"
The question here is that the sugar is tafeil to the tea, but can it be a tafeil when it was not in front of you when you made the Bracha?
The halacha is that if you begin eating something and afterwards decide to eat a tafeil food alongside, the tafeil requires a Bracha- but only shehakol (Mishnah Berurah 212:4). This is true only if the tafeil is an enhancer (see our category above). However, if it is a tafeil because it is a mixture, it receives its regular Bracha. Thus, if after making a Bracha on cereal, someone decided to add milk and fruit, he recites ha’eitz on the fruit and shehakol on the milk. On the other hand, if he knew he would add fruit and milk when he recited the Bracha on the cereal, then they are tafeil to the cereal and he does not recite a Bracha on them even though they were not present when he recited the Bracha.
What should you do if someone brought you a cup of tea and you then decided to add sugar? Do you need to recite a Bracha on the sugar?
If you usually add sugar to your tea, you do not need to recite a new Bracha. However, if you do not, then you will need to recite a Bracha on the sugar.
Not everything we do in life qualifies as our ikar purpose in life- often we must do things that are tafeil to the more important things in life. However, paying attention to the Halachot of ikar and tafeil should encourage us to focus on our priorities in life- and not allow the tafeil things we must do become more important than they are.
This article was originally published in Yated Neeman

This Shiur is published also at Rabbi Kaganof's site
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