- Question: [Wednesday, 19th Iyar 5783]
Every evening I wash my hands to eat bread for dinner and last night after I already washed my hands prior to entering the dining room, I was informed that there is no bread to eat. What do I do? Did I say a blessing in vain? Should I not speak until bread becomes available, such as by going to a neighbor and asking for bread or going to a store and buying bread? If I won’t be able to get bread until the next morning by breakfast, must I stay quiet and not speak until then?
You are not required to go to the store or neighbor on a search for bread in order to save your blessing. Furthermore, even if you choose to do so, or are able to get your hands on bread in the near future, seemingly you are not required to stay silent until you do so, although you should continue guarding your hands from touching filthy areas of the body and the like until bread arrives. If you don’t see any bread arriving in the near future and don’t plan to get bread from a store or neighbor, then you may continue your life as usual, and it is not even considered a blessing in vain there is no need for you to say Baruch Sheim Kevod Malchuso Leolam Vaed.
Explanation: On the onset, the above seems like a classic case of a mistaken blessing which is considered to have been said in vain and requires one to say Baruch Sheim Kevod Malchuso Leolam Vaed. So in fact is ruled regarding a similar case in which one said a blessing over food and then realized that it was the wrong food, or that the food has become destroyed in the interim. However, in truth the two cases are not the same, as in the case of a blessing over food, it is indeed a blessing in vain being that no action was done after the blessing. However, when one washes for the sake of being able to eat bread, the washing itself is the mitzvah, and it is over the washing that the blessing is said and not over the bread, and indeed at the time of the washing it was considered that he fulfilled the mitzvah, being that it was done with intent to eat bread. Accordingly, it is not considered a blessing in vain if one then discovers that there is no bread available, and there is no need for one to make himself crazy to find bread in order so he save the blessing from being a blessing in vain. Certainly, he is not required to stay quiet until he gets his hand on bread. So is explicitly ruled in the Ritva, and recorded in many Achronim, to an even greater degree, that one is even initially allowed to change his mind after washing with a blessing and decide to no longer eat bread, even if the bread is right in front of him, and it is not considered a blessing in vain due to the argument we explained above. Now, although there are Poskim who argue on this and rule that one is to push himself to eat the bread, that’s the case when the bread is readily available as opposed to our scenario. [Vetzaruch Iyun based on this as to why the Rebbe in his initial ruling, which was testified to have been later retracted, stated that one accidentally set a blessing by Urchatz should immediately eat matzoh, if in truth it was never considered a blessing in vain.]
Sources: See regarding one who washed with a blessing that he may still decide to no longer eat bread: Ritva Chulin 106a; Machazik Bracha Kuntrus Achron 1; Shaareiy Teshuvah 158:1; Sdei Chemed Mareches Brachos 29; Kaf Hachaim 158:6; Amudei Eish 2; Har Tzevi O.C. 99; Chazon Ish 25:8; Ketzos Hashulchan 36 footnote 7; Piskeiy Teshuvos 158:6 footnote 23; Poskim who argue on this and rule he should push himself to eat bread: Sdei Chemed Mareches Brachos 29; Kaf Hachaim 158:6; See regarding one who recited a blessing over a food and the food then got destroyed: Seder Birchas Hanehnin 9:8; Tosafus Brachos 39a
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