The blessing of ha-motzi, recited over bread at the beginning of the meal,
includes anything in the meal that 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 which 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:
1. Raw fruit (apples, grapes, etc.): The correct blessing is
2. Cooked fruit: 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)
3. Popcorn: The correct blessing (ha-adamah) is recited.
4. Peanuts: The correct blessing (ha-adamah) is recited.
5. Chocolate: The correct blessing (shehakol) is recited.
6. 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)
7. 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 haba'ah b'kisnin, commonly known as cake, and what its
proper blessing is.(8)
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 haba'ah 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 haba'ah
b'kisnin? What distinguishes the two foods: is it the ingredients or is it
There are three opinions among the Rishonim as to the definition of pas
haba'ah b'kisnin and the main characteristic that distinguishes it from
1. Some hold that pas haba'ah b'kisnin is what most people today
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
would be ha-motzi, since their basic ingredients are flour and water, just
2. Others hold that pas haba'ah b'kisnin is a hard, crunchy
as a pretzel or a cracker. According to this view, the blessing over most
cakes and pies would be ha-motzi.
3. Others hold that pas haba'ah b'kisnin is a fruit- or nut- filled
According to this view, the blessing over most cakes and pretzels and
crackers would be ha-motzi.
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, i.e., 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 Birkas ha-Mazon over them would be a stringency.(9)
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 haba'ah b'kisnin, we ought to
be lenient and not require a mezonos to be recited, since they may very
well be bread, and a ha-motzi was already recited at the beginning of the
In practice, however, various poskim have issued numerous, somewhat
contradictory, rulings. This issue is so confusing that some God-fearing
people do not eat cake for dessert at all; rather, they recite Birkas ha-
Mazon and eat the dessert cake afterwards.(10) 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.(11)
But if neither option is practical, there are various opinions among
contemporary poskim about how one should conduct himself:
1. Mishnah Berurah states that only fruit-filled pies are
considered "real" pas haba'ah b'kisnin, and a mezonos is recited over them
when served for dessert. Most other cakes(12) are too similar to bread and
are covered by the original ha-motzi blessing.(13)
2. Harav M. Feinstein ruled that as long as flour and water are not
majority ingredients, which holds true for most cakes today, a mezonos is
recited over them when served as dessert.(14)
One should follow his custom or the opinion of his rabbi. One who
has no custom should not recite a mezonos unless the cake is clearly a pas
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.(16)
Another point to remember is that our discussion applies to cake
only. 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
Rabbi Neustadt is Rav of Young Israel in Cleveland Heights. He may be
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1 O.C. 177:1.
2 Mishnah Berurah 177:4; Chazon Ish (Dinim v'Hanhagos 6:7); Orchos
Rabbeinu 66; Yechaveh Da'as 5:19; Harav Y.S. Elyashiv (quoted in Vezos ha-
Berachah, pg. 78 and Vesein Berachah, pg. 87).
3 Several sources report that the Chafetz Chayim eventually changed
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. See also Sdei Chemed (Berachos
1:26), who quotes Sefer Zochreinu l'Chayim that no blessing is recited
over cooked dessert, but the Sdei Chemed himself disagrees.
4 Custom of the Brisker Rav (quoted in Teshuvos v'Hanhagos 1:177).
5 Harav A. Kotler (reported by several disciples); Harav Y.S.
(quoted in Vezos ha-Berachah, pg. 78).
6 See the various opinions in Chayei Adam 43:11, Mishnah Berurah
and Aruch ha-Shulchan 174:14 (who distinguishes between coffee and tea).
See also Vezos ha-Berachah, pg. 73.
7 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Vesein Berachah, pg. 87); Harav Y.S.
(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 understand.
8 Our discussion covers mezonos cake only. Cake made out of potato
and served for dessert requires a shehakol (Avnei Yashfei 3:17).
9 O.C. 168:7.
10 This was the custom of the Chida, quoted in Sefer Minhagei
Yerushalayim. See also Ohr L'Ttziyon 12:10, who suggests this approach.
11 Chayei Adam 43:7 (quoted by Beiur Halachah 168:8); Kaf ha-Chayim
168:49; Harav Y.Y. Fisher (quoted in Vezos ha-Berachah, pg. 75.)
12 A wafer may be an exception, since it may be classified as pas
b'kisnin according to all three opinions.
13 Beiur Halachah 168:8.
14 Oral ruling quoted in Rivevos Efrayim 5:153. See also Igros
3:33, where this is clearly explained. This is also the opinion of Harav
S.Z. Auerbach (quoted in Vezos ha-Berachah, pg. 229 and in Vesein
Berachah, vol. 2, Hebrew section, pg. 9).
15 Harav Y.S. Elyashiv (quoted in Avnei Yashfei 3:16).
16 Mishnah Berurah 168:41. Another case where no blessing is
cake eaten as dessert is when a large amount - enough to be considered
kevius seudah - is eaten; ibid.