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Do You Have the Right to Have Dessert?

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Parents frequently use dessert in the negotiations to get their children to eat or behave at the table. But the question remains, is dessert a natural part of the meal?

While the Talmudic sage Abaya said “There is always room for sweet things” (Megillah 7b), most people don’t include dessert as an everyday part of their meal. Dessert is often a special treat or is reserved for special occasions (such as Shabbat/festival meals or a restaurant). Because dessert is not part of most people’s everyday menu, it falls into a special category of the laws of brachot, blessings.

In Jewish tradition, a full meal is defined by bread. For instance, before a Shabbat or Festival meal, one ritually washes one’s hands and recites the blessing over the bread (ha’motzee). With the exception of the blessings on wine and fruit,* no other blessings need be recited over the food eaten during that meal because other foods are considered to be food normally eaten with bread. It is therefore all covered with the blessing of ha’motzee

Except, according to some opinions, dessert. Dessert is usually a food one would not eat with bread (chocolate pudding on bread….) nor is it generally eaten to satisfy one’s hunger. Because it is not always part of the meal, a new blessing may be required, depending on the food. If, however, dessert is eaten in order to satiate one’s hunger (perhaps there was not enough food or the menu was not to one’s liking) and, then it can be considered as part of the meal.

Jewish Treats presents this to you as another tasty morsel of the intricacies of Jewish law. However, because there are many differing opinions as to how to determine whether a blessing needs to be recited or on which foods, questions on this topic should be addressed to your local rabbi.

*Since plain fruit is not normally served as part of the meal, a special blessing is required, by most authorities.

Copyright © 2010 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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