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I have always been confused about l'chaims (toasts). At what point does one make the blessing on the drink? Which part--the "l'chaim" or the blessing--immediately precedes taking a sip?

Usually when I see l'chaims, I don't hear people making a separate blessing on the drink at all, but I assume this is not normative. What should one do?

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    FWIW, I have seen 3 scenarios at events I have attended. The most common is to have the host suggest the "L'chaim", pour schnapps for you & he, make the bracha, wince & groan from the burning schnapps & then say L'chayim (perhaps, because you and he survived the alcohol burn ;-) Another is to say L'Chayim before the bracha (as a blessing TO "survive"). The 3rd is that the person offering the L'Chayim decides to do a "loner" - i.e. he already made the bracha, drank some schnapps himself and just says L'Chayim. This option is a bit rude, I think. Please realize the "survival" ref is humorous. – DanF Jul 9 '15 at 17:48
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The Hamodia newspaper had an article related to the Gemoro Nedorim 32.

Pri Megadim records two opinions concerning the proper time to recite “l’chaim.” According to one opinion, one should make the brachah, drink some wine and then say “l’chaim,” whereas other opinions maintain that one should recite “l’chaim” before even reciting the brachah because giving honor to one’s fellow man is a priority.   Knesses Hagedolah also mentions that he saw others who would make the brachah and drink before blessing the other people at the table and explained that he followed that order because it is appropriate to give honor to Hashem before giving honor to others. Proof to this position is found in our Gemara where we are taught that Shem was punished for blessing Avraham Avinu before blessing Hashem. Knesses Hagedolah disagrees with that perspective since we find many examples when sensitivity to the honor of others takes priority. Notwithstanding his challenge to the alternative approach he concludes that when he remembers he follows the other practice to make the brachah and drink before blessing others.

So there are the two possibilities you mention and arguments to support both. The Pri Megadim favours the order: brachah, drink, say L'chaim.

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Many Sephardim include L'Chaim as part of kiddush:

HOST: Savri meranan v'rbanan v'rabotai.

CROWD: L'Chaim!!

HOST: Baruch ata Hashem elokenu melech haolem borei pri hagefen.

(Yes I know, Ashkenazim say hagafen.)

So I'd follow that precedent. A hearty "L'Chaim" all around, followed by the bracha.

I suppose you could also make the bracha, take a small sip, and then do a L'Chaim before drinking some more; but I'd say our starting point should be a ritual model.

  • Indeed, any speech between one's berakhah on a beverage and the drinking of that beverage (except for SheHehhyehanu) would be considered a hefseq. Perhaps worthwhile to provide sources. – Lee Jul 9 '15 at 11:04
  • but what if the l'chaim is not kiddush? – rosends Jul 9 '15 at 12:11
  • I don't think this is what the OP is talking about. I think OP is discussing the practice of giving a d'var torah in the middle of the meal and taking a drink. – Daniel Jul 9 '15 at 12:42
  • The l'chaim is put in there so that all listeners know that the bracha is being made; and allow them the opportunity to be included in it. It is not similar to a toast. It is in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, but I have to look up the exact reference – RonP Jul 9 '15 at 13:49
  • Regarding this custom, see the Tanchuma quoted in this answer. – Fred Jul 9 '15 at 19:33
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I am going to address what I assume to be the scenario that you are seeing. Often, a "L'chaim" is said in the middle of a meal. Now according to many opinions, liquor would need its own bracha even in the middle of a meal where one said hamotzi; however, it is likely that the person who is making the l'chaim had already had some to drink and had probably made the bracha when he started drinking. A new bracha is not required for each subsequent shot of liquor. In addition, many authorities do not require a bracha for liquor at all if it is drunk during the course of the meal; they consider it to be covered by the hamotzi at the beginning of the meal. I assume that one of these is the reason that you usually do not see people making a bracha before drinking their drink.

If the person has not yet had anything to drink, the order is as the other answers have said: first he says his speech (I'm assuming that's what you mean by a l'chaim), then he makes a bracha (it could be quietly to himself), and then he drinks.

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Qitzur Shulhhan 'Arukh, Yalqut Yosef (Orahh Hayim, Siman 206) outlines many parameters for a break or pause (hefseq) between one's berakhah on a food or drink and the tasting of that food or drink.

Se'if 10 in particular touches on the utterance of even a single word not related to one's berakhah, another's berakhah or a Devar SheBiqedushah.

As such, it would appear that the proper order of events would be as Shalom describes (i.e. first saying "LeHayim!", then reciting the berakhah, then immediately drinking from the beverage for which the berakhah was recited).

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I learnt from Habad that one makes the bracha, sips the drink, says LeHayim and completes drinking. This would not work for Kiddush of course because of the need for a shiur (quantity) of wine.

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