The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.For final rulings, consult your Rav.
DO DESSERTS REQUIRE A BLESSING?
The blessing of ha-motzi, recited over bread at the beginning of the meal,
includes anything in the meal which is normally eaten with bread - even
though it is not actually being eaten with bread at this particular moment.
Even if these foods are never actually eaten together with bread, but if
they are "meal type foods", i.e., they are main components of a meal that
are served to satisfy one's hunger, they are included in the ha-motzi
blessing. Meat, fish, eggs, pasta, rice, vegetables, cheese, most beverages
and all other foods eaten to satisfy one's hunger are included in the
ha-motzi blessing. Dessert, on the other hand, is not normally eaten with
bread, nor is it served to satisfy one's hunger. In most cases dessert is
served after one is already full, either as a finishing touch to a meal or
to satisfy one's craving for sweets. It is considered a separate food at the
end of the meal and therefore requires its own blessing. This basic
principle is agreed upon by all of the early authorities and is recorded in
the Shulchan Aruch. Let us review the halachos of some common desserts:
RAW FRUIT (apples, grapes, etc.) ??the correct blessing is recited?1??
COOKED FRUIT - there are conflicting views. The basic halachah follows the
opinion of most poskim who hold that a blessing is recited(2), since the
cooked fruit is being served as dessert and is considered a "dessert type
food". A minority opinion suggests that no blessing is recited(3) since a
cooked fruit, even though it is being eaten at the end of the meal, may
still be considered as one of the courses of the meal. One who wants to
avoid a questionable situation should eat cooked fruit only with bread(4) or
recite a blessing over a raw fruit before eating the cooked fruit(5).
POPCORN - the correct blessing (ha-adamah) is recited.
PEANUTS - the correct blessing (ha-adamah) is recited.
CHOCOLATE - the correct blessing (shehakol) is recited.
COFFEE and TEA - there are conflicting opinions. Some hold that beverages,
no matter when they are served, are considered as part of the meal and no
blessing is recited. They reason that the coffee or tea is served for
satiation and is part of the meal. Others maintain that coffee or tea should
be treated as dessert and that a shehakol is recited. In their opinion,
these beverages are served to aid digestion and are not an intrinsic part of
the meal. To avoid a questionable situation, it is best to recite a shehakol
on another food which is definitely dessert, and thus exempt the coffee or
tea. If another shehakol item is not available, no blessing is recited(6).
ICE CREAM and SHERBET - the correct blessing is recited(7).
The basic rule quoted above that a "dessert-type food" requires a separate
blessing when eaten at the end of the meal applies to cake as well. It
should follow that cake eaten at the end of the meal as a dessert requires a
mezonos. In actual practice, however, this is not the case. In order to
explain why not, we must present some background information concerning pas
habaah b'kisnin, commonly known as cake, and what its proper blessing is.
One thing is clear: Normally, people are koveia seudah ("base" their meal)
on pas, bread. The proper blessing over pas is, therefore, ha-motzi. The
proper blessing over pas habaah b'kisnin, which has bread-like properties
but yet is not bread, is mezonos, since people are not usually koveia seudah
on it. But how exactly is pas different from pas habaah b'kisnin? What
distinguishes the two foods? Is it the ingredients or is it the texture?
There are three opinions among the rishonim as to the definition of pas
habaah b'kisnin and the main characteristic that distinguishes it from pas:
Some hold that pas habaah b'kisnin is what most people today call cake: Cake
batter consists of many ingredients beyond flour and water; it contains
significant amounts of sugar, cocoa, chocolate, oil, honey, etc. According
to this view, the blessing over pretzels or fruit-filled pies will be
ha-motzi, since their basic ingredients are flour and water, just like
Others hold that pas habaah b'kisnin is a hard, crunchy substance such as a
pretzel or a cracker. According to this view, the blessing over most cakes
and pies is ha-motzi.
Others hold that pas habaah b'kisnin is a fruit or nut filled pie. According
to this view, the blessing over most cakes and pretzels and crackers is
What is the practical halachah? As a rule, whenever doubts arise concerning
the proper blessing to recite, we follow the basic principle of safeik
berachos l'hakail - we tend to rule leniently. Accordingly, whenever any one
of these foods is eaten [not during the meal] the blessing is mezonos, since
requiring one to wash and recite Bircas ha-Mazon over them would be a
But when these foods are eaten as a dessert during the meal, the halachah
should be the reverse. Since there is a doubt as to whether these foods are
classified as pas, bread, or pas habaah b'kisnin, we ought to be lenient and
not require a mezonos to be recited, since they may very well be bread, and
an ha-motzi was already recited at the beginning of the meal.
In practice, however, various poskim have issued numerous, somewhat
contradictory, rulings. This issue is so confusing that some G-d-fearing
people do not eat cake for dessert at all; rather they recite Bircas
ha-Mazon and eat the dessert cake afterwards(9). Another solution suggested
by some poskim is to have express intent while reciting ha-motzi at the
beginning of the meal to include any cake eaten for dessert(10). But if
neither option is practical, there are various opinions among contemporary
poskim about how one should conduct himself:
Mishnah Berurah states that only fruit-filled pies are considered "real" pas
habaah b'kisnin and a mezonos is recited over them when served for dessert.
Other cakes are too similar to bread and are covered by the original
Harav M. Feinstein ruled that as long as flour and water are not the
majority ingredients, which holds true for most cakes today, a mezonos is
recited over them when served as dessert(12).
One should follow his custom or the opinion of his rav.
A notable exception to all of the above is when cake is eaten when one is
still hungry, i.e., the main course was not filling and the dessert is being
eaten to satisfy one's hunger. In that case, clearly, no blessing is recited
on the cake since it now becomes an essential part of the meal covered by
the original ha-motzi blessing(13).
Another point to remember is that our discussion applies to cake only.
Wafers, waffles, pancakes, kugels and all other mezonos items which do not
have bread-like properties are considered mezonos items according to all
views and would require a separate blessing when eaten for dessert and not
1 O.C. 177:1.
2 Mishnah Berurah 177:4; Chazon Ish (Dinim v'Hanhagos 6:7); Orchos Rabbeinu
66; Yalkut Yosef, pg. 196; Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (quoted in Vezos ha-Berachah,
pg. 78 and Vesain Berachah, pg. 87).
3 Several sources report that the Chafetz Chayim eventually changed his
ruling and exempted cooked fruits served as dessert from a blessing; see
Orchos Rabbeinu 66 and Vezos ha-Berachah, pg. 78. [Others dispute that the
Chafetz Chayim changed his ruling.] Reportedly, Harav A. Kotler ruled that
no blessing is recited over cooked fruit.
4 Custom of the Brisker Rav (quoted in Teshuvos v'Hanhagos 1:177).
5 Harav A. Kotler (reported by several disciples); Harav S.Y. Elyashiv
(quoted in Vezos ha-Berachah, pg. 78).
6 See the various opinions in Chayei Adam 43:11, Mishnah Berurah 174:39; and
Aruch ha-Shulchan 174:14 (who distinguishes between coffee and tea). See
also Vezos ha-Berachah, pg. 73.
7 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (V'sein Berachah, pg. 87); Harav Y.S. Elyashiv (Vezos
ha-Berachah, pg. 74); Shevet ha-Levi 1: 205; Harav C.P. Scheinberg (Vezos
ha-Berachah, pg. 76). There are some who quote Harav M. Feinstein as ruling
that certain types of ice creams or ices are considered beverages which do
not require their own blessing. But this is difficult to confirm or
8 O.C. 168:7.
9 This was the custom of the Chida, quoted in Sefer Minhagei Yerushalyim.
See also Ohr le-Tziyon 12:10 who suggests this approach.
10 Chayei Adam 43:7 (quoted by Beiur Halachah 168:8); Kaf ha-Chayim 168:49;
Harav Y.Y. Fisher (quoted in Vezos ha-Berahcha, pg. 75.)
11 Beiur Halachah 168:8.
12 Oral ruling quoted in Rivevos Efrayim 5:153. See also Igros Moshe O.C.
3:33 where this is clearly explained. This also seems to be the opinion of
Harav S.Z. Auerbach (oral ruling quoted in Vezos ha-Berachah, pg. 229).
13 Mishnah Berurah 168:41. Another case where no blessing is recited over
cake eaten as dessert is when a large amount - enough to be considered
kevius seudah - is eaten; ibid.