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Thought for the Day: The Bracha on the Tafel (Subordinate) Food

Such a boring title for such an exciting message... sigh...

First, some background.  Suppose one discovers (much to his shock and dismay) that he forgot to make a bracha before eating that delicious apple.  If he has already finished, then he simply makes a bracha acharona and does t'shuva.  If there is apple left, though, he must now make the bracha rishona before continuing.  Trust me, this is cool.

When eating a bread meal one only makes a bracha of "ha'motzi", even though there is lots of other food.  This is one example of ikar (principle) and tafel (subordinate).  Usually the majority ingredient is the ikar.  One exception is anything cooked/baked that contains any of the five grains (wheat/barely/oats/spelt/rye) for flavor (as opposed to binding/texture); for that sort of food, the grain is always the ikar.  Another example would be chocolate covered raisins.  If your intention is to eat chocolate enhanced by raisins, the bracha is "sh'hakol"'; raisins enhanced by chocolate, "al ha'eitz".  If you want both, meaning that neither is tafel to the other, you make both brachos.

When you have a mixture of ikar and tafel, though, you only make one bracha; the bracha that the ikar takes.  The Chazon Ish explains that the tafel is not exempt from a bracha, rather it takes the bracha of the ikar ingredient.  Since the food is subordinate in this meal, it loses its importance as an independent food and therefore loses the bracha it takes when eaten alone.  That explains, for example, why you do not make a bracha on the frosting you saved for the end when eating cake.  Even though there is no grain food left; you wanted that fat/sugar combo all by itself.  Why not make a sh'hakol?  Because the bracha on that frosting, as tafel to the cake, took a bracha of "borei minei m'zonos" -- which already made

Now... put these two together.  You are eating your cake and are down to that last bite of yummy sugar/fat with artificial color... when suddenly you remember -- horror or horrors -- that you forgot to make a bracha before you started!  Now what?  You need to make a bracha, of course.  But what bracha?  According to the Chazon Ish's explanation, it seems like you should make a m'zonos; but that just feels wrong.  In fact, it is wrong; but why?  After all, saying the bracha doesn't change the food; we aren't blessing the food.  The bracha is first determined by the situation, then you are (supposed to) respond by making the correct bracha.  We already determined (ala the Chazon Ish) that the bracha on that bit of frosting is "m'zonos"!  What happened to change that?

What happened was a little detail in forgetting a bracha till half way through your eating.  Once you remember that you didn't make a bracha -- it is now forbidden to eat more until you make a bracha.  That means you are not going to continue eating, but you are starting a new eating.  That means that you need start again working out what bracha to make.  There is no more grain product to which the frosting could be tafel, so its bracha reverts to its "bare" bracha -- sh'hakol.



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