Interruptions between the Bracha and Eating
- 1 Speaking as an interruption
- 2 If the one making the beracha or the listeners talk
- 3 Answering Dvarim Sh’B’Kedusha between the Beracha and eating
- 4 Talking before fully swallowing a piece of the bread
- 5 Interrupting Between Washing and Eating Bread
- 6 Answering Baruch Hu U'Varuch Shmo when hearing the Beracha from another
- 7 Sources
Speaking as an interruption
- The Gemara Brachot (40a) mentions the opinion of Rav that one who says to another "take a piece of the bread" before he has a chance to eat himself, may still eat without having to make a new beracha. The same is true for one who tells another to get the salt or dip. However, one who simply talks about unrelated matters would need a new beracha.
- Tosfot (there) comment that nowadays people eat their bread without salt. The implication is that asking someone to bring salt after making the beracha would then constitute an interruption, or hefsek, and one may then need a new beracha to eat. Only speech that relates to the piece of bread itself would not be a hefsek. 
- Rambam (Hilchot Berachot Perek Alef) writes that anything that relates to the general meal isn't considered a hefsek. Asking for salt is then not a hefsek, even where one is fine eating the bread without it.
- The Rama (O"C 167:6) and the Beit Yosef (Tur O"C 167) bring from the Kol Bo that ideally one should avoid even such speech. If one did say any of those things, however, he may eat without a new beracha. 
- The Sefer HaZikaron L'Gri Weinberg quotes the opinion of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach that one who took a vow to never eat before reciting a pasuk may say the pasuk after the beracha, if he forgot to do so beforehand and only remembered then. It would therefore not be a hefsek.
If the one making the beracha or the listeners talk
General rule: Talking about matters unrelated to the meal constitutes a Hefsek, according to all authorities. One who talks between a beracha and the eating has to recite a new beracha (see case #1 below). The following cases were constructed to demonstrate this rule as it applies by a communal meal. While the discussion is about bread, the same rules apply for all situations of eating. These laws are only by talking that is unrelated to the meal.
Situation: There is a family sitting down to a bread meal after washing. The father (or mevarech) makes the beracha on the bread with intent that the beracha should count for the others present, and all present listen to the beracha with kavana to be yotze with the father’s beracha. The listeners are Reuven and Shimon. They answer Amen. The following cases are different scenarios that occur after that sequence of events.
Case #1: Reuven (the listener) begins to talk before anyone has a chance to eat.
- S”A (O”C 167:6) rules that one who talks after the beracha before eating must make a new beracha in order to eat. This applies as well to one who hears the beracha from another in a case where no one has eaten yet (see below for cases where someone has eaten before the talking occurs).
Ruling: Reuven needs to make a beracha before eating.
Case #2: The father eats a bite of the slice he cut for himself. Reuven and Shimon then break into conversation before eating themselves.
- The Rema (167:6) writes that if the mevarech (one making the beracha) eats and then the listeners speak before they get the chance to eat of the bread themselves, the listeners would still be allowed to eat the bread without a new beracha. 
- Mishna Brurah (167:43) writes that nearly all the Achronim argue on the Rema (see Be’ur Halacha there and previous reference for the outline of the discussion), and require the listener to make a new Beracha in this case.
- The Sha’ar Hatzion (there) lists the Achronim who disagree with the Rema and they include: Taz, Magen Avraham, Eliyah Rabbah, Likutei HaPri Chadash, S”A Harav, Chayei Adam, Shiurei Bracha, Halacha Brurah, and possibly the Gra.
- Piskei Teshuvot (167:11) explains that we don’t say Safeik Brachot L’Hakeil (in doubtful situations of Berachot, we are lenient) in this case, as the Achronim conclude. Therefore, if the listeners talk before eating themselves, they will require a new beracha to eat. 
- Ben Ish Chai (Emor 16) rules in accordance with the Rema above based on the concept of Safeik Berachot L’Hakeil. Thus, as long as the mevarech ate before any talking took place, the listeners may and should eat without a new beracha.
- This is also the opinion of the Yalkut Yosef (167:11 in Kitzur S”A) Additionally, he rules that even if another listener ate before the talking, then all may eat the bread without any issue of a hefsek. One who talked in such a case can also think the beracha in his head before eating as this counts as a beracha for the Rambam and Smag, yet wouldn’t be a beracha l’vatala. 
Ruling: The consensus for Ashkenazim is that Reuven and Shimon must make a beracha before they eat of the bread. The consensus for Sephardim is that Reuven and Shimon may eat the bread without a new beracha. (Preferably, they should think the beracha before tasting.) Obviously, any at the table who don’t talk are fine according to all opinions.
Case #3: Shimon goes ahead and eats a bite of his slice. The father hasn’t had a chance to eat yet. (Lechatchilah, Shimon should have waited to eat until his father does (S”A O”C 167:15)). Reuven then begins to talk.
Ruling: Halachically, the case has the same result as in case #2. (see above discussion) For Ashkenazim, Reuven needs a new beracha, whereas for Sephardim, he doesn’t.
Case #4: As the father is cutting a slice for himself, he begins to talk (in matters not related to the meal). No one has had a chance to eat yet. Can the listeners rely on his Beracha?
- Pri Megadim (M.Z. 167:8) rules that where the mevarech talks, the beracha still counts for the others at the table. Therefore, the listeners may go on to eat the bread without any beracha as they didn’t talk.
- Mishna Brurah (213:15) also agrees with this ruling despite some earlier reservations (see Mishna Brurah (167:43) and Be’ur Halacha there).
- This is also the consensus in Piskei Teshuvot (167:12). He adds that this is only true when the beracha was a good beracha and the talking that followed was accidental. 
- Ben Ish Chai (Emor 16) also brings down that the listeners would be fine to eat the bread now, even though the father had talked.
- This is also the ruling of Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur S”A 167:11)
Ruling: The father needs a new beracha, but Reuven and Shimon are fine to eat of the bread without any further beracha.
Case #5: Reuven quickly takes a bite of his slice before his father has a chance to eat. The father then begins to talk. Shimon hasn’t yet eaten.
- As noted above, whenever one talks before eating, he is obligated to make a new beracha. However, the beracha does count for the listeners who haven’t spoken (see case #4).
- Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur S”A 167:11) rules that once anyone eats of the bread, the beracha takes effect, even for those who subsequently talk. Therefore, even the father can now eat the bread without another beracha.
Ruling: Shimon can eat of the bread without any issue. The father would require another beracha, only according to Ashkenazim.
Answering Dvarim Sh’B’Kedusha between the Beracha and eating
- Yalkut Yosef (167) rules that one should certainly not answer Kedusha, Kaddish, or barechu before tasting the food. Doing so would count as a hefsek. One should also not answer Amen, but if he did so, he would not make a new beracha.  Also, if one answered Amen to his own beracha, he may continue without a new beracha.
- Panim Meirot (brought by the Shaarei Teshuva (167:3)) says that even by answering Amen, one would need to make a new beracha as it constitutes a hefsek between the beracha and the eating.
- Piskei Teshuvot (167:9) brings the opinion of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (see footnote 70 there) that in cases of saying Amen to another’s beracha or even to one’s own beracha, the person would not need a new beracha. The reason is that we say safeik berachot l’hakeil in such cases where these matters are disputed by the poskim. Answering Amen Yeheh Shmei Rabbah and the like is a hefsek as it is longer than Kedei Dibbur (Shalom Alecha Rebbe). These rules also apply by one who responds to Dvarim Sh’B’Kedusha during the beracha itself.
- Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata (48 footnote 43) writes that if listeners who were yotze with someone then hear the same beracha from another with whom they had no intention to be yotze, they may answer Amen to the beracha. Obviously, other responses longer than Kedei Dibbur are a hefsek.
Talking before fully swallowing a piece of the bread
- Magen Avraham (167:16) raises the possibility that one who talks before fully swallowing may run into an issue of hefsek by the beracha. However, he leaves the matter unresolved. 
- Mishna Brurah (167:35) also leaves this matter unresolved. Therefore, in the Sha’ar Hatziun (167:30), he warns that one should be very careful in this regard to never talk until fully swallowing. Additionally, the M.B. above implies that one should even avoid answering Amen and the like before swallowing. He concludes that one should preferably eat a full Kezayit before talking unless there is a need to talk before getting to that point. 
- The Chayei Adam (Klal 49:4) quoted in the M.B. holds that swallowing of the flavor of the food would also be enough for the beracha to fully take effect.
- Yabia Omer (5:16) brings from a number of rishonim that the chewing itself is enough for the beracha to count.  Therefore, he rules that one should answer Kaddish, Kedusha and the like. Even so, one should avoid other talking until fully swallowing as many Achronim ruled that it may be problematic. Additionally, by sucking candies, one would only have to swallow some of the flavor to satisfy all opinions as that accomplishes the main eating by a sucking candy.
- Yalkut Yosef (167) rules in accordance with the Yabia Omer above that one should preferably not talk while first chewing. If one did so, as long as the palate benefited from the food, he would not require a new beracha. However, he should answer to Kaddish, Kedusha and the like. If he can’t respond because he is close to swallowing, he should think the Amen and listen to be yotze the answering of Kaddish and Kedusha by shome’a k’oneh.
Interrupting Between Washing and Eating Bread
- There is a dispute whether one may not make an interruption between washing and saying Hamotzei. The halacha is that we are strict not to make an interruption. 
- Initially one should be strict to make Hamotzei within the time it takes to walk 22 steps. 
- After the fact, even if one really made an interruption one does not need to rewash one's hands unless one didn't watch to keep one's hands clean. 
Answering Baruch Hu U'Varuch Shmo when hearing the Beracha from another
- There is a large discussion in the poskim if one should answer baruch hu ubaruch shmo to a beracha when you wish to fulfill your obligation. 
- By that logic, the salt isn't required for the bread itself. Such appears to be the opinion of the Rashba (Shut HaRashba 1:208) where one was fine having the bread plain. In that way, asking for salt is like ordinary speech, which constitutes a hefsek.
- Examples of such speech that the Shulchan Aruch gives are: "bring the salt" (MB: even though we don't require one to wait to eat for salt to be brought, since one wants to eat the bread this way, it is considered related to the meal), "give to someone to eat" (MB: even if he is telling them to give someone a separate loaf of bread), "feed the animals" (MB: since this is considered 'related to the meal', because it is forbidden to eat before giving to one's animal).
- The source for this opinion is from the Rokeach (brought down in the Beit Yosef (Tur Siman 167)). Such also seems to be the opinion of the Or Zarua from the Rema above. The logic is that once the mevarech eats of the bread, the beracha counts for all those who wish to be yotze with that beracha, whether they eat of the bread or not. The Rokeach draws the parallel to Kiddush where the rule is that only the one making Kiddush is actually required to drink for the Kiddush to count for all those present at the table. The Beit Yosef, however, responds that the beracha in our case is different. When the mevarech says the Hamotzi, it is as if everyone says Hamotzi by the law of shomea k’oneh (it is as if the listener made the Beracha himself). Each person individually must ensure to eat before talking or else they’ll require a new beracha. Kiddush, on the other hand, is considered a Birkat Hamitzva where one Jew can discharge the obligation of another Jew. In that case, the listener tags along with the one making Kiddush in terms of the entire mitzvah (i.e. the Kiddush itself and the subsequent drinking). The Aruch HaShulchan (167:6) defends the side of the Rema by saying that by Kiddush too, all are required to drink as part of fulfilling Kiddush on an individual level. Even so, the listeners are yotze with the drinking of the mekadesh. So too, by Hamotzi, when the mevarech obligates himself to eat, the listeners are also yotze with his eating alone. For more discussion, see Yalkut Yosef (167 footnote 5 in detail).
- There is a dispute among the authorities surrounding the issue, and one would expect to encounter the rule of safeik berachot l’hakeil (by a case of doubt by a beracha, one should omit the beracha). The Kaf HaChaim (167 note 58) explains that there is no safeik beracha case here because the listeners didn’t make the beracha themselves. It is true that one who listens to a beracha with intent to be yotze may not subsequently make his own beracha. Even so, as the person in our case is just a listener, he can make the beracha again after accidentally talking without the fear of a beracha l’vatala by the second beracha as the case is slightly different than the case of one who made the beracha himself. See Yalkut Yosef (167 footnote 5) where he argues on this reasoning.
- For a lengthy discussion of these rulings in light of the complexity of the issues, see Halichot Olam (vol. 1 pgs. 346-350).
- He also adds that according to the Be’ur Halacha mentioned above, if a listener had eaten before the father had talked, then the other listeners would certainly be fine to eat now. The reasoning is that the beracha is then Chal already by the eating and counts as a legitimate beracha before the hefsek occurs. As noted above, the father would need a new beracha, even in such a case.
- The Kaf HaChaim (206:19) rules that by the word Amen alone, he creates a hefsek, according to some. However, Yalkut Yosef (167 end of footnote 7) concludes that as long as the response is shorter than “Shalom Alecha Rebbe,” we hold safeik berachot l’hakeil, and one should continue without a beracha.
- The issue is that the mechaber poskins (S”A O”C 210:2) that by the case of one simply tasting food without swallowing it, he would not make a beracha on the food. Therefore, there is reason to argue that a beracha is really only relevant by swallowing food. If one then talks to create a hefsek before swallowing, it may be that he’ll then need a new beracha as by anyone who talks before eating.
- The Sha’ar Hatziun (167:28) also warns that one should not walk from place to place before finishing to swallow as walking too constitutes a hefsek. Walking to another place wouldn’t be a hefsek in a case where one can’t make a beracha where he is because of a lack of cleanliness.
- Additionally, to alleviate the problem of the Magen Avraham, many Achronim have suggested that as long as one has intention to actually eat, then the chewing is a vital part of the eating. One must by definition chew the food first. Therefore, by the chewing process, the beracha that one made on eating takes effect. However, where one’s intention is just to taste, then a beracha can only be required where he actually swallows more than a Kezayit. The entire matter is determined by intent.
- Gemara Brachot 42a, Shulchan Aruch 166:1
- Rama 166:1
- Mishna Brurah 166:6
- R' Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe O"C 2:98) says that those who wish to fulfill their obligation by hearing another's beracha should not say Baruch Hu U'Varuch Shmo after the name of Hashem. Doing so would require them to make a new beracha.
- R' Ovadia Yosef (Chazon Ovadia chelek sheni pg. 127) additionally writes to avoid doing so because of the possible hefsek involved. The Shulchan Aruch Harav considers it a hefsek, and the Chayei Adam is unsure whether it constitutes a hefsek or not. For further discussion and a lengthy clarification of the view of the Chida, see Yalkut Yosef (vol. 3 Siman 167 Footnote 5).
- Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Rav Rephael Baruch Toledano, Volume 1, Page 111 says that the Moroccan custom is to answer baruch hu ubaruch shmo even when hearing a beracha that you want to fulfill your obligation with