Halacha for Tuesday 15 Sivan 5778 May 29 2018

Serving Food to an Individual Who Does Not Recite Blessings

Question: May one serve refreshments, such as cake and cookies, to an individual who does not usually recite blessing before eating or is this forbidden since the individual is now transgressing the prohibition of eating without a blessing as a result?

Answer: In the previous Halacha, we have explained the general laws of the prohibition of “Do not place a stumbling-block before a blind man,” which refers to placing an opportunity before any person to transgress any of the Mitzvot of the Torah, for instance, by giving him something forbidden to eat.

Regarding our discussion, when one hosts a Jew who is not Torah and Mitzvot observant and would like to serve his guest food and drink, must one be concerned here of the prohibition of “placing a stumbling-block before a blind man” or not?

The Gemara in Masechet Chullin (107b) states that one may not serve bread to one who does not wash his hands before eating a bread meal, for this constitutes the prohibition of “placing a stumbling-block before a blind man.”

The Poskim disagree, however, if this is true even when it is uncertain if the individual will transgress the sin or does the prohibition only apply when there is no doubt that he will transgress the sin as only this is considered “placing a stumbling-block.” We can infer from the words of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch that as long as we are not completely certain that the guest will in fact wash his hands, he should not be served bread because of the concern of “placing a stumbling-block.” (The Magen Avraham, on the other hand, implies from Maran that only if the guest will certainly sin may the host not serve him bread.) If so, it would seem that the same should apply to our scenario regarding one who does not usually recite a blessing on his food before eating and it will be forbidden to serve him refreshments since chances are that he will eat without reciting a blessing and ultimately, we are causing him to transgress the prohibition of eating without reciting a blessing. It should at least be forbidden to serve him when he will surely not recite a blessing before eating.

We should add that one should not take this law lightly at all, for it seems at face value that in our case there is a concern for transgressing Torah law, for “placing a stumbling-block” is a Torah prohibition. Although eating without reciting a blessing is a rabbinic prohibition according to most Poskim, it seems that the prohibition of “placing a stumbling-block” still applies on a Torah level even when causing one to transgress a rabbinic law, for if one places an actual stumbling-block, such as a stone, in front of a blind man in order to trip him, he surely transgresses a Torah prohibition. Similarly, if one causes another to transgress a rabbinic prohibition for which the individual will be punished by Heaven for transgressing this law, which is much more severe than merely tripping and falling in this world, one should surely transgress this Torah prohibition. Indeed, the author of the Responsa Torat Chesed (Lublin) discusses the issue of whether one who causes another to transgress a rabbinic prohibition is liable by Torah or rabbinic law for transgressing the prohibition of “placing a stumbling-block.” In any event, since this is an issue that borders on Torah prohibitions, it is difficult to permit serving food to one who will not recite a blessing on the basis of such unproven reasoning.

Indeed, Hagaon Chazon Ish zt”l was asked this question over fifty years ago by the famed Maggid, Hagaon Harav Shalom Shwadron zt”l and he replied that in his opinion, serving food to a guest who will not recite a blessing is permissible because the prohibition of “placing a stumbling-block” only applies when it is actually an obstacle that the other party will transgress. Thus, if the guest is not served refreshments, he will surely be insulted and that will cause him to transgress the negative commandment of hating another Jew which is certainly worse that the prohibition of eating without reciting a blessing. It is therefore permissible to serve refreshments to such a Jew.

Nevertheless, Hagaon Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l rules leniently on this matter in his Responsa Minchat Shlomo (Volume 1) only when the guest is a steady financial supporter of Torah in which case a desecration of Hashem’s name may result by the guest falsely believing that religious Jews are not well-mannered. However, when this is not the case, he does not rule leniently.

Halachically speaking, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l replied to this question and said that it is proper to avoid such situations altogether. However, if a non-Torah-observant guest who will not recite a blessing arrives at one’s home and if he is not served refreshments, a desecration of Hashem’s name will result, it is nevertheless proper to ask him very politely to recite a blessing on what he eats. If it is impossible to ask him to recite a blessing or it is almost certain that he will refuse to do so, there is room for leniency (barely) since there is no other recourse. As we have mentioned though, there is room for leniency according to the Chazon Ish in any event.

Another idea for when situations like these arise is that when the refreshments are being served, the host himself should partake of the food and tell the guest, “I will recite a blessing and I am having you in mind, so please just answer Amen.” In this way, one will fulfill one’s obligation according to all opinions.

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