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Thought for the Day: Precision of Brachos

We are used to the precision of every word and even space in kisvei kodesh.  Any discrepency from expected engenders halachos and drashos.  There are whole drashos built on nothing but exploring what question Rashi is answering, how is answer addresses the issue, and even arguments on his understanding.  Anyone who learns gemara is also familiar with the way every word and case of mishnayos and baraisos are dissected and analyzed.  What may not be so well appreciated is the precision with which Chazal worded brachos.  I offer two examples, b'ezras HaShem.

Since Chanuka just passed, you may have noticed that there is no insertion to "al ha'michya" for Chanuka (nor Purim, for that matter).  Given that Chazal inserted "al ha'nisim" into the one (according to everyone) d'oraisa bracha of birkas ha'mazon, one might reasonably expect some insertion into the d'rabanan (according to most rishonim) bracha of al ha'michya.  Now that you are looking so closely, you might notice something else slightly odd: the insertions for Shabbos, Yom Tov, and Rosh Chodesh come after the mention of rebuilding Yerushalayim (may that occur soon and in our lifetime), whereas they occur in the middle of "racheim" (it was a bracha before it was a song, girls and boys) -- before mentioning the rebuilding.

R' Chaim (Soloveitchik, that is; you know, from Brisk) explains both details with magnificent precision.  Another name for "al ha'michya" is "mei'ein shalosh" -- the essence of [the] three [fold blessing of birkas hamazon; three d'oraisa with a fourth added d'rabanan].  Since it is distilled from birkas hamazon, al ha'michya only contains references to topics that get their own bracha.  Al ha'nisim in "only" an inclusion in the second bracha, so it doesn't get mentioned in al ha'michya.  What about Shabbos, Yom Tov, and Rosh Chodesh?  They usually are only mentioned by inclusion in the third bracha... unless you forget them, then they get their own bracha.  Where?  After the rebuilding of Yerushalayim; which explains their position in al ha'michya.

A second example: The bracha of "asher yatzar" contains the phrase: if one of them [the blocked spaces] were to open or one of them [the open spaces] were to block, it would be impossible to survive or to stand.  Obviously if one cannot survive, then standing is not even on the table (or, as it were, the floor).  The D'risha explains that this is not following the motif of "not only A, but also B", but is referring to two different stages of life.  First in the womb, where one is becoming viable; second in this world, where one stands.  Of course, now that you know how to use science to deepen rather than dampen your emuna, you'll appreciate how much different those two stages really are.

Why, though, should we mention that first stage of life now that it is over?  It could be to remind us several times a day (and night, at my age...) that just as the first stage was nothing but a preparation for this stage, this stage is nothing but a preparation for the next, eternal stage.  Just as this world is unimaginably more wonderful than the first, so to the next.  Just as you don't want to leave that first stage till all preparations are complete, so with with this stage.  Etc, etc, etc...


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