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In general, one eating forbidden food does not make a bracha.

In certain cases, foods which are usually assur are allowed to be eaten out of a concern of pikuach nefesh -- danger to life. For example, see Rambam Hilchot Maachalot Asurot 14:14-17.

In such a case, (assuming the person is mentally competent and able to make a bracha), should they say a bracha on this forbidden food?

It might be related to whether it is hutra or duchya -- permitted, or merely "pushed off".

(Originally asked by havarka in chat, who did not want to post a question.)

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The Shulchan Aruch writes explicitly in O"C 204:9 that if one eats foods that are normally forbidden but are now permitted, one does say a Bracha on it.

אכל מאכל או משקה של איסור מפני הסכנה מברך עליו תחלה וסוף:

The Mishna Berurah in note 48 explains the reasoning. Since there is no longer a prohibition to eat the item and one is enjoying it, you have to say a Birkas Hanehenin just like any other item one enjoys. If one does not enjoy it (i.e. it's a bitter food), then one would not say a Bracha, just like one wouldn't say a Bracha if one ate a non-palatable Kosher food.

(מח) תחלה וסוף - דאע"ג שברצונו לא היה אוכל דבר זה כ"א מחמת אונס חליו מ"מ כיון שכבר הוא חולה וחפץ להתרפאות במאכל ומשקה זה חשיבא אכילה שיש בה הנאה. ואם הוא דבר שנפשו קצה בזה א"כ אין החיך נהנה ממנו ואין צריך לברך ע"ז:

Regarding which Bracha is said, the Chayei Adam writes in 49:7 that you say the Bracha that is appropriate for that food. So if, for example, a doctor prescribes that one has to eat a full cheeseburger (bun and all) from McDonald's, you would say a Hamotzi on it just like any other Kosher hamburger.

אפילו אוכל ושותה לרפואה אם הוא מתוק עד שנהנה ממנו מברך ברכה הראויה לאותו מין (ואם הם מרים א"צ לברך כלל) ואפילו הוא דבר איסור כיון שעכשיו התירה לו התורה (סי' ר"ד עיין פ"ח שם):

1

The Rambam (Brochos, 1.19) writes that one does not make a Brocho on food which is forbidden.

The reasoning is because בוצע ברך ניאץ ה׳ (Kesef Mishne); similar to the Halacha of Mitzvah Haba B'avaira. (The Rambam is clear that it is connected with principle of Mitzvah Haba Bavaira, because when discussing Mitzvah Haba Bavaira he references to this principle. See Rambam Chometz uMatzah 6:7 - אין אדם יוצא ידי חובתו באכילת מצה שהיא אסורה לו כגון שאכל טבל או מעשר ראשון שלא נטלה תרומתו או שגזלה. זה הכלל כל שמברכין עליו ברכת המזון יוצא בו ידי חובתו וכל שאין מברכין עליו ברכת המזון אין יוצא בו ידי חובתו. [See also Reshimos Shiurim from Rabbi JB Solovetzik Brachos 45a, and Sukka Inyan Mitzvah Haba Baveira])

In a situation where there is no prohibition, this principle will not apply.

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The food in your first link, for which a b'racha isn't said, is food that was stolen. I don't think we can generalize from that to all forbidden foods.

The Rambam says that any food that is asur does not get a b'racha either before or after. However, the Shulcan Aruch says that there is at least one case where you do say b'rachot afterwards. This answer to a question about making kiddush on Yom Kippur says:

The Shulchan Aruch (618:10), however, writes that mention of Yom Kippur should be made in bentching (i.e. say Yaaleh Veyavo) with the reasoning that because one would be bentching anyway and the same paragraph is said in the prayer.

(SA reference verified by Scimonster -- thanks.)

For those who pasken based on the Rambam, the answer seems to be a clear "no". For those who pasken based on Shulchan Aruch, I make the following argument:

If one is expected to bentch after eating on Yom Kippur -- which he would only do if there were a pikuach nefesh reason to be eating -- then it seems reasonable that he would also say the b'racha beforehand. (Are there any cases where you bentch but don't say the earlier b'racha, after all?)

If this reasoning applies to forbidden eating on Yom Kippur, then it seems to me that it should also apply to forbidden eating at other times. It is possible that there is still an exception for stolen food per Sanhedrin 6b (which says you don't make a b'racha); that case would need to be checked for post-talmudic rulings. But for food forbidden for other reasons (e.g. kashrut issues), this reasoning seems to apply.

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  • Oh. So the Rambam says that and the SA apparently says you bentch on Yom Kippur. So does that mean that the food eaten on YK isn't asur, or that they disagree, or that the SA doesn't actually say that? (I'll probably delete this answer since I'm not equipped to answer that question.) – Monica Cellio Dec 14 '14 at 21:56
  • SA does indeed say you bentch. – Scimonster Dec 14 '14 at 21:59
  • @Scimonster thanks for checking. Is this edited version any better? – Monica Cellio Dec 14 '14 at 22:12
  • "(Are there any cases where you bentch but don't say the earlier b'racha, after all?)" - Actually Bentching is in its own category in many cases because it is mandated on the Torah level (דאורייתא). Not saying anything about this case though (still didn't do any research), but just pointing it out... – yydl Dec 15 '14 at 1:36

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