Shabbat Parashat Ki Tisa| 5765
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Question: If I have a piece of cake and then eat bread, will Birkat Hamazone (=BHM) cover the beracha acharona (beracha after eating) for the cake?
Answer: If one knows that he is about to eat bread (which creates a meal), he should, in most circumstances, avoid eating right before the meal those foods that do not require a beracha during the meal (Mishna Berura 176: 2). The exceptions to this rule are beyond our present scope (see ibid.; V’zot Haberacha, beginning of ch. 9).
But your question is about a case where one has already eaten food prior to the meal. Let us begin with some background. The beracha acharona of food that is eaten in the midst of a meal that includes bread is exempted by BHM. Does BHM also cover b’dieved (post facto) foods eaten without bread? Rishonim infer from different gemarot that one who made BHM on wine or dates fulfilled his obligation b’dieved because, as filling foods, they constitute a meal of sorts (see Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 208). The Shulchan Aruch (208:17) rules, though, that if one made BHM on foods made from grains, he is not exempt and must say “Al Hamichya.” However, the Mishna Berura (ad loc.:74) points out that many poskim take issue with the Shulchan Aruch, as foods made out of grain (including cake) are no less filling than dates and wine. This should also apply when one connects the eating of cake to an ensuing meal and makes BHM with the cake in mind.
However, the question is regarding l’chatchila (the proper course of action) in a case that he ate before the meal and became obligated in “Al Hamichya.” Why should he suffice with the subsequent BHM, which is appropriate only b’dieved? Indeed, if one eats spaghetti before his meal, he should make an “Al Hamichya” before partaking of the bread and, if he failed to do so, then he should do so during the meal (Mishna Berura 176:2).Onlyifhealready made BHM would we say that he should not make “Al Hamichya.”The Mishna Berura does bring an opinion that if one will be eating these same foods during the meal, then the eating of the food before and after the bread are connected into one eating experience subsumed under the meal and BHM exempts l’chatchila. While Igrot Moshe (OC III, 33) reasons that the Mishna Berura’s main opinion is to make the beracha acharona before the meal, it is better if there is a reasonable break between the snack and the beginning the meal. In that case, it is clearly correct to end the snack with a beracha acharona before starting the ensuing meal (Piskei Teshuvot 168:1).
The matter becomes considerably more complicated in the case of cake. There is a category of baked, grain product known as pat haba’ah b’kisnin (=phb). Phb requires a beracha during the meal because it is not included in the main part of the meal but has the status of a dessert (Shulchan Aruch 168:8). However, we usually do not make such a beracha on cakes, because it is unclear what constitutes phb. The Shulchan Aruch (ibid.:7) brings three opinions: 1) It contains a pocket of sweet filling; 2) Its dough is sweet (for Sephardim, slightly sweet; for Ashkenazim, very sweet); 3) It is thin and brittle like a cracker. Most dessert-like baked goods have one or two of these characteristics but not all. In such a case, the Biur Halacha (on 168:8) says that we treat it as a safek (doubt) whether it is phb or bread and out of doubt we do not make a beracha on it during the meal. If our average piece of cake is possibly bread, then not only could one exempt himself from a beracha acharona, b’dieved, with BHM but it is likely the proper thing to do. Therefore, if one eats such a piece of cake before the meal, the Mishna Berura (176:2) says not to make an “Al Hamichya” before the meal. (See Igrot Moshe (ibid.) regarding what he considers phb. Seealso opinions of Sephardic poskim on the matter in V’zot Haberacha, ch. 9- the question was asked by an Ashkenazi). It is best when reciting BHM to have in mind specifically that it refers to the pre-meal cake, as well (based on Even Haozer 208:17).
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