In honor of all those little kiddies going back to Yeshiva in the coming days, I thought I would post about that perennial Yeshiva institution, the Bracha Bee.
For those who don't know, a "Bracha Bee" is a lot like a spelling bee, except instead of being asked to spell words, young Yeshiva students are asked to indicate which "bracha rishona" (blessing before eating a food) or which "bracha achrona" (blessing after eating a food) is recited for a particular food.
Question: What bracha rishona is recited for an apple?
Answer: Borei pri ha'etz (Blessed is He who created the fruits of the tree)
Question: What bracha rishona is recited for apple juice?
Answer: She'hakol ne'hi'ye b'd'varo (Blessed is He Who created everything with an utterance)
Not so simple right? An apple has one blessing, but apple juice has another.
It gets more complicated.
Question: What bracha rishona is recited for pureed apple sauce?
Answer: She'hakol ne'hi'ye b'd'varo
Question: What bracha rishona is recited for apple sauce that is chunky?
Answer: Borei pri ha'etz
And this is the easy stuff! Every third grade participant in the bracha bee knows this! For the tough stuff you need to get into which is the "majority ingredient", which food "you really want", whether you're having the food as a meal or as a snack, etc.
Which all brings us to a question I had the other day while we had some guests over for Shabbat.
Why in the world are there different brachot at all? Isn't the whole point that I recognize God as the source of my food? Do I recognize God's majesty even more if I understand the source of the food?
This answer doesn't seem to make sense for many reasons. Firstly, we only have five categories of "sources" and only four of those are really a source (fruit, vegetable, grain, and bread), the fifth category is just a catch-all with numerous sources (liquid, meats, things out of their normal form, etc). Secondly, a large part of which bracha to recite depends not on God, but on man; namely, has man processed the food (as in the apple examples above)? Thirdly, if we're recognizing God's majesty by the sources through which He provides them we not only shouldn't have catch-all categories, but when we eat a food with multiple ingredients, we should recognize God as the source for each and every ingredient. We certainly shouldn't say a Ha'Motzi (blessing for bread) and not say anything for the fruits, veggies, drinks, and grains we consume after. And we shouldn't say about our stew that we prefer the potatoes (and bless for the vegetable) over the beef (and not bless for the meat).
But, perhaps even more so, this system makes it highly likely that someone will make a bracha l'vatala (a blessing in vain) due to reciting the wrong bracha and thereby desecrate God's name.
Why not just have a blessing that goes like this, for example: "Blessed are you God, Master of the Universe, Who created all of the ingredients necessary for the making of this pizza."? Simple, no?
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