The Appropriate Berachah for Papaya and Raspberries – Part One by Rabbi Chaim Jachter


A popular Berachot guide lists the Berachah for papaya as Borei Pri HaEitz.  However, virtually all the major authorities who have written on this subject have ruled that the proper Berachah for papaya is Borei Pri HaAdamah.  These authorities include Teshuvot Rav Pe’alim (2:30), Kaf HaChaim (O.C. 203:13), Rav Ovadia Yosef (Teshuvot Yechave Daat 4:52), Rav Mordechai Eliyahu (Techumin 7:88-93), Dayan Krausse (Mekor HaBerachah p. 30), Rav Moshe Shternbuch (Teshuvot VeHanhagot 3:333; however, he forbids eating papayas that are grown in Israel as we shall explain next week), Rav Hershel Schachter (personal communication), and Rav Binyamin Forst (Pitchei Halacha p.  375).  In the following two essays, we shall suggest why these authorities’ rulings should be followed.  We will use the responsum from Teshuvot Rav Pe’alim for direction regarding this issue.   

In addition, we will discuss the correct Berachah for raspberries.  Four of the most important Halachic authorities rule that HaEitz is the correct Berachah (Chayei Adam 51:9, Mishnah Berurah 203:1, Aruch Hashulchan 203:5, Teshuvot Maharsham 1:196).  Moreover, the Aruch Hashulchan and the Maharsham record that the accepted practice is indeed to recite HaEitz on raspberries.  This practice seems to persist to this day.  However, Rav Pinchas Bodner (VeTein Berachah 2:395) and Rav Binyamin Forst (in the second edition of his Pitchei Halacha) write that it is best to recite HaAdamah on raspberries.  We will also seek to defend what appears to be the common practice to recite HaEitz on raspberries.  

Description of the Growth of the Papaya Tree

The papaya is a hollow tree, which can grow to the height of twenty feet.  If one plants a papaya seed, fruit will be produced within one year.  After the third year of growth, the papaya trees’ fruits decrease in quality and the tree is no longer economically worthwhile to maintain.  The Encyclopedia Britannica (17:277) notes, “Under favorable conditions, the life of a [papaya] plant may be five years or more.”  The papaya tree consists of a stem without branches and has antennae-like leaves, which, along with its fruit, emerge from the stem.  After the fruit is removed from the stem, fruit will no longer grow from that section of the tree.  The stem will grow considerably higher and produce fruit from the newly grown area in the second year.  The same occurs in the third year.  

 First Thought of the Teshuvot Rav Pe’alim

Teshuvot Rav Pe’alim (2:30) seems to have been the first major Halachic authority to address the question of which Berachah to recite on papaya.  At first, he thought that the proper Berachah for papaya should be HaEitz.  This followed from a Talmudic passage on Berachot 40a and its commentaries.  The Gemara there states, “When do we recite Borei Pri HaEitz?  In a case when if one removes fruit, the Gavza (the tree branch [Rashi ad.  loc.]) remains and subsequently produces fruit.  However, in a case when the fruit is removed and there no longer remains a branch which produces fruit, we do not recite Borei Pri HaEitz; instead Borei Pri HaAdamah is recited.” 

The Rosh (Berachot 6:23) explains that the Gemara teaches, “Anything which produces fruit yearly is defined as a tree, and anything that requires yearly replanting is considered a fruit of the land (upon which HaAdamah is recited).”  The Rosh’s definition follows Tosafot, (Berachot 40a s.v.  Itai) who rule that one should recite Borei Pri HaEitz on strawberries since they are not replanted every year.   

The Rosh, however, adds an additional criterion based on the Tosefta that appears in the third chapter of Kilayim.  The Tosefta explains that “whatever produces leaves [which bear fruit] from its roots requires a Borei Pri HaAdamah, and whatever produces leaves from its branches which bear fruit is considered a tree and requires a Borei Pri HaEitz.” 

We see that the Rosh believes that the Gemara’s distinction between perennials and annuals is not the sole criterion in determining whether HaEitz or HaAdamah is recited.  Other Rishonim, however, disagree with this assumption of the Rosh and follow Tosafot, not taking the Tosefta into account.  For example, the Mordechai (Berachot 131) cites the Maharam of Rothenberg who believes that one should recite HaEitz on strawberries since they are perennials.  Nevertheless, the Mordechai cites Rishonim who agree with the Rosh.  These authorities believe that HaAdamah is the appropriate Berachah for strawberries, since its leaves emerge from the roots of the plant rather than from branches.  

The Tur (Orach Chaim 203) cites both opinions regarding the correct Berachah for strawberries.  The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 203:2 and 3) rules in accordance with the Rosh.  The Rama explains, “Since the tree collapses in the winter and only subsequently reemerges from its roots, the proper Berachah is Borei Pri HaAdamah.”  The same Halacha applies to bananas and pineapples, and thus their Berachah is Borei Pri HaAdamah.  The Kaf HaChaim (O.C. 203:7) rules that if one mistakenly recited Borei Pri HaEitz on strawberries, he may continue eating, as he may rely Bedieved (post facto) on Tosafot and the Maharam of Rothenberg.  The Mishnah Berurah (203:3), though, rules that if one makes such a mistake he should eat only a tiny bit of the strawberry so that the Berachah should not have been recited in vain.  However, he may not rely on Tosafot to eat the remainder of the strawberry, and must recite the appropriate Berachah before proceeding.   

Interestingly, Rav Pinchas Teitz (the Rav of the Orthodox community of Elizabeth, New Jersey from 1935-1995) followed the practice of his father-in-law, Rav Elazar Meyer Preil (whom Rav Teitz succeeded as the Rav of Elizabeth), to use banana at the Pesach Seder for Karpas in order to demonstrate that the Berachah on bananas is Borei Pri HaAdamah.  I conjecture that Rav Preil introduced this practice in the early twentieth century because bananas were new to the immigrants who had recently arrived in America and they apparently mistakenly thought of it as a fruit upon which one recites a Borei Pri HaEitz.  I have been informed that the Teitz family continues to observe this practice.  

Based on the two criteria outlined by the Rosh (codified by the Shulchan Aruch), the Berachah on papaya should be HaEitz.  The papaya does not have to be replanted each year and its stem remains intact throughout the winter.  Thus, the Rav Pe’alim writes that at first glance it would appear that HaEitz should be recited on papaya.  The Rav Pe’alim also notes that the fact that the papaya fruit grows from a newly grown section of the tree in each year of its life is irrelevant.   He understands the aforementioned Gemara’s requirement that “the branch remains and later produces fruit” as meaning that if the tree remains through the winter and continues to produce fruit, the correct Berachah is HaEitz.  He explains that the Gemara does not seem to require that the same branch produce fruit the next season in order for the Berachah to be HaEitz.  We should note that this argument appears quite compelling, as I have been informed that fruit does not generally grow in the subsequent season on the precise spot where it grew the year before.  This point will be of critical importance in our later discussion of the Berachah on raspberries.  

Conclusion of the Teshuvot Rav Pe’alim – The Eggplant Precedent

The Rav Pe’alim, however, concludes that HaAdamah is the correct Berachah for papaya.  His conclusion is, for the most part, based on the common practice to recite HaAdamah on eggplant.  He presents several sources indicating that there is an old tradition to recite HaAdamah on eggplant.  

The first source is the Teshuvot Radvaz (1:296 and 3:531), who discuses the permissibility of eating eggplant.  He explains that eggplant grows within a year of its planting and continues to produce fruit only for the next two years.  (I have been informed that this is true for eggplants grown in tropical climates such as Israel and Egypt; eggplants that grow in non-tropical climates such as the New York area produce only one season of fruit.)  Thus, all eggplants are from the first three years of growth.  It would therefore seem that it should be forbidden to be consume or otherwise benefit from eggplants, since they appear to be considered Orlah.  (Generally speaking, the Halachot of Orlah apply only to fruit upon which one recites Borei Pri HaEitz; see Berachot 36a and Rav Mordechai Eliyahu’s aforementioned responsum.)  Indeed, an important authority, the Kaftor VaFerach (chapter 56), rules that it is forbidden to eat eggplant for this reason.   

Nevertheless, the Radvaz notes that the practice among Jews living in the land of Israel is to eat eggplant.  Those who ate eggplant include very prominent figures such as Rav Yosef Karo, The Ari Z”L, Rav Chaim Vital, and Rav Moshe Alshich (see Birkei Yosef, Yoreh Deah 294).  The Radvaz defends this practice by asserting that any plant that produces fruit within a year of planting is considered a vegetable and not a fruit.  Only vegetables grow within a year of planting, and eggplant must therefore be a vegetable and not subject to the restrictions of Orlah.  Accordingly, the Berachah on eggplant is Borei Pri HaAdamah.  Similarly, the Rav Pe’alim reasons that the Halacha regarding papayas should be the same as that regarding eggplants, since papaya trees also bear fruit within a year of its planting.  

 Next week, we shall (IY”H and B”N) conclude our discussion of the appropriate Berachah for papayas and raspberries.

The Appropriate Berachah for Papaya and Raspberries – Part Two by Rabbi Chaim Jachter

Amirah LeNochri - Part III by Rabbi Chaim Jachter