Shiur #35: Ikkar Ve-Tafel (2)
Ikkar and Tafel
We previously discussed the principle, “whenever with one kind of food another is taken as subsidiary (tafel), a benediction is said over the principal kind (ikkar), and this serves for the subsidiary (tafel).” We noted that the Acharonim debate whether the secondary food, the tafel, is completely exempt from the blessing or whether the blessing said over the ikkar exempts the tafel.
In addition, we noted that the Talmud applies this rule to two separate foods that are eaten together, as well as to a mixture of two foods.
When two foods are placed on the same plate, regardless of their quantity, one says separate blessings over each food. At times, however, the secondary food is eaten for the benefit of the primary food, and a berakha is therefore not required. For example, if a small piece of bread or cracker is eaten with a piece of salty fish so that one can eat the fish, a blessing is only recited over the fish (Shulchan Arukh 112:1). Clearly, however, if one also enjoys eating the cracker, a separate blessing should be said before eating the cracker as well. Similarly, if the secondary food is eaten in order to enhance the taste of the other – such as in the cases of apple sauce or sour cream eaten with potato latkes, vegetables dipped in dressing, french-fries dipped in ketchup, a cracker eaten with cheese, or even fruit eaten with yogurt (unless a bit of fruit was added to enhance the favor of the yogurt) – the blessing is said over the primary food. If, however, the secondary food is considered important and is often eaten on its own, then two blessings are recited.
In the case of mixtures, generally the ingredient that is the “rov,” the majority of the mixture, determines which blessing is said (see Shulchan Arukh 208:7 and Mishna Berura 212:1). However, there are exceptions. For example, if the majority ingredient merely binds the ingredients together or adds color, the minority ingredient is followed (see Mishna Berura 212:1). Furthermore, as we saw last week, the Rema (121:1) writes that although the tafel is “serving” the ikkar, the blessing said over the ikkar does not exempt the tafel if it is “chaviv.” The Magen Avraham (212:3; see also Gra 212:5) disagrees and rules that one does not say a blessing on the tafel in such a case.
The Acharonim discuss an interesting and very relevant question: What is the considered to be a mixture? For example, which blessing does one say over a fruit salad containing apples and bananas or a beef stew that contains pieces of meat and potatoes? The Chayyei Adam (51:13) rules that these are not considered to be mixtures, and a separate blessing should therefore be said on each ingredient. Other Acharonim agree (see Shulchan Arukh Ha-Rav 204:17 and Kitzur Shulchan Arukh 54:6) that these are not considered mixtures unless the ingredients are crushed and mixed together. The Peri Megadim and the Mishna Berura (212:1 see also Sha’ar HaTziyun 212:2 and Be’ur Halakha, s.v. im) disagree and rule that these combinations are viewed as mixtures, even thought the pieces are distinguishable. Therefore, that which makes up a majority of the salad is considered to be the ikkar and determines which berakha is said. While some are accustomed to follow the view of the Mishna Berura, others first say the blessing over and taste the minority ingredient, and then over the majority ingredient, or have in mind when saying the blessing over the majority ingredient that the berakha should not cover the minority ingredient. As we shall see below, some claim that if there is a significant amount of croutons in a salad, the blessing over the entire salad should be Borei Minei Mezonot; others disagree.
Ikkar Ve-Tafel – Mixtures of the Five Grains
The Talmud implies that when a mixture contains one of the five grains – such as flour, breadcrumbs, and barley – the blessing is always determined by the presence of the grain. The gemara (Berakhot 36b) teaches:
Rav and Shmuel have both laid down that “over anything containing an ingredient from the five grains, the blessing is Borei Minei Mezonot.
This principle states that when a mixture of food contains an ingredient over which one says Borei Minei Mezonot, that automatically becomes the appropriate blessing for the mixture.
The gemara (Berakhot 37b) states further:
Rav said: Over the rihata of the field workers, in which there is a large quantity of flour, the blessing said is Borei Minei Mezonot. What is the reason? The flour is the main ingredient. Over the rihata of the townspeople, in which there is not so much flour, the blessing said is She-Hakol Niheya Bi-Devaro. What is the reason? The main ingredient is the honey. Raba, however, corrected him and said: Over both the blessing is Borei Minei Mezonot, for Rav and Shmuel both laid down that over anything containing one of the five species as an ingredient, the blessing to be said is Borei Minei Mezonot.
This passage clearly indicates that even if the food contains “not so much flour,” the blessing is Borei Minei Mezonot.
Elsewhere, however, the gemara (Berakhot 9a) states:
R. Ashi said: When we were with R. Kahana, he told us that over a broth of beets, in which not much flour is put, the blessing is Borei Peri Ha-Adama, but for a broth of turnip, in which much flour is put, the blessing is Borei Minei Mezonot. Subsequently, however, he said that the blessing for both is Borei Peri Ha-Adama, since the reason why much flour is put in it is only to make it cohere better.
The gemara clearly states that if flour is added only to serve as a binding agent, the blessing does not automatically become Borei Minei Mezonot.
What is the significance and scope of this principle and what is its relationship to the laws governing the blessing said over an “ikkar” and “tafel”?
When Does the Principle of “Over Anything Containing an Ingredient from the Five Grains the Blessing is Borei Minei Mezonot” Apply?
As we saw above, the gemara clearly states that if flour is added as a binding agent, the blessing is not automatically Borei Peri Ha-Adama. The Rishonim discuss other circumstances in which the principle that Borei Minei Mezonot is recited before eating a mixture “containing an ingredient from the five grains" does not apply.
The Me’iri (Berakhot 37b) explains that this principle only applies if the food’s identity is determined by the grain that was added. Even if the grain is a minority, if it defines the mixture, the blessing is Borei Minei Mezonot. However, the Me’iri says, if the grain is added “to sweeten the taste or add mass to the mixture, the flour is not considered to be the ikkar." The Rosh (Berakhot 6:7) also writes that “if the essence [of the mixture is from] the five grains, even though the majority is from another ingredient, one says the blessing Borei Minei Mezonot." According to this view, Rav and Shmuel are not asserting a new or different principle, but rather simply noting that often, when one of the five species is added to a mixture, it defines that mixture and is therefore considered to be the ikkar. Thus, for example, the blessing recited over a cake is Borei Minei Mezonot even thought the flour may be the minority ingredient.
On the other hand, other Rishonim explain that even if flour or other grains simply add taste to the mixture, one says Borei Minei Mezonot. However, they disagree as to when this applies.
The Rashba (Berakhot 37b) implies that even if the grain product enhances another food by adding taste, the blessing still becomes Borei Minei Mezonot. Accordingly, it seems that the Rashba would rule that the proper blessing to be recited before a lightly breaded chicken cutlet (schnitzel) is Borei Minei Mezonot; even though the chicken is clearly the ikkar. Since the bread crumbs add taste to the chicken, the blessing becomes Mezonot.
It seems that other Rishonim disagree and suggest that flour can only be viewed as the dominant ingredient, determining the proper blessing, if it is found in a mixture with other ingredients. Therefore, the proper blessing over schnitzel would be She-Hakol, as the breadcrumbs are not mixed together with the chicken (and are therefore most likely viewed as secondary to the chicken). However, one would say Borei Minei Mezonot before eating a cheesecake with a very thin but tasty crust. This appears to be the view of the Ritva (Berakhot 37a, s.v. Ha-Koses). Similarly, the Rambam (Hilkhot Berakhot 3:4-6) writes:
The blessing Borei Minei Mezonot is recited before [partaking of any of the following foods]: flour from one of the five species of grain that was cooked in a pot - whether alone or whether it was mixed together with other ingredients - e.g., dumplings or the like; grain that was divided or crushed and cooked in a pot - e.g., groats or grits. These [two categories] are referred to as cooked dishes. The same laws also apply to any dish in which flour or bread from the five species of grain was mixed.
When does the above apply? When the person considers the [flour or bread] from the five species of grain as the primary element [of the mixture] and not as a secondary element. If, however, the [flour or bread] from the five species of grain is a secondary element of a mixture, the person should recite the [appropriate] blessing over the primary food, and thus fulfill his obligation regarding the secondary food.
This is a major principle with regard to blessings: Whenever a food contains primary and secondary elements, a person should recite a blessing over the primary element, and thus fulfill his obligation regarding the secondary element. [This principle applies] regardless of whether the secondary element is mixed together with the primary element or not.
What is an example of a secondary food mixed together [with a primary food]? Cooked turnips or cabbage to which flour from one of the five species was added so that it will hold together. The blessing Borei Minei Mezonot is not recited, because the turnips are of primary importance and the flour is secondary.
Similarly, whenever a substance is added to hold food together, to add fragrance, or to color a dish, it is considered secondary. If, however, it was added in order to add flavor to the food, it is considered of primary importance. Accordingly, when sweets are made by cooking honey and mixing it with starch so that it will stick together, the blessing Borei Minei Mezonot is not recited, because the honey is of primary importance.
The Rambam implies that in order to say the blessing Borei Minei Mezonot, not only must the flour add taste to the mixture, but it must also be the primary ingredient of the mixture. If it adds flavor to the food, it is considered to be a primary ingredient.
In summary, while the Me’iri explains that the gemara refers to a case in which the grain is the primary ingredient, and the Rashba understands that, by definition, if a grain is added in order to enhance the taste, it is considered to be the ikkar, the Rambam apparently believes that the gemara refers to a case in which there are numerous significant ingredients, and this principle determines that the primary blessing will always be Borei Minei Mezonot.
The Practical Halakha
The Shulchan Arukh (204:12) rules that “if he mixed (flour) in order to add flavor to the mixture, it becomes the primary ingredient (ikkar)." It seems that the Shulchan Arukh rules in accordance with the Rambam cited above. Indeed, the Magen Avraham (204:2) writes that the Shulchan Arukh rules in accordance with the Rambam. Elsewhere (168:30), he writes that “if one crumbles very small and thin pieces of bread into warm beer in order to give it taste, one only says She-Hakol over the beer… [as] the bread is secondary and his primary intention was to drink the beer.”
It appears that the Mishna Berura (212:1) disagrees and rules in accordance with the Rashba (see also 212:1; this seems to be the view of the Vilna Gaon in Be’ur Ha-Gra 208:2). That said, it seems that most Acharonim maintain that this principle applies only in a mixture.
Here are a few practical examples:
When flour serves as a binding agent or to add form, as we saw above, the blessing is not Borei Minei Mezonot. Therefore, the blessing over potato kugel or hamburgers or meatballs that contain flour is Borei Peri Ha-Adama/ She-Hakol.
When the grain is not part of the mixture but adds flavor or color, we must determine whether the grain serves the second (primary) food or whether it is itself the ikkar. Therefore, the proper blessing over peanuts surrounded by a crunchy coating, known in Israel as “botnim Amerika’im” (American peanuts), should be Borei Minei Mezonot, as the dough is significant. Some suggest saying two blessings, Mezonot and Ha-Adama.
Modern day Poskim discuss the proper blessing to be recited over schnitzel (chicken cutlets). The breadcrumbs clearly add taste to the piece of meat; however, they are not part of the cutlet itself and therefore cannot be defined as a primary ingredient. The Acharonim (see Shevet Ha-Levi 4:161, Yalkut Yosef 204:4 etc.) disagree as to the proper blessing for schnitzel, She-Hakol or Bore Minei Mezonot, although it seems to be customary to say She-Hakol. However, they agree that if the coating is very thick, one should say Borei Minei Mezonot, or possibly even two blessings over the coating and over the chicken.
The Poskim also disagree as to which blessing one should say before eating soup with croutons. On the one hand, as we saw above, the Magen Avraham clearly rules that one should say She-Hakol. Indeed, the croutons are not part of the soup, but merely add taste to it. However, some maintain that one should only say Borei Minei Mezonot, and some suggest saying both blessings – first Mezonot over the croutons and then She-Hakol over the soup. If there are many croutons, this latter approach seems to be the correct approach.
As stated above, when a small amount of grain is mixed with a second ingredient, if it adds taste to the mixture, the proper blessing is Mezonot. Therefore, one should say Borei Minei Mezonot before eating a pie, or even a cheesecake that sits on a thin, doughy crust. The Acharonim discuss whether this would apply to an “ice-cream sandwich” as well. R. Ovadia Yosef (Yabi’a Omer 7 33:3) rules that one should say Borei Minei Mezonot. Some suggest that since the ice-cream is visible and important, one should say both blessings, Mezonot and She-Hakol. However, regarding an ice-cream cone, some Poskim maintain that one should only say She-Hakol, as the cone is tafel (secondary) to the ice-cream. Others maintain that since the cone and ice-cream are separate but both important (unlike in an ice-cream sandwich), both blessings should be recited.
The Poskim also discuss the blessing to be recited before eating cholent, which is often made of potatoes, barley, and meat. Seemingly, this should depend on the composition of the cholent. In some cholents, the potatoes and meat are large and distinct, and therefore one should say a separate blessing over each ingredient. However, if the ingredients are mixed together in small pieces and there is a significant amount of barley, the proper blessing over the entire serving would be Borei Minei Mezonot.
As we have demonstrated, the laws of ikkar and tafel are often complex and confusing. In a case of doubt, one may separate each ingredient and say both blessings. Some suggest that one should first say the blessing over the tafel, lest the blessing over the ikkar cover the entire food. Alternatively, one should have in mind when saying the blessing over the ikkar that it should not cover the tafel.
Next week, we will discuss the order of the berakhot.