Delivered by Rav Yisrael Bitan Shelit"a
A verse in Sefer Debarim (10:12) teaches, "Ve’ata Yisrael Ma Hashem Elokecha Sho’el Me’imach Ki Im Le’yir’a Et Hashem Elokecha" – "And now, Israel, what does Hashem your G-d ask of you, other than to fear Hashem your G-d…" The Sages interpreted the word "Ma" ("what") in this verse as referring to "Me’a" – 100 – such that this verse alludes to a requirement to recite 100 blessings each day.
It must be emphasized that this is not simply a measure of piety, or a recommendation, but rather an actual Halachic obligation, explicitly mentioned by the Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 46:3). Hacham Ovadia Yosef would sometimes be heard saying a number after reciting a Beracha, especially on Shabbat, as he actually counted the Berachot he recited each day to ensure he recited 100 Berachot. This practice – to count one’s Berachot – is mentioned already in some writings of the Rishonim (Medieval Halachists).
Tradition teaches us that reciting 100 Berachot each day protects a person from harm. Indeed, this practice was instituted by King David as a means of bringing protection to the Jewish Nation when a deadly plague struck. (According to the Sefer Ha’manhig, this requirement was instituted already by Moshe Rabbenu, as indicated by the verse in Sefer Debarim, but it was forgotten and later reinstituted by King David to earn G-d’s protection.) We must therefore ensure to observe this important and valuable Halacha, so we are worthy of being protected at all times.
On weekdays, this Halacha is relatively easy to observe. Each of the three Amida prayers that we recite consists of 19 Berachot, for a total of 57. (The Ben Ish Hai found an allusion to this number in the verse, "Mi’mizrach Shemesh Ad Mebo’o Mehulal Shem Hashem" – "From where the sun rises to where it sets, G-d’s Name is praised." The difference between the numerical value of "Mizrah" ("east") and "Ma’arab" ("west") is 57 – and thus the verse alludes to the fact that G-d’s Name is praised 57 times in the three daily Amida prayers.) We also recite 21 morning blessings, and three blessings in the section of the morning Shema and four with the evening Shema, for a total of 85. If a person eats a meal and, for example, recites two Berachot before the meal and then Birkat Ha’mazon afterward, this is another six blessings, and then he recites "Asher Yasar" several times a day. He also recites Berachot over Tallit and Tefillin. And so even though a person who tries to avoid eating bread to exempt himself from Birkat Ha’mazon might have a bit more difficulty reaching 100 Berachot, nevertheless, on a typical weekday, reaching 100 blessings does not pose much of a challenge.
The challenge arises on Shabbat, when the Amida prayer consists of only seven Berachot. And while we add the Musaf prayer, even so, the Amida prayers on Shabbat bring us only 28 blessings, as opposed to 57 on a weekday.
This problem is exacerbated according to the view of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Jerusalem, 1910-1995), that the Berachot of Birkat Ha’mazon recited during an extension period before or after Shabbat cannot count towards the required 100 blessings. According to Rav Auerbach, if one recites Birkat Ha’mazon for Se’uda Shelishit after sundown, the Berachot of Birkat Ha’mazon do not count towards the 100 blessings. And, if one accepts Shabbat early on Friday afternoon, before sundown, all the Berachot recited before sundown do not count towards the 100 blessings. Even though these are periods of "Tosefet Shabbat" – time added onto Shabbat – and are thus endowed with the sanctity of Shabbat, nevertheless, in the view of Rav Auerbach, there periods are not considered part of the day with respect to the requirement to recite 100 blessings.
Hacham Ovadia Yosef, in several places, disagreed. He maintained that even according to the opinion that the periods of "Tosefet Shabbat" are endowed with the sanctity of Shabbat only "Mi’de’rabbanan" (by the edict of the Rabbis), the Berachot recited during these periods count towards the required total of 100 Berachot on Shabbat. Since the requirement to recite 100 Berachot is itself an enactment of the Sages, the extension to Shabbat added by force of the Rabbis’ decree is included as part of Shabbat with regard to the requirement to recite 100 Berachot.
In any event, how can one ensure to recite 100 Berachot on Shabbat?
One solution is to eat fruits and snacks over the course of Shabbat outside the framework of the Shabbat meals, thereby adding more Berachot. Indeed, Moroccan Jewish communities have the custom to eat a variety of nuts and vegetables before the Shabbat meal in order to add Berachot. The Poskim debate the question of whether this is legitimate, as the Magen Abraham (Rav Abraham Gombiner, 1633-1683) maintained that this violates the prohibition of "Beracha She’ena Sericha" – reciting unnecessary Berachot. It is forbidden to unnecessarily put oneself in a situation where he would need to recite extra Berachot, and thus, according to some, it is improper to specifically add snacks before beginning a Shabbat meal for the specific purpose of adding Berachot. Others, however, including the Shela (Rav Yeshaya Ha’levi Horowitz, d. 1630) and the Elya Rabba (Rav Eliyahu Shapiro of Prague, 1660-1712), disagreed, and maintained that if this is done in order to fulfill the obligation of reciting 100 Berachot, it is permitted. Hacham Ovadia Yosef, in a responsum in his Yehaveh Da’at, writes that one may rely on this lenient position.
Moreover, Rav Bension Lichtman (Lebanon-Israel, 1892-1964), in his work Beneh Sion, advanced a compelling argument for why adding Berachot before beginning one’s meal does not constitute "Beracha She’ena Sericha." If one recited Birkat Ha’mazon in the middle of his meal in order to recite additional Berachot on other foods he wishes to eat, then he has, indeed, actively facilitated unnecessary Berachot. However, when one delays the beginning of the meal, he does not actively create the need to recite more Berachot. If he has nuts and vegetables in front of him which he wishes to eat, then he legitimately has an obligation to recite Berachot over these foods. The fact that he chooses not to first begin his meal does not actively make these Berachot unnecessary. It is only when one does not have to recite Berachot over foods, but he specifically recites Birkat Ha’mazon to create a situation where he must recite Berachot, that he violates the prohibition of "Beracha She’ena Sericha."
Thus, it is certainly acceptable to eat foods before beginning one’s Shabbat meal in order to add more Berachot.
Another strategy, mentioned by the Shulhan Aruch, is to have in mind while hearing the Berachot recited by those called to the Torah on Shabbat that listening to these Berachot should be counted towards one’s recitation of 100 Berachot. This way, numerous Berachot are added. Preferably, one who wishes to rely on these Berachot should ensure that those called to the Torah have in mind for their Berachot to serve this purpose, and he must ensure not to respond with "Baruch Hu U’baruch Shemo" during the recitation of these Berachot.
May the merit of the observance of this precious Misva protect us and all Am Yisrael, Amen.
Summary: Halacha requires reciting 100 Berachot each day. On a weekday, this is generally fulfilled through the recitation of the various standard prayers and blessings, but on Shabbat, this could be a challenge. Therefore, some have the practice of eating foods outside the framework of the Shabbat meals, in order to add more Berachot, and this is a worthwhile practice to follow. Some have the practice of concentrating on the Berachot recited by those called to the Torah on Shabbat so that these Berachot should count towards the required 100 blessings.