Introduction to Hilchos Berachos

It contains one positive mitzvah: To bless [God's] great and holy name after eating [a meal].
This mitzvah is explained in the following chapters.

הלכות ברכות - הקדמה

הלכות ברכות מצות עשה אחת והיא לברך את השם הגדול והקדוש אחר אכילה וביאור מצוה זו בפרקים אלו:

1

It is a positive mitzvah from the Torah to bless [God] after eating satisfying food, as [Deuteronomy 8:10] states: "When you have eaten and are satiated, you shall bless God, your Lord."

The Torah itself requires a person to recite grace only when he eats to the point of satiation, as implied by the above verse, "When you have eaten and are satiated, you shall bless...." The Sages, however, ordained that one should recite grace after eating [an amount of bread equal] to the size of an olive.

א

מצות עשה מן התורה לברך אחר אכילת מזון שנאמר ואכלת ושבעת וברכת את יי' אלהיך ואינו חייב מן התורה אלא אם כן שבע שנאמר ואכלת ושבעת וברכת ומדברי סופרים אכל אפילו כזית מברך אחריו:

It is a positive mitzvah - Sefer HaMitzvot (Positive Commandment 19) and Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 430) include this as one of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

from the Torah - as opposed to the other blessings, which were ordained by the Rabbis.

to bless [God] after eating satisfying food - The Kiryat Sefer and others interpret "satisfying food" as referring to bread made from the five species of grain mentioned in Chapter 3, Halachah 1. Significantly, the Rishon LeTzion and the Noda BiYhudah maintain that with this expression, the Rambam is implying that the blessing al hamichyah, which is recited over other foods made from these species, also has its source in the Torah itself (See also Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 209).

as [Deuteronomy 8:10] states: "When you have eaten and are satiated, you shall bless God, your Lord."

The Torah itself requires a person to recite grace only when he eats to the point of satiation - The Rabbis do not specify a standard quantity or measure of food that a person must eat to have reached this state. Rather, they leave the matter up to the person's own feelings.

as implied by the above verse, "When you have eaten and are satiated, you shall bless...." - The proof-text clearly indicates that the obligation to "bless" applies only when one is "satiated."

The Sages, however, ordained - Berachot 20b relates:

The angels complained to the Holy One, blessed be He: "...In Your Torah, it is written [that You] 'will not show favor, nor take bribes,' and yet You show favor to the Jews...."
God replied: "Are the Jews not worthy that I show them favor? In My Torah, I have written, ‘When you have eaten and are satiated, you shall bless,’ and they have nevertheless adopted the stringency of reciting grace after eating an amount equivalent to an olive."

that one should recite grace after eating [an amount of bread equal] to the size of an olive. - a k'zayit. This is the measurement generally intended by the Torah for the mitzvot and prohibitions concerned with eating. In contemporary measure, it is equivalent to 28.8 cc according to Shiurei Torah, and 33 cc according to the Chazon Ish.

Note the commentary on Chapter 5, Halachah 16, which discusses the Ra'avad's opinion that anyone who eats a k'zayit of bread is required by the Torah to recite grace.

2

Similarly, the Rabbis ordained that we recite blessings before partaking of any food. Even when one wants to eat the slightest amount of food or drink, one should recite a blessing, and then derive benefit from it.

Similarly, when smelling a pleasant fragrance, one should recite a blessing and then smell. Anyone who derives benefit [from this world] without reciting a blessing is considered as if he misappropriated a sacred article.

The Rabbis also ordained that one should recite a blessing after eating or drinking, provided one drinks a revi'it and eats a k'zayit. A person who [merely] tastes food is not required to recite a blessing before partaking of it or afterwards unless he partakes of a revi'it.

ב

ומדברי סופרים לברך על כל מאכל תחלה ואחר כך יהנה ממנו ואפילו נתכוין לאכול או לשתות כל שהוא מברך ואח"כ יהנה וכן אם הריח ריח טוב מברך ואחר כך יהנה ממנו וכל הנהנה בלא ברכה מעל וכן מדברי סופרים לברך אחר כל מה שיאכל וכל מה שישתה והוא שישתה רביעית והוא שיאכל כזית ומטעמת אינה צריכה ברכה לא לפניה ולא לאחריה עד רביעית:

Similarly, the Rabbis ordained - The definition of this obligation as Rabbinical in nature has aroused questions. Berachot 35a states that this concept can be derived through one of the thirteen principles of Biblical interpretation. Thus, it has all the authority of a Torah law. Though the Rambam (see the Introduction to Sefer HaMitzvot, General Principle 2) refers to laws derived in this manner as מדברי סופרים - literally, "from the words of our Sages," the same term used here - his intent is not to imply that the law did not originate in the Torah itself.

Tosafot (Berachot, loc. cit.), however, explain that the Talmud ultimately does not accept the interpretation that the obligation is derived from the Torah, and maintain that the obligation to recite blessings is Rabbinic in origin. Even according to these opinions, it appears that the Sages ordained the recitation of blessings rather early in our national history. Midrashim referring to the age of King David explicitly mention the recitation of blessings, and there are intimations of this obligation in references to earlier periods. See also the commentary on Halachah 5.

that we recite blessings before partaking of any food. -Berachot, loc. cit., states: "It is forbidden to benefit from this world without reciting a blessing." Therefore,

Even when one wants to eat the slightest amount of food or drink - i.e., less than a k'zayit or a revi'it

one should recite a blessing, and then derive benefit from it. - In this instance, however, a blessing need not be recited after eating or drinking.

Similarly, when smelling a pleasant fragrance, one should recite a blessing - See Chapter 9 with regard to the particular blessings required.

and then smell. - Berachot 43b quotes Psalms 150:6: "All souls shall praise God," and asks: "From what does a soul benefit? Fragrance."

Anyone who derives benefit [from this world] without reciting a blessing is considered as if he misappropriated a sacred article. - Berachot 35a explains that the entire world belongs to God, as Psalms 24:1 declares: "The earth and its fullness are God's." Although God allows man to benefit from this world, that license is granted only when man acknowledges God's control by reciting a blessing.

The Rabbis also ordained that one should recite a blessing after eating or drinking, provided one drinks a revi'it - The word revi'it means "a fourth." It is one fourth of a larger measure, known as a log. In contemporary measure, a revi'it is equivalent to 86.6 cc according to Shiurei Torah, and 150 cc according to the Chazon Ish.

and eats a k'zayit. - Anything less is not considered significant enough to require a blessing afterwards. A blessing beforehand must nevertheless be recited, because "it is forbidden to benefit from this world without a blessing."

There is, however, a law which appears to be an exception to this principle:

A person who [merely] tastes food is not required to recite a blessing before partaking of it or afterwards unless he partakes of a revi'it. - Rav David Arameah explains that this law applies only when one spits out the food one tastes. If one swallows it, a blessing is required. The Kessef Mishneh differs, and maintains that even when a person swallows the food, since his intent is not to benefit from it - but merely to taste it - and he partakes of only a very small amount, a blessing is not required.

3

Just as we recite blessings for benefit which we derive from the world, we should also recite blessings for each mitzvah before we fulfill it.

Similarly, the Sages instituted many blessings as expressions of praise and thanks to God and as a means of petition, so that we will always remember the Creator, even though we have not received any benefit or performed a mitzvah.

ג

וכשם שמברכין על ההנייה כך מברכין על כל מצוה ומצוה ואח"כ יעשה אותה וברכות רבות תקנו חכמים דרך שבח והודיה ודרך בקשה כדי לזכור את הבורא תמיד אע"פ שלא נהנה ולא עשה מצוה:

Just as we recite blessings for benefit which we derive from the world - as explained above,

we should also recite blessings for each mitzvah before we fulfill it. - The laws governing the blessings recited over the performance of mitzvot are discussed in Chapter 11.

Similarly, the Sages instituted many blessings as expressions of praise and thanks to God and as a means of petition - See Chapter 10.

so that we will always remember the Creator, even though we have not received any benefit or performed a mitzvah. - By reciting blessings over the special events which occur to us, we become conscious of God's control of all aspects of our daily existence. We learn to appreciate Him, not only as the Creator who brought the world into being, but as the One who directs the functioning of our lives and the world around us.

4

Thus, all the blessings can be divided into three categories:
a) blessings over benefit;
b) blessings over mitzvot;
c) blessings recited as expressions of praise and thanks to God and as a means of petition, so that we will always remember the Creator and fear Him.

ד

נמצאו כל הברכות כולן שלשה מינים ברכות הנייה וברכות מצות וברכות הודאה שהן דרך שבח והודיה ובקשה כדי לזכור את הבורא תמיד וליראה ממנו:

5

The text of all the blessings was ordained by Ezra and his court. It is not fit to alter it, to add to it, or to detract from it. Whoever alters the text of a blessing from that ordained by the Sages is making an error.

A blessing that does not include the mention of God's name and His sovereignty [over the world] is not considered a blessing unless it is recited in proximity to a blessing [which meets these criteria].

ה

ונוסח כל הברכות עזרא ובית דינו תקנום ואין ראוי לשנותם ולא להוסיף על אחת מהם ולא לגרוע ממנה וכל המשנה ממטבע שטבעו חכמים בברכות אינו אלא טועה וכל ברכה שאין בה הזכרת השם ומלכות אינה ברכה אא"כ היתה סמוכה לחבירתה:

The text of all the blessings was ordained by Ezra and his court. - Berachot 33a explains that when the Men of the Great Assembly established the text of the prayer service (see Hilchot Tefillah 1:4), they also established the text for the various blessings and for kiddush and havdalah.

This, however, does not mean that the blessings were not recited beforehand. Rather, just as explained with regard to prayer, before Ezra's time each person would recite the blessings according to his own inspiration and ability to express himself. In Ezra's time, many people had difficulty expressing themselves eloquently and, therefore, Ezra and his court established a standard text.

It is not fit to alter it - to substitute different words

to add to it, or to detract from it. Whoever alters the text of a blessing from that ordained by the Sages is making an error. - The Radbaz (Vol. 5, Responsum 1424) states that as long as the person mentions God's name, His sovereignty over the world, and the subject of the blessing, he fulfills his obligation even if he does not use the text ordained by the Sages. (This interpretation is borne out by the next halachah.)

The Kessef Mishneh explains that the Rambam's phraseology alludes to two types of changes:
a) Changes which do not substantially alter the blessing from the text ordained by the Sages. With regard to such changes, the Rambam uses the expression "it is not fit," which implies that although the person's deed is not desirable, he fulfills his obligation.
b) A change of an innovative nature which alters the text of the blessing entirely. These changes the Rambam considers as "errors" which prevent a person from fulfilling his obligation. See also Halachah 13, Berachot 40b, and Hilchot Kri'at Shema 1:7.

A blessing that does not include the mention of God's name - i.e., the phrase י-ה-ו-ה א-להנו (God, our Lord),

and His sovereignty [over the world]- i.e., the phrase מלך העולם (King of the universe),

is not considered a blessing - and the person reciting it does not fulfill his obligation. See Berachot 40b.

unless it is recited in proximity to a blessing [which meets these criteria]. - For example, the second and third blessings in grace, which do not mention God's sovereignty because they follow directly after the first blessing, which does. Since the blessings are recited in one continuum, one's original statement is applied to the subsequent blessings as well.

6

All the blessings may be recited in any language, provided one recites [a translation of] the text ordained by the Sages. [A person who] changes that text fulfills his obligation nonetheless - since he mentioned God's name, His sovereignty, and the subject of the blessing - although he did so in a ordinary language.

ו

וכל הברכות כולן נאמרין בכל לשון והוא שיאמר כעין שתקנו חכמים ואם שינה את המטבע הואיל והזכיר אזכרה ומלכות וענין הברכה אפילו בלשון חול יצא:

All the blessings may be recited in any language - Although the text ordained by Ezra and his court was in Hebrew, there is no absolute requirement to use that language

provided one recites [a translation of] the text ordained by the Sages. - Note Shulchan Aruch HaRav 185:1-2, which quotes an opinion that maintains that a person who recites a blessing does not fulfill his obligation unless he understands what he is saying, even when he recites the blessing in Hebrew. Although there are other opinions that maintain that as long as the blessing is recited in Hebrew, one fulfills his obligation, Shulchan Aruch HaRav concludes that it is preferable for a person who does not understand Hebrew to recite the blessings - in particular, the grace - in a language he understands.

[A person who] changes that text - reciting a different blessing from that ordained by the Sages

fulfills his obligation nonetheless - since he mentioned God's name, His sovereignty, and the subject of the blessing - although he did so in a ordinary language. –I.e., a language other than “the Holy Tongue,” Hebrew. See Berachot 40b, which states that a person who recites the phrase "Blessed be God, Master of this bread" in Aramaic fulfills his obligation for the first blessing of grace. Note the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 167:10) which requires that God's sovereignty over the world also be mentioned.

7

A person should recite all the blessings loud enough for him to hear what he is saying. Nevertheless, a person who does not recite a blessing out loud fulfills his obligation, whether he verbalizes the blessing or merely recites it in his heart.

ז

כל הברכות כולן צריך שישמיע לאזנו מה שהוא אומר ואם לא השמיע לאזנו יצא בין שהוציא בשפתיו בין שבירך בלבו:

A person should recite all the blessings loud enough for him to hear what he is saying. Nevertheless, a person who does not recite a blessing out loud fulfills his obligation, whether he verbalizes the blessing - pronouncing the words with his lips

or merely recites it in his heart. - The Rambam's statements are based on Berachot 15a-b, which states:

A person who reads the Shema in a tone too low to hear fulfills his obligation. Rabbi Yosse states: "He does not fulfill his obligation."...
The difference of opinion applies with regard to the recitation of the Shema because it states, "Hear, Israel." With regard to other mitzvot (blessings, Rashi), everyone agrees that one fulfills one's obligation.

The Rambam's decision that, after the fact, one fulfills his obligation by reciting grace or other blessings in thought alone is not accepted by other authorities. Rashi, Rabbenu Asher, the Tur, and the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 185:2 maintain that though one need not recite the blessings out loud, it is necessary to subvocalize them, pronouncing them with one's lips.

8

Whenever one recites a blessing, one should not make an interruption between the blessing and the subject for which the blessing is recited. If one makes an interruption with other matters, one must recite the blessing again.

If, however, one makes an interruption which relates to the subject of the blessing, one does not have to repeat the blessing. What is implied? When a person recites a blessing over bread and before eating says, "Bring salt," "Bring food," "Give so-and-so to eat," "Bring food for the animal," or the like, he need not repeat the blessing.

ח

כל הברכות כולן לא יפסיק בין הברכה ובין הדבר שמברכין עליו בדברים אחרים ואם הפסיק צריך לחזור ולברך שנייה ואם הפסיק בדברים שהן מענין דברים שמברכין עליו אינו צריך לברך שנייה כיצד כגון שבירך על הפת וקודם שיאכל אמר הביאו מלח הביאו תבשיל תנו לפלוני לאכול תנו מאכל לבהמה וכיוצא באלו אינו צריך לברך שנית וכן כל כיוצא בזה:


Whenever one recites a blessing, one should not make an interruption between the blessing and the subject for which the blessing is recited. - This applies with regard to both blessings recited before food and blessings recited before performing a mitzvah.

If one makes an interruption with other matters, one must recite the blessing again. - This is a literal translation of the Rambam's words. Note Shulchan Aruch HaRav 206:3 which states that even remaining silent for the time it takes to say, Shalom alecha, Rebbe constitutes an interruption.

If, however, one makes an interruption which relates to the subject of the blessing, one does not have to repeat the blessing. - The Rambam's phraseology appears to indicate that, at the outset, one should not make any interruption. If, however, the situation demands that an interruption be made or if one inadvertently does so, the blessing need not be repeated when it is of the following nature.

What is implied? When a person recites a blessing over bread and before eating says, "Bring salt," "Bring food," "Give --- to eat," "Bring food for the animal," or the like - See Berachot 40a and commentaries, which explain why each of these statements is connected with the meal.

he need not repeat the blessing.

9

A person who is ritually impure is permitted to recite all the blessings. This applies regardless of whether the impurity is of a type from which one can purify oneself on the same day or not.

A person who is naked should not recite a blessing until he covers his genitals. To whom does this apply? To men. Women may recite blessings [while naked], provided they sit with their genitals facing the ground.

ט

כל הברכות כולם מותר לטמא לברך אותן בין שהיה טמא טומאה שהוא יכול לעלות ממנה בו ביום בין טומאה שאינו יכול לעלות ממנה בו ביום ואסור למברך לברך כשהוא ערום עד שיכסה ערותו בד"א באיש אבל באשה יושבת ופניה טוחות בקרקע ומברכת:

A person who is ritually impure is permitted to recite all the blessings. - In Hilchot Kri'at Shema 4:8, the Rambam states:

The words of Torah never contract impurity. Rather, they remain pure forever, as [Jeremiah 23:29] states: "Are not My words as fire...." Just as fire can never contract impurity, the words of Torah never contract impurity.

In Hilchot Tefillah 4:4, the Rambam applies these same principles to the words of prayer.

This applies regardless of whether the impurity is of a type from which one can purify oneself on the same day - e.g., the impurity which comes as a result of contact with the carcass of an animal. In this case, to regain ritual purity, one must immerse oneself in a mikveh and wait until nightfall.

or not. - There are some impurities - e.g., the impurity of a זב or the impurity resulting from contact with a human corpse - which require an extended period of time and other rituals besides immersion to regain ritual purity. (See also Berachot 3:4-6 and the Rambam's commentary on those Mishnayot.)

A person who is naked should not recite a blessing until he covers his genitals. - As explained in Hilchot Kri'at Shema 3:16-17, a person is not allowed to recite the Shema in a place where he can see naked people or when he, himself, is naked. The same principles apply with regard to the recitation of blessings.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 206:3) adds that a person may not recite any blessings unless there is a separation between his heart and his genitals and his head is covered.

To whom does this apply? To men - whose genitals protrude. In contrast,

Women may recite blessings [while naked], provided they sit with their genitals facing the ground. - Note the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, Challah 2:3, and the Magen Avraham's interpretation of his words (206:5).

10

[The following principle applies to] all blessings: Although a person has already recited them and fulfilled his own obligation, he may recite them again for others who have not fulfilled their obligation, so that they can fulfill their obligation.

There is, however, one exception: blessings over benefit which is not associated with a mitzvah. In this instance, one may not recite a blessing for others unless one enjoys benefit together with them. Nevertheless, one may recite blessings for benefit which is associated with a mitzvah - e.g., eating matzah on Pesach and reciting kiddush [on Sabbaths and festivals] - for others. They may then eat or drink, even though the one [who recites the blessing] does not eat or drink with them.

י

כל הברכות כולן אף ע"פ שבירך ויצא ידי חובתו מותר לו לברך לאחרים שלא יצאו ידי חובתן כדי להוציאן חוץ מברכת ההנייה שאין בה מצוה שאינו מברך לאחרים אלא אם כן נהנה עמהן אבל ברכת ההנייה שיש בה מצוה כגון אכילת מצה בלילי הפסחים וקידוש היום הרי זה מברך לאחרים ואוכלין ושותים אף על פי שאינו אוכל עמהן:

[The following principle applies to] all blessings: Although a person has already recited them and fulfilled his own obligation - In one of his responsa, the Rambam explains that the same principle applies when the person reciting the blessing has not fulfilled his obligation, but does not desire to do so at the present time.

he may recite them again for others who have not fulfilled their obligation - Rashi, Rosh HaShanah 29a, explains this principle on the basis of the concept of ערבות (mutual responsibility) that exists among the Jewish people. Each Jew shares a responsibility for his colleague's observance. Therefore, although he personally has already recited the blessing, he has not discharged his obligation entirely until each of his fellow Jews fulfills the requirements incumbent upon him.

so that they can fulfill their obligation. - The Rambam describes the manner in which the listener fulfills his obligation in the next halachah.

For the above principle to apply, however, the listener must be obligated to fulfill the mitzvah. When the listener is not obligated - e.g., a woman for shofar blowing - a person should not recite a blessing unless he is obligated himself (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 589:6).

There is, however, one exception: blessings over benefit which is not associated with a mitzvah - e.g., the blessings recited over food in an ordinary meal.

In this instance, one may not recite a blessing for others unless one enjoys benefit together with them. - In this instance, there is no obligation for a person to partake of this food. Hence, the principle of ערבות does not apply (Rashi, loc. cit.) unless the person reciting the blessing also desires to partake of the food. Should he desire to do so, the blessing he recites may include others as well. (Note an alternate explanation in the commentary on Chapter 5, Halachah 16.)

Nevertheless, one may recite blessings for benefit which is associated with a mitzvah - e.g., eating matzah on Pesach and reciting kiddush [on Sabbaths and festivals] - i.e., not only the blessing al achilat matzah, which mentions the mitzvah of eating matzah, but also the blessing hamotzi, which is recited for eating bread; not only the blessing of kiddush, but also the blessing borey pri hagafen, on the wine.

for others - since, in this instance, the only way the mitzvah can be fulfilled is by eating the food.

Note the Tur, Orach Chayim 273, which states that, at the outset, a person who has already recited kiddush should not recite kiddush for others, unless they are incapable of doing so themselves.

They may then eat or drink, even though the one [who recites the blessing] does not eat or drink with them. - Note Sefer HaKovetz, which states that a person is not allowed to recitehamotzi to enable a colleague to partake of the Sabbath meal when he does not join them. There is reason to assume that, since partaking of such a meal is a mitzvah, one would be allowed to recite a blessing, and thus enable a colleague to do so. Nevertheless, following the reasoning mentioned in Sefer HaKovetz, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 167:20) and commentaries mention only the examples cited by the Rambam.

11

Whenever a person listens to the entire recitation of a blessing with the intention of fulfilling his obligation, he is considered to have fulfilled his obligation although he does not answer Amen. Whoever answers Amen to a blessing recited by another person is considered as if he recited the blessing himself, provided the person who recites the blessing is obligated to recite that blessing.

If the person who recites the blessing is obligated only because of a Rabbinic ordinance, while the person responding is obligated by Torah law, the listener cannot fulfill his obligation until he repeats in response [to the one reciting the blessings] or until he hears [the blessing recited] by someone who, like him, is obligated by Torah law.

יא

כל השומע ברכה מן הברכות מתחלתה ועד סופה ונתכוון לצאת בה ידי חובתו יצא ואף על פי שלא ענה אמן וכל העונה אמן אחר המברך הרי זה כמברך והוא שיהיה המברך חייב באותה ברכה היה המברך חייב מדברי סופרים והעונה חייב מן התורה לא יצא ידי חובתו עד שיענה או עד שישמע ממי שהוא חייב בה מן התורה כמוהו:

Whenever a person listens to the entire recitation of a blessing with the intention of fulfilling his obligation - The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 213:3) rules that the person reciting the blessing also must intend that the listener fulfill his obligation by hearing the blessing.

The Beit Yosef and the Bayit Chadash 213 explain that this ruling points to a question of a larger scope: Do mitzvot of the Rabbis require intention, or is it possible to fulfill one's obligation by performing the required act without any intent.

According to the latter view, although the person reciting the blessing does not have the intention of fulfilling the obligation of the listener, since "one who listens is considered as though he responded," the listener is considered to have recited the blessing, and thus to have fulfilled his obligation.

In contrast, the former view requires that one have a conscious desire to fulfill one's obligation when fulfilling a Rabbinic obligation. Since the person reciting the blessing did not have such an intention on behalf of the listener, the listener cannot fulfill his obligation.

he is considered to have fulfilled his obligation although he does not answer Amen. - According to the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 167:13, 213:1), this applies to all blessings. The Ramah (Orach Chayim 213:1) differs, however, and explains that with regard to blessings for mitzvot, the principle stated by the Rambam is acceptable. With regard to blessings for deriving benefit, however, different rules apply, and a person can fulfill his obligation to recite a blessing by listening to someone else's blessing only when they intentionally sit down to break bread or drink wine together. See the commentary on the following halachah.

Sukkah 38b states:

What is the source which teaches that a person who listens is considered as if he responded?
[II Kings 22:16] mentions: "all the words of the scroll read by the king." Did Josaiah [the king] read them? Shafan read them.... Thus, this teaches that a person who listens is considered as if he responded.

Whoever answers Amen to a blessing recited by another person is considered as if he recited the blessing himself - Berachot 53b mentions two opinions, one which equates the person answeringAmen with the person actually reciting the blessing (the opinion cited by the Rambam), and one which considers the person answering to be on an even higher level.

Thus, with this statement, the Rambam is explaining that, although a person can fulfill his obligation by listening without answering Amen, when he answers he is considered as if he actually recited the blessing himself (Kessef Mishneh).

provided the person who recites the blessing is obligated to recite that blessing. - This excludes a blessing recited by a mentally incapable individual, a deaf-mute, or a child, who are not obligated to fulfill mitzvot (Berachot 20a, Rosh HaShanah 29a).

In Chapter 5, Halachot 15-16, the Rambam mentions that an adult who did not eat a full meal and is obligated to recite grace only by Rabbinic decree can fulfill his obligation by listening to the blessings recited by a child. This, however, is a unique instance and does not apply to blessings recited in the prayer service or over the fulfillment of other mitzvot. With regard to grace, the child's recitation of the blessings comes as a result of a single Rabbinic obligation. Hence, he can fulfill the mitzvah on behalf of an individual whose obligation is also Rabbinic in origin.

In contrast, with regard to other blessings, the blessings themselves are Rabbinic in origin, and the child's obligation to recite them constitutes a second Rabbinic obligation. Accordingly, he cannot fulfill the mitzvah for someone whose obligation stems from a single Rabbinic decree (Tosafot, Megillah 19b).

If the person who recites the blessing is obligated only because of a Rabbinic ordinance - e.g., an adult male who has not eaten to the point of satiation

while the person responding is obligated by Torah law - an adult who ate to the point of satiation

the listener cannot fulfill his obligation until he repeats - word for word

in response [to the one reciting the blessings] - Our translation (based on Sefer HaKovetz and the Bnei Binyamin) does conform to Biblical and Mishnaic interpretations of the word יענה. It does, however, appear slightly forced. Nevertheless, it is the most appropriate way to interpret the Rambam's words according to the halachah which states that, only with regard to grace, may an adult fulfill his obligation to recite a blessing by answering Amen to a child's blessing.

Rav Kapach presents a unique thesis, maintaining that in this halachah the Rambam is teaching us that an adult can fulfill his obligation to recite any blessing by responding Amen to a blessing recited by a child. His interpretation, though contrary to the accepted halachah, allows for a more direct translation of the Rambam's words.

or until he hears [the blessing recited] by someone who, like him, is obligated by Torah law. - In the latter case, the listener is not obligated to recite Amen.

12

When many people gather together to eat [a meal with] bread or to drink wine, and one recites the blessing while the others respond Amen, they are [all] permitted to eat and drink. If, however, they did not intend to eat together, but rather they each came on their own initiative, although they all eat from a single loaf of bread, each one should recite the blessings [before eating] by himself.

When does the above apply? With regard to bread and wine. With regard to other foods, however, which do not require [premeditated intent] to be eaten together as a group, if one person recited a blessing and everyone answered Amen, they may eat and drink although they did not intend to gather together as a group.

יב

רבים שנתועדו לאכול פת או לשתות יין ובירך אחד מהן וענו כולם אמן הרי אלו מותרין לאכול ולשתות אבל אם לא נתכוונו לאכול כאחד אלא זה בא מעצמו וזה בא מעצמו אע"פ שהן אוכלין מככר אחד כל אחד ואחד מברך לעצמו במה דברים אמורים בפת ויין בלבד אבל שאר אוכלים ומשקין אינן צריכין הסיבה אלא אם בירך אחד מהן וענו כולן אמן הרי אלו אוכלים ושותין ואף ע"פ שלא נתכוונו להסב כאחד:

When many people gather together to eat [a meal with] bread or to drink wine, and one recites the blessing - Our translation follows the standard text of the Mishneh Torah. According to the source for this law, Berachot 6:6, and the manner it is quoted in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 167:11), it should read, "one person should recite the blessing." This is the preferred manner for the group to bless their food, because "within the multitude of people is the glory of the king" (Proverbs 14:28).

Shulchan Aruch HaRav 167:18 relates that today, even when eating a meal as a group, it is customary for each person to recite the blessing over bread himself, so that an interruption is not made between the recitation of the blessing and partaking of the food.

while the others respond Amen, they are [all] permitted to eat and drink - without reciting blessings themselves. They fulfill their obligation by listening to the blessing recited previously.

If, however, they did not intend to eat together, but rather they each came on their own initiative, although they all eat from a single loaf of bread, each one should recite the blessings [before eating] by himself. - Although this is the desired practice, if one answers Amen to another person's blessing, he fulfills his obligation, as stated in the previous halachah.

This reflects the position of the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 167:13). The Magen Avraham, however, differs, and maintains that one cannot fulfill his obligation to recite blessings that involve benefit unless one had the intention of eating together with the other person and responding to his blessings. This view takes a more lenient position regarding blessings over mitzvot, which we are obligated to fulfill, than regarding the blessings over food, which we are not obligated to eat.

When does the above apply? With regard to bread and wine. With regard to other foods, however, which do not require [premeditated intent] to be eaten together as a group - Our interpretation of הסבה is based on the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, Berachot 6:6.

if one person recited a blessing and everyone answered Amen, they may eat and drink although they did not intend to gather together as a group. - The Ra'avad differs and maintains that when eating foods other than bread or wine, each person should recite the blessings for himself. (Significantly, on this issue there is a responsum which is attributed to the Rambam. However, it has raised difficulties among the commentaries and its authenticity has been challenged.)

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 213:1) accepts the Rambam's opinion, but states that this applies only when people sit around a single table as a group. Eating in a single room is not sufficient. The Ramah, however, quotes the Ra'avad's view.

13

Whenever a person hears a Jew recite a blessing, he is obligated to respond Amen, although
a) he did not hear the blessing in its entirety,
b) he was not obligated to recite that blessing himself.

One should not respond Amen if the person reciting the blessing is a gentile, an apostate, a Samaritan, a child in the midst of study, or an adult who altered the text of the blessing.

יג

כל השומע אחד מישראל מברך ברכה מכל הברכות כולן אף על פי שלא שמע הברכה כולה מתחלתה ועד סופה ואע"פ שאינו חייב באותה ברכה חייב לענות אמן ואם היה המברך (עכו"ם או) אפיקורוס או כותי או תינוק המתלמד או שהיה גדול ושינה ממטבע הברכה אין עונין אחריהן אמן:

Until now, the Rambam has dealt with the recitation of Amen within the context of fulfilling one's own obligation by responding to another person's blessing. In this and the following halachot, the Rambam deals with the recitation of Amen as an obligation in its own right.

Whenever a person hears a Jew recite a blessing, he is obligated - This represents a difference of opinion between the Rambam and the Tur (Orach Chayim 215), who considers respondingAmen a matter left to our own volition. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 215:2) quotes the Rambam's opinion. Furthermore, the Magen Avrahamh 6:9 mentions an obligation to reciteAmen ninety times each day.

to respond Amen - Shabbat 119b states that Amen is an acronym for the words, א-ל מלך נאמן (God, faithful King). In that passage, our Sages declare that, "the Gates of Gan Eden will be opened for a person who answers Amen with all his strength."

The Tur (Orach Chayim 124) explains that Amen implies an acknowledgement of the truth of a statement. The Magen Avraham 124:9 adds that when answered in response to a request, it also has the implication that one prays that the request be fulfilled speedily.

although a) he did not hear the blessing in its entirety - but merely its conclusion. See also the commentary on the last clause of the following halachah.

b) he was not obligated to recite that blessing himself. One should not respond Amen if the person reciting the blessing is a gentile - Although the latter word is surrounded by parentheses in the standard published text of the Mishneh Torah (indicating a question with regard to its inclusion), it is found in all the authoritative manuscripts and reflects the Rambam's statements in his Commentary on the Mishnah (Berachot 8:8, the source for this law).

The reason we do not respond to a gentile's blessing is that we assume that although he mentions God's name, his blessing is directed toward the alien deity in which he believes.

Rabbenu Asher maintains that a person should respond Amen to a gentile's blessing when he hear the blessing recited in its entirety and he supports his statements with a quote from the Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 8:8. The Ramah (Orach Chayim 215:2) quotes this opinion. There is not necessarily a contradiction between the latter ruling and the Rambam's. The Rambam's statements can be interpreted as applying to gentiles in general, while those of the Jerusalem Talmud, as applying to those gentiles - e.g., Moslems - who are known not to worship any idols or alien gods.

an apostate - Since, "It can be assumed that an apostate has false gods in mind (Hilchot Avodat Kochavim 2:5)," we are forbidden to respond to his blessings.

a Samaritan - In his Commentary on the Mishnah (loc. cit.), the Rambam elaborates in the description of the Samaritans. He explains that after Sancheriv exiled the ten tribes, he settled several gentile tribes in their land. These tribes adopted certain aspects of Jewish practice. Hence, with regard to certain laws, the Sages considered them as converts. Afterward, however, the Sages discovered that they were idolaters. From that time onward, they were considered as other gentiles.

a child in the midst of study - and recites blessings for practice. When a child recites a blessing with the intent of fulfilling his obligation, however, it is appropriate to respond Amen (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 215:3).

or an adult who altered the text of the blessing - Since (as stated in the commentary on Halachah 5) a person who alters the text of the blessing does not fulfill his obligation, Amen should not be recited. [This applies only when the change in the text of the blessings is significant enough to prevent one from fulfilling his obligation with such a blessing (Mishnah Berurah 215:11).]

14

Whenever responding Amen, one should not recite a rushed Amen, a cut off Amen, nor a short or a prolonged Amen, but rather an Amen of intermediate length.

One should not raise one's voice above that of the person reciting the blessing. Whoever did not hear a blessing that he is obligated to recite should not answer Amen together with the others.

יד

כל העונה אמן לא יענה לא אמן חטופה ולא אמן קטופה ולא אמן קצרה ולא ארוכה אלא אמן בינונית ולא יגביה קולו יותר מן המברך וכל מי שלא שמע את הברכה שהוא חייב בה לא יענה אמן בכלל העונים:

Whenever responding Amen, one should not recite a rushed Amen - Our translation is based on the interpretation of the Aruch, which explains that this means that a person should not answer Amen before the one reciting the blessing has concluded its recitation.

Rashi (Berachot 47a) interprets this to mean that one substitutes a chataf patach (:-) for a kamatz in the vocalization of the Alef. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 124:8) accepts both interpretations as halachah.

a cut off Amen - The Aruch explains that this refers to pronouncing Amen as if the word were cut in two. Rashi (loc. cit.) explains that this refers to swallowing the pronunciation ("cutting off") of the final nun. Again, the Shulchan Aruch (loc. cit.) and the Ramah quote both interpretations as halachah.

nor a short or a prolonged Amen - Berachot (loc. cit.) states, "Whoever prolongs the recitation of Amen errs," since by doing so one distorts the pronunciation of the word (Tosafot).

but rather an Amen of intermediate length.

One should not raise one's voice above that of the person reciting the blessing. - Berachot 45a states that this law is derived from Psalms 34:4: "Exalt God with me and let us extol His name together."

Whoever did not hear a blessing that he is obligated to recite should not answer Amen together with the others. - Berachot 47a describes this as "an orphaned Amen" - i.e., an Amen that is separated from the blessing that gave rise to it.

The Rambam specifies that this applies only regarding "a blessing that he is required to recite," because of a passage from Sukkah 51b. There, the Talmud relates that the synagogue in Alexandria was so large that flags would be waved as a signal that the chazan had finished a blessing, and then everyone would recite Amen, even though they had not heard the blessing themselves.

[Rashi (loc. cit.) interprets "an orphaned Amen" as reciting Amen although one does not know which blessing was recited. Shulchan Aruch HaRav (loc. cit.) accepts the stringencies that result from both opinions.

15

Whoever recites a blessing for which he is not obligated is considered as if he took God's name in vain. He is considered as one who took a false oath, and it is forbidden to answer Amen after his blessing.

We may teach children the blessings using the full text. Even though in this manner, they recite blessings in vain in the midst of their study, it is permissible. One should not recite Amen after their blessings. A person who answers Amen after their blessings does not fulfill his obligation.

טו

כל המברך ברכה שאינה צריכה הרי זה נושא שם שמים לשוא והרי הוא כנשבע לשוא ואסור לענות אחריו אמן התינוקות מלמדין אותן הברכות כתיקונן ואף על פי שהן מברכין לבטלה בשעת לימוד הרי זה מותר ואין עונין אחריהן אמן והעונה אחריהן אמן לא יצא ידי חובתו:

Whoever recites a blessing for which he is not obligated is considered as if he took God's name in vain. - See Hilchot Sh'vuot 12:9-10, where the Rambam states that a person who intentionally recites a blessing in vain should be placed under a ban of ostracism.

Note Chapter 4, Halachah 10, which states that after reciting an unnecessary blessing, one should praise God, saying, "Blessed be the Name of Him whose glorious kingdom is forever and ever" so that his mention of God's name will not be in vain.

He is considered as one who took a false oath - The Minchat Chinuch (Mitzvah 30) states that, with this statement, the Rambam intended to imply that the person should be lashed in punishment. Other Rabbis rule less severely, stating that although this punishment is not administered, the person is considered to have violated the commandment, "Do not take God's name in vain." Shulchan Aruch HaRav 215:3, however, maintains that since he intended to recite a blessing, his mention of God's name is not entirely frivolous, and he is hence considered to have violated a Rabbinic prohibition and not the commandment of the Torah itself.

and it is forbidden to answer Amen after his blessing. - For this reason, it is forbidden to recite a blessing unnecessarily - e.g., to recite two blessings when a single blessing is sufficient. Similarly, for this reason, a person who is unsure of whether or not he is obligated to recite a blessing should not recite it, lest he recite a blessing in vain.

Despite the severity of the prohibition against taking God's name in vain

We may teach children the blessings using the full text. Even though in this manner, they recite blessings in vain in the midst of their study, it is permissible - so that the child will learn how to recite blessings properly.

One should not recite Amen after their blessings. - The source of this halachah, Berachot 53b, indicates that this law applies only when the children are reciting the blessings for practice. When they are reciting the blessings to fulfill their obligation, we should respond Amen.

A person who answers Amen after their blessings does not fulfill his obligation. - Note our commentary on Halachah 11, which explains that only with regard to grace (see Chapter 3, Halachot 15- 16) may an adult fulfill his obligation by reciting Amen to a blessing recited by a child.

16

It is demeaning for a person to recite Amen after his own blessings. When, however, one concludes the last of a series of blessings, it is praiseworthy to answer Amen - e.g., after the blessing, Boneh Yerushalayim in grace, and after the final blessing [following] the recitation of the Shema in the evening service. Similarly, always, at the conclusion of the last of a series of blessings, one should recite Amen after one's own blessing.

טז

כל העונה אמן אחר ברכותיו הרי זה מגונה והעונה אחר ברכה שהיא סוף ברכות אחרונות הרי זה משובח כגון אחר בונה ירושלים בברכת המזון ואחר ברכה אחרונה של קריאת שמע של ערבית וכן בסוף כל ברכה שהיא סוף ברכות אחרונות עונה בה אמן אחר עצמו:

It is demeaning for a person to recite Amen after his own blessings. - This does not refer to the recitation of a single blessing (which is discussed in Halachah 18), but the recitation ofAmen after each blessing recited in a series of blessings. Reciting Amen is considered demeaning because it implies a conclusion of one's prayers. It is not proper to conclude and begin, conclude and begin, several times in one series (Kessef Mishneh).

When, however, one concludes the last of a series of blessings, it is praiseworthy to answer Amen - This serves as a statement that one has concluded one's prayers with praise of God.

e.g., after the blessing Boneh Yerushalayim in grace - The third blessing in grace. Note also the following halachah. This example is explicitly mentioned by Berachot 45b, the source for this halachah.

and after the final blessing [following] the recitation of the Shema in the evening service. - This example was chosen by the Rambam himself. The Rambam specifies the evening service because he considers the recitation of Amen at this point in the morning service as an interruption between the blessing גאל ישראל and the beginning of Shemoneh Esreh.

Similarly, always, at the conclusion of the last of a series of blessings, one should recite Amen after one's own blessing. -Tosafot, Berachot, loc. cit., and the Ramah (Orach Chayim 215:1) state that Amen is recited only after Boneh Yerushalayim and not after other series of blessings. Shulchan Aruch HaRav 54:1 explains this ruling, stating that there is another advantage to reciting Amen after Boneh Yerushalayim: It differentiates between blessings required by the Torah and those ordained by Rabbinic decree.

17

Why is Amen recited after the blessing Boneh Yerushalayim, although it is followed by the blessing Hatov v'hametiv? Because the latter blessing was ordained in the era of the Mishnah and is considered to be an addition. The conclusion of the essential blessings of grace is Boneh Yerushalayim.

Why is Amen not recited after the blessing Ahavat olam? Because it is the conclusion of the blessings recited before the Shema. Similarly, in other instances when [a series of] blessings are recited before a practice - e.g., the blessings recited before the reading of the Megillah or the kindling of the Chanukah lights - Amen [is not recited] lest it constitute an interruption between the blessings and [the fulfillment of] the performance over which they are being recited.

יז

ולמה יענה אמן אחר בונה ירושלים והרי אחריה ברכת הטוב והמטיב מפני שברכה זו בימי חכמי משנה תקנוה וכאלו היא תוספת אבל סוף עיקר הברכות של ברכת המזון היא בונה ירושלים ולמה לא יענה אמן אחר אהבת עולם מפני שהיא סוף ברכות ראשונות של קריאת שמע וכן כל כיוצא בה מברכות שמברכין אותן תחלה לדבר כגון ברכות שמברכין לפני קריאת מגילה והדלקת נר חנוכה למען לא יפסיק באמן בין ברכה ובין הדבר שבירך עליו:

Why is Amen recited after the blessing Boneh Yerushalayim although it is followed by the blessing Hatov v'hametiv? - On the surface, the latter blessing, and not the blessing Boneh Yerushalayim, marks the conclusion of the blessings of grace.

Because the latter blessing was ordained in the era of the Mishnah - See Chapter 2, Halachah 1, and commentary.

and is considered to be an addition. The conclusion of the essential blessings of grace is Boneh Yerushalayim. - Hence Amen is recited at this point. As mentioned in the commentary on the previous halachah, its recitation differentiates between the blessings required by the Torah and those instituted by the Rabbis.

Why is Amen not recited after the blessing Ahavat olam? - Its recitation would be appropriate because Ahavat olam concludes the two blessings recited before the Shema.

Because it is the conclusion of the blessings recited before the Shema - and an interruption should not be made between these blessings and the recitation of the Shema.

Similarly, in other instances when [a series of] blessings are recited before a practice - e.g., the blessings recited before the reading of the Megillah or the kindling of the Chanukah lights - when two or three blessings are recited in succession,

Amen [is not recited] lest it constitute an interruption between the blessings and [the fulfillment of] the performance over which they are being recited. - See Halachah 8.

18

Why is Amen not recited after the blessing over fruits and the like? Because it is only a single blessing, and Amen is recited only after a concluding blessing that follows another blessing or blessings - e.g., the blessings of the king or the blessings of the High Priest - to signify the conclusion of the blessings. Therefore, reciting Amen is appropriate.

יח

ולמה לא יענה אמן אחר ברכת הפירות וכיוצא בה מפני שהיא ברכה אחת ואין עונין אמן אלא אחר ברכה אחרונה שקדמה אותה ברכה אחרת או ברכות כגון ברכות המלך וברכות כהן גדול וכיוצא בהן להודיע שכבר השלים כל ברכותיו ולפיכך עונה אמן:

Why is Amen not recited after the blessing over fruits and the like? - The Ra'avad and the Kessef Mishneh explain that the Rambam is not referring to the blessing recited before partaking of fruit. All agree that one should not recite Amen after such a blessing, because Amen would constitute an interruption between the blessing and partaking of the fruit. Rather, the Rambam is speaking about the blessing al hapairot or other similar blessings.

The Ra'avad differs with the Rambam on this matter and suggests that a person should recite Amen after concluding any of these blessings. The later authorities, however, accept the Rambam's decision.

Because it is only a single blessing, and Amen is recited only after a concluding blessing that follows another blessing or blessings - e.g., the blessings of the king - The series of seven blessings recited by the king after reading from the Torah at the Hakhel gathering held in the Temple once every seven years (Hilchot Chaggigah 3:4)

or the blessings of the High Priest - The series of eight blessings recited by the High Priest after reading from the Torah during the Temple service on Yom Kippur (Hilchot Avodat Yom HaKippurim 3:11).

to signify the conclusion of the blessings. Therefore, reciting Amen is appropriate. - The Jerusalem Talmud (Berachot 5:4) also cites the blessings recited after the haftarah as an example of a sequence at whose conclusion it is appropriate to recite Amen.

19

When a person eats a forbidden food - whether consciously or inadvertently - he should not recite a blessing beforehand or afterward.
What is implied? If one eats tevel - even food that is classified as tevel by Rabbinical decree, the first tithe from which terumah was not separated, or the second tithe or sanctified foods that were not redeemed in the proper manner, one should not recite a blessing. Needless to say, this applies if one ate meat from an animal that was not ritually slaughtered or was trefah or if one drank wine used as a libation for idol worship.

יט

כל האוכל דבר האסור בין בזדון בין בשגגה אינו מברך עליו לא בתחלה ולא בסוף כיצד הרי שאכל טבל של דבריהם או שאכל מעשר ראשון שלא נטלו תרומותיו או מעשר שני והקדש שלא נפדו כהלכתן אינו מברך ואין צריך לומר אם אכל נבלות וטרפות או שתה יין נסך וכיוצא בו:

When a person eats a forbidden food - whether consciously or inadvertently - he should not recite a blessing beforehand or afterward. - It is improper to bless God after transgressing His commandments. On the contrary, concerning a similar incident, the Jerusalem Talmud (Challah 1:5) cites Psalms 10:3, "A thief who recites a blessing disgusts God." Even an inadvertent violation of the law is an act against His will for which it is not appropriate to bless Him.

The Ra'avad and Rabbenu Asher differ with the Rambam's decision and maintain that the fact that a person violates a commandment against eating forbidden food should not cause him to violate another commandment and benefit from the world without praising God. TheTurei Zahav 196:1 attempts to resolve the two views and offers a compromise: A person who intentionally violates a prohibition should not recite a blessing. If, however, a person eats a forbidden food inadvertently, he should recite a blessing afterwards.

Significantly, the Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 196) explains that even the Rambam would agree that a sick person who is required to eat a forbidden food for medicinal purposes should recite a blessing. There are, however, authorities who differ with this ruling as well.

What is implied? If one eats tevel - grain, oil, or wine from which terumah was not separated

even food that is classified as tevel by Rabbinical decree - e.g., produce that grows in containers. According to Torah law, the agricultural gifts are required to be given only from produce that grows in the earth itself (Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, Berachot 7:1).

the first tithe from which terumah was not separated - Even when the first tithe was separated before terumah, terumah should be separated from the tithe as well (loc. cit.).

or the second tithe - which must be eaten in Jerusalem. If this is not possible, the food can be redeemed and the money brought to Jerusalem to purchase food there. It is forbidden to eat this food outside Jerusalem until it is redeemed (Deuteronomy 14:22-27). In this instance, we are speaking about a situation where the redemption was improperly performed - e.g., one used uncoined metal (the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, Berachot 7:1).

or sanctified foods - foods consecrated to the Temple

that were not redeemed in the proper manner,- They were redeemed using landed property, which is unacceptable (loc. cit.).

one should not recite a blessing. Needless to say, this applies if one ate meat from an animal that was not ritually slaughtered - but rather, died naturally or was slaughtered without using the proper procedure

or was trefah - An animal attacked by a wild beast or diseased and therefore suffering from an affliction that will cause it to die within twelve months (Hilchot Shechitah, Chapter 5).

or if one drank wine used as a libation for idol worship. - It is forbidden to drink such wine. See Hilchot Ma'achalot Asurot, Chapter 11.

20

If, however, a person ate d'mai, although it is fit only for the poor, the first tithe from which terumat ma'aser was separated, even though the proper amount for terumah was not separated because the tithe was taken while the grain was still in sheaves, or the second tithe or sanctified food that was redeemed, but an additional fifth was not added upon it, one should recite a blessing beforehand and afterwards. The same applies in other similar situations.

כ

אבל אם אכל דמאי אף על פי שאינו ראוי אלא לעניים או מעשר ראשון שנטלה תרומתו אע"פ שלא ניטל ממנו חשבון תרומה גדולה והוא שהקדימו בשבלין או מעשר שני והקדש שנפדו אף על פי שלא נתן את החומש הרי זה מברך תחלה וסוף וכן כל כיוצא בהן: