5

This question may sound strange but it came up in a discussion with someone.

They're a Baal Teshuva in progress and are attempting to adjust to the lifestyle. He's getting there but he's doing so in layers. He currently doesn't have a Kosher household as he lives with family and they don't keep Kosher (nor will they allow him to take over their kitchen to do so)

He plans on moving out and that will be settled then. (Though I've suggested purchasing Kosher food that doesn't need to be cooked. Hasn't made the jump yet.)

One of the things he said to me was he has been practicing the prayers over Non-Kosher food. He'll pray before a meal and do so with the food that everybody else in the house is eating.

Now on instinct, I told him some stuff which I didn't actually know for sure was true or not. It just sort of came out and I regret saying it without knowing for sure if it's true or not. I'll correct him if it turns out I was wrong.

What I told him was the following:

You shouldn't do that because the prayer goes from being functional to being more of a "mock" of the actual prayer. You're thanking hashem for bringing forth food while consuming unclean food. That in itself is making a mockery of the prayer because it's being misused for something you aren't supposed to be eating. It's like a Jew praying over a pork sandwich. The act of thanking Hashem for it is worse than just eating it blindly because the fact you're praying means you're fully conscious that what you're doing isn't Kosher.

I suggested he purchase a kosher snack food which he could use as practice. This way he's still learning while not wasting the prayers.



Now I totally pulled that out of thin air. I have no idea if that idea is legitimate or if I simply applied Torah logic in the wrong place.

A part of me can't help but wonder if praying over unclean food isn't necessarily a sin but simply just doesn't count. Sort of like having a Minyan with nine people. Even if all of the prayers are said correctly and done as outlined, you didn't apply it correctly it doesn't count.

Could someone clarify this one for me?

  • If he uses "Hashem" and Elokeinu" instead of "Adonai" and "Eloheinu" I don't see a problem with him practicing the berachot over non-kosher food. – ezra May 23 '17 at 16:07
  • 2
  • It seems to me it's entirely possible for him to prepare actual kosher food that's kosher bedi'eved. He's not in a position to make kosher lchatchila food, so that means he can strive for kosher bedieved – Aaron May 23 '17 at 17:15
4

As we see in the discussion below, the Rambam and others say that it would be a mockery of Hashem to make a bracha. The discussion below just considers Jews and explains why they are should not make a bracha. As someone studying to become geir, one should discuss with his rabbi how much to practice like a Jew.

Do I Say a Blessing on Non-Kosher Food? on chabad.org says one reason is that it is mockery. Also kabbalah says the Sparks of holiness cannot be released by a bracha on non-kosher food.

  1. With the blessing we are acknowledging G‑d, the Creator of the food, and thank Him for providing it for us.

    It's a mockery to bless and thank G‑d for the un-kosher food that one is eating—in opposition to His will.

  2. Although all of physical matter contains within it the G‑dly sparks that give it existence, in some cases the Divine energy is accessible to us, while in other cases it is inaccessible. The purpose of our existence on this world is to interact with the physical world in order to elevate the divine sparks within it. It therefore follows that when the Divine energy within something is not accessible, we have no business with it. Since the purpose of the blessing is to release the Divine energy within food, one does not recite a blessing over food whose Divine energy is so tightly imprisoned, that we cannot access it and it cannot be elevated.

Rabbi David Sperling writes about this on Bracha On Non-Kosher Food that the Rambam (Braçhot 1:19) says it is forbidden, while the Raavad and Rosh say it is permitted, and the Shulchan Aruch rules in accordance with the Rambam. The Taz brings up case of sickness.

The Rambam writes "When a person eats a forbidden food - whether bemaizid (intentionally) or beshogeg (inadvertently) - he should not recite a blessing beforehand or afterward" (Brachot 1,19). This is also found in the Talmud Yerushalmi, where it explains that such a blessing would be "na'atz Hashem", as in Tehillim 10,3 which can be read as "the one who blesses and blasphemes Hashem". What a chutzpah to say a bracha on sinful eating!

However, both the Ra'avad and the Rosh rule that a blessing must be said before and after eating non-kosher food. The Mishna merely rules that a non-kosher meal is not considered as important enough to require a zimun on it – but in the words of the Ra'avad, "why shouldn't he say a bracha before and after eating, since he enjoyed the food?"

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Haim 196,1) rules in line with the Rambam, that one does not say a bracha before or after eating non-kosher food. However, the Taz raises an interesting point. The subsequent halacha in the Shulchan Aruch states that if someone had to eat food because they were in danger (such as someone seriously ill or starving), they do in fact say a blessing. If so, asks the Taz, why shouldn’t someone who ate non-kosher food by accident (shogeg) say an after-blessing?

If the blessing is on the enjoyment of eating, then we would even say a blessing over non-kosher food (like the Ra'avad and Rosh) because we did in fact enjoy the food; or at least when such a blessing isn't a blasphemy and an insult to Hashem (like the Taz). On the other hand, perhaps blessings come to thank Hashem for creating the food we eat, and not for the enjoyment of eating. If so, it makes no sense to thank Hashem for creating the non-kosher food, which wasn't created for Jews to eat at all, rather it becomes a stumbling block for the person who inadvertently eats it. Alternatively we could say that blessings might have been instituted in order to permit the food to be eaten – as the Gemara says, it is forbidden to benefit from this world until one recites a bracha. (This is especially true according to the kabbalistic understanding that a bracha draws out the holy sparks from the food). If so, it would make sense that brachot are only required when the food is kosher or permitted, because otherwise the food remains forbidden in any case, and the bracha is of no use.

Rambam Brachot 1:19

19 When a person eats a forbidden food - whether consciously or inadvertently - he should not recite a blessing beforehand or afterward.

What is implied? If one eats tevel - even food that is classified as tevel by Rabbinical decree, the first tithe from which terumah was not separated, or the second tithe or sanctified foods that were not redeemed in the proper manner, one should not recite a blessing. Needless to say, this applies if one ate meat from an animal that was not ritually slaughtered or was trefah or if one drank wine used as a libation for idol worship.

3

There are Conservative movement responsa on this issue, most of which advise exactly what you are advising them to do, which is to pick a kosher item on the table (a glass of water, a piece of bread) and say the bracha over it. I would post the source here but not sure if heterodox responsa are issur on this site.

  • 1
    This workaround is just great, it has nothing to do with heterodox, it is perfectly Halachic. Thank you. – Al Berko Feb 27 '18 at 17:01
1

There's a big catch in your question that's being left unanswered (by Saba Hillel's Halachic answer) - it is the part of Baale' Teshuva, namely the trade-off between the strict Halachah and the "real-life" challenges. See, the hierarchy of Mitzvos is never clearly defined and for every Halachah stating X an addition "unless Y" can be made.

I had a first-hand experience with this kind of questions for B"T, working for one of the biggest Teshuva movements (at least in Israel) Arachim.org for 7 years. B"T always want (and is very advisable) to make the Teshuva gradual, but the Halachah is not (so) flexible.

Most Israeli Poskim that Arachim contacted on this type of questions, permitted (or did not oppose) cutting some corners especially on all deRabanan rulings (incl Brochos, Shaboos Muktzeh etc.) if one sticks to the B"T path, and here's their reasoning:

"Every Mitzvah has two constituent parts: Cheftzah (C) (object) and Gavrah (subject). The Cheftzah part acts on the subject of a Mitzvah, like a Succah, Teffilin or food when blessed. The Gavrah part changes the doer of the Mitzvah, increasing his spirituality, adherence to Hashem, belief in Torah, especially when using explicit intention for performing a Mitzvah (Kavanah).

Usually it takes the two, but sometimes a contradiction rises, like when a Mitzvah is performed unintentionally (swallowing Matzah at the Seder) or acting on a non-kosher object, like sitting in a non-kosher Succah (on Succos of course). In this case, it is not perfect, but a decision must be made.

When a person is a strong observer, we do not question the Gavrah part, thus rendering the option of acting on a non-kosher object invalid, or forbidden. However, when one's adherence and personal strength is our main concern, like in B"T cases, we prefer to rule otherwise, allowing to act on a non-kosher object (e.g. blessing on a non-kosher food). Here's the Halachic basis for that:

  1. A kid (under 13) while learning Mitzvos is allowed to make blessings on non-kosher objects, like Lulav, or saying unneeded blessings (several times in a raw).

  2. Kashrut is not one of the 3 "untrespassable" prohibitions, and eating NK food is allowed by the Torah in several cases (like recruits in war) or when life is in danger.

  3. Kashrut is a huge grey area between something that's clearly prohibited (non-kosher animals) to some BADA"TZ signed Kosher food, most ruling dealing with different concerns and remote indirect dangers. So a food that's not "Kosher" for a frum Jew can be perfectly Kosher for a less observant one (see Cholov Isroel.)

  4. "אתי עשה ודחי לא תעשה" (positive Mitzvos override negative ones) is a Talmudic principle, applied sometimes (see Yevomos 3b) to allow performing a positive Mitzvah (in our case blessing Hashem, or thanking for enjoying this world) at expense of overriding a negative one (saying G-d's name in vain). This might be especially true when the Halachic rigidity prevents a B"T from advancing in his observance.

It must be noticed, that the person must be warned that this is not how it is meant to be, and it is a big "beDieved" (retrospectively), and he must strive to move on in his observance in all realms of Judaism.

You must log in to answer this question.