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Thought for the Day: The Almost Anything Bracha

Most everyone knows about the everything bracha: she'hakol.  It works, for anything you care to consume orally that requires a bracha.  Why all those qualifiers?
  • consume: it does not work for fragrances.  Nothing substantive enters your body, so fragrances have their own set of brachos.
  • orally: nutrition that enters your body via injection or feeding tube does not require a bracha because you get no immediate pleasure from it
  • that requires a bracha: a catch all.  Drinking plain water when you are not thirsty (eg, to wash down pills), does not require a bracha.  (That's why I add a bit of flavoring to water I will need for exercise.)  Forced eating may not require a bracha.
Sometimes it work l'chatchila.  A food whose bracha is the subject of an unresolved machlokes ha'poskim may end up with a she'ha'kol.  B'di'avad, of course, she'hakol works for anything even if it was said by mistake.  (Darn it!  I meant to say a borei pri ha'eitz!)  Important aside: she'hakol does not work -- that's right does not work -- if you just don't happen to know the appropriate bracha and have been too lazy to go find out.  In that case, says the Mishna Brura, continue your laziness by being too lazy to eat it.  If you have enough energy to chew and/or swallow, you have enough energy to learn the correct bracha.

Less well known, as far as I can tell, is that that is another bracha that works like that: borei minei m'zonos.  That bracha (with the same caveats as above) works for anything except water (including diet soda, plain coffee and tea) and salt.  The reason for those exceptions is the language of the bracha: "Who creates various categories of nourishing foods."  So as long as the food has any nutritional value (yep; even empty calories), it qualifies.  So even if you are about to eat a steak and accidentally make a borei minei m'zononos, you are covered.

As long as we're on that topic, R' Moshe has an interesting chidush about brachos that work b'di'avad (IM O.Ch. 4, 40)  Since the bracha only works b'di'avad, says R' Moshe, you should only eat the minimum shiur and then stop.  The Mishna Brura is not machmir like that, but if it's not too much trouble you may want to cover your bases.

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