Do You Make a Bracha on Gum?

Rabbi Ari Enkin

There is a difference of opinion on whether a blessing must be recited before chewing gum. Actually, it seems to be somewhat obvious that a blessing should be recited, as it says in Shulchan Aruch, “One recites shehakol on sugar, and shehakol is also recited when sucking sweet sticks.”[1] It appears that gum fits nicely into both of these categories, as it is essentially sugar that is sucked (chewed) for its taste (the sugar). Most contemporary halachic authorities agree with this approach and rule that a blessing must be recited upon gum.[2]

Nevertheless, the sefer Birkat Hashem maintains that a blessing is not required on gum. This is because the gum’s taste is first absorbed into one’s saliva before it is swallowed. He argues that saliva, even if flavored, is not something upon which a blessing is ever recited. So too, Rav Chaim Tabasky cites a number of authorities who rule that a blessing is not recited upon gum, as it is not considered to be “hana’at achila,” the manner in which food is typically enjoyed. Among those who agree with this approach are Rav Dov Lior,[3] Rav Tuvia Goldstein, and Rav Seraya Deblitzky.[4] In fact, Rav Lior rules that one who recited a blessing on gum has recited a beracha l’vatala and must therefore say “baruch shem kevod malchuto l’olam va’ed” accordingly.[5] It is also reported that Rav Shimon Schwab did not recite a blessing before chewing gum. Rav Yisroel Belsky rules that hard gum requires a blessing while soft gum does not. The reason for the difference is that pieces of the shell of hard gum are inevitably swallowed when chewing it.

Most halachic authorities disagree with the ruling of the Birkat Hashem and rule that a blessing must be always be recited on gum. Nevertheless, there might be room to differentiate between regular gum and sugar-free gum. One reason for this is that sugar-free gum contains no ingredients that are ingested. For example, the package for the Elite Must gum, Israel’s most popular sugar-free gum, states that a piece of gum contains two calories. From the ingredients list, it appears that these two calories might only be from the aspartame and/or food coloring content. Considering the fact that aspartame and coloring agents can hardly be considered to be “foods,” especially when consumed on their own, they may be exempt from a blessing. Furthermore, these two calories are likely completely dissolved in one’s saliva. So too, the movement of the gum around the crevices of one’s mouth, especially between the teeth, likely renders this small amount of aspartame (or other caloric content) batel, completely nullified and insignificant, even if it actually does make its way into one’s stomach, at all. There may be further grounds to be lenient with sugar-free gum considering that there are opinions that a blessing is not recited when tasting – even if swallowing – minute amounts of food.[6] In sugar-filled gum, of course, there is a considerable amount of sugar that is ingested while chewing it, which warrants the recitation of a blessing.

Some time ago I discussed this issue with Rav Ephraim Greenblatt. He agreed with me that a case can be made to suggest that sugar-free gum should be exempt from a blessing. He suggested, however, that one wishing to chew sugar-free gum should first recite a shehakol blessing on a different food item with the intention that the blessing serve to cover the sugar-free gum, as well. In this way one avoids the dispute entirely.

It is also worth mentioning that gum must have a hechsher, and I have never seen a convincing argument to the contrary.[7] One must not chew gum on a fast day.[8]

Somewhat related to the gum issue is the discussion as to whether a blessing should be recited before smoking. The Magen Avraham writes that “further study” is required in order to determine whether “those who smoke tobacco through a pipe and inhale the smoke into their mouths and then exhale” should recite a blessing before doing so.[9] Almost all authorities, however, rule that a blessing is not recited before smoking.[10] One of the reasons for this is that a blessing may not be recited on something that is damaging to one’s health.[11] Indeed, almost all halachic authorities rule that it is forbidden to smoke, and one who does so is obligated to make an effort to quit.[12] Nevertheless, there is an opinion that one should recite a shehakol blessing on a food item before smoking tobacco with the intention that the blessing serve to cover the enjoyment that one will receive from the tobacco.[13]

 

Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of the Dalet Amot of Halacha series (7 volumes), Rabbinic Director of United with Israel and is a RA”M at Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah and Yeshivat Ashreinu. www.rabbienkin.com

[1] OC 202:15.

[2] Yabia Omer 7:33, 9:108; Igrot Moshe, OC 2:57; Or L’Tzion 2:14:8.

[3] Devar Chevron 2:194.

[4] Yaskil Avdi 8:20:54; Yitzchak Yeranen 37. See Rabbi Chaim Tabasky, “Gum,” Ask the Rabbi, Beit El Yeshiva Center’s Yeshiva.org, 2 Kislev 5767, http://www.yeshiva.co/ask/?srch=1&q=Gum.

[5] Devar Chevron 2:194.

[6] OC 210:2.

[7] See for example Rabbi Zushe Yosef Blech, “Kashrus Issues in Chewing Gum,” http://www.kashrut.com/articles/gumzo.

[8] Devar Chevron 2:573.

[9] Magen Avraham 210:9.

[10] Mishna Berura 210:17; Kaf Hachaim, OC 210:32.

[11] Mishne Halachot 9:161; Avnei Yashfei 1:42. See also Aruch Hashulchan, OC 216:4.

[12] Shevet Halevi 10:295; Tzitz Eliezer 15:39; Be’er Moshe 6:160; Rivevot Ephraim 3:487; Teshuvot V’hanhagot 3:354.

[13] Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 210:1.

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Day and Night, by Aryeh Sklar

Because this year is a leap year, daylight savings time began a week and a half before Purim, bringing with it consequent issues regarding “early Shabbos” and the appropriate time for Maariv. The question of defining halachic day and night thus becomes very important.

My grandfather, Rabbi Chaim Zev Bomzer z”l, passed away three years ago right before Rosh Chodesh Adar. As a talmid in Yeshiva in the ‘50s and ‘60s, he learned under Rabbi Moshe Aharon Poleyeff z”l and was quite close to him. I found a discussion of this issue in my grandfather’s writings and the explanations and elucidations he himself heard from Rabbi Poleyeff. I would like to present them here, paraphrased by me for publication in this venue:

We find that there are several areas in Halacha that are contradictory when it comes to what is defined as day and what is defined as night. For example, there are opposing positions quoted by the Rema in Hilchos Niddah (Yoreh Deah 196:1). He writes that some say that once the community davens Maariv, even if this is before nightfall, a woman must wait to check for hefsek tahara until the next night, because now it’s already considered nighttime. But he says that others hold that she can continue to check until the actual night, even if the community started Shabbos earlier. The minhag, he says, is to be machmir l’chatchila like the first opinion.

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Biblical Rabbis and Rabbinic Bibles, by Rabbi Ephraim Meth

“Rabbi Yishmael says: we seek Torah with thirteen middot.” (Torat Kohanim, introduction)

From whence do these middot derive? Are they halakhot leMoshe miSinai? Are they derabanan? If yes, what are the ramifications? Or are they something in between?

Ramban (Sefer haMitzvot, shoresh 2) insists that all the middot are halakhot leMoshe miSinai, as do Rashi and R. Shimshon of Kinon. However, the Ra’avad writes that at least two middot are not halakhot leMoshe miSinai. Instead, from the fact that the Torah sometimes employed the middah of kal vaChomer, we learn that we, too, are entitled to employ kal vaChomers. And from the fact that the Torah sometimes proffers two contradictory verses and then resolves them, we learn that we, too, may suggest resolutions to contradictory verses.

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Yichus: Its Value, Its Rigidity, and Its Fluidity, by Rabbi Ephraim Meth

Why is yichus important? Ramban (Bamidbar 26,13) writes that yichus is a way of giving respect to one’s ancestors. By identifying oneself with them, one demonstrates that he or she values them, and gives their memory a perpetuation in this world. Ramban also writes that yichus helps combat assimilation. If Jews are proud of their heritage and their ancestry, they will be less likely to lose their identity amidst the other nations. R. Moshe Shternbuch (Teshuvot veHanhagot 2,627) writes that yichus is something to be proud of because in one’s ancestors’ merit, one will often enjoy a more secure and a more comfortable life, a life more conducive to achieving lofty spiritual goals.

The Maharsha (Ta’anit 31a) writes that Hashem rests more of His presence, so to speak, on people with excellent lineage, and less on those whose ancestors were conceived or may have been conceived through sin. This is eminently comprehensible, because Hashem is close to everything holy and distant from all sin. Based on this, we can suggest that yichus is important since yichus means having a holy identity, an identity that stretches back sin-free for generations and generations.

Identity is a fluid property. In one generation, identity can be forged primarily by each individual, while in another, identity might be defined in terms of family or ancestry. Rav Kook (Letters 1,283) writes that in Moshe Rabbeinu’s times, people defined their identity in terms of who their ancestors were, and therefore, they were judged based on their ancestors’ actions. In Yechezkel haNavi’s times, people defined themselves primarily based on their own actions, and hence their ultimate fate depended on their personal conduct alone.

Along similar lines, the Mishnah (Eduyot 8,7) writes that identity in our current, unredeemed world differs from identity in the world to come. Nowadays, one cannot escape defining oneself, at least in part, by the circumstances of one’s conception or of one’s ancestors’ conception. In the Messianic age, however, Rambam (Commentary to the Mishnah, ibid.) writes that “everyone will identify themselves by truth and by Torah, since they are the ‘fathers’ of everything.” In other words, a person’s identity as a “ben/bat Torah” or a “bar/bat mitzvah” could be so strong that it will eclipse his identity as a “child of someone conceived in sin.” For this reason, Eliyahu haNavi will silently condone weddings of people known to him as mamzerim, provided that their mamzer status is not public knowledge.

This concept has a fascinating contemporary application. Many authorities used to discourage Jews from marrying people who were conceived while their mothers were niddot, since such people are considered “children conceived in sin.” Nowadays, however, for a variety of reasons, such unions are no longer uniformly discouraged. R. Moshe Shternbuch (ibid.) cites the Chazon Ish to explain this change: Torah and mitzvot are purifying fires. If a person identifies as a “ben/bat Torah” and a “bar/bat mitzvah,” this eclipses their identity as a “child of a niddah.”

Still, the Torah does not encourage people to deceitfully alter their identity, even if doing so would gain them greater acceptance or greater prestige. Halakhah has multiple safeguards against non-kohanim that falsely identify themselves as kohanim, and the courts used to keep records of who was a mamzer. Identity helps us determine our mission in life, and, while giving someone an alternate identity that fits them might be a great service, giving them one that does not fit is a great disservice. Moreover, crass alteration of others’ identities can be a betrayal of our own identity and what our identity represents. By striving to erase the consequences of sin we display a cavalier attitude towards sin, thereby diminishing the severity of sin within our constellation of values. May Hashem help each of us know his place, and erase the tears from every face.

On Conversion to Judaism, by Rabbi Dr. Chaim E. Schertz

Rabbi Schertz received his semicha from Yeshiva University in 1969.  He also received masters in Jewish Philosophy from YU’s Bernard Revel Graduate School.  He has a second masters in the History of Ideas from New York University, and a PhD from New York University in the History of Western Thought.  He taught Classics in Pennsylvania State University and Philosophy at Regis College in Denver, Colorado. Rabbi Schertz served as the Rabbi of Kesher Israel Congregation in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for over 25 years and is currently retired and living in Harrisburg.

INTRODUCTION

In the traditional reading of the Torah, the term “ger” is taken to mean a stranger; that is, a non-Jew who lives within the Jewish community. It is the Rabbinic tradition from antiquity to the present that defined ger as a convert.  It is thus implied by the Rabbis that the process of conversion, known as “gerut” was an acceptable process which was sanctioned by the Torah itself.

The Torah, however, never clearly discusses the nature of the process which enables a non-Jew to become a Jew. (It should be noted that the Torah similarly does not define the underlying criteria for the definition of Jew. It is the Rabbinic tradition that defines that issue. ) The Rabbis filled this void by establishing three principles which were required of the prospective convert. They were: 1. Acceptance of the commandments of the Torah; 2. Total immersion in a body of water called a mikvah; and 3. Circumcision, in the case of males.

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Kiddush in Shul: Friend or Foe? by Chaim Weber

The minhag of reciting Kiddush in shul on Friday night is subject to much dispute. There are many poskim who strongly support it, while others vehemently oppose it. In this article, I would like to present the arguments for both sides by going back to the original sources.

The Gemara (Pesachim 100b) presents a machlokes as to whether or not Kiddush needs to be made in the presence of a meal (bemakom se’uda). Rav is of the opinion that Kiddush does not need to be said in the presence of a meal, while Shmuel argues that Kiddush must be said bemakom se’uda. The Gemara continues to present stories about many Amoraim who all acted like Shmuel, which led most of the Rishonim to rule like Shmuel that Kiddush must be said bemakom se’uda, and that is also the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 273).

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Friendship, Favor, or Felony? Taking from a Friend Without Permission, by Rabbi Elchanan Poupko

While living among friends is something that has many benefits, it can present challenges too. One of the most common questions, if not the most common of all, that comes up in dorms and other close knit living arrangements is the question of using something that belongs to a friend without permission. We have all been in this situation: a bag of potato chips, an interesting book, or something as simple as a can opener, that belongs to a friend, who, however close he may be, happens to not be there at the time you need to use it. The burning questions becomes, to use or not to use? Should I assume that since my friend would definitely give me permission, I can use it; or, since I did not receive explicit permission, I can’t use it.

Needless to say, this is only a question if it is clear and obvious that the owner would grant permission to use the desired item. If there is any doubt about that, it would be surely prohibited to use the object, just as using anything against a person’s will is the equivalent of theft.

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