Brachos 44-57

BRACHOS 44: A BRIEF INTERRUPTION

TheGemara on this daf discusses the halachos of Al Hamichyah.

Simchos are times when one has a chance to show how much he cares for others and to wish his friends well. Of course, a guest will take the first opportunity to wish his host mazel tov. One baal simcha was in the middle of Al Hamichyah when a guest entered the hall and strolled over to congratulate him. The host completed his Al Hamichyahal ha’aretz ve’al hamichyah – and immediately added two words of greeting to his honored guest: “Boruch habah!”

The guest wondered if he could say amein to the host’s Al Hamichyah. Although in general one has the time it takes to say three words to answer amein, perhaps this is an exception. He recalled that the Shaarei Teshuvah rules that if a chazzan rushes through his repetition, saying “Atah gibor” immediately after “Magein Avrohom,” the community may not say amein to the first blessing. He explains that once the chazzan begins another bracha, the minyan may not answer amein to the earlier bracha.[1] Perhaps this case is the same.

When this question was presented to the author of the Betzeil Hachochmah, he ruled decisively. “The Shaarei Teshuvah appears difficult to understand. Why should we care that the chazzan is up to a different bracha? We must explain that his rule not to say amein is specific to the situation of chazoras hashatz. Since the minyan is obligated to hear the second bracha, they cannot answer amein. But in our case, the guest can certainly answer amein. Why should the few words which are not even a bracha prevent responding amein to the man’s Al Hamichyah?”[2]

 

BRACHOS 45: CREATURES OF HABIT

We are creatures of habit who often do things by rote. Sometimes acting without thinking can create halachic complications that are not easily resolved.

One baal kriah was called up to the Torah and made the brachos fairly quickly. When he finished his bracha of “nosein haTorah,” he automatically answered amein, like he would to another person’s bracha. After he finished his aliyah, he wondered whether his amein had been a hefsek. After all, as we find in Brachos 45, one should not generally answer amein to his own blessings. In a case where the bracha was on reading from the Torah, why would saying amein be any different than speaking an irrelevant word before reading – an act that would certainly constitute a hefsek?

When this question was presented to Rav Shmuel Halevi Wosner, he ruled that there is room to be lenient. “In general, the Mishnah Berurah writes that a baal kriah should say a lengthy amein after this bracha so that the minyan will realize that he is about to begin the reading and will pay careful attention. Although he may not do so after his own bracha, it is nevertheless possible that, bedieved, doing so does not constitute a hefsek. This is similar to the halacha that one who said something relevant to the meal after making hamotzie does not constitute a hefsek. Since this amein is intoned in a manner which serves a purpose relevant to the Torah reading, it is possible that it is not a hefsek.”[3]

 

BRACHOS 46:  TOXIC WORK ENVIRONMENT

Working in a place where one’s coworkers are derisive of Torah observance can be quite a challenge, especially for a baal teshuvah. One baal teshuvah who had reconnected with his roots while living in Eretz Yisroelworked in an environment that was hostile to religious observance. He knew from long experience that any overtly religious behavior would be ruthlessly mocked by his coworkers, who would pester him and make jokes about it.

His problem was that he did not know Birkas Hamazon by heart. It was not practical for him to avoid eating bread every day during the long hours of his job. But whenever he ate bread, he was faced with an excruciating choice: to use a bentcher to bentch and be the brunt of his coworkers’ jokes or say the short version of Birkas Hamazon.

We find on thisdaf that laborers were also permitted to use the shorter version of Birkas Hamazon in certain circumstances. Although nowadays this is forbidden, the Shulchan Aruch Harav rules that, under circumstances of duress, one may indeed recite an abbreviated version of Birkas Hamazon.

When this question was presented to Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein, he ruled decisively: “At the very least, he should read the entire first bracha by heart. He can then read the rest of the brachos gradually, and in that way avoid humiliation. But it is imperative to encourage him and teach him the very first subsection of Shulchan Aruch: ‘One should not be embarrassed by those who mock him…’ If he manages to overcome this test and recite the entire bentching from a bentcher, despite the unpleasant results of his devotion, he will be blessed from on high.”[4]

 

BRACHOS 47: A MAN OF TRUTH

The Mekor Boruch of Seret-Vizhnitz zt”l once explained the importance of speaking about and developing a relationship with tzaddikim:

“On Brachos 49 we find that even if a person has learned both the Written and Oral Torah, if he did not serve Torah scholars he is considered an am ha’aretz.

“Now, if our sages tell us that a person learned, he obviously learned well. Nevertheless, no matter how learned one may be, if he hasn’t served Torah scholars, he is considered an ignoramus. We see from here the great importance of telling stories of tzaddikim. There is so much to learn from every move that they make. They are the ones who should serve as an example of how to uplift our lives!”[5]

Interestingly, Rav Shlomo Wolbe zt”l makes a similar observation, first quoting the Rambam in Sefer Hamitzvos: “The sixth positive commandment is that we cleave to the wise, spend time with them, and partner with them in any manner possible. We should eat with them, drink with them, and do business with them, so that we learn to emulate their actions. As the verse states, ‘You will cleave to Him.’”

Rav Wolbe comments. “A living example enables true emulation much more than learning. We must recall that a true talmid chochom is a living Sefer Torah! From the Toras emes which was given to us, a talmid chochom becomes an ish emes. The only way to become a man of truth is by drawing close to talmidei chachomim.”[6]

 

BRACHOS 48: ABAYE’S ANSWER

Once, when the Imrei Emes zt”l was learning Maseches Brachos with his son, the Lev Simcha zt”l, they reached this daf. The Imrei Emes asked his son a question: “We see that when Rabbah asked Abaya and Rava where the All-Merciful One is found, they each give a similar reply, but in their own distinct manner. Rava pointed towards the roof beams, while Abaya went outside and pointed to the heavens. Why do you suppose Abaya left the room?”

His son replied immediately. “Both Abaya and Rava had come to emunah in their own individual way, through genuine toil. Abaya knew that it is normal for children to emulate each other. He therefore walked out and showed his emunah in his own individual manner. This was to demonstrate that the answer was his own, not in any way a copy of Rava’s reply.”

The Imrei Emes liked this reply so much that he often quoted it in the name of his young son.[7]

 But the Divrei Yechezkel of Shinova zt”l gave a different explanation. “Although we all believe that everything we have is from Hashem, most often this fact is hidden, since we must do hishtadlus. A person must take care of his young children and work to support them. Although every Jew – man, woman and child – believes that what we have is from Hashem, it is hidden due to the efforts of others. An orphan is different, however. Since he has no one to take care of him, he sees the Hand of Hashem without any intermediary taking care of him to occlude the truth.

“This is why Rava pointed to the roof. He meant he has support which separates between him and Hashem. Although he knew everything he had was from Hashem, he also knew that the care his parents gave him made it harder for him to truly see this. Abaya, by contrast, was an orphan. He walked outside and pointed to the sky to show that He saw clearly that he was under the direct providence of Hashem.”[8]

 

BRACHOS 49: THE BLESSING OF THE LAND

During the time of Rav Meir Shapiro of Lublin zt”l, Eastern Europe was in a state of great ferment about the prospect of a secular Zionist state. In his inimitable way, Rav Shapiro engaged sharp Torah logic to disillusion his listeners about the potential pitfall of placing too much emphasis on the physical settlement of the land alone.

“In Brachos 49, we find that one who ends the birchas ha’aretz with ‘manchil aratzos’ is a boor. Similarly, one who omits mention of the bris or the Torah in this blessinghas not discharged his obligation.

“One who heaps blessings on all of the countries of the world – manchil aratzos – is a boor. We see that our obligation is to specifically mention Eretz Yisroel – ‘al ha’aretz ve’al hamazon.”Nevertheless, despite the immense importance of Eretz Yisroel, one who praises Eretz Yisroelwithout mentioning Torah has not discharged his obligation. It is only when we mention Matan Torah along with ‘eretz chemdah tovah urechavah’ that we discharge our obligation. The reason this is so essential is that Eretz Yisroelwithout Torah says nothing to us. The main thing we need to praise Hashem for is that He gave us Eretz Yisroeltogether with the Torah!”[9]

 

BRACHOS 50: JOINING THE ZIMUN

Although weddings are very joyous events, they are often also drawn-out affairs. Although in some families the custom is to bentch immediately after the main dish is finished and to continue dancing afterwards, at many weddings the guests only bentch quite late into the night. As we find on thisdaf, there are even halachos regarding splitting up with those who ate. If one is part of a group of ten, for example, he may not bentch with less than ten even if the other group will also bentch with three. For those who cannot stay until the end, this presents quite a problem. Was it better not to wash to begin with, knowing that he would likely find himself facing a problem when it came time to make a zimun? Or should he bentch without a mezuman even though he is required to wait until they bentch?

When this question was presented to Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, he found a way around the problem. “The Rama writes that even if three or more Jews eat in a non-Jew’s home, they need not bentch with a mezuman. He explains that when they eat in a non-Jew’s house, they do so with the intention not to join together to form a mezuman. We see that if one had in mind not to combine with the people in the hall, he is not obligated to wait to bentch with them. Although I do not know of a source for this Rama in the Gemara, the halacha follows the Rama.”[10]

When Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l was asked about this, he agreed with it. “Although there is no clear source for this,” he said, “it is the minhag.”

What about someone who thought he was not able to stay, but in the end remained? Can he lead the group in zimun like one who is obligated?

“No,” said Rav Elyashiv.

What if this person who wishes to combine with the zimun after all eats a kezayis of bread? Would that enable him to lead the zimun?

“If he eats, he certainly joins them and is obligated like anyone else,” said Rav Elyashiv. “Why should it matter that he originally had in mind not to combine with them? He joins them from that moment.”[11]

 

BRACHOS 51: THE MERCHANT AND THE DRIVER

The Tiferes Yisroel zt”l explains a dispute on thisdaf with a parable: “Once, there was a merchant who needed to travel a long distance. Naturally, he hired a person to drive for him and help him on the way. Now, the merchant himself needed no incentive to wake up in the morning. He could hardly sleep, since his entire self was focused on getting where he needed to go and the profit that he hoped to make from his venture. He woke up at dawn and wanted to leave very early. His hired man, on the other hand, had no interest in continuing so early. For him, there was no extra profit if they arrived at their destination earlier or later. 

“What could the merchant do to stimulate the man he hired to get up early and begin his day? If the merchant was wise, he would prepare a nice meal for his helper. Then, when he goes to wake him up, his assistant would get up to enjoy the sumptuous breakfast. Once he is already up, he would be willing to make an early start.

“Every person has a neshamah that is compared to the merchant and a body which resembles the hireling. When the neshamah wants to traverse the vast distance between his usual level during the week and the holiness of Shabbos, his body holds him back. In general, the body feels no benefit from spiritual endeavors. How is one to prevent his body from getting in the way of his soul ‘taking off’ for the holiness of Shabbos? He must do something that will interest the material body so that it will help him – or at least will not prevent him – from accessing the light of Shabbos. We achieve this by making Kiddush with wine, since this gives enjoyment to the material self.

“This explains the argument between Bais Hillel and Bais Shammai as to whether the bracha on the wine should precede the bracha for Shabbos, or the bracha for Shabbos should be first. Bais Shammai holds that we should first bless the Shabbos, since that is the purpose of the wine. Bais Hillel holds that we should first mention the wine, since through this medium the body cooperates with the soul and one is able to access the light of Shabbos” (Tiferes Yisroel, Brachos, Chapter VIII; Boaz, #1).

 

BRACHOS 52: THE REBBE’S HUMILITY

The profound humility of tzaddikim is sometimes hard to understand. Despite their towering greatness, they know that everything they have is from Hashem. They are also completely aware that in heavenly judgment, one is evaluated by the potential of what he could have achieved, not by what he has done compared to others with less potential.

Rav Yisroel Salanter zt”l once said, “If a person has the potential to be as great as the Vilna Gaon zt”l and does not fulfill it, he is on a lower level than one who had less potential but worked harder.”

There were many tzaddikim who expressed a conviction that they were amei ha’aretz, because they felt they had not lived up to their vast potential. They felt that others who did not have their abilities or knowledge but had maximized their own potential were far greater than themselves.

Once, a grandson of the Ahavas Yisroel of Vizhnitz zt”l spent time with his illustrious grandfather. The grandson was an important talmid chochom in his own right and served as a community rov and posek. When it came time for lunch, the grandson naturally stayed. He went to wash his hands and was appalled when he saw that his venerable grandfather had brought him a towel. Not wanting the rebbe – one of the most respected personages of his time – to serve him, he indicated that he didn’t want to take the towel.

The cryptic reply the rebbe offered puzzled his grandson. “But doesn’t the halacha follow Bais Shammai?”

During the meal, when he asked the rebbe what he had meant, the rebbe turned to Brachos 52 and pointed to the Mishnah there. When the grandson looked at this Mishnah, he was astounded. It records a disputebetween Bais Shammai and Bais Hillelas to whether one may use a shamash who is an ignoramus. Bais Shmamai permits, while Bais Hillel forbids.

“The halachah follows Bais Shammai, so you could have taken the towel from me after all…” (Zichron Yisroel, p. 56).

 

BRACHOS 53:  A WORTHY INTERRUPTION?

Sometimes bochurim do foolish things. One bochur learned in a high school that also housed a kollel in its bais midrash. The bochur woke up late and davened in school. When he got up to Shemonah Esrei, he suddenly banged on the bimah and began to recite Shemonah Esrei in a loud voice. The rosh yeshiva immediately rushed up to the boy and said, “If you don’t stop your recital immediately, I will pick you up and carry you out of the bais medrash!”

The bochur was silent but wondered whether the rosh yeshiva had been correct. Although he would certainly have taken some of the time of the kollel and yeshiva bochurim from learning by being a distraction, how did the rosh yeshiva know that this was forbidden?

When this question was presented to Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein, he ruled that one should not interrupt people who are learning, even when the purpose is positive,

“I can prove that it is improper from Brachos 53,” said Rav Zilberstein. “There we find that if people were learning in the bais medrash on Motzoei Shabbos when fire was brought to make borei me’orei ha’eish,Bais Shammai and Bais Hillelargue as to who should make the bracha. Bais Shammaisays that each person should make the bracha for himself so as not to interrupt the Torah study of others. Bais Hillel hold that since it is better to do a mitzvah with more people together than alone, one person makes the blessingfor all of them. Rabbeinu Yonahexplains that although they have to make the blessing themselves anyway, Bais Shammaiholds that they should not allow one person to make the bracha, since then everyone will have to say amein. Bais Hillel holds that for such a slight bittul, it is worth it to have one person say the bracha, since that is the better way for them to perform the mitzvah.

“We see that even Bais Hillel only allows one amein, because this way everyone’s mitzvah is enhanced. In other circumstances, even causing those who are learning to say amein or the like is incorrect” (Chashukei Chemed, Brachos p. 317-318).

 

BRACHOS 54: FEELING THE PAIN

When Rav Mordechai Dov of Hornosteipel zt”l heard that a fire had consumed his home, bais medrash and his voluminous library – including many unprinted chiddushim on Maseches Kesubos in the handwriting of Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev zt”l – he was very pained. For a short time, he showed just how devastated he was at this tragic loss.

Shortly afterwards, he strengthened himself and said, “Our sages tell us in Brachos 54 that we must bless on the bad just as we bless on the good. Why aren’t you asking me to call for shnapps and cake so that we can make a lechayim just like we would if we had heard about a great windfall?”

Naturally, the chassidim followed the rebbe’s lead and asked him to call for the means to make a lechayim. But one of those assembledwondered about this. “But rebbe,surely if you had had a windfall, you would not have been pained by it. Your pain presumably shows that you did not accept the bad like you would have received the good, despite your calling for a lechayim now.”

“You are incorrect,” objected the rebbe. “When someone experiences something traumatic, Rachmana litzlan, he is supposed to feel his suffering. For this reason, one who swallows marror does not discharge his obligation. Hashem wants us to think, to feel the bitterness and arouse ourselves. After this stage, one must understand that it is all for the good and accept the pain with love and joy. But first he has to feel the bitterness!” (Me’orei Skver, p. 232).

 

BRACHOS 55: SEEKING ADVICE

Rav Moshe Sternbuch explains the application of a puzzling statement of Chazal.

“In Brachos 55, we find that if one wakes up and a certain verse falls into one’s mouth, this constitutes a miniature prophecy. The Torah is a repository of advice, not only in general, but also for every particular situation one undergoes. One must grasp the correct way to find the right advice for himself in the Torah, however. If a verse falls into one’s head, this is a sign that that verse relates to his particular situation at this time.

“It is well known that the Vilna Gaon would pick a Torah verse ‘at random’ to obtain advice. Through this medium, one can find out how to act in any situation from a specific verse in the Torah. This works because the Torah is always giving guidance at all times and in every situation, as the Vilna Gaon explains in his explanation of Safra Detzniusa.

“It is important to note that I heard from Rav Eliyahu Lopian zt”l that the goral haGra does not always work. One must not merely ape the actions of another without thinking about what he is about to do beforehand. One who wishes to do the goral should first do teshuvah on his sins and connect in this manner to Hashem. Only then should he do the goral” (P’shat Ve’iyun, Part I, p. 190).

 

BRACHOS 56: COMFORTING WORDS

Dreams can be frightening at times.

A certain person was afraid, because he kept dreaming that his dentures fell out. He went to the Steipler Gaon zt”l to ask what he thought. “I am afraid of the halacha based on Brachos 56 that if one dreams that his teeth fell out, he should fast…”

The Steipler explained that dentures are not like teeth. “Today is not like the times of the Gemara. Our dreams are the product of what we thought about during the day. Nothing else. The fact that you dreamed this many times is also irrelevant. If one dreams this only one time, he begins to think about it during the day and dreams it again. Then he dreams about it again, thinks about it more, and dreams about it yet again…

“Nevertheless, I want to add that you have seen a good dream and that surely nothing bad will come of it. Everything is going to be all right. Don’t worry about this at all.”

He repeated the last sentence several times and wished the dreamer a good day (Orchos Rabbeinu, Part I, p. 288).

 

BRACHOS 57: MITIGATING THE DREAM

Thisdaf continues to discuss the halachos of various dreams.

Rav Bentzion Kook once asked Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l about dreams. Must one fast nowadays if one has a dream of the type that the Shulchan Aruch holds one should fast for even today? An example of this is one who dreams about Ne’ilah on Yom Kippur.

The moment he mentioned dreams, Rav Elyashiv quoted the Gemara in Gittin 52: “Dreams do not add or detract; let the person make a hatovas chalom.”

“One doesn’t need to fast?” asked Rav Kook.

“According to the Chazon Ish zt”l, it is enough,” said Rav Elyashiv.

“Does the halacha follow the Chazon Ish in this?”

Rav Elyashiv answered, “One can definitely rely on the Chazon Ish in this matter. Or if he wishes, he can fast.”

“What is the reasoning of the Chazon Ish?” questioned Rav Kook.

Rav Elyashiv answered simply, “That things are different today” (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De’ah, 228:16; Liknos Chochmah #5, p. 3).

Knowing that the Shulchan Aruch permits a wife to have her husband perform hatoras nedorim on her behalf, and that Rav Elyashiv holds that people should say they represent their wives as well when doing hatoras nedorim, Rav Kook wondered whether a wife may send her husband to do hatovas chalomos for her.

When Rav Kook posed this question to Rav Elyashiv, he ruled that this is problematic. “She must go herself in front of three men who will permit her dream. Sending a messenger is irrelevant here,” said Rav Elyashiv.

“Can she do hatovas chalom by telephone?” queried Rav Kook.

Rav Elyashiv rejected this possibility as well. “We have no idea how hatovas chalom works. Therefore, one must do it exactly as it says. She must go herself before those who will mitigate the dream” (Shiurei Hagri”sh, Brachos, p. 746-747).


[1]Shaarei Teshuvah, siman 124, se’if kotton 16

[2]Shu”t Betzeil Hachochmah, Part V, siman 17

[3]Shu”t Shevet Halevi, Part VIII, siman 92

[4]Chashukei Chemed, Brachos,p. 281

[5]Kovetz Ohel Moshe, Sivan 5759, p. 10

[6]Alei Shur, Part II, p. 530

[7]Ohr Zorua Latzaddik, Part I, p. 279

[8]Divrei Yechezkel, Likkutim, p. 125

[9]Imrei Daas, Part II, p. 273

[10]Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim, Part I, siman 56

[11] Shiurei Maran Hagri”sh, p.561