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In Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 169:2 the following is noted:

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(לֹא יִתֵּן לֶאֱכֹל אֶלָּא לְמִי שֶׁיּוֹדֵעַ בּוֹ שֶׁיְּבָרֵךְ, הגה: וְיֵשׁ מְקִלִּין אִם נוֹתֵן לְעָנִי בְּתוֹרַת צְדָקָה (הר''י סוֹף פֶּרֶק אֵלּוּ דְּבָרִים

One should only give food to be eaten to someone who knows how to make the blessing (on the food) REMA: There are those who are lenient who say if you give it to a poor person as charity (it is permitted)

My Question

It is very popular in a variety of outreach events to provide refreshments and food even in a non-Shabbos meal setting1 (e.g. sushi, cookies, drinks, etc.).

This being said, under these circumstances it is unlikely to assure that those who do not know how to bless make a blessing2.

With the above noted, is there a Heter which Kiruv organizations use when serving food at an event which is likely that the large majority of participants will not recite a blessing on the food they are eating in light of the Shulchan Aruch and Rema quoted3?


1In a Shabbos meal setting, the host would be able to relieve the guests of their obligation with his blessings on wine and bread. Which would not be common in a case of a event where only light refreshments would be served.

2Additionally I have heard (for what its worth) of people involved in Kiruv that making non-practicing Jews make blessings before they eat in a non-ceremonial setting will give the impression that Judaism is too demanding for them, thus causing them to abandon the possibility of becoming a practicing jew.

3 I presume if there is a Heter, it would be based on the Rema but I am unsure how it would work

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R Gil Student addresses this question here and, following a recap of the gemara and Shulkhan Aruch you cite, responds the posekim have unanimously permitted this, but their rationales vary

R. Moshe Feinstein (Iggeros Moshe, Orah Hayim vol. 5 no. 13) rules that one should ask the person to recite a blessing but, if he refuses, to serve him food anyway so as not to have him think that religious Jews lack basic manners. However, one should ask again, in future cases, that the person recite a blessing before eating.

R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minhas Shlomo, vol. 1 no. 35) writes that if asking someone to recite a blessing will so offend him that he will start to hate observant Jews, it is better not to ask him to do so.

R. Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Ha-Levi, vol. 4 no. 17) writes that this is only a rabbinic prohibition and may be set aside so as not to antagonize a non-observant Jew, particularly if he might otherwise eat non-kosher food.

R. Moshe Shternbuch (Teshuvos Ve-Hanhagos, vol. 1 no. 483) takes the long view and states that kiruv, bringing a fellow Jew closer to Torah, in the long run creates less violations than otherwise so it is a good thing to offer a non-observant Jew food even if he will not recite a blessing before eating [...]

R. Shammai Gross (Shevet Ha-Kehasi, vol. 4 no. 329) writes that the prohibition is only when one knows for certain that the person will not recite a blessing. With a non-observant Jew, it is a mitzvah to invite him for a meal and to serve him food. At worst, the giver can recite a blessing out loud so as to be exempt everyone within earshot [...]

R. Ya’akov Kamenetsky (Emes Le-Ya’akov on Orah Hayim 169 n. 197) is quoted as saying that it is more important to feed someone kosher food, and thereby prevent him from eating forbidden food, that to be concerned about him not reciting a blessing. However, he adds that there is no need to be concerned that he might come to hate religious Jews because if we explain properly he should understand our concern.

R. Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer, vol. 22 no. 3) argues that there is no issue of lifnei iveir in this case because people can always find food elsewhere. The only issue is of mesaye’a, and R. Waldenberg dismisses this concern based on the ruling of the Shakh (Yoreh Deah 151:6) that mesaye’a does not apply to someone who regularly violates this prohibition (cf. Dagul Me-Revavah, ad loc.). Therefore, there is absolutely no prohibition against giving food to someone who never recites a blessing on the food. The only concern is with someone who sometimes recites a blessing and sometimes does not. To him, there is a prohibition against giving the food because he might not recite a blessing.

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