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Thought for the Day: Toch K'dei Dibur

One the reasons I like gmail is that after sending an email, you have a few seconds to hit a "Cancel" button, which stops the sending process and lets you reconsider if you should really send that email or not.  I am looking forward to "Google Mouth"... I could really use a cancel button when talking...

For years I thought that halacha also had something like that also, known as "tok'd'dibur".  I didn't know Hebrew at all and was hearing a lot of new terms that people just threw around.  So I figured "tok'd'dibur" was just Hebrew for cancel, or reset, or whatever.  I knew it was 2 or 3 seconds, but was a bit in wonder that it was defined as the amount of time it takes to say "Shalom Aleichem, Rebbi" and some say "Shalom Aleichem, Rebbi u'Mori".  "Good greif!", I thought, "If it's two or three seconds, what difference does it make whether you say u'mori or not?"  Just another confusing detail.  At least I knew that whatever I said, as long as I corrected it within a couple of second, I was good to go.

Except, of course, I wasn't good to go.  First I found out it doesn't always work.  For example, you are holding a cup of (what you think is wine) and say the appropriate bracha.  As you are about to drink, you see you have Diet Coke!  You say "she'hakol n'h'ye bidvaro" right away and you can drink.  On the other hand, during the summer if you say (in bareich aleinu) "v'sein tal u'mater livracha" and immediately add "v'sein bracha" -- sorry, it didn't work; go to the beginning of the bracha.  Confusing!  Second I found out that there is no Hebrew word "tok'd'dibur"; it's a phrase: "toch k'dei dibur" -- "within the time of speaking".

Ah; so that's why it is defined via a phrase, because it depends on the speaker.  Why this phrase?  I have never seen anything, but I will venture a guess that this is the kind of phrase that one says carefully.  It comes out, then, that "toch k'dei dibur" is not really a cancel button.  Instead, it really means that you haven't finished talking.  Now we can (with the help of Halichos Shlomo) understand why it seems to work differently in  different situations.  The way it works is that "toch k'dei dibur" allows you to tack on additional information and have it considered as part of the original statement.

In the first example, then, you ended up saying "baruch atah HaShem, elokeinu melech ha'olam, borei pri hagafen, she'hakol n'h'ye bidvaro".  That is, you didn't say anything wrong, just ended up adding an additional phrase in the middle of the bracha.  You can't do that l'chatchila, but b'di'eved it works.  In the second example, however, getting rain in the middle of summer can actually be damaging, so the whole phrase is ruined and you have to go back to the beginning of the bracha.

Glad to have that clarified.  I still could really, really us a cancel button on my speaking.  Really.

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