Halacha for Sunday 13 Sivan 5782 June 12 2022

Interrupting by Speaking During Shabbat Meals

Question: During the Shabbat meal, my husband made a blessing on the bread, tasted some of it, and then began to pass it around to the rest of the people at the table. At this point, one of my children began talking before actually eating some bread himself. Must he recite the “Hamotzi” blessing again?

Answer: We have discussed in the past that one may not interrupt between reciting a blessing and eating. For instance, if one recites a “Boreh Peri Ha’etz” blessing on an apple, and then interrupts by speaking before eating the apple (with words not related to eating), one must recite the blessing again. Only after tasting the food, one is blessing on may one speak as much as one wishes.

“Hearing is Like Reciting”
We have also discussed in the past that if one hears a blessing recited by another and the listener intends to fulfill his obligation and the one reciting the blessing has in mind to include those listening in his blessing, both individuals fulfill their obligation of reciting this blessing. This rule stems from the concept of “hearing is like listening,” which means that by most Mitzvot related to speaking, such as blessings, one can fulfill one’s obligation by listening to the recitation of another. Thus, although everyone is obligation to read the Megillah on Purim, most of the congregation does not actually read the Megillah on their own. Rather, they fulfill their obligation by listening to the Chazzan read it.

It is for the same reason that during the Shabbat meals, the head of the households recites the “Hamotzi” blessing on the bread and includes everyone else in his blessing; after doing so, he begins passing around the bread to everyone seated at the table. It is obvious that no one at the table may speak until they taste some of the bread being passed around. The same applies to the “Boreh Peri Ha’Gefen” in that no one may speak until the drink some of the wine being passed around after Kiddush.

When the One Reciting the Blessing Has Already Eaten
Regarding the above scenario where the head of the household has already tasted some of the bread before one of the children spoke, we must analyze whether the fact that the one who recited the blessing has already eaten is considered a conclusion of the blessing for everyone at the table which would allow them to speak even though they have not yet tasted any bread or perhaps it is considered as if they recited the blessing themselves, in which case, speaking before eating would be considered an interruption and they would not fulfill their obligation with this blessing.

Indeed, the Rokeach (quoted by the Bet Yosef, Chapter 167) writes that if the head of the household ate some bread and then those at the table continued to speak before actually eaten bread themselves, they have fulfilled their obligation since they intended to be included in the blessing of the head of the household and they need not repeat the blessing. Nevertheless, Maran Ha’Bet Yosef rebuffs this opinion and writes that they have not fulfilled their obligation in this manner, and they must repeat the blessing, for when they hear the blessing recited by the head of the household, it is as though they recited the blessing themselves and thus, this constitutes an interruption.

Although in general, we rule in accordance with the opinion of Maran Ha’Bet Yosef, whose rulings we have accepted, nevertheless, in this case, since there is a disagreement among the Poskim regarding a doubtful blessing, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l rules (in his Halichot Olam, Volume 1, page 347) that in the above scenario where someone at the table spoke after the head of the household tasted the bread but before the speaker had tasted some bread himself, one would not repeat the “Hamotzi” blessing and one would merely rely on the blessing recited by the head of the household. (It is preferable though to think the blessing in one’s mind without uttering it verbally.)

Summary: When the head of the household recites a blessing and those assembled answer Amen, they may not speak until after tasting some bread themselves. If someone mistakenly spoke after the head of the household already ate some bread, one need not repeat the “Hamotzi” blessing, and one should just rely on the blessing recited by the head of the household.

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