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Shulchan Aruch, OC 212:1 (with my own loose translation):

All that is main, and with it is a subordinate (tafel) thing — one says a benediction on the main thing and exempts the subordinate both from the benediction preceding and from the one after it. It's not necessary that the subordinate thing be mixed with the main: rather, even if each is separate.

Even bread, which is most important of all, if it is subordinate — for example, say he eats salty fish and eats bread with it so it not harm him in his throat, he says a benediction over the fish and exempts the bread, as it is subordinate.

Rama adds:

That which we say a benediction on the main thing, exempting the subordinate, is when he's eating them together or eating the main thing first. If, however, he's eating the subordinate thing first,... he says a benediction on the food first....

See there, and the commentaries, for more. In particular, there's a bit of a brouhaha about what benediction to make on a subordinate food eaten before the main food. As always, CYLOR for practical guidance.

Now, some have the following practice, cited with approval by Mishna B'rura (173:4): If they're going to be eating fish followed by meat, they eat something in between to clean out their mouths. (I've even heard some have a preference for bread for this purpose, though I can't cite that at the moment.)

Would the above rule from 212:1 apply to 173:4 bread — bread which is eaten after fish and before meat for the purpose of cleaning out the mouth? That is, is such bread considered subordinate? (I'd guess so, since it's being eaten for a reason similar to the salty-fish bread's.) If so, then is it considered subordinate to that which is eaten before it or to what comes after?

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This always bugged me because everyone always says 'mezonos is always ikar'. I think I'm going to ask about it. – Double AA May 4 '12 at 5:23
Re "I've even heard some have a preference for bread for this purpose" (between fish and meat), one example is boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/archive/index.php/t-257791.html, though it cites no source. – msh210 May 4 '12 at 15:00
Your fish (1st dish) is just fine with or without the bread. If at all, the bread is secondary to the meat. Your question still remains whether ridding an halachic impediment can be considered a tafel. Normally, as per the biur halacha, a tafel eaten before the ikar still gets a regular bracha, but here, the bracha for the meat had already been said when making a racha on the fish. – YDK May 6 '12 at 5:31
I've seen a haora in Oholei Torah's Kovetz (I can't remember where) that someone wanted to say that one cannot wash on bread if the whole point of the bread is to patur food (the bread would be a tofel). – Shmuel Brin May 6 '12 at 7:01
@ShmuelBrin See Mishna Berura 177 sk 3 – Double AA May 7 '12 at 4:01

When Halacha deals with foods which are Ikar/Tafel (main/subordinate) - the Ikar/Tafel relationship is a logical one.

In this case the bread has nothing to do with neither the fish nor the meat - so it wouldn't be in the geder of Ikar/Tafel.

In your example above, eating the bread after the salty fish is in order not to harm him in his throat - this is because the bread has the quality to neutralize the saltiness or bitterness off the Ikar food. This relationship is logical.

It's true that you're only eating the bread in order to eat the meat - but this is only to fulfill the halachik requirement of separation between meat and fish - not because the bread is related in any way to either the fish or the meat (in the Ikar/Tafel sense).

So how can you bless on something that you don't really want to eat? Well, whether you like it or not when you eat from it - you benefit from it - so the blessing is not vain.

Just to give an example of what i'm trying to say:

Some have the custom (cited in the Sidur Hayabetz) when eating rice not within a meal: to first make a bracha on something Mezonot,Adamah and Shehakol and only then eat the rice (because of the uncertainty of the bracha for rice) So according to the logic used in your question : how would this custom work? would we say that these 3 foods are Tafel to the rice?

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I like your final analogy. But can you source your initial claim ("is a logical one")? Also, you haven't convinced me that the relationship between the bread and the other foods is weak enough to qualify as " the bread has nothing to do with neither the fish nor the meat - so it wouldn't be in the geder of Ikar/Tafel". – msh210 Nov 5 '12 at 23:12
@msh210 Imagine there was no halachik requiremment to eat/drink something between fish-meat. Now can you tell me how exactly the bread is related to the fish/meat?.... ellah ma... the connection is halachik not a logical Ikar/Tafel intention – Danield Nov 5 '12 at 23:22
@msh210 when I say 'logical', what i mean is that the person has a genuine feeling that food #2 is Tafel to food #1 ... do you know of an example where this is not the case? – Danield Nov 5 '12 at 23:42
"Imagine there was no halachik requiremment to eat/drink something between fish-meat. Now can you tell me how exactly the bread is related to the fish/meat?" Yeah, it's cleaning the palate/teeth/esophagus/whatever from fish. Or it's cleaning the palate/... for meat. Aren't those two things what it's doing in fact (but for an halachic reason rather than a "logical" one)? – msh210 Jul 18 at 16:43
@msh210 "but for an halachic reason rather than a "logical" one" - that's the exact distinction i'm trying to make in the answer. I'm saying that eating something for a halachic reason ( such that you wouldn't have eaten it if not for the halachic reason) doesn't make the food tafel.... like the example I gave from the Sidur HaYabetz. (If you like I can give you an exact quote from the sidur) – Danield Jul 19 at 6:03

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