Halacha for Tuesday 11 Adar 5784 February 20 2024

Thinking a Blessing in One’s Mind

In the previous Halacha we have discussed in general the laws of one who is in the middle of eating and then becomes unsure whether or not one has recited the appropriate blessing, for instance, if one is eating an apple and while eating, one becomes unsure whether or not one has recited the “Boreh Peri Ha’etz” blessing. We have written that in such a situation, one should not recite the blessing again as a result of one’s doubt, for since the obligation to recite a blessing is only rabbinic, when in doubt, one would not repeat the blessing. Even if one wishes to recite the blessing over, one may not do so because of the severity of the prohibition of reciting an unnecessary blessing, i.e. if, in fact, one has already recited the appropriate blessing, the second blessing one recites will have been unnecessary. Since Hashem’s name is recited as part of the blessing, one will have uttered Hashem’s name in vain, a truly grievous sin. Thus, the Halacha follows that one does not recite the blessing again.

The question now becomes: When one is unsure whether or not one has actually recited the appropriate blessing and we rule that such a person may not repeat the blessing as a result of one’s doubt, may this individual resume eating as usual or is this forbidden?

The root of this question lies in the words of our Sages in Masechet Berachot that “one who enjoys from this world without reciting a blessing is tantamount to have misused a consecrated item for a mundane purpose, as the verse states, ‘To Hashem is the earth and all its contents.’” If so, it would seem that although we tell such an individual not to repeat the blessing, nevertheless, he may not continue eating without reciting a blessing.

Based on this, the Tosafot and Meiri write that since one who eats without reciting a blessing is tantamount to have misused a consecrated item, even in a situation of uncertainty, one must recite another blessing if one wishes to continue eating. Nevertheless, their opinion is contrary to the basic understanding of the Rambam’s words which were that “one should not recite a blessing as a result of the doubt” which implies that one should not recite a blessing at all.

After ruling that one who is unsure should not repeat the blessing, the Ritba writes: “Nevertheless, I wonder how it is that one may continue to eat without a reciting a blessing when in doubt. By doing so, one is actively placing himself in a situation of misusing Heaven’s consecrated items!” Clearly, the Ritba maintains that one should either recite another blessing because of the doubt or stop eating altogether. The Ritba therefore questions how it is that although we rule that the blessing is not repeated as a result of the uncertainty, one may continue to eat without reciting a blessing.

Based on the above Rishonim, the author of Responsa Devar Moshe rules that when one is eating and becomes unsure whether or not one has recited a blessing, one should not repeat the blessing and additionally, one may not continue to partake of the food before him. The Responsa Rosh Mashbir and others rule likewise.

On the other hand, the Chok Yaakov writes that we can infer from the words of the Rosh that when one is uncertain about having recited a blessing, one may continue eating, for the Sages have exempted him from reciting a blessing. He writes: “The prohibition of benefitting from this world without reciting a blessing does not apply here since by abstaining from reciting a blessing, one is preventing himself from transgressing the prohibition of reciting a blessing in vain.” This means that since the reason why one is not the reciting the blessing again is in order not to transgress the prohibition of reciting a blessing in vain, one is thereby exempt from reciting a blessing in this situation and may continue to eat without hindrance. Maran zt”l quotes all of the above in his Sefer Taba’at Ha’Melech.

Nevertheless, Maran Rabbeinu zt”l writes that in order to avoid any concern, it is preferable that when one is unsure regarding having recited a blessing and wishes to continue eating, one should think the blessing in one’s mind as opposed to actually uttering it with one’s mouth, for in this way, one will fulfill one’s obligation to bless according to the Rambam since the Rambam is of the opinion that one who thinks a blessing in one’s mind has fulfilled one’s obligation of reciting a blessing. Thus, one will be able to think the blessing in one’s mind once again, for there is no prohibition of uttering Hashem’s name in vain in this way; on the contrary, one will have fulfilled one’s obligation to recite a blessing again and one may then continue to eat in an even more permissible manner.

We must nevertheless question how it is that regarding reciting a blessing, thinking the blessing in one’s heart is sufficient; should it not follow that the same applies to the prohibition of bearing Hashem’s name in vain that thinking it is likewise prohibited? If so, what have we accomplished by having one think the blessing in one’s mind?

The answer to this is that the prohibition to mention Hashem’s name in vain only applies when one actually utters it, not when one merely thinks it. Although, halachically speaking, we rule that even with regards to blessings, one must actually utter the blessing with one’s mouth, nevertheless, in this situation, one may rely on the Rambam’s opinion that thinking the blessing in one’s mind is sufficient.

Summary: If one is unsure whether or not one has recited a blessing on a food one is currently eating, one should not repeat the blessing as a result of one’s doubt. If one wishes to continue eating, one should merely think the appropriate blessing in one’s mind without actually uttering it.

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