Skip to main content

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...


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Thanking HaShem Each and Every Day for Solid Land Near Water

Each and every morning, a Jew is supposed to view himself as a new/renewed creation, ready for a new day of building his eternal self through Torah and mitzvos.  We begin the day with 16 brachos to praise/thank/acknowledge HaShem for giving us all the tools we need to succeed.  We have a body, soul, and intellect.  We have vision, mobility, and protection from the elements.  Among those brachos, we have one that perhaps seems a bit out of place: רוקע הארץ על המים/Who spreads out the land on/over the water.  After all, it's nice to have a dry place to walk, but does that compare to the gratitude I have for a working body and vision?  As it turns out, I should; as explained by the R' Rajchenbach, rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu (aka, Peterson Park Kollel).  Your best bet is to listen to the shiur; very distant second is to continue, which I hope will whet your appetite for the real thing.

First... since we have dry land, I don't have to slog to work through even a foot…