PEIROT ERETZ YISRAEL / BIRCHAT ME'EYN SHALOSH
In Devarim 8:8, Moshe refers to the Land of Israel as a "land of wheat and barley, of vines (grapes), figs, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey (a reference to dates)." These seven species - two grains and five fruits - are referred to as the produce for which the Land of Israel is praised. They are indigenous to the Land and are found in it in abundance, thus providing Israel with its own "amber waves of grain" and "fruited plains." In a halachic sense as well, these seven species are important. The gemara in Eruvin 4a (and elsewhere) comments that this entire verse has as its purpose the concept of measurements. Each one of these items is used as a unit of measurement somewhere in halacha (the most familiar example being a k'zayit - the size of an olive).
Given the importance of these species, there are blessings said on them distinct from those said on other forms of produce. Any grain products are preceded either by the blessing of HaMotzi or that of Borei Minei Mezonot, and are followed by Birchat HaMazon or Me'eyn Shalosh ("al Ha-michyah"). However, what is the law concerning the five fruits listed here? In general, one says Borei Pri Ha-etz before eating fruits and says Borei Nefashot afterwards. As we will see, these fruits, due to their special nature, have a separate set of laws.
II. TO BENSCH OR NOT TO BENSCH?
The gemara in Berachot 44a cites a dispute as to which blessing must be made after eating any of these five fruits. Rabban Gamliel contends that one must recite the complete Birchat HaMazon, while the Sages maintain that only Me'eyn Shalosh (the abbreviated version of Birchat HaMazon) needs to be said. The source for this argument centers around various readings of the verses in Devarim 8:8-10. Rabban Gamliel sees a connection between these fruits (verse 8) and bread (verse 9), and as such they require a Birchat HaMazon. The Sages, on the other hand, see the word "eretz" at the beginning of verse 9 as a break between the two, and thus they require only Me'eyn Shalosh. Rabba bar Mari here and Rabbi Akiva on page 37a both maintain that the correct afterblessing in this case is Me'eyn Shalosh.
Tosafot on Berachot 37a (and Pesachim 105b) point out the flaw in Rabban Gamliel's position. If one were to require that Birchat HaMazon be said for all seven species, then a person would eventually find themselves in an unending loop. How? Since Birchat HaMazon is ideally said over a cup of wine which is afterwards drunk, that wine, being from the seven species, would also require Birchat HaMazon, which would also require wine, and so on ad infinitum. Thus, Tosafot conclude that only a meal containing bread requires Birchat HaMazon. Similarly, the gemara in Chullin 106a states that one does not wash their hands for fruit as they due for bread. Tosafot ad loc. Add in that today one person should not say the blessing for fruits on behalf of others, as we no longer establish a meal with fruit as the main feature. Given all of this, the afterblessing made on these fruits is, as per the opinion of the Sages, Me'eyn Shalosh.
III. GOING UP, GOING DOWN
While it is their relationship to the Land of Israel that lends a special status to these fruits, once they have this status it applies to any fruit of these species grown anywhere in the world. However, there is one difference. As per the conclusion of the gemara in Berachot 44a, as codified by theTur and others, after eating such fruits grown outside of Israel, one concludes the blessing by saying "al ha-aretz v'al ha-peirot" - on the land and on the fruits, while after eating these fruits grown in Israel one says "al ha-aretz v'al peiroteha" - on The Land and on ITS fruits, signifying the importance of Israel. The question to be asked is whether the language of the blessing is a function of the fruit itself, i.e. where it was grown, or a function of the location of the one eating it, irrespective of where the fruit originally came from?
Rabbeinu Yonah, is his commentary on Berachot, claims that one who brings fruits from outside of Israel to Israel and eats them there should not change the blessing that he would have made had the fruits been from Israel, meaning that he still would say "v'al peiroteha." Seemingly, the text of the blessing is a function of the location where they are eaten. However, Ritva cites the reverse case and claims that if one brings fruits from Israel to another land he would still recite "v'al peiroteha," and thus the proper blessing is a function of the fruit, and not the location. The Beit Yoseif brings down this argument, citing Rabbeinu Yonah and Rosh opposed to him, and in the Shulchan Aruch he says that the law follows the view of Ritva and Rosh, that we look at the fruit itself, and not the location (this is also the opinion of the Eliyahu Rabba and the Mishna Berura).
What about cases of doubt? Two types of doubt are dealt with. The first is a doubt as to the status of a certain area of land. What is considered to be the Land of Israel with regard to this law? The Biblical borders of Bamidbar? The borders promised to Avraham? The current borders of the political State of Israel? According to the Birchei Yoseif, the Land of Israel with regard to this law refers to any part of the land that was captured by Joshua and the Jews when they first entered the land, even if it was not retaken by those who returned from Babylon at the time of Ezra. As such, he suggests that perhaps even those lands promised to Avraham would be included (see Bereishit 15). However, the She'eilat David has a doubt with regard to those lands that were never taken by the Jewish people (the lands of the Keini, Kenizi, and Kadmoni).
The other doubt concerns the origin of the fruits themselves. According to the Perisha, if one is outside of Israel and is unsure where the fruits are from, he should say the blessing as if they came from outside of Israel (see also Magen Avraham, O.C. 208). The Mishna Berura goes further and says that in all such cases of doubt, one says "al ha-peirot," as if the fruits were from outside of Israel, even if he is eating them in Israel.
IV. THAT HOLIDAY SPIRIT
As Me'eyn Shalosh is essentially an abbreviated form of Birchat HaMazon, it would make sense that one would add in a mention of Shabbat and Holidays as one does by Birchat HaMazon. Tosafot in Berachot cite the Sefer Maimuni which claims that one really should have to do so. However, we do not do so because we no longer establish a meal centered around fruit or wine. As such, part of the parallel to Birchat HaMazon is weakened, and not mention of any special day is made. However, both Rosh andRambam contend that one does mention such days, and this is codified by the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch (it was also the view of the Rokeiach and the Maharam MiRutenberg).
The one difference that remains in this regard concerns Chanukah and Purim. In Birchat HaMazon we add in "Al Ha-Nissim" on these days, but both theHagahot Maimoniyot and the Shulchan Aruch maintain that no mention of these days is made in Me'eyn Shalosh. Why is this so? The Machatzit HaShekel offers several possible reasons. The first view, a technical one, is that of the Levush, He states that since Al Ha-Nissim is said during the second blessing in Birchat HaMazon, there is no place for such an insert in Me'eyn Shalosh (any inserts made are made right before the end, after we have alluded to all three blessings). The Divrei Chamudot claims that the reason is that Chanukah and Purim are not mentioned in the Yerushalmi with regard to Me'eyn Shalosh. Finally, the Machatzit HaShekel suggests that they may be excluded because these holidays are not found in the Torah.
V. THE SCOPE OF THE BLESSINGS
While the blessing of Me'eyn Shalosh is specific to the seven species, it is not always exclusive to them. If one eats one of the five fruits along with an apple, one need only say Me'eyn Shalosh on everything, since apples are also the fruit of the tree (as the beginning of Me'eyn Shalosh states). However, if one drinks wine and eats apples, Borei Nefashot must be said on the apples in addition to the Me'eyn Shalosh said on the wine, as food and drink cannot combine for such purposes.
Ritva notes that if one says Me'eyn Shalosh on bread there is no need to then go back and say Birchat HaMazon, since bread does come from the seven species (the other three grains - oats, rye, and spelt, are viewed as being sub-species of either wheat or barley).
With regard to the blessing made on wheat or barley kernels,Meiri claims that one would say Borei Nefashot, as the blessing of Me'eyn Shalosh is said only on fruits from a tree or food made from grain, although not the grain itself. The Tur claims that since there is a doubt in this case, one should refrain from eating raw kernels. The specific point here is that there is no concept of a "catchall" afterblessing. Unlike by the blessings made before eating, where one always has the option of reciting SheHakol if one is unsure of the correct blessing, with regard to afterblessings one must say the proper blessing as established by the Sages.
Finally, what is the case with regard to someone who eats grapes and drinks wine? Is this case similar to the case of one who drinks wine and eats apples, or can one blessing suffice, seeing as both are grapes? Rabbeinu Yechiel, the brother of the Tur, holds that one can say only one blessing on both even optimally, but his father, the Rosh disagrees. The Shulchan Aruch takes a middle position on this, stating that two blessings are needed before anything is ingested, while the Me'eyn Shalosh for fruits will suffice for both afterwards. However, if one only blesses on the wine first, and remembers once he has begun eating that he did not say Borei Pri Ha'etz on the grapes, he does not need to stop to recite that blessing, as the blessing on the fruit of the vine said for wine covers the grapes as well.
VI. TEXTUAL ISSUES
We conclude this week with a series of issues regarding the text of Me'eyn Shalosh. It should be noted at the outset that the text that is printed in prayerbooks today is that found in the Mishna Berura. Most previous sources have similar, yet somewhat different, texts for the blessing.
The first dispute concerns the exact blessing said after wine. The initial dispute, cited by theKesef Mishna, is whether or not wine even merits a special blessing distinct from that said over the five fruits. Rambam holds that, as there is no special text mentioned in the gemara for wine, it is included under the category of the fruits and one says "al ha-peirot" after drinking. Ra'avad disagrees and says that just as it has its own blessing before drinking, it must also have its own afterwards. Given this, what is the exact blessing to be said after wine? According to Rabbeinu Yonah, the Me'eyn Shalosh said in this case ends with the words "al ha-aretz v'al pri ha-gefen," in opposition to the view of Tosafot, who claim that the correct version is "al ha-gefen v'al pri ha-gefen." The Tur and other poskim side with Rabbeinu Yonah.
The next debate concerns whether or not we include a reference to the fourth blessing of Birchat HaMazon in Me'eyn Shalosh. As this fourth blessing was added later on and it not part of the Torah-ordained commandment of Birchat HaMazon, there is reason to think that it should not be included. Rambam cites this debate, and the Tur states that in the end all poskim agree that such a reference is included (ki atah tov u'meitiv lakol). However, it is still called Me'eyn Shalosh - three blessings - since only three are Torah ordained.
Finally, there is a question regarding the line "v'nochal mipiryah v'nisba mituva" - and we will eat from its (the land) fruit and we will be satiated from its goodness. The Tur claims that this should not be said, since the purpose of the Land of Israel (the primary referent of this line) is to do mitzvot in it, and not to reap physical pleasure from it. However, theBehag includes this line in his text (as do most others), and the Bach explains that this is because the holiness of the Land of Israel is such that it pervades even the fruits that grow in the Land.
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