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Thought for the Day: Why Getting Brachos Right is So Darn Important

Most brachos (all but one and a half of them) are d'rabanan.  The general rule is ספק דרבנן לקולא -- in case there is a question of how to proceed, choose the leniency.  For example, if you are not sure whether you ate enough cookies to warrant a bracha acharona, then you don't.  (Which is why, I am sure, people are so machmir to eat so many cookies; to save themselves from this sticky situation.)  Usually that would mean "you don't need to" with and implied "but you can if you want to".  However, saying a bracha that is not required may actually bring one to the serious issur d'oraisa of "sheim l'vatala" - taking the Name of the Lord in vain.  And that means that "safek brachos l'kula" is actually a chumra.  If you aren't sure if a bracha is required it is actually assur to utter it.

What gives?  Why is it such a serious offense to utter a bracha when none is required?  In fact, if I see a beautiful tree and want to exclaim, "Blessed art Thou, oh Lord our G-d, Who has created the fruit of the tree!".... what exactly is the problem?  The truth is, if you wanted to simply say, "Baruch HaShem!  What a beautiful tree and the fruit is just amazing!"; there is no problem.  Not only not a problem, but actually laudable.  Here is a link to a video of R' Avigdor Miller, z"tzl, doing just that.  That, however, is not what the bracha says.

Look carefully, it starts off in second person: Blessed are You....  That's not singing the praises of HaShem and His creation; that's talking to the Creator of the world.  Imagine going up to the g'vir who supports the shul while he is having an important conversation with the rav of the shul, tugging on his sleeve until you have his full attention and saying, "Yo, Sruli!  When it comes to the rich and powerful, you are my guy!  Nice haircut!"  To make the analogy more accurate, be sure you also imagine checking your IMs and email on your smart phone while talking at Sruli.

Think about that next time before you make a bracha.  You aren't uttering an incantation before you stuff food in your pie hole.  You are engaging in a personal conversation with the Author of Reality.


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