To Whom May One Give Food?

The Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 169:2) rules that one may not givefood to one who does not know how to bless over food. This is based on a teaching in the Gemara (Berachot 35a) that eating food without first reciting a blessing is akin to stealing fromHashem.  Therefore, since eating without a blessing is comparable to stealing, by giving food to someone who would not know how to make a blessingone would be complicit in stealing.

Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Aurerbach (Minhat Shlomo, vol. I, §35) discusses a situation in which one invites such a person to one’s house; on one hand, one may violate the Shulhan Aruch’s ruling by giving the invitee food. On the other, if one withholds foodfrom one’s guest, the guest may come to harbor feelings of hatred for the host. By not offering food, the host is trying to prevent the guest from committing a sin, but is simultaneously causing the guest to transgress the prohibition of hating another Jew. Preferably, the host should offer to recite the blessingtogether with the invitee or to at least have the invitee answer “Amen” to a blessing. If this is not possible, then Rabbi Auerbach writes that one may be lenient and offer food to one’s guest.

Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (Kovetz Tshuvot, vol.I, §8) discusses a slightly different scenario involving an employee who brings food or makes coffee for his or her boss. By not doing so one may jeopardize one’s own job and livelihood. Furthermore, enjoining one’s boss to recite a blessing or to answer “Amen” may not always be possible or appropriate in a workplace environment. Since when all is said and done, it is the boss who is violating the Halacha not the employee, and since one’s livelihood is at stake, Rabbi Elyashiv writes that one may be lenient and continue to bring food to one’s boss.

SummaryOne may not give food to someone who will not makeblessing over food. In certain extenuating circumstanceshoweverone may be lenient.