When we think of fulfilling our obligation to say a bracha, we typically imagine saying the words ourselves. Yet this is not the only method. If you can find someone else who needs to say the same bracha as you, he can "have you in mind" while he says the bracha. Then, if you listen carefully to every word of his bracha – and answer "amen" at the bracha's conclusion – you have fulfilled your obligation, too. This is based on the principle of Shomeya K'oneh – literally, "hearing is like answering"1

In such a case, we say that he has been "motzi" you (literally: "took you out") of your bracha obligation. As the listener, you are now "yotzei" (literally "out of") your obligation.

In this class, we'll learn the applications of Shomeya K'oneh, both for a bracha rishona and a bracha achrona.

Conditions

In order for one person to be motzi another in a bracha, five conditions must be fulfilled:

(1) Intent

As the bracha is about to be said, the person saying the bracha and the listener both need to have in mind that the bracha is being said on behalf of the listener.2

Your friend is about to say borei pri ha'adama on a carrot and you want him to be motzi you. He agrees to this beforehand. However, when he actually says the bracha, you get distracted and forget to pay attention to the bracha. Or the other way around: You concentrate, but he forgot to have in mind to be motzi you.

In both cases, it is doubtful whether you were yotzei with his bracha (even if you answered "amen" at the end). This means that you cannot eat the carrot. On the other hand, you also cannot now make your own bracha, as perhaps it's unnecessary! In such a situation, you will need to find someone else to bemotzi you.3

Additionally, to be yotzei, you must hear every word of the bracha, just as you would have needed to pronounce every word if you were saying the bracha yourself.4 Therefore, someone being motzi others – e.g. saying Kiddush for his family, or a chazan in the synagogue – has a great responsibility to pronounce each word loudly and clearly.

Post facto, if the listener failed to hear a non-essential word, it is okay.5 As we learned in class #2, the "essential" words are:

  1. the word "Baruch," blessed
  2. Shem – mentioning a name of God
  3. Malchut – reference to God's kingship over the world
  4. the message (theme) of the particular bracha

Certainly, one may not speak during the bracha.6

(2) Same Need

In general, to be motzi someone else, you need to be obligated in the same bracha.7 For example, you cannot say borei pri ha'aitz for your friend if you are not going to eat some fruit yourself. So too with a bracha achrona – you can't be motzi someone else in Al Ha'gefen if you haven't just drunk some grape juice or wine. Even post facto, these attempts would be ineffective.8

There is one exception: If the blessing in question is a being done for the sake of a mitzvah, and – this is an important factor – the listener is unable to say the bracha his or herself. In such a case, you can be motzi someone else, even if you don't consume any of the food yourself.9

This is based on the principle that "every Jew is responsible one for another."10 In other words, if my fellow Jew has not fulfilled his mitzvah obligation, then mine is lacking, too.11

For example, you can make Kiddush or Havdallah for someone who is unable to read Hebrew, even if you don't drink the wine (although the person being motzi would need to drink it).12

(3) The People Involved

When it comes to saying brachot, adults and children have a different degree of obligation. This affects the rules for beingmotzi someone else:

  • Men (over the age of 13) can be motzi other adults, as well as children.

  • Women (over the age of 12) can be motzi other adults and children.13

  • Children (i.e. boys under age 13 and girls under age 12) can be only be motzi other children.14

(4) Sitting Together

Ideally, the person being motzi and the one being yotzei should be eating together at the same table, as this helps forge the common bond between the speaker and the listener. After the fact, if the speaker (i.e. the one who said the bracha) left the table, the bracha would remain effective for the listener.15

It is also preferable that everyone be seated at the time of the bracha,16 or at least to be standing in place.

(5) Answering "Amen"

When someone is being motzi you, you should answer "amen."17 However, if you forgot to say amen, the bracha is still effective for you.18

In class #39, we'll learn more about the mitzvah of answering amen after a bracha.

When to Use Shomeya K'oneh

As a general rule, it is preferable to say your own bracha rather than to rely on Shomeya K'oneh. This is because it is often difficult for people to concentrate on someone else saying a bracha.19

However, there are certain situations where it is preferable to have someone be motzi you:

(a) Cases of Doubt

In cases where you are not sure whether you need to say a bracha rishona or bracha achrona, an elegant solution is to employ Shomeya K'oneh. For example:

  • You are halfway through your piece of cake when you suddenly can't remember if you said borei minei mezonot before you started. In this case, it is best to find someone else who needs to say their own Mezonot blessing, and ask them to be motzi you.20

  • After finishing your cake, you are not sure whether you ate a kezayit volume within the required time (see class #31) – and there is no more cake available. In such a case, you should find someone who clearly has an obligation to say the bracha achrona of Al Ha'michya, and ask him to be motzi you.21

  • In class #13 we learned that Hamotzee made at the beginning of a meal covers appetizers that are used to whet the appetite. Sometimes it is difficult to determine this.22 For example, you are having some melon for a first course. Should you say a borei pri ha'adama or not? Because of this uncertainty, it's better to find someone who clearly needs to say his own Ha'adama blessing and ask him to be motzi you.

(b) Mitzvot

In the context of performing a public mitzvah, Shomeya K'oneh is often considered the best course of action. This is based on a principle mentioned in Proverbs 14:28: B'rov am hadrat Melech – "A multitude of people magnifies the King's glory."23 For example:

  • On Shabbat, the custom is that one person says Kiddush24 and Hamotzee,25 as well as Havdallah at the conclusion of Shabbat.26
  • In the synagogue, one person says the blessing on blowing the shofar and reading the Megillah.27

In these cases, before saying the bracha, it is a good idea to remind everyone to properly concentrate on the blessings and to have the intention to be yotzei.

(c) Difficulty saying a bracha

If someone cannot say a bracha properly (either due to health reasons or lack of knowledge), it is best to be yotzei through another person's bracha. For example, when there is no Siddur at hand to say Birkat Hamazon or the Three-Faceted Blessing (which are long and difficult to memorize), you can use Shomeya K'oneh to help you out.28

Mike was at a meeting where they served pretzels and crackers. As the meeting was about to adjourn, Mike realized that some people might forget to say a bracha achrona, and others may not know how to say it at all. So he said Al Ha'michya aloud and was motzi everyone.29

In this case, Mike could be motzi others even if he did not eat anything himself, based on the principle of "every Jew is responsible one for another."

For Review

  • We learned the principle of Shomeya K'oneh – the ability to motzi someone in a bracha.
  • Shomeya K'oneh is only effective if both the listener and the speaker have intent, and both of them are "in need" of that bracha.
  • The listener should answer "amen."
  • In the case of a mitzvah, being motzi others is based on the principle of "every Jew is responsible one for another."
  • It is usually best to say your own blessing – except in cases of doubt, public mitzvot, or when it is difficult to say it yourself.

  1. Talmud – Sukkah 38b
  2. Orach Chaim 213:3
  3. Orach Chaim 213:3; Mishnah Berurah 489:22, with Biur Halacha 60 – s.v “Vichen Halacha”; Kaf HaChaim (OC 213:25)
  4. Orach Chaim 124:8, 213:3
  5. Sha’ar Hatziyun 213:20; see also Mishnah Berurah 187:4, 214:3; Biur Halacha 167:10
  6. Mishnah Berurah 167:45, with Sha’ar Hatziyun 43
  7. Orach Chaim 167:19, 589:1
  8. Orach Chaim 167:19, 213:2, 273:4; Kaf HaChaim (OC 213:18)
  9. This presumes that the mitzvah obligation is at least equal – e.g. a child could not be motzi an adult, but an adult can be motzi a child.
  10. Talmud – Shevuot 39a, Rosh Hashana 29a with Rashi
  11. Magen Avraham 167:40
  12. Orach Chaim 271:14, with Mishnah Berurah 71; Orach Chaim 273:4, with Rema; Orach Chaim 484:1, with Mishnah Berurah 1
  13. Talmud – Sukkah 38a; However, Tosfot (s.v b’emet) explains that it is not considered modest for a woman to be motzi a group of men; Chanuch L’Na’ar (4:3, 5). With regards to a woman being motzei a man in Birkat Hamazon, see footnotes to class #35.
  14. Mishnah Berurah 55:4
  15. Orach Chaim 167:11, 13; Orach Chaim 213:1, with Mishnah Berurah 5, 13. However, Magen Avraham (OC 167:28) rules strictly if the two parties were not sitting and eating together.
  16. Mishnah Berurah 271:46
  17. Orach Chaim 8:5, with Mishnah Berurah 15
  18. Orach Chaim 213:2, with Mishnah Berurah 17
  19. Orach Chaim 193:1, 201:4, 213:1; Mishnah Berurah 8:13, 183:27, 201:15; Chayei Adam 5:17, 19
  20. Mishnah Berurah 167:49
  21. Mishnah Berurah 167:49
  22. V’Zot HaBracha, pg. 234-5
  23. Aruch HaShulchan 213:7
  24. Orach Chaim 271:2, with Mishnah Berurah 5
  25. Mishnah Berurah 274:2
  26. Mishnah Berurah 296:27
  27. Orach Chaim 585:2, with Mishnah Berurah 5; Orach Chaim 692:3, with Mishnah Berurah 10
  28. Preferably, the listeners should recite quietly, word for word, along with the person making the bracha out loud. If this is not possible, the next best option is to rely on Shomeya K’oneh (Mishnah Berurah 213:9).
  29. Mishnah Berurah 213:9