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Iyun in Berakhot -
Lesson 9


Rav Yair Kahn

Translated by David Silverberg


The Talmud Yerushalmi states (Berakhot 6:1):


"Rabbi Yochanan took an olive and recited a berakha before [eating] it and after [eating] it.  Rabbi Chiya Bar Abba was looking at him.  Rabbi Yochanan said to him, 'Babylonian – why are you looking at me?  Do you not hold that any [food] which is among the seven species requires a berakha before and after?'  He does hold like this.  Why did he question [Rabbi Yochanan's practice]?  Because the pit [when excluded from the total volume of the olive] renders it smaller [and it thus did not comprise the amount required to obligate one in a berakha acharona].  And does Rabbi Yochanan not hold that the pit renders it smaller?  How does Rabbi Yochanan respond to this?  Because [it constitutes a] berya [a whole entity]… for even if one ate a single berry of grape or a single berry of pomegranate – he requires a berakha before and after."


Rabbi Chiya Bar Abba wondered why Rabbi Yochanan would recite a berakha acharona after eating less than the prerequisite amount of fruit.  Rabbi Yochanan responded that since an olive constitutes a berya – a complete, natural entity, it requires a berakha acharona even in quantities less than the prerequisite shiur.  The Talmud Bavli (38b) brings a very similar incident, but reaches a very different conclusion:


"Rabbi Chiya Bar Abba said: I saw Rabbi Yochanan eat a pickled olive and recite a berakha both before and after… Rabbi Yirmiya said to Rabbi Zeira: How did Rabbi Yochanan recite a berakha over a pickled olive – once we discount the pit, it becomes less than the requisite size!  He said to him: Do you think that we require a large olive?  We require a medium-sized olive.  And that which was brought to Rabbi Yochanan was a large olive, such that even if we discount the pit, the minimum size remains."


According to Rabbi Zeira, had Rabbi Yochanan eaten a small olive that amounted to less than the prerequisite size, he would not have recited a berakha acharona.  This stands in direct contradistinction to the conclusion of the Yerushalmi, that Rabbi Yochanan would have recited a berakha acharona regardless of the olive's size, due to the halakha of berya.


            Does the Bavli indeed argue with the Yerushalmi on this point, or might we perhaps distinguish between the two cases discussed?  If the Bavli in fact does argue, does it maintain that the concept of berya does not apply at all with regard to berakha acharona, or, does it accept the application of this law in principle, only not in the specific case under consideration?


            In approaching these questions, we will first endeavor to clarify the more basic question of why, according to the Yerushalmi, there is no need for the prerequisite shiur to require berakha acharona when one eats a whole berya.


The Source of the Halakha of Berya


            The Mishna states in Masekhet Makkot (13a):


"How much tevel [produce that has yet to be tithed] must one eat to incur punishment?  Rabbi Shimon says: any amount.  The Rabbis say: a ke-zayit.  Rabbi Shimon said to them: Do you not agree with me regarding one who eats an ant, that he incurs punishment?  They said to him: [That is] because it is as it was created.  He said to them: A single stalk of wheat, too, is as it was created."


            According to the Chakhamim, one incurs corporal punishment for partaking of forbidden foods only if he ate the prerequisite shiur, unless he ate a whole berya, in which case he incurs punishment regardless of the amount eaten.  Presumably, the position of the Yerushlami (regarding berakha acharona) is drawn from this halakha.


            The Rishonim in Chulin disagree in explaining the halakha of berya.  Their discussion revolves around the Gemara's comment (Chulin 102b) that distinguishes between different prohibitions with respect to the halakha of berya.  The Gemara states that if one eats a whole, live, kosher bird, in violation of the prohibition of eiver min ha-chai (eating meat from a live animal), he incurs punishment regardless of the bird's size.  Likewise, the Gemara holds one liable for eating a whole non-kosher bird, regardless of its size.  However, when it comes to eating a whole neveila – a bird that died without proper slaughtering – the Gemara establishes that one incurs punishment only if he consumed a ke-zayit.  The obvious question arises, why is a ke-zayit necessary for one to incur punishment for partaking of a neveila?  Tosefot (Chulin 96a, s.v. mai ta'ama) address this question:


"If you ask: Why are eiver min ha-chai and non-kosher birds different… in that they are considered a berya more so than the neveila of a kosher bird after its death, [which requires] a ke-zayit and is not considered a berya?… One might answer that this is the reason for these: for when the Torah said, 'Do not eat… non-kosher birds or eiver min ha-chai,' it is as if it specified [that this prohibition applies] to both large and small [creatures], for they are all considered… a bird, so long as they are whole.  But 'neveila' – even a piece is implied [by the term] 'neveila'."


When the Torah specifies the name of the creature forbidden for consumption, as in the case of forbidden birds, it explicitly prohibits that creature, whether big or small.  Hence the halakha of berya applies.  Other prohibitions, however, which the Torah presents in generic terms – such as chelev (forbidden fats) and neveila – are not, according to Tosefot, subject to the principle of berya.


            Rashi (102b, s.v. temei'a) adopts a different approach to this sugya: "One cannot incur punishment for the prohibition of neveila through [the principle of] berya because when it was created, it did not have the status of neveila.  Therefore, one does not incur punishment for the prohibition of neveila with less than a ke-zayit."  In Rashi's view, the concept of berya should, in principle, apply equally to neveila; it is only because the meat in question did not originate as a neveila that it cannot be considered a berya.  Necessarily, then, Rashi understood that the halakha of berya stems not from a gezeirat ha-katuv (divine decree), but rather from the qualitative importance of a berya.  The halakha does not apply to neveila, Rashi explains, because it fails to meet one of the defining characteristics of a berya – that its prohibited status took effect the moment it came into being.  The neveila of a kosher animal originated with a permissible status and is therefore not subject to the principle of berya.


            If we wish to derive the halakha of berya with respect to berakhot from its application concerning forbidden foods, as implied by the Yerushalmi, we must assess this comparison between the two areas both according to Rashi and according to Tosefot.


A. Tosefot – Gezeirat Ha-katuv


According to this approach, the Yerushalmi's halakha would require a specific Scriptural source requiring a berakha acharona over the consumption of a particular species.  The Torah introduces the obligation to recite a berakha after eating in Sefer Devarim (8:8-10):


"For the Lord your God is bringing you into… a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey; a land where you may eat bread without stint, where you will lack nothing; a land whose rocks are iron and from whose hills you can mine copper.  You will eat and be satiated, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land that He has given you."


There is a debate as to whether the requirement to "bless the Lord your God" applies to all seven species mentioned in this passage, or only to bread.  Only according to the position that the Torah obligation of berakha acharona applies to all seven species may we also apply to them the halakha of berya.  But this view does not accommodate the Yerushalmi, which defines even a "berry of pomegranate" as a berya, even though there is no source for this in the verse.  (See Chavot Yair, 160.)  One might insist that the word rimon (pomegranate) mentioned in the verse refers even to a "single berry," but it is far more likely that the Yerushalmi here follows its own position elsewhere (Nazir 6:1), considering a pomegranate berry a berya even with respect to the laws of ma'akhalot asurot (forbidden foods), by virtue of its intrinsic importance.  (See Mishkenot Yaakov, 98.)


B. Rashi's Approach – Chashivut (Importance)


According to Rashi, as mentioned, the halakha of berya stems not from an explicit gezeirat ha-katuv, but rather from the unique chashivut, or importance, of the given item due to its wholeness.  We must thus determine which items possess this quality and thus qualify as a berya.  This issue is the subject of the debate between Rabbi Shimon and the Chakhamim in the aforementioned Mishna in Masekhet Makkot.  Recall that although the Chakhamim agree that one incurs punishment for partaking of a berya of ma'akhalot asurot, they otherwise require a ke-zayit.  Rabbi Shimon, by contrast, holds one liable to punishment if he eats even a single kernel of forbidden wheat.  The Gemara comments (17a), "the Rabbis [argue that] a living creature is important; a kernel of wheat is not important."  It would thus appear that with regard to berakhot, too, only a previously living creature qualifies as a berya according to the Chakhamim's position.


            The Chavot Yair (160) contends that even a living creature does not possess the required chashivut to qualify as a berya with regard to berakhot.  According to Rashi, he argues, an item can be considered a berya only if it had always been forbidden, ever since coming into existence.  This condition, according to the Chavot Yair, is required in order to lend the item a dimension of chashivut, "for the chashivut depends on its having been prohibited since the moment of its creation."  Therefore, when it comes to the area of berakhot, where we obviously do not deal with forbidden food, there simply is no possible situation of berya.  This position, however, is very difficult to accept.  It stands to reason that Rashi's condition, that the item had always been forbidden, does not lend the item importance, but rather is necessary to define the berya as a formal object of issur (cheftza de-issura).  This condition, of course, bears relevance only when dealing with the laws of ma'akhalot asurot, and thus we may indeed apply the halakha of berya to berakhot based on the Mishna's discussion in Masekhet Makkot.


            Nevertheless, the Yerushalmi's position, applying the berya status even to fruits, appears to have no basis.  One might suggest that the Yerushalmi accepts the view of Rabbi Shimon, that even a kernel of wheat qualifies as a berya.  (See Mishkenot Yaakov, 98.)


            The Peri Megadim (Eishel Avraham, 210:3) suggests a different approach, arguing that only with regard to Torah laws do the Chakhamim restrict the status of berya to living creatures; when it comes to laws ordained by Chazal, such as berakhot, even the Chakhamim will afford fruits the status of berya.


            The Ravya (107) addresses this issue, as well: "And even the Rabbis who argue with Rabbi Shimon, who disagree with regard to a kernel of wheat for purposes of [incurring the punishment of] lashes, agree that it [the berya] has importance with respect to berakhot."  In his view, a higher standard of chashivut is required to incur corporal punishment than to obligate one in berakha acharona.


            In explaining this position, we might suggest that we measure chashivut with different yardsticks in different areas of Halakha.  Although only living creatures can be considered a berya for purposes of ma'akhalot asurot, this does not establish the definition of berya with regard to berakhotBerakha acharona is a berakha over the land; quite reasonably, then, with regard to these laws, specifically items that grow from the ground are deemed "important."  A similar perspective underlies the view of the Penei Yehoshua, that specifically foods of the seven species qualify for the status of berya.  Clearly, he understood that the definition of chashivut depends on the area of Halakha under discussion.


            Alternatively, we might suggest that a berya features two different types of chashivut: by virtue of its being a natural, whole entity, and by virtue of its inherent value and worth.  The first type is an objective status of importance that applies to any independent unit, and in this regard a living creature has no greater chashivut than a plant, since both constitute a whole entity.  The second type, by contrast, is a subjective status, and in this regard a living creature may indeed be afforded a greater level of chashivut than a fruit.


            With this background, we can explain the halakha of berya in two ways:


A. In terms of the act of eating.  Generally speaking, Halakha does not consider a formal act of eating to have occurred if less than a ke-zayit was consumed.  However, the consumption of a berya, a whole, independent entity, constitutes a meaningful act, insofar as an entire, distinguishable item has been eaten.  Thus, a halakhic act of eating has been performed if one eats any berya – either a living creature or a food that grows from the ground – and of any size – even less than a ke-zayit.


B. The amount of a ke-zayit is required to lend importance to the object of the food consumed.  A berya, which possesses independent value and worth, does not require the minimum shiur of a ke-zayit.  According to this approach, we might indeed distinguish between a living creature – which is of greater intrinsic importance – and an item that grew from the ground. 


In light of this analysis, we may return to the Ravya's distinction between ma'akhalot asurot and berakhot.  The recitation of a berakha requires a ma'aseh akhila – a formal act of eating, and we therefore speak in terms of the independent importance of the berya as a whole entity.  Hence, even a fruit qualifies as a berya.  In the area of ma'akhalot asurot, by contrast, a violator incurs punishment only if he partakes of a halakhically defined object of issur.  The intrinsic chashivut of the berya is needed in order to lend the object this status.  According to the Chakhamim, who argue with Rabbi Shimon, only a living creature meets this criterion.


            It thus emerges that we may, indeed, draw a comparison between ma'akhalot asurot and berakhot with regard to the issue of berya, according to both Rashi and Tosefot.  It nevertheless remains difficult to explain why the Yerushalmi considers foods that grows from the ground – including even a berry of a pomegranate – a berya with regard to berakhot.  (This entire discussion works off the assumption that sevi'a – satiation – is not a prerequisite for the obligation of berakha acharona.  If, however, berakha acharona indeed does require sevi'a, then clearly Rashi's approach leaves no room for applying the principle of berya to the area of berakhot, since chashivut or physical wholeness play no role in the experience of satiation.)


Reconciling the Bavli and Yerushalmi


            Let us return to the incident involving Rabbi Yochanan and Rabbi Chiya Bar Abba, with which we began our discussion.  According to the Yerushalmi, an olive constitutes a berya and therefore obligates one in a berakha acharona, even if it does not amount to a ke-zayit after discounting its pit.  The Bavli, by contrast, concludes that one recites a berakha acharona only if the prerequisite shiur remains after discounting the pit.  Three approaches may be taken to reconcile these conflicting conclusions:


A. The Bavli and Yerushalmi disagree regarding the fundamental issue of applying the berya principle to berakhot;

B. In truth, there is no disagreement at all between the Bavli and Yerushalmi;

C. Fundamentally, the Bavli, too, accepts the application of the berya rule to berakhot, but disagrees with regard to the specific case of Rabbi Yochanan.


A. The Rif and the Rambam make no mention of the berya rule at all in the context of berakhot, indicating that in their view, the Bavli dismisses the Yerushalmi's position altogether, and Halakha follows the Bavli's view.


B. The possibility of claiming that the Bavli and Yerushalmi in fact do not argue requires distinguishing between the cases under discussion in each source.  Advocates of this position relied on the Bavli's emphasis that Rabbi Yochanan ate a "pickled olive," as opposed to the Yerushalmi account, which speaks of simply an "olive."  Some explain that the practice was to remove the pit before the pickling process, and thus in the case addressed by the Bavli, the olive was not whole and did not qualify as a berya.  In the Yerushalmi's case, however, the olive was indeed whole and thus considered a berya


The Rishonim argue, however, in applying this distinction.  The Rosh (16) writes, "This [olive of] the Yerushalmi was a whole olive when it was brought before him, so that even after he cast away the pits, since it was brought before him whole and he derived benefit from a complete berya in the customary manner of eating it, it comprises a shiur."  The Rashba, by contrast, writes that if one does not eat the pit, we do not consider him as having eaten an entire berya: "In the Yerushalmi they held that Rabbi Yochanan ate a whole olive without removing the pit, and for this reason they consider it a berya.  In our Gemara, however, they held that he did not eat its pit, but rather removed it and threw it away.  It is therefore not considered a berya."  (At first glance, this explanation seems untenable, as the Yerushalmi states explicitly that the pit was removed; see Shu"t Imrei Noam, 44, who suggests a compelling explanation to resolve this difficulty.)


The Ravya writes that in the case addressed by the Bavli, the olive was crushed as a result of the pickling process, and thus could not be considered a berya (Shulchan Arukh, Y.D. 100:1, Shakh 6).


Rav Yaakov Emden (Mor U-ketzi'a, p. 91) suggests the novel theory that a pickled olive does not constitute a berya because the pickling process eliminates the olive's "grandeur."  This position may be understood in light of the view of the Penei Yehoshua, cited earlier, that the chashivut of a berya with respect to berakha acharona stems from the significance of the seven species on account of which the Torah praises Eretz Yisrael.  The olive's "grandeur" is thus part of the definition of a berya in such a situation; clearly, this condition is inapplicable in the realm of ma'akhalot asurot.


C. According to the third approach, the Bavli agrees that eating a berya obligates one in berakha acharona, but argues with the Yerushalmi on a different point.  The Talmidei Rabbenu Yona write:


"However, as for the halakhic conclusion, we might place our Talmud alongside the Talmud Yerushalmi, and claim that if it is something that is not customarily eaten with the pit, such as an olive and the like, it requires the shiur excluding the pit.  For since it is not customarily eaten with the pit, it turns out that it was never a berya – for once you remove the pit, as is customarily done, it will not remain whole.  Therefore, it had to be said in our Talmud that 'we deal with a large olive.'  But if it is something that is customarily eaten with its pit… even it does not amount to a ke-zayit, we consider it a berya."


            According to this explanation, the Bavli argues only with regard to a food that is not normally eaten with its pit, and thus maintains that an olive cannot qualify as a berya.


            The Ra'a raises the possibility that Bavli and Yerushalmi argue as to whether the pit's removal undermines the food's "wholeness."  Thus, the Bavli argues only in cases where the pit is actually removed.


            According to the Mishkenot Yaakov (Shu"t, 98), the Bavli and Yerushalmi debate the very point of dispute between Rabbi Shimon and the Chakhamim in Masekhet Makot.  The Bavli accepts the Chakhamim's view, that only a creature that once lived can be considered a berya, whereas the Yerushalmi follows Rabbi Shimon's position, that even an item grown from the ground can attain this status.


The Halakhic Conclusion


            This uncertainty expressed in the Rishonim as to whether or not the Bavli and Yerushalmi are in disagreement, continued in the writings of later poskim, as well.  The Tur writes (O.C. 210):


"The prerequisite amount of the seven species [to require a berakha acharona] is a ke-zayit.  From the Yerushalmi it appears that over an item which is in the form of its original creation… one recites a berakha even if it does not amount to a ke-zayit.  But Tosefot are uncertain on this issue.  It is therefore recommended to avoid eating a berya of less than a ke-zayit so as to avoid uncertainty."


This is indeed the halakha.  If, be-di'avad, one ate a berya that consisted of less than a ke-zayit, it appears from the Bet Yosef that he should not recite a berakha acharona:


"The Rif wrote plainly that whenever there is not a ke-zayit, a berakha after [eating] is not required, without distinguishing between an item that constitutes a berya and an item that is not a berya.  The Rambam likewise rules plainly [in this regard]… It appears that it was obvious to them that the Yerushalmi argues with our Talmud and we do not accept its position.  Nevertheless, since all these rabbis are uncertain on the matter, one should avoid eating a berya alone… " 


(See Shu"t Har Tzvi, 110, which indicates that strictly speaking, we do, indeed, follow the Yerushalmi's ruling, in which case one should recite a berakha acharona if he ate a berya that consisted of less than a ke-zayit.)


            The Mishkenot Yaakov (98) and Chavot Yair (160) debate the issue of whether one recites a berakha acharona after eating a whole fish consisting of less than a ke-zayit.  According to the Mishkenot Yaakov, even the Bavli would require a berakha acharona in such a case, since one ate a berya of what was a living creature.  Even if we do not accept this rationale, we might still require a berakha acharona in this case since we deal here with the berakha of borei nefashot, which, in the view of some Rishonim, does not require a ke-zayit in the first place.  (See Rosh, 6:16.)  The Chavot Yair, however, disagrees, and earlier we took issue with his approach.  In any event, one might argue against reciting a berakha acharona in light of the position of the Rif and Rambam, who indicate that the Bavli disagrees entirely with the Yerushalmi's halakha.


            The question arises as to whether a sunflower seed may be considered a berya despite the fact that its shell is removed prior to eating.  This issue would seemingly hinge on the aforementioned dispute between the Rashba and the Rosh as to whether Rabbi Yochanan, in the incident recorded in the Yerushalmi, ate the olive's pit.  According to the Rosh (6:16), if one partakes of the item in the manner in which it is normally eaten, we may consider the item a berya even though the pit is removed.  The Rashba, as we saw, disagrees.  The straightforward reading of the Rema (210:2) indicates that an item cannot be considered a berya once its shell is removed.  The Magen Avraham (210:4), however, rules, "If one ate that which is inside the shell it is considered a berya, for he ate what it is able to be eaten of it."  (One might distinguish, however, between a shell, which encases the fruit/nut from the outside, and the pit, which is located inside the fruit.)  In truth, even one who eats a ke-zayit of sunflower seeds runs into a halakhic quandary, unless he ate the ke-zayit within the timeframe of kedei akhilat peras.  Even though a ke-zayit of sunflower seeds are not normally eaten within this timeframe, the Rishonim debate the issue of whether one can recite berakha acharona over a ke-zayit of this type of food consumed over the course of a longer duration.  (See Mishna Berura 210:1 who discusses the issue of drinking tea and coffee, and concludes that one should not recite a berakha acharona.)


            We have thus seen a tradition of uncertainty stemming from what appears to be a debate between the Bavli and Yerushalmi in understanding the incident involving Rabbi Yochanan and Rabbi Chiya Bar Abba.  This question was debated again by the Rishonim, and then later by the more recent poskim.  We addressed the underlying principles of the halakha of berya in order to clarify both sides of the issue, but ultimately, the uncertainty remains. U-ke-shem she-kibalnu sekhar al ha-derisha, kakh kibalnu sekhar al ha-perisha (just as we received reward for our study, so have we received reward for ending the discussion inconclusively).


Sources and questions for the next shiur:



1. 39b "Heivi-u lifneihem … boshesh"

2. Tosafot s.v. hakol modim, Tosafot Pesachim 115a s.v. hadar.

3. Yerushalmi Berakhot 6:1 R. Zrikan amar R"Z ba-I … levatala"' Tosafot 39b s.v. vihilkhita.

4. Tosefta Berakhot 4:1.

5. 48b "ein li ela li-acharav … hakruim", Rashi s.v.  ki.



1. Why is it difficult to apply "ein osin mitzvot chavilot chavilot" to making a birkat hamotzi and akhilat matza on the same matza?

2. What is the explanation for the din of the Yerushalmi?

3.What is difficult with Rashi's commentary of the gemara on 48a?



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