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Thought for the Day: S'feik S'feika

Two wrongs do not make a right.  Three lefts, on the other hand, do make a right; and two Wrights make an airplane.  It also turns out that two doubts can make a bracha.

I really started this before "safeik brachos l'hakeil", but finally realized there was too much to cover in this venue.  The basic premise is that we are again dealing with the usual case of brachos that are d'rabanon and not shmone esrei.

A double doubt (s'feik s'feika) can act just like a certainty.  S'firas ha'omer, for example.  Suppose I can't remember if I counted yesterday.  If I am sure I didn't count, then I can no longer count with a bracha, though I still continue counting.  Now that I have a s'feik s'feika, I get to continue with a bracha.  The argument goes like this: First of all, maybe I really did count.  Secondly, even if I didn't count, maybe the halacha is like those who hold that the counting of each day is a mitzvah in and of itself (and not only if part of a complete counting of all 49 days).

However, s'feik s'feika really is not handled the same way as a certainty.  For example, suppose one eats a complete fruit (such as a grape) that is so big it might be a whole k'zayis by itself.  You might think you can make a bracha acharona because: First of all, maybe the halacha is to make a bracha acharona after eating a complete fruit.  Secondly, even if that isn't the halacha, maybe it was a k'zayis and so would anyway require a bracha acharona.  But you don't.  Once there is any kind of doubt about whether or not to make a bracha acharona, the usual rule of "safeik d'rabanon l'hakeil" kicks in; no bracha.

What's the difference?  In the case of s'firas ha'omer, the question is whether and and what level is one still obligated in the mitzvah.  Once that is determined, we know whether a bracha is required.  Chazal have given us guidelines on that.  If we are surely obligated in the mitzvah, then a bracha is required.  If we have no obligation to perform the mitzvah, obviously no bracha is required.  Between those two extremes are "safeik" and "s'feik s'feika".  On a simple "safeik" Chazal did not obligate us in a bracha, whereas on a "s'feik s'feika" they did.

In the case of the bracha acharona, however, the question is whether we are obligated in the bracha itself.  In that case, because of the severity of the issur of Sheim l'vatala, Chazal were more stringent in the conditions necessary to require a bracha in the case of doubt.

And you thought hilchos brachos was boring.  Heck no!  It's and E ticket ride, for sure!


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