Berachos 38a: The Bracha on Chocolate

Berachos 38a: On dates that were pounded into a paste, one says the bracha, “Borei pri ha’eitz.” Why? Because they are still in their natural state.

Rashi: Somewhat pounded but not completely pulverized.

ברכות לח ע”א. והלכתא תמרי ועבדינהו טרימא מברכין עלוייהו בורא פרי העץ, מאי טעמא במילתייהו קיימי כדמעיקרא.

רש”י: ושם טרימא כל דבר הכחוש קצת ואינו מרוסק.

שו”ע או”ח ר”ב ס”ז: תמרים שמיעכן ביד ועשה מהם עיסה והוציא מהם גרעיניהם אפילו הכי לא נשתנית ברכתן ומברך עליהם בורא פרי העץ ולבסוף ברכה מעין שלש: הגה ולפי זה ה״ה בלטווערן הנקרא פאווידל״א מברכין עליהם בורא פרי העץ וי״א לברך עליהם שהכל (ת״ה סי׳ כ״ט וב״י בשם הטור) וטוב לחוש לכתחלה לברך שהכל אבל אם בירך בפה״ע יצא כי כן נראה עיקר.

שם ר”ג ס”ז: בשמים שחוקים ומעורבים עם סוקר, הבשמים עיקר ומברך עליהם כדין ברכת אותן בשמים.

מ”ב שם סקי”ב: שחוקים – היינו אף כשהם שחוקים ונימוחים לגמרי עד שאין ניכר בהם תארן הראשון כלל אפ”ה לא נשתנית ברכתן עי”ז לכו”ע דדרך הבשמים לכתוש באופן זה. סקי”ג: הבשמים עיקר – היינו אפילו כשהיה צוקע”ר הרוב ומעט בשמים וכעין שנוהגים בינינו וכו’. 

Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach held that the bracha on chocolate is borei pri ha’eitz. He printed this psak in Minchas Shlomo (v. 1 page 610) and followed it himself. Once, his grandchildren were visiting him and chocolate bars were served. One of them asked, “Zaidy, what bracha should I make?” “Go ask your grandmother,” was his reply.

When he reported back that she had told him to make “shehakol”, R’ Shlomo Zalman said, “So why are you coming back to me again?”

Source: Making of a Godol, p. 139

[The logic for saying “shehakol” is, apparently, that the chocolate is completely ground up and bears no resemblance to the original cacao bean. This is similar to the date paste mentioned by the Rema in 202:7 on which one makes “shehakol” when the dates are completely pulverized.

The flaw in this, says R’ Shlomo Zalman, is that while dates can be, and in fact are, eaten in their natural state, cacao beans are bitter and impossible to eat as they are. They must be ground up and mixed with other ingredients to be edible. In this respect they are similar to spices, on which one makes “ha’eitz” even when they are mixed with a majority of sugar.

Furthermore, he argues, Sephardim should definitely make “ha’eitz” since they follow the Mechaber who says that even on completely pulverized dates, one makes “ha’eitz”.

As to the reason why he didn’t pasken for his grandson, perhaps he held that since his psak ran counter to the world’s custom, it would not be right to confuse children with it, especially since one fulfills his obligation in any case with “shehakol.” Only those capable of understanding the reasoning should follow it.

One additional point: R’ Shlomo Zalman begins his piece by writing that he understands why people make “shehakol” when drinking hot cocoa, based on the Shaarei Teshuva 202:19. The Shaarei Teshuva does say that “shehakol” is what the world makes on coffee, tea and hot cocoa. But looking at the Panim Meiros 2:190 he quotes on the subject of coffee and tea, it’s far from clear why that practice is correct. The Panim Meiros gives many reasons to make “ha’adamah” on tea and mentions a great man, Rabbi Shmuel Shatin, who did so; when asked why he went against the prevalent custom, he replied, “Any custom not established by chachamim is not a custom.” Still, the Panim Meiros concludes that he personally says “shehakol” because he does not want to do anything that looks strange to people.]

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