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Berachos – Beracha Levatala

24 Adar 5771
Rabbi Yitzchok Jaeger

1. What is a b’racha levatala?

It is a b’racha that was recited for no purpose and is invalid. For example, a b’racha was recited:

  • for food but nothing was eaten after the b’racha.
  • twice for the same food (b’racha rishona or acharona).
  • for food during a bread meal.
  • for a tafel when it was required only for the ikar . This applies to both a b’racha rishona and a b’racha acharona.
  • for water drunk only to swallow a pill.
  • but the person spoke before eating the food.

2. Is this a serious mistake?

  • According to some opinions, reciting a b’racha levatala is a Torah transgression. The Third Commandment states, “You shall not take the name of Hashem in vain” (Shemos 20:7). Included in this severe prohibition is the recital of a b’racha levatala, since two names of Hashem are uttered in vain.
  • According to other opinions, this is not a Torah transgression. Although a b’racha levatala serves no purpose, it is nevertheless a form of praise to Hashem, Who created the food. However, since the Sages established the rules for the use of brachos, it is a serious rabbinic transgression to recite a b’racha levatala.

3. Can such a mistake be corrected?

If a person recited a b’racha levatala, he should say immediately: Baruch sheim kevod malchuso le’olam va’ed, which means, Blessed is the name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity. By this statement, one is praising the name of Hashem as a correction for the previous desecration of His names. In addition, he should regret his mistake, and be more careful with brachos in future.

4. Should this sentence be said quietly?

Yes. Since this is one of the praises of the angels, we are not entitled to equate ourselves with them. It is for this reason that the sentence is said quietly during shema .

5. What if one did not realize immediately?

Ideally, the sentence baruch sheim etc. should be said immediately after the b’racha levatala. Nevertheless, one must say it as soon as he realizes his mistake, even if this is some time later, and even if he has spoken in the meantime.

6. What if one recited several brachos in vain?

It is sufficient to say the sentence baruch sheim etc. once.

7. Should one stop in the middle of a b’racha levatala?

If a person began to recite a b’racha levatala and realized after saying baruch ata Hashem, he should say immediately the two words lamdeini chukecha. This corrects the mistake perfectly, since these five words form a complete verse from Tehillim (119:12), and the name of Hashem will be used meaningfully.

8. What if one realized after saying elokeinu?

He should say immediately the following four words: karas imanu bris b’choreiv. If we ignore the first two words (baruch ata), the remaining six words form a complete verse from the Torah (Devarim 5:2), and the two names of Hashem will be used in a meaningful way.

9. What if he only realized after saying further?

He should stop immediately and say baruch sheim etc.

10. May he change the end of the b’racha to something suitable?

When a person begins a b’racha intending to conclude it one way, and in the middle changes his mind to make a different ending, opinions differ regarding the validity of such a b’racha.

A person begins to recite shehakol on a drink for the second time. After saying the word “ha’olam“, he realizes his mistake and wishes to conclude with borei pri ha’eitz and eat a fruit.

Since this procedure is questionable it is better not to do so, but rather to stop immediately and say the sentence baruch sheim etc.

11. What if one recited a b’racha for a drink and it suddenly spilled?

If possible, he should drink even a minute amount of the remnants in order to use the b’racha. Otherwise, he has unfortunately recited a b’racha levatala and must say the sentence baruch sheim etc. Similarly, if after reciting a b’racha for food it fell and became spoiled, one should try to eat a small part of it to save the b’racha.

12. Could one save the b’racha by taking another food or drink?

  • If when reciting the b’racha he intended to partake of this other item, he should do so immediately in order to save the b’racha.
  • If he did not intend to partake of this other item, but it was in front of him when he recited the b’racha, he should take it immediately in order to save the b’racha. This procedure is conditional on the second item not being more important than the first (see Chapter Twenty-seven). It is preferable to say baruch sheim etc. after eating some of the food.
  • If he did not originally intend to take the second item, and it was not in front of him when he recited the b’racha, it is not included. Therefore, the b’racha cannot be saved and he must say baruch sheim etc.

13. What if one recited a b’racha for food on a fast day?

If he realized immediately after reciting the b’racha that it is a fast day, he must not eat even a minute amount of the food. Unfortunately, he must allow the b’racha to become levatala, and must say baruch sheim etc.

14. What if one recited a b’racha for a food before kiddush or havdalah?

He should eat a minute amount of the food in order to prevent a b’racha levatala.

15. What if one recited a b’racha for dairy after a meat meal?

  • If less than one hour has passed since eating the meat, he must not have dairy, and must say baruch sheim etc.
  • If at least one hour has passed, he should eat a minute amount of the dairy food in order to prevent a b’racha levatala.

16. What if one recited a b’racha for meat during the nine days?

He should eat a minute amount of the meat in order to prevent a b’racha levatala.

17. Are there any other cases of a forbidden b’racha?

There is a less serious type of forbidden b’racha called b’racha she’aina tz’richa, meaning an unnecessary b’racha. This refers to a situation where a b’racha could have been avoided, but having been recited it is nevertheless valid. For example, one may not usually eat or drink shortly before a bread meal, since the b’racha could be avoided by waiting until after hamotzi . Although the b’racha is valid, this is an improper procedure in normal circumstances.

18. What are other examples of a b’racha she’aina tz’richa?

  • In a situation of ikar and tafel, one must recite a b’racha only for the ikar and not for the tafel (see Chapter Thirty-one). It would be incorrect to first recite a b’racha for the tafel, since a second b’racha would then be required for the ikar, thereby causing an unnecessary extra b’racha.
  • One may not recite a b’racha acharona in the middle of eating, if he intends to eat more. This would unnecessarily create the need to repeat both the b’racha rishona and the b’racha acharona.

19. What if one is in doubt regarding a b’racha?

If one is unsure whether a b’racha is required, he should not recite it. This principle is known as “safek brachos lehakel “, which means, “if in doubt, leave it out”. The reason for this rule is that one must not risk saying a b’racha levatala. This applies to every b’racha rishona and almost every b’racha acharona.

20. May one be stringent and recite a questionable b’racha?

Although being stringent in situations of doubt is usually praiseworthy, in this case it is forbidden to recite a questionable b’racha. When the Sages enacted the laws of brachos, they incorporated the rule that when in doubt, one must not recite the b’racha. When the doubt is regarding a b’racha rishona, he may not recite the b’racha, but he may be stringent by refraining from eating the food.

21. Is there an ideal procedure for a questionable b’racha?

Yes. There are several suggestions for solving the dilemma of a questionable b’racha in an ideal way, some suitable for a b’racha rishona and others for a b’racha acharona. These will be outlined shortly. It is better to follow such a procedure than to rely upon the rule safek brachos lehakel, which should be used only as a last resort.

22. Is there a single general solution?

Yes, he should try to listen to someone else who needs to recite the appropriate b’racha, and have in mind to fulfill his obligation through this.

23. May a woman be motzi a man?

Yes.

24. What are other suggestions for a b’racha rishona?

  • Recite a b’racha on a different item that was not included in the original b’racha.

A person could not remember whether he recited shehakol for a drink. He should recite shehakol for a food and have in mind that the b’racha includes the drink.

  • Change location for a few moments. This often causes the original b’racha to be terminated and a new b’racha will be required after returning. Note: This option is limited and a thorough knowledge of its details is essential.

25. What are suggestions for a b’racha acharona?

  • Eat a different food that requires the same b’racha.

A person could not remember whether he recited borei nefashos for an apple. He should eat any food that requires borei nefashos. After eating it, he should recite borei nefashos and have in mind to include the apple.

  • If the doubt arose because a questionable amount was eaten, he should eat more of the food until a b’racha is definitely required.

26. What if none of the above suggestions are possible?

One should recite the questionable b’racha omitting the names of Hashem, but recite them mentally at the appropriate place. This option is suitable for either a b’racha rishona or a b’racha acharona.


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