Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Why Bracha l'Vatala Is So Seriously Bad

Now that Minchas Shlomo has explained to us that making a bracha is fulfilling a Rabinic obligation and not removing an issur, one could ask, "So what's the big deal about a bracha l'vatala?"  In fact, a big "one" did ask that question, the Chayei Adam.  The Chayei Adam notes that one could (and, in fact, it is praiseworthy to do so) say, "Atah, HaShem Elokeinu, Melech HaOlam, borei pri ha'eitz!"/You, HaShem, Our G-d, King of the Universe, creates tree fruits!  In fact, you can say that all day, with all the variations: borei pri ha'gafen, borei pri ha'adama, sh'hakol n'hi'yeh bidvaro... How can it be, asks the Chayei Adam, that just putting "Baruch" in front changes it from a praiseworthy act of midas chasidus to an issur d'oraisa of taking HaShem's name in vain?!

Hmm... when you put it that way, that really is a very good question!  Minchas Shlomo (Vol 1 18:10) has a very good answer.

There are four places in shmone esrei where one is required to bow; beginning and end of the first bracha, beginning and end of modim.  Suppose someone wants to bow more?  He really, really wants to show his deep devotion to and appreciation of the Creator.  He's not allowed to; he needs to be stopped.  In fact, even on the Yamim Nora'im he is not allowed to bow more.  The Shulchan Aruch notes that in these days of awe, if one is so inspired that he really wants to bow more, then he just has to be sure to be standing erect at the beginning of and end of the bracha.  Even more, suppose one is still davening his sh'moneh esrei during chazares ha'shatz; he should bow with the congregation when they do at modim -- unless he is at the beginning or end of a bracha -- in which case he is not allowed to bow with the congregation.  Why?  So it doesn't look like he is adding on his own bowings.

Tosefos explains that the problem is that others will see him and figure (seeing as he is so devout and pious) that all bowing is just for the devout and pious.  His personal attempt at extra devotion will lead to community wide degradation of avodas HaShem!  You don't want that on your plate.

That's the same problem with saying extra brachos... others will come to think it is a matter of personal choice and only for those who are moved to bless need to do so.  That is a chillul HaShem of the highest magnitude!

One can use this principle to understand all the places where Chazal instituted rules for when and by whom "d'varim sh'b'k'dusha" should be said.  Take zimun, for example.  Nothing in the individual words themselves that indicates why even two people eating together shouldn't say the zimun.  Or two men and a woman.  Or saying kaddish with less than 10 men.  Or a woman saying kaddish.

In all cases, we don't say, "What's wrong with saying it?"  Instead we ask, "Is it appropriate, ie, according to the way Chazal established the practice, to say it?"  If the answer is "yes", then it must be said.  If the answer is "no", then by no means should it be said, and thus should people be instructed.

Comments

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…