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Which blessing do I recite before eating rice?

by Rabbi Herschel Finman

  

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There is confusion concerning the blessing over rice. There are five species of grain – wheat, barley, oats, rye and spelt – whose blessing is borei minei mezonot (or Hamotzie, if eaten in bread form). In addition, the Talmud mentions two other grains, dochen and orez, which are commonly translated as millet and rice (“arroz” is Spanish means rice).

Dochen is Halachically considered a legume, and therefore requires a shehakol beforehand, and a boray nefashot as its after-blessing.

Orez is a Halachic quirk: when it is cooked to the extent that it becomes one mass, or if it is ground and baked as bread, it requires a mezonot blessing beforehand and a boray nefashot afterwards. If it was cooked, however, but neither of these conditions were met, then there is a disagreement between halachic authorities whether the pre-blessing recited is mezonot or ha’adamah. The problem is that we are not certain whether dochen is rice and millet is orez or vice versa.

The general rule is that one recites a shehakol “ a generic blessing “ on any food item for which the blessing is intrinsically doubtful. Thus a person would be within his rights to recite a shehakol on rice
This creates a host of problems. Specifically, if one eats rice as it is commonly served, i.e. cooked but with the grains remaining whole without having melded together, there is a possibility that this dish is dochen – in which case the proper blessing is shehakol. And if indeed it is orez, then there is a halachic disagreement whether the blessing is ha’adamah or mezonot!

Because of this uncertainty, there are different opinions regarding which blessing one makes on rice. We will bring the authoritative opinion of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi.1

The general rule is that one recites a shehakol – a generic blessing – on any food item for which the blessing is intrinsically doubtful. Thus a person would be within his rights to recite a shehakol on rice. The after blessing is not in doubt, as all options call for the boray nefashot.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman suggests, however, that a G-d fearing individual should eat rice only as part of a meal in which one has said the hamotzie on bread,2   thus avoiding any confusion or making the incorrect blessing.3
 

Footnotes

  • 1. Seder Bircas Hanehenin 1:11.
  • 2. See “Does the Hamotzie blessing cover me for the entire meal?” . (http://www.askmoses.com/en/article/230,2068659/Which-blessing-do-I-recite-before-eating-rice.html)
  • 3. Some people who wish to avoid saying the hamotzie –presumably because they don’t wish to recite the rather lengthy Grace after Meals which follows a bread based meal – take the lenient way out and recite the mezonot on something which is definitely mezonot, hadamah on a vegetable, and a shehakol on something requiring that blessing. They then eat rice—and are covered no matter what its blessing may be. Following this manner, one would be required to eat at least the minimal amount of grain, about an ounce, in order to say the al hamichya after-blessing.

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Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Halachic
Pertaining to Jewish Law.
Halachically
According to Jewish law.
Hamotzie
The blessing recited over bread, Challah, or Matzah.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.