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What Blessing do I Say on an Onion?

What Blessing do I Say on an Onion?

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Perhaps at the Passover Seder, as you were about to dip an onion into salt-water, someone posed this question. Indeed, this blessing is different from all (or most) other blessings. Let’s peel back the layers of this issue.

Blessings in General

The default blessing we say before eating all foods is Shehakol (“Blessed are You . . . by Whose word all things came to be”). However, the sages deemed some foods—such as bread, wine, fruits and vegetables—worthy of their own specific blessings.1

So on fruit we make the blessing of Ha’eitz (“Blessed are You . . . who creates the fruit of the tree”), on vegetables we say Ha’adamah (“Blessed are You . . . who creates the fruit of the earth”), and so on. (For more information on the proper blessings to recite, see Laws of Blessings on Food. )

Raw vs. Cooked

Now, fruits and vegetables are only considered worthy of these blessings when they are eaten in their “optimal form,” as dictated by cultural norms.2 Therefore, produce that is normally eaten cooked loses its special status when eaten raw, and reverts back to the default blessing of Shehakol (assuming it’s edible).3

The reverse is true regarding produce that tastes better raw (i.e. cooking diminishes its flavor); when cooking and eating these foods, we say Shehakol.4

Now for the Onions

What about onions? Is it normal to eat them raw? We don’t ordinarily eat raw onions alone, but we do eat them, for example, in sandwiches. So does a raw onion warrant a Shehakol or a Ha’adamah?

Some halachic authorities are of the opinion that, since raw onions aren’t usually eaten by themselves, we make the blessing of Shehakol on them.5 However, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi rules that since it is common to eat raw onions with bread, the onions still have the status of a food item that is normally eaten raw. Therefore the appropriate blessing is Ha’adamah, even when the onions are eaten alone.67

FOOTNOTES
1.

Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, Rashi, on Talmud Brachot 39a s.v. “umelagleg.”

2.

Shulchan Aruch Orech Chaim 205:1.

3.

Ibid. However, if it is normal for people to also eat it raw, then even if it tastes better cooked, the blessing would still be Ha’adamah. See Seder Birchat Hanenin 6:12.

4.

If, however, cooking does not actually diminish its taste, then one would still make a Ha’adamah when eating it cooked. See Seder Birchat Hanenin 6:10.

5.

Mishnah Berurah, Orech Chaim 205: 5; Igrot Moshe Orech Chaim 1:64. See, however, the Sharei Tzion in the Mishnah Berurah ibid , where he questions the opinion that holds one should make a Shehakol based on the above.

6.

Shulchan Aruch Harav 205:1 , Seder Birchat Hanenin 6:12; Chok Yaakov on Orech Chaim 475:16; Rabbi Sholomo Gantzfried in Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 52:5.

7.

If the onions have aged to the extent that they are too pungent to be eaten raw, their blessing is Shehakol (Shulchan Aruch Harav and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch ibid).

Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin responds to questions for Chabad.org's Ask the Rabbi service.
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Discussion (3)
July 30, 2013
Re: What about tomatoes?
Any fruit or vegetable that it is customary to eat it both raw and cooked, the blessing on it is Ha'etz or Ha’adamah, respectively.
Yehuda Shurpin for Chabad.org
July 30, 2013
What about tomatoes?
Tomatoes are customarily eaten either way. So which blessing is appropriate for them? We eat a lot of tomatoes.
Mindy
Florida
February 28, 2013
Does God care about social norms?
I used to eat raw mushrooms and broccoli, but not so much anymore. I'm not sure what others do. If I eat them in what I consider optimal form while others in my area disagree, which blessing would I say? To me this is an argument that God would not care about. Just make a thoughtful blessing and He will be happy.
Susan Levitsky
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