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Thought for the Day: Bracha On Vegetable Soup Broth

Many years ago (decades, now, actually), I asked a talmid chacham what he thought of the English translations of the Mishna Brura.  His reply made an impression that affected my learning of halacha: "If your Hebrew is not good enough to understand the Mishna Brura, then are other s'farim you should be learning for halacha."  Another talmid chacham (sometime years later) similarly observed, "The Mishna Brura is not an easy limud.  It is really a commentary on the Shulchan Aruch."  That point was further reinforced for me when I made a siyum on completing the Misnha Brura; the rav announced that I would be making a siyum on having learned the Orach Chaim section of Shulchan Aruch with the commentary of the Mishna Brura.  That helped put it in perspective -- I knew the halachos in Orach Chaim about as well as I would know a masechta of gemara that I had learned with Rashi.  Good enough to have some cake and maybe a schnapps, but nothing I wanted to chance with my eternal soul.  I still call R' Fuerst for that.

Let's take a simple example.  Siman 205, syef 2:
On water in which vegetables were cooked (9), the bracha (10) is the same as the vegetables (11) themselves -- even though the water has nothing but the taste of the vegetable (12).  When do we say this?  When no meat was cooked with them, but if meat was cooked with them (13) then the bracha is she'ha'kol.
 Seems simple enough... until you actually sit down to that bowl of soup.  First of all, what if I really want the vegetable, but I just want meat flavor?  Does the bracha remain she'ha'kol (assuming I am not patur from mitzvos, of course...)?  What if there is a kneidlach in there?  Usually m'zonos takes precedence, but the Shulchan Aruch doesn't even mention that.  That's where the Mishna Brura comes in; which is why I added the numbers in the text above.

(9): that is to say, one wants to swallow the water/broth itself; if one were eating the vegetables together with the broth, there is no sense to a bracha on the broth as it is subordinate to the vegetables.

(10): specifically when the vegetables were being cooked to also be eaten; for if one cooked the vegetable only for the broth, then the bracha is she'ha'kol.

(13): both the meat and the vegetables give taste to the water and the taste of meat if the principle, so one makes a she'ha'kol even if eating the broth alone.  However, if one eats vegetables with the soup, then he need make only a borei pri adama on the vegetable, as the broth is subordinate to it; further, one cannot say the vegetable is subordinate to the meat since the vegetable is nutritious and satisfying in its own right.

Wait!  Don't (9) and (10) contradict each other?  And (13) says the vegetables have their own importance, so you are back to making a borei pri adama!

No problem. (9) means that you cooked the vegetables to be discarded.  Think beer; beer is made by boiling up barley and hops, yet the bracha on beer is clearly she'ha'kol.  (10) is talking about regular soup, but someone one wants only the broth this time.  If it's vegetable soup, then the bracha on that broth is adama.  If it's chicken vegetable soup, then the bracha is she'ha'kol.  If it has noodles and you don't want the noodles... only eat that soup in a bread meal.

What if you want a regular bowl of chicken soup (no noodles) and are not eating bread?  Take a piece of veggie, make an adama.  Take a piece of chicken, make a she'ha'kol.  The broth is certainly subordinate.  How do I know that's right?  Normally I call R' Fuerst if I have a doubt.  If he's not available, I just ask my wife what she does.

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