Shabbat Parashat Vayeira 5766
Ask the Rabbi
Question: Toward the end of a snack, I decide to stop eating after one more cookie and change my mind later. Do I need to make a new beracha before continuing to eat?
Answer: Intention regarding what one plans to eat affects the need for additional berachot in two different ways at two different points of the eating process. After discussing the principles of each (without getting into much details), we will see where your case fits in.
Intention at the beginning of the eating- If when one recites a beracha, he has in mind to eat several foods, the beracha covers other foods of the same beracha, including those that are not before him or which he has no specific plans to eat (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 206:5). If one intends at the time of the beracha to eat only a certain food or foods, then he needs a new beracha before eating other foods, even of the same beracha (Mishna Berura 206:20). When one does not give the matter thought, according to most poskim, one does not make a new beracha. This is because we assume that the standard situation is that the extent of one’s eating is open-ended (ibid.). However, the Rama (ad loc.) says that to remove doubt, it is best for a person to have in mind to cover with his beracha everything that may come his way.
Intention at the end of eating- The gemara in different places discusses situations that end a meal: 1) Removal of the tray/table from which a person was eating (Berachot 42a); 2) Rinsing one’s hands with mayim acharonim (water used before Birkat Hamazone) (ibid.); 3) Announcing that the group is ready to recite Birkat Hamazone (Pesachim 103b). In the third case, the gemara uses a phrase that is the heart of the issue, namely hesech hada’at (removal of thought). By performing an action that indicates that he is preparing for the berachot that follow eating, he shows that he has removed his mind from the eating that was included in the original beracha. Thus, to continue eating, he requires a new beracha. (Discussion as to whether he can eat before reciting Birkat Hamazone is beyond our present scope.) The Mishna Berura (179:3, based on the Rambam, Berachot 4:7) says that a clear thought that one has finished eating constitutes a hesech hada’at without verbalizing that he plans to bentch. Some Rishonim (see Shulchan Aruch OC 197:1) distinguish between the type of eating one was doing. If one was drinking (or having a snack- Shulchan Aruch Harav, Seder Birkat Hanehenin 5:1) then verbal or mental hesech hada’at is effective. If one was eating (a meal- ibid.), then only an action causes a break. The Biur Halacha (ad loc.) says that it is difficult to decide between the different opinions on the matter and urges one to avoid having mental hesech hada’at and then changing his mind during a meal.
Let us return to our case. If one were to decide to have a snack of one cookie, then the beracha would never have taken effect on other foods. However, once the intention was open-ended enough to apply to other foods, only positive hesech hada’at removes it. All of the poskim we have found discuss hesech hada’at from the perspective of the present (For example, see the language of the Rambam (ibid.) and the Mishna Berura (206:20).) In other words, one says to himself: “I no longer plan to eat,” which is equivalent to the actions of preparing for Birkat Hamazone. There is no halachic precedent for hesech hada’at on delay (i.e. “I hereby declare that after one more cookie, I will have stopped eating”).
Thus, if you continue to think clearly after finishing the cookie that it was indeed the last one, then you have hesech hada’at at that time. As you are referring to a snack, you would need a beracha before eating more. However, if your resolve to stop eating wavers before finishing to eat, then you could continue eating without a new beracha.
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