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The first chapter on the laws of b'rachos in Aruch Hashulchan ends with a summary of several of the forgoing paragraphs that reads thusly (202:45):

וכללו של דבר: כל הפירות שיודע בהם שהם עיקר הפירא - מברך עליהם 'בורא פרי העץ', ושאינם עיקר הפירא - מברך 'בורא פרי האדמה'. ואם הוא מסופק אם היא עיקר הפירא אם לאו - גם כן מברך 'האדמה'. ואם אינו יודע כלל מה הוא - מברך 'שהכל'. ומי שלא למד ילך אצל חכם וילמדנו דיני ברכות (גמרא ל"ה.).

The rule is: Any fruit items that one knows are the primary part of that [type of] produce - one recites "bore p'ri ha'etz", and those that are not the primary part of that product - he recites "bore p'ri ha'adama". And if one is in doubt as to whether it is or is not - he also recites "ha'adama". And if he has no idea what it is - he recites "shehakol". And one who is not learned should go to a rabbi and have him teach him the laws of b'rachos.*

This rule can be divided into two statements - the first which delineates a hierarchy of b'rachos to recite when the nature of the fruit is in question and the second which instructs the reader to learn the laws first so that no doubt will arise. The g'mara from which this last line is a quote states it even more strongly - that an unlearned person should not eat until after consultation with a scholar. The two statements seem almost contradictory as the latter suggests removing all doubts by learning the laws and the former instructs what to do assuming a doubt has arisen.

Which is the Aruch Hashulchan recommending to do first in a case of serious existential doubt - recite shehakol or consult someone knowledgeable?


*Liberties taken with this translation include: transliterating rather than translating the "b'rachos"; translating חכם as rabbi because I assume both are being used colloquially rather than strictly; indiscriminate switching between "one" and "he" for the arbitrary pronoun.

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Well, the latter statement is someone who not has learned the laws. The former is someone who has learned, and knows the structure of the laws, but there are still many difficult applications which even a scholar is unsure of. This is indicated by the wording in the former statement which does not state "if he is unsure about the law", but "if he is unsure if it is the main (part) of the produce".

An example of this is the 2nd halacha in Shulchan Aruch 202. Grapes have a different rule about when they become haetz than other fruits. Once the fruits appear and are minimally edible, they are haetz. Grapes need to be a certain size- as big as a "white bean"(?). But since we practically don't know what size of bean (the larger or smaller variety), we make a ha'adama until we are sure.

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Do you mean "the latter statement is someone who has not learned the laws"? Are you saying the first doubt is a question of the facts and the second is a question about the law? –  WAF Jul 12 '11 at 13:49
    
Yes, pre-coffee here. –  YDK Jul 12 '11 at 14:35
    
Admur Hazaken says this clearly in Seder Birchat Hanehenin 1:4-5 (hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=25072&pgnum=715). It is for this reason he rules that one should make Shehakol on rice when not eaten in a meal, since while the Gemara says that cooked Orez is Mezonot, there is an argument between Rashi and Tosafot about what Orez is (i.e. Millet or Rice). Since it is a doubt in the facts, he rules you say Shehakol. Others say Mezonot. see mevaseret.org/mmy/searchshiurim.php?shiur=271 and hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=25072&pgnum=717 –  Menachem Jul 12 '11 at 18:44
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