1) HALACHAH: "BRING THE SALT"
QUESTION: Rebbi Yochanan rules that one may interrupt between reciting the blessing for bread and eating the bread in order to say, "Bring the salt," since salt is necessary for the consumption of the bread because it adds taste to the bread. The Gemara relates that Rava bar Shmuel did not wait for salt before he ate his bread. He explained that since his bread was already tasty, it did not need salt. TOSFOS (DH Havei Melach) writes that our breads, too, are already tasty and do not need salt. Does this mean that we may not interrupt between reciting the blessing for bread and eating the bread in order to say, "Bring the salt"?
ANSWER: The MISHNAH BERURAH (OC 167:38) says in the name of the Acharonim that even though our breads are tasty and do not need salt, if one desires to eat his bread with salt (or another spice) it is considered necessary for the bread and he may interrupt to say, "Bring the salt."
HALACHAH: Various reasons are given for the use of salt with bread.
(a) Tosfos says that Rebbi Menachem was careful to have salt upon his table at all times, because the Midrash states that when Jews sit silently at the table waiting for the others to finish washing their hands, they are idle from Mitzvos and the Satan has a chance to incriminate them. It is the "covenant of the salt" which protects them (see Vayikra 2:13).
(b) The BEIS YOSEF adds in the name of the SHIBOLEI HA'LEKET that since our tables are likened to the altar in the Beis ha'Mikdash and our meals are compared to the sacrifices that were offered on the altar, we should have salt upon our tables just as every sacrifice was offered with salt.
According to this, it would seem that there is no need to dip our bread into salt before eating it; it suffices to have the salt on the table.
(c) However, the Mishnah Berurah (167:33) mentions that there is a basis in Kabalah to dip one's slice of bread into salt three times.
2) RECITING "SHEHA'KOL" ON BREAD AND WINE
QUESTION: Rav Huna and Rebbi Yochanan argue whether "sheha'Kol" is a valid blessing b'Di'eved for bread and wine. Rav Huna maintains that although it is a valid blessing for all other foods, it is not valid for bread and wine. The Gemara says that Rav Huna has support for his opinion from the Tana, Rebbi Yosi, who says that if one sees bread and says, "How nice is this bread! Blessed is the Omnipresent Who created it," or he sees a fig and says, "How nice is this fig! Blessed is the Omnipresent Who created it," he has not said a valid blessing, since he altered the text of the blessing that the Chachamim instituted. (Rebbi Meir argues with Rebbi Yosi and says that such an expression does serve as a valid blessing.) Rebbi Yosi's statement supports Rav Huna's opinion that if one recites a different blessing than the one that the Chachamim instituted (i.e. he says "sheha'Kol" instead of "ha'Motzi" or "Borei Pri ha'Gafen"), the blessing is not valid.
How can the Gemara bring a support for Rav Huna from the opinion of Rebbi Yosi? Rebbi Yosi prohibits changing the blessing on any food, while Rav Huna prohibits changing the blessing only for bread and wine! Rav Huna agrees that if one recites "sheha'Kol" on any other food, the blessing is valid!
(a) TOSFOS (DH Neima) explains that the Gemara concludes that Rebbi Yochanan, who rules that "sheha'Kol" is a valid blessing even for bread, may agree with the opinion of Rebbi Yosi. Rebbi Yosi says only that a text that was never established as the text of a blessing is not a valid blessing. If, however, one says "sheha'Kol," a text that was established by the Chachamim, then even though it is not the appropriate blessing for the item, the blessing is valid.
Similarly, in the Gemara's question it was understood that according to Rav Huna, saying "sheha'Kol" is better than saying a text that was never established as a blessing. The Gemara knew that Rebbi Yosi would agree that saying "sheha'Kol" on fruits and the like would be valid. However, the Gemara thought that at least on bread "sheha'Kol" would not be valid, like a made-up blessing.
(The RASHASH explains Tosfos as follows. Changing from a general blessing (e.g. "Borei Pri ha'Etz") to a more general blessing ("sheha'Kol") is not considered a total change, and thus the "sheha'Kol" is valid. Changing from a specific blessing ("ha'Motzi" or "Borei Pri ha'Gafen") to a general blessing ("sheha'Kol") is considered a fundamental change. That is why Rebbi Yosi equates it with altering the blessing that the Chachamim instituted. Hence, Rebbi Yosi's opinion is indeed valid support for Rav Huna.)
(b) The TOSFOS HA'ROSH proposes a variant Girsa for the Tosefta in which Rebbi Yosi's words appear. He omits the words, "If one saw a fig and said, 'How nice is this fig!'..." Rebbi Yosi is discussing only bread. Rebbi Yosi agrees that "sheha'Kol" is valid for a fig; only for bread it is invalid. Accordingly, Rebbi Yosi's opinion is clear support for Rav Huna.
3) ANOTHER BLESSING "MID'ORAISA"
QUESTION: The Gemara cites support from a Beraisa for Rav's ruling that a blessing must contain the name of Hash-m in order to be valid. The Beraisa teaches that the verse, "I did not transgress your Mitzvos and I did not forget" (Devarim 26:13), means that "I did not transgress" from blessing you, "and I did not forget" to mention Your name [in the blessing]. This verse is part of the formula that one recites as Viduy Ma'aser. One is saying, "I did not forget to recite a blessing on separating Ma'aser" (Rashi, DH mil'Varechicha).
We know that all blessings other than Birkas ha'Mazon and Birkas ha'Torah are mid'Rabanan. Is the Gemara suggesting that the blessing for separating Terumos and Ma'aseros is mid'Oraisa?
(a) The TOSFOS YOM TOV in Ma'aser Sheni (5:11) says that this Derashah is only an "Asmachta" and it is not the simple meaning of the verse. The blessing for separating Terumos and Ma'aseros is only mid'Rabanan.
(b) The MAHARAL in GUR ARYEH (Devarim 26:13) and the MIZRACHI explain that the Beraisa does not mean that the Torah is commanding us to recite a blessing upon separating Ma'aseros, but rather that one must thank Hash-m, generally, for giving him the produce.
The MAHARSHA questions this explanation. It is clear from the Gemara that the Beraisa understands that the verse is discussing an actual blessing, and not just a general praise of Hash-m. The Gemara says that one must say the name of Hash-m and mention His kingship in a blessing, and it brings this verse as proof! It must be that the verse is discussing an actual blessing!
1. The Maharsha answers that the Gemara is saying that one must say the name of Hash-m and mention His kingship in one's general praises of Hash-m when he thanks Hash-m for his produce.
2. The TZELACH explains that the Beraisa cited by the Gemara is discussing an actual blessing and is an Asmachta, while the Mishnah in Ma'aser Sheni and Rashi in the Torah refer to a general praise of Hash-m (as the Maharal and Mizrachi explain).
(c) The RITVA explains that the blessing that the Beraisa is discussing is not the blessing that one recites before separating Ma'aser, as Rashi explains. Rather, it is referring to Birkas ha'Mazon, which one recites after eating bread from which he has separated Ma'aser.
(d) The MALBIM (Vayikra 19:23) explains that the verse is discussing the blessing one recites before he eats Ma'aser Sheni in Yerushalayim. This blessing indeed may be mid'Oraisa. The Gemara earlier (35b) attempts to derive the obligation to recite blessings before and after eating from the verse of "Kodesh Hilulim," which refers to Neta Revai and Ma'aser Sheni. The Malbim says that perhaps the blessings for eating Neta Revai and Ma'aser Sheni indeed are mid'Oraisa. Even though the Gemara concludes that we cannot derive the obligation to recite blessings for other foods from the verse of "Kodesh Hilulim," perhaps that verse remains as a source for the blessing for Neta Revai and Ma'aser Sheni. The Beraisa says that one must mention Hash-m's name in the blessing before eating Ma'aser Sheni, because that blessing is indeed mid'Oraisa!
4) HALACHAH: THE FOOD THAT ONE PREFERS
OPINIONS: The Rabanan in the Mishnah say that when one has two foods before him (which have the same blessing), he recites the blessing on the one that he likes most. In Halachah, this food is referred to as the "Chaviv," or most-liked food. What guidelines determine the "most-liked" food?
(a) The ROSH explains (6:25) that "Chaviv" refers to the food that one usually prefers. Even though, at this moment, he prefers the other food, the food that one normally prefers is considered "Chaviv" and he should recite the blessing on that food.
(b) The RAMBAM (Hilchos Berachos 8:13) explains that "Chaviv" refers to the food that one prefers to eat now, even though at other times he may prefer to eat the other food. This seems to be the opinion of many other Rishonim as well.
HALACHAH: The SHULCHAN ARUCH (OC 111:1) rules that "Chaviv" is the food that one usually prefers (like the Rosh).
The MISHNAH BERURAH points out that in situations where there is an argument regarding which blessing to recite first, one may take into account the opinion that "Chaviv" is the food that one prefers right now in order to resolve the question (see Mishnah Berurah 111:11, and Bi'ur Halachah, end of DH v'Yesh Omrim).