Following a short series of introductions to the concept and structure of brachot, we will now begin learning the day-to-day applications: the specific brachot that are said before eating foods.

The bracha that one says before eating or drinking is known as a bracha rishona (literally, "first blessing"). The Sages grouped all foods and drink into six different categories, and assigned each of these categories its own specific bracha rishona.

The text of all six brachot begins the same way:

Baruch Ata Ado-noy, Eloheinu Melech ha'olam
Blessed are you, God, our Master, King of the world.

This phrase is then followed by the subject of the bracha, i.e. what it is you are blessing God for. The categories of foods and their assigned brachot are:
 

 

Shorthand Reference

Type of Food

Hebrew

Translit-
eration

Translation

1

Hamotzee

Bread

המוציא לחם מן הארץ

hamotzee lechem min ha'aretz

 Who brings forth bread from the land

2

Ha'gafen

Wine

בורא פרי
הגפן

 borei pri ha'gafen

 Creator of the fruit of the vine

3

Mezonot

Grains

בורא מיני מזונות

 borei minei mezonot

 Creator of a variety of sustaining foods

4

Ha'aitz

Fruits

בורא פרי
העץ

 borei pri Ha'aitz

 Creator of the fruit of the tree

5

Ha'adama

Vegetables

בורא פרי האדמה

 borei pri ha'adama

 Creator of the fruit of the land

6

Shehakol

All other food & drink

שהכל נהיה בדברו

sheh'hakol nih'yeh bid'varo

 that all came to be through His utterance

In the chart above, notice the first column which we've called "Shorthand Reference." Throughout this course, we will refer to these brachot by shorthand. So, if we say: "Before eating an apple, you should say Ha'aitz ," this means that you should recite the full text of that bracha.

Click here for a PDF printout of the text of these six brachot.

Here are the audio pronunciations of these six brachot:

Hamotzi/Bread

Hamotzi/Bread

Ashkenazi Pronunciation

Sefardi Pronunciation

 
Hagaffen/Wine

Hagaffen/Wine

Ashkenazi Pronunciation

Sefardi Pronunciation

Mezonot/Five Grains

Mezonot/Five Grains

Ashkenazi Pronunciation

Sefardi Pronunciation

 
Ha'aitz/Fruits

Ha'aitz/Fruits

Ashkenazi Pronunciation

Sefardi Pronunciation

 
Ha'adama/Vegetables

Ha'adama/Vegetables

Ashkenazi Pronunciation

Sefardi Pronunciation

 
She'hakol/Other Food & Drink

She'hakol/Other Food & Drink

Ashkenazi Pronunciation

Sefardi Pronunciation

 

In the remainder of this class, and in the coming lessons, we will deal with the parameters of each of the brachot listed above. We will learn exactly which foods receive which bracha, and how altering the state of a food can affect a change in its bracha. The first brachot we will discuss are Ha'aitz and Ha'adama.

Ha'aitz and Ha'adama – brachot on Produce

The brachot recited on produce are "borei pri Ha'aitz " ("Creator of the fruit of the tree") and "borei pri ha'adama " (Creator of the fruit of the ground"). Generally speaking, Ha'aitz is said on fruits, while Ha'adama is said on vegetables, grains, and legumes.

The Definition of a Tree

Although for most fruits the appropriate bracha is Ha'aitz, not everything commonly referred to as a "fruit" falls in the halachic category of "pri Ha'aitz " – literally "fruit of the tree." In terms of Hilchot brachot, the key definitions are:

  • Ha'aitz 1 – the product of a plant whose trunk remains alive and produces fruit year after year2
  • Ha'adama 3 – the product of a plant whose trunk withers after one year4

Sometimes this can be tricky. The banana plant, for example, which can grow to great heights, is not regarded as a "tree." Since its shoots produce fruit only once, and then become part of the central stem and no longer bear fruit, the bracha on a banana is Ha'adama.5 The same is true for pineapple. (There are, however, a few species of bananas that are halachic "trees," so if you know specifically that this banana grew on a tree, the bracha is Ha'aitz.)

Similarly, many "wild" plants, even though they produce fruit from year to year, are not considered trees. If only their roots remain and their trunk (or stem) dies out, they do not qualify for the bracha Ha'aitz. The bracha on strawberries and wild berries, therefore, is Ha'adama.6

Conversely, many bushes and vines, even though they do not resemble a tree, are considered "trees."7 As long as their branches remain alive year round, the product of these plants receive the bracha Ha'aitz. This includes fruits such as blueberries and grapes.

If, however, a bush grows very close to the ground (within nine inches), common practice is to say Ha'adama on its fruit, even though it qualifies as a "tree."8 For this reason, the bracha on cranberries is Ha'adama.9

When in Doubt

There are some fruits whose bracha is subject to dispute because it is unclear whether the plant qualifies as a "tree." The papaya, which grows on a tree that resembles a vegetable plant in numerous ways, is one such example. In such a case, you should say Ha'adama, since this bracha is a catch-all that covers tree-fruits as well.10

Similarly, if you are unsure whether a particular fruit falls into the category of "pri Ha'aitz " or not, and you are unable to find out,11 you should say Ha'adama on that fruit.12 The reason is because every fruit, even if it grows on a tree, is also a product of the ground. Therefore, the bracha "pri ha'adama " is an appropriate catch-all.13

However, if you don't know which bracha to say because you didn't learn the halachot, you may not rely on this. Rather, you should go and learn the halacha (or ask an authority) and then say the proper bracha.

Saying the Wrong bracha

As we mentioned, the bracha Ha'adama is appropriate for all produce, since all fruits and vegetables come from the ground. Therefore, if you accidentally said Ha'adama on a fruit whose bracha is Ha'aitz, you may continue eating without correcting your mistake, so that the bracha will not have been in vain.14 (If possible, you should eat another Ha'adama item and recite the proper bracha.)15

If, however, you said Ha'aitz on a vegetable (or even a banana), your bracha is invalid. Since vegetables don't grow on trees, "borei pri Ha'aitz " is inappropriate and you must say a new bracha.16

Shehakol – All-Inclusive bracha

One of the six types of brachot on food is " shehakol nih-yeh17 bid-varo," which means "that everything came into being through His utterance." Unlike Ha'aitz and Ha'adama, Shehakol is not specific to any particular type of food. It is said on all foods that don't grow from the ground. This includes:

  • meat, fish, eggs 18
  • dairy products19
  • sugar20 and salt21
  • water,22 tea,23 beer24
  • bee honey25
  • hydroponic vegetables (e.g. alfalfa sprouts)26

What about mushrooms? You might expect the bracha to be Ha'adama, since mushrooms sprout from the ground. However, their primary sustenance is taken from moisture in the air, not from the ground27 – and therefore the bracha is Shehakol.28

The words "shehakol nih-yeh bid-varo" are a general reference to all of God's creations. Therefore, if you said Shehakol on any food, even foods that have their own prescribed bracha, the bracha is still valid.29 Of course, you should not rely on this and substitute Shehakol for the appropriate bracha when it can be determined. In certain cases of doubt, however, you may say Shehakol even though you're not certain that it is the correct bracha, since Shehakol covers everything.30 However, when possible, it is best to avoid the doubt by eating the food within a bread meal, where the bracha Hamotzee on the bread covers the entire meal31 (as we'll discuss in class #13).

Further, there are certain instances when a food loses its specific bracha and the bracha for that food then becomes Shehakol. For example, if a fruit is blenderized to the point that it is no longer resembles the original fruit, it loses the bracha Ha'aitz 32 and instead becomes Shehakol. We will learn more about this in the next class.

As well, future classes will discuss the specific brachot Hamotzee (on bread), Mezonot (on grains), and Ha'gafen (on wine). Stay tuned!


  1. Orach Chaim 202:1
  2. Orach Chaim 203:2; Halachos of Brochos (Bodner), pg. 392
  3. Orach Chaim 203:1
  4. Orach Chaim 203:2. The halachic distinction between "fruit" and "vegetable" differs from the scientific one, where a fruit contains reproducing seeds and a vegetable does not. So in scientific terms, a tomato is a fruit.
  5. Orach Chaim 203:3, with Mishnah Berurah 4
  6. Mishnah Berurah 203:3. Later in this class we will discuss the dissenting opinion.
  7. Orach Chaim 203:2
  8. Orach Chaim 203:3; see also Shu”t Igros Moshe (OC 1:85)
  9. Halachos of Brochos, pg. 394 footnote ‘g’
  10. Kaf HaChaim 203:13
  11. Mishnah Berurah 206:4 and 202:84
  12. Rema – Orach Chaim 202:18 with Mishnah Berurah
  13. Orach Chaim 206:2
  14. Orach Chaim 206:1, with Mishnah Berurah 1; Mishnah Berurah 203:3, citing Chayei Adam 51:9
  15. Shu”t Igros Moshe (OC 4:40:1)
  16. Orach Chaim 206:1. As we will learn in lesson #23, you should say "Baruch sheim k’vod malchuto l'olam va'ed" to correct having said God's name in vain.
  17. Concerning the pronunciation of "nih-yeh", see Be'er Heitev 204:20
  18. Orach Chaim 204:1
  19. Orach Chaim 204:1
  20. Orach Chaim 202:15
  21. Orach Chaim 204:1
  22. Orach Chaim 204:7
  23. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 53:3
  24. Orach Chaim 202:1
  25. Orach Chaim 204:10
  26. Yechaveh Da’at 6:12; Rabbi S.Z. Auerbach, cited in Halachos of Brochos (Bodner), pg. 419
  27. Talmud – Brachot 40b
  28. Orach Chaim 204:1; Aruch HaShulchan 204:5. If the bracha Ha’adama was mistakenly said on mushrooms, post facto the bracha is valid (biur halacha 202:15).
  29. Orach Chaim 206:1
  30. Rema – Orach Chaim 202:18, with Mishnah Berurah 84; Orach Chaim 204:13
  31. Mishnah Berurah 204:60
  32. Orach Chaim 202:7