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Thought for the Day: Safeik Brachos l'Hakeil, But Brachos On Safeik l'Chumra

There are two safety nets available for eiruv tavshilin.  The first is that the "gadol b'ir"/rav of the city includes in his declaration that his eiruv also permits anyone in the city who was unable to make an eiruv themselves to cook for Shabbos on the second day of Yom Tov.  It's not a great option, as it doesn't accomplish the purpose for which the takana of eiruv was created if it is overused.  In fact, it only works if one honestly was not able to make his own; if someone decides, "eh... the rabbi is making one, so I'll just have myself another beer and relax", then it does not work for him at all.

There is another safety net is one remembers on the first day of Yom Tov (except Rosh HaShana) that relies on the fact that we are celebrating two days of Yom Tov because of a doubt about which is the d'oraisa day (which is why it doesn't work for Rosh HaShana; the two days of Rosh HaShana are considered l'chumra in halacha as one long day); and yes, I know this is an awfully long sentence.  One takes his matza and egg in hand and declares:
If today is kodesh, then I am not doing anything.  If, however, today is chol, then this is my eiruv, because of which I am permitted to cook, ... .
Presto!  If the first day is the d'oraisa day (spoiler alert: it is), then I am allowed to cook on Friday like any other erev Shabbos.  If, on the other hand, the second day is the d'oraisa (which doesn't happen any more), then I made an eiruv before the d'oraisa Yom Tov started.  Whew!  I am good to go.  One little nit: what about the bracha?  It seemed obvious enough to me that one obviously would not make a bracha.  You're only doing this because you might need it, right?  Safeik brachos l'hakeil, right?  What's the question, right?

The Mishna Brura brings the Magein Avraham who paskens to make a bracha.  (What?!)  Then he brings a R' Akiva Eiger and Shita M'kubetzes who argue; which is where the Mishna Brura leaves it, no bracha.  It is a tad strange, though, that the Magein Avraham didn't have the same clarity that I do; furthermore strange that the Mishna Brura needs two heavy weights to tilt the scale to what I thought was obvious in the first place.  Hmm... maybe we better think again?

The Magein Avraham would patiently note that the whole eiruv tavshilin is always built on a safeik.  S'feika d'yoma is what got us in to this situation.  You make kiddush (which is a bracha) on the second night, right?  You light candles with a bracha on the second night, right?  Safeik bracha l'hakeil means when there is a safeik of whether this situation demands a bracha or not, then don't make one.  But when Chazal instituted a bracha to deal with a safeik, then you obviously make the bracha.  At which point I slapped my forehead -- Duh!  Then I wondered... hey... wait a minute... so why do R' Akiva Eiger and the Shita M'kubetzes disagree?  (Not a question on the Mishna Brura, though; he has  machlokes ha'poskim, so safeik brachos l'hakeil.)

The basic answer is that Chazal only instituted a bracha on eiruv tavshilin when the eiruv is made at the appropriate time; namely, erev Yom Tov.  They might have done that because once you are in the middle of the first day, you are adding a safeik on top of a safeik.  That is, on Wednesday afternoon, I definitely needed an eiruv.  On Thursday, though, I might not really need an eiruv at all; if today is kodesh, then I can cook tomorrow, g'sund a'heit.

It's very important to be certain about your doubts, but always doubt your certainties.


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