Fast Day - Accidental Bracha

QUESTION: If one made a bracha on food and then remembered that it is a fast day, what should he do?

ANSWER: This situation presents a dilemma. On the one hand, it is prohibited to eat even a small bite of food on a fast day. On the other hand, if one will not take a bite of the food after reciting the bracha, the bracha will be a bracha livatala (blessing recited in vain). No matter what the person does, a prohibition will be violated. The question is, which prohibition is more severe and should be avoided?

There is a disagreement between the Rambam (Hilchos Brachos 1:15) and Tosofos (Rosh Hashana 33a) regarding the severity of reciting a bracha livatala. According to the Rambam, reciting a bracha for no reason is a Torah prohibition, while according to Tosofos, it is a Rabbinic prohibition. Ashkenazim generally follow the position of Tosofos. Accordingly, for Ashkenzim, both a bracha livatala and eating on a ta’anis are Rabbinic prohibitions on the same level of stringency. What then should be done? When faced with two equally bad outcomes, one should follow the dictum, “shev ve’al ta’aseh adif” (it is best to be inactive and violate passively). In our case, the person should not eat, and transgress saying a bracha livatala in a passive manner. The individual should say “baruch shem kivod malchuso l’olam va’ed,” which is the formula recited if one said a bracha livatala.

Sefardim generally follow the rulings of the Rambam. As such, Rav Ovadya Yosef (Yabia Omer YD 2:5) rules that a Sefardi should take a small bite and violate the rabbinic injunction of fasting rather than reciting a bracha livatala, which is a Torah prohibition according to the Rambam. However, the Kaf HaChaim (567:15) and Zechor L’Avraham cite many Sefardic poskim who disagree. They argue that it is better to not eat and violate a bracha livatala without willful intent (even though it is a Torah prohibition), rather than actively violate eating on a fast day (a Rabbinic restriction) with deliberate intention.


The Gerald & Karin Feldhamer OU Kosher Halacha Yomis is dedicated to the memory of Rav Yisroel Belsky, zt"l, who served as halachic consultant for OU Kosher for more than 28 years; many of the responses in Halacha Yomis are based on the rulings of Rabbi Belsky. Subscribe to the Halacha Yomis daily email here.