Which Beracha do you Make First?
BY RABBI YOSEF ZVI RIMON
In Parashat Eikev, the Torah speaks in praise of the Land of Israel and mentions the seven species: “A land of wheat and barley and vine and fig and pomegranate, a land of olive oil and honey” (Devarim 8:8). From this verse, our rabbis learned the order of priority in berachot for the seven species. This law refers to a situation in which the berachot are equal – when you are making the same beracha on all of the foods in front of you. However, there is another rule that precedes this law – when you must make different berachot on the foods in front of you.
This is known as the rule of מג”ע א”ש – mezonot, gefen, eitz, adama, shehakol. When the berachot are different, one must first make the beracha of mezonot, followed by gefen, eitz, adama, and shehakol (Shulchan Aruch 211).
This rule implies that the significance of the beracha is more important than the value of the fruit itself. The first rule in determining priority in berachot is the more important blessing. Only if the berachot are equal do we consider the value of the fruit or food, and determine the order of priority accordingly.
Rules of priority only apply if you want to eat both foods
Sometimes, a person only intends to eat a certain food now, even though there are other foods on the table as well. For example, a person wants to eat meat, but there is also a cake on the table for dessert. Although the beracha of mezonot comes before all other berachot, one may make the beracha of shehakol first (Rema 211:5).
A preference for another fruit over the seven species
The Mishnah in Berachot discusses whether you make a beracha on the seven species first or on a fruit that you prefer. “If there are several types of fruit in front of him, Rabbi Yehudah says, ‘If one of the seven species is among the fruits, make the beracha on it.’ The sages say, ‘Make the beracha on the fruit which is chaviv (the fruit you prefer)’” (Berachot 40b).
Rav Hai Gaon, Rambam (Berachot 8:13) and other rishonim rule according to the opinion of the sages that one should recite the beracha on the fruit he prefers. However, Tosafot, Rosh, Rashba and most rishonim rule according to the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah, that one should make the beracha on the fruit of the seven species.
What is the underlying logic of the dispute? Making a beracha on the seven species is an objective determination, deriving from the importance of the fruits, while chaviv is a personal determination. According to the sages and Rambam, one’s personal preference is the determining factor, and if he desires a certain fruit, he should make the beracha on that fruit. However, according to Rabbi Yehudah and most rishonim, the importance of the Land of Israel is decisive. Therefore, one must always make the beracha on the seven species, because the Land of Israel gives them special importance.
The Shulchan Aruch simply cites the view of the majority of the rishonim, that the seven species take precedence. Later, the Shulchan Aruch cites Rambam’s position, that one’s personal preference is the determining factor. It follows that the main approach in halacha is to make the beracha on the seven species, regardless of one’s personal preference. While Taz states that one may follow Rambam’s view, the Mishnah Berurah writes that one should give precedence to the seven species, for that is the view of the majority of rishonim. However, if one follows the Rambam’s view, there are poskim who can be relied upon.
Precedence within the seven species
“A land of wheat and barley and vine and fig and pomegranate, a land of olive oil and honey” (Devarim 8:8). The Gemara explains that among the seven species themselves, the fruits mentioned closest to the words “אֶרֶץ, land,” take precedence when making a beracha, and that those fruits that follow the first “land” in the verse take precedence over those fruits that follow the second “land” in the verse (Berachot 41b). Therefore, the order for berachot is: olives, dates, grapes, figs, pomegranates (Shulchan Aruch 211:4).
There is an easy way to remember the order of precedence within the seven species: the fewer pits there are, the greater their precedence when reciting berachot. Olives have one pit, dates have a split seed (two pits), grapes have several seeds (usually three or more), figs have many seeds, and pomegranates are made up entirely of seeds.
The primacy within the seven species also stems from man’s participation in creation. Wheat and barley are usually eaten as bread, and so the Torah gives special importance to bread. Dates, olives and grapes are fruits from which man creates important things like oil, honey, and wine, so they come before figs and pomegranates. G-d created a world that requires our investment and repair. Therefore, fruits that we must invest more effort in receive greater significance in halacha.
Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon is Head of Mizrachi’s Educational Advisory Board and Rabbinic Council. He serves as the Chief Rabbi of Gush Etzion, Rosh Yeshivah of the Jerusalem College of Technology and is the Founder and Chairman of Sulamot and La’Ofek.