Halacha for Sunday 9 Shevat 5773 January 20 2013              

Halacha Date: 9 Shevat 5773 January 20 2013

Category: Berachot


The Laws of Precedence Regarding Blessings

On the eve of Tu Bishvat, which will fall out, G-d-willing, this coming Friday night (Shabbat), it is customary to eat a variety of fruits. We shall therefore explain the proper order of the blessings based on what we have written in the past plus additional insights.
 
The Reason for the Specific Order of Blessings
When one wishes to recite blessings on various foods in front of him, he may not just recite any blessing based on the order that he decides; rather there is a specific order of blessings. There can be two reasons to explain why one blessing must be recited before another: One reason can be because of the innate importance of the given blessing.  This will be explained further in the next Halacha, G-d willing. The other possibility when one blessing has priority over another is because of the innate importance of the fruit or other food about to be blessed upon. The following is an explanation of this possibility.
 
Priority of a Blessing on One of the Seven Special Fruits of Israel
The land of Israel was praised with seven species of fruits as the verse (Devarim 8,8) states, “A land of wheat and barley, grapevines, figs, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey.” (“Honey” here refers to dates as is explained in the Talmud Yerushalmi Chapter 1 of Masechet Bikurim, Halacha 3). The blessing on any one of the Seven Species precedes all other fruits. For instance, if one has oranges and dates or almonds and raisins (raisins are considered one of the Seven Species for they are a derivative of the grapevine) in front of him, he must first recite a blessing on the fruit that is from the Seven Species and he may then continue to eat whatever he pleases.
 
Maran Harav Ovadia Yosef Shlit”a writes that even if the fruits that are not from the Seven Species, for instance the apple or almond in the above case, are dearer to him (for example, if one enjoys apples more than dates or almonds more than raisins) still in all the blessing must be recited on the fruit that is one of the Seven Species first. This is because their precedence in blessing is not because they are dearer, rather it is because of their innate significance in that they were mentioned in the above verse; this significance does not vary from person to person.
 
Priority of a Blessing among the Seven Species Themselves
As we’ve explained, the fruits of the Seven Species are those mentioned in the verse. Any fruit mentioned earlier in the verse has priority for it is more important. Thus, if one has figs and grapes in front of him, he should bless on the grapes first for they are mentioned first in the verse.
 
Besides for this, there is another kind of priority given to any fruit closer to the word “land” in the verse. This means that the Torah states: “A land of wheat and barley, grapevines, figs, and pomegranates; a land of oil-bearing olives and honey”. The word “land” is mentioned twice in this verse. If so, the fruit of the “olive” is mentioned first after the word “land” (“a land of olive oil”) while the fruit of the “grapevine” is mention third after the word “land” (“A land of wheat and barley, grapevines”). Thus, if one has olives and grapes in front of him, he must recite the blessing on the olives first for they are closer to the word “land” in the verse, as opposed to grapes which are further away from the word “land” so they are of lesser importance.
 
Just as olives come before grapes, similarly dates come before grapes as well for dates were written second after the word “land” (“a land of olive oil and dates”) while grapes are only mentioned third after the first “land” in the verse (“A land of wheat and barley, grapevines”). For the same reason, dates take precedence over figs and pomegranates for the importance of a fruit is measured by its proximity to the word “land” in the verse.
 
Priority Regarding the Various Blessings over the Seven Species
Based on the aforementioned, the correct order for blessings over the Seven Species is as follows: The blessing of “HaMotzi Lechem Min Ha’Aretz” comes before anything else (it is for this reason that we cover the bread on Shabbat and Yom Tov while making Kiddush on wine in order to make it as if there were no bread here so as not to have to recite its blessing first before the blessing on the wine as we have explained in the Halachot of Kiddush. This is because all of the laws of priority of blessings only apply when both foods are in front of the person and he wishes to partake of both; there is no obligation, however, to wait until the prioritized food be brought out in front of him) and after that comes the blessing of “Borei Minei Mezonot”. Bread or cakes made out of wheat flour precede bread or cakes made out of barley flour, for wheat precedes barley in the verse. Next in line are olives, then dates, then grapes, then figs, then pomegranates, and finally any other type of fruit. Also, one blessing of “Borei Peri Ha’etz” is sufficient to exempt any fruits one has in mind to eat at this point.
 
If one mistakenly recited the “Borei Peri Ha’etz” blessing on a fruit that is mentioned later in the verse than another, for instance if one blessed on a pomegranate while there are figs in front of him, or even if one blessed on a fruit that is not one of the seven species at all, for instance if one blessed on an apple while there were fruits of the Seven Species in front of him, one has fulfilled his obligation and he need not bless again for the laws of priority regarding the order of the Seven Species only apply if one has not blessed yet and not if one has already done so.

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