Halacha for Sunday 11 Shevat 5784 January 21 2024

The Laws of Precedence Regarding Blessings

On the night of Tu Bishvat, which will fall out this coming Wednesday night, it is customary to eat a variety of fruits. We shall therefore learn the proper order of the Blessings of Enjoyment during the coming days.

We should point out that these laws are fairly simple but we will need to discuss the basis of these laws so that everyone can be proficient in them

Every individual, especially someone with young children, should pay attention to this, for anyone who studies the laws of blessings and makes sure that everyone in one’s household recites blessings correctly and slowly will merit Hashem’s presence dwelling in the home and that everyone will be able to tell that one’s children grow up in a home of Torah and fear of Heaven. However, those who always recite blessings in an undertone and hastily in a way that the words barely emerge from their mouth cause immeasurable damage, for their children follow in their footsteps and it is much more difficult to change this bad habit when they get older. It is therefore a great Mitzvah for both men and women to recite blessings slowly, aloud, and with great concentration and by doing so, one shall merit all of the blessings of the Torah.

Indeed, it is said in the name of Hagaon Rabbeinu Yisrael Abuchatzera zt”l (the saintly Baba Sali) that one who recites Birkat Hamazon slowly from a Siddur or Bencher shall never lack a source of livelihood.

When Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l would sit around the table with his grandchildren, he would cut up a fruit and give each child a piece and tell him, “Recite a blessing!” and when the child would do so, he would give him more of the same fruit and other fruits and then he would bless each child warmly.

The Reason for the Specific Order of Blessings
When one wishes to recite blessings on various foods in front of him, one may not just recite any blessing based on the order one 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 significance of the fruit or other food one is about to recite a blessing on. The following is an explanation of this possibility.

Priority of a Blessing on One of the Seven Species of Fruits the Land of Israel Was Praised With
We must first discuss the law in a situation where one is served a variety of fruits, which one should one recite the blessing on?

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 any other fruits.

For instance, if one has apples and dates in front of him, one must first recite a blessing on the dates (which are one of the Seven Species), eat a piece, and only then proceed to eat the apple.

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that even if one enjoys apples more than dates, the blessing must nevertheless be recited on the fruit that is one of the Seven Species first.

Thus, regarding the above example, if one wishes to eat an apple and a date, although may like apples more, one must nevertheless recite the blessing on the date first and one may not recite the blessing on the apple, although one likes it more.

Priority of a Blessing among the Seven Species Themselves
As we have 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, one should recite a blessing on the grapes first, for they are mentioned in the verse before figs.

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 olive oil 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, one 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” and so, they are of lesser importance.

Just as olives precede grapes, similarly dates precede grapes as well, for dates are 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.

Summary: This is the order of precedence regarding blessing on foods of the Seven Species: The “Hamotzi Lechem Min Ha’aretz” precedes all other blessings. (It is for this reason that we cover the bread during Kiddush on Shabbat and Yom Tov, for we wish for it to appear that there is no bread before us so that we may recite the blessing on the wine first since all of the laws of precedence regarding blessings applies only when both foods are in front of the individual and one wishes to partake of both of them; however, one need not wait until the food which takes precedence is brought before him.) Following this is the “Boreh Minei Mezonot” blessing. Bread or cakes made from wheat flour takes precedence over those made from barley flour since wheat is mentioned earlier in the verse. Following this in the order of precedence is the “Boreh Peri Ha’etz” on olives, then dates, then grapes, then figs, then pomegranates, followed by all other types of fruit. One “Boreh Peri Ha’etz” blessing is sufficient to exempt all of the fruits one plans on eating currently.

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