Q & A - WITH RABBI RISKIN
I know that the blessing over bread – Hamotzi – frees you of making blessings during the meal. Does that apply to dessert as well? I've seen many people make separate blessings over their dessert.
There are three reasons why Hamotzi frees you from other blessings during the meal. The first is offered by Rashi, who maintains that bread is the main component in every meal; hence every food, other than bread, is considered ancillary to the bread (the bread is "ikkar" and the other foods are "tafel") Apparently, until very modern times, in the more advanced countries, the majority of the meal was bread and all other foodstuffs were secondary and tertiary to the bread.
The second reason is given by the Ba'alei Tosafot, who maintain that bread is eaten together with every course in order to "sop up" the gravy or the soup.
The third reason is given by the Ra'avad who maintains that bread is the symbol of a formal meal.
According to the first two reasons, since a cake or fruit dessert is generally not accompanied by bread, they would require separate blessings. According to the
Ra'avad, however, bread would free any foodstuff which is on the menu of that particular meal – including dessert.
My own preference is to go along with the Ra'avad and therefore not to require separate blessings for desserts. Indeed the
Zohar HaKadosh explains why bread symbolizes a formal meal: since the manufacture of bread requires eleven different procedures from the seed of grain to the final product of a pumpernickel loaf, bread truly symbolizes the partnership between God and human beings in the acquisition of our daily necessities. This is probably why we place both of our hands over the
challot before making the public Motzi on Friday evening and Shabbat day. After all, we must also thank God for bestowing human beings with the intelligence and strength to manufacture bread.