Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: The Main Part of a Bracha Is the Beginning

When I was first contemplating becoming Orthodox, way back in Dallas, started attending some adult education classes.  These classes were held in peoples' homes and always had food (cookies and what not); here's a good tip: if you want someone  to attend a meeting, offer them food.  I was a little shocked when I saw someone already frum pick up a cookie, mumble something under his breath, then eat the cookie.  What shocked me was that he was fully engaged in a conversation at the time; he was simply saying the words of the bracha as a sort of incantation before putting food in his mouth.  It just didn't seem like correct protocol for addressing the King.

After more than 20 years of contemplation, it still doesn't seem right.  Chazal (TB Brachos 12a) discuss the minimum requirement for saying a bracha "well enough"; ie, not correctly, but also not so bad as to require starting from scratch.  The gemara first notes that it is obvious that one who picks a cup of wine that he thinks is beer, and therefore begins his bracha planning to make a "she'ha'kol", but then finishes "borei pri ha'gafen", has obviously fulfilled his obligation.  After all, b'di'avad, a "she'ha'kol" works for anything.  However, what about the other way around?  He picks up a beer thinking it is wine, and therefore begins his bracha planning to make a "borei pri ha'gafen", but then finishes with a "she'ha'kol".  The gemara is so not sure what the halacha is in that case, that even after giving its best shot, the matter is left forever unresolved.

The gemara poses the question thus (as elucidated by Rashi and Tosofos):  When one's intention during the main part of the bracha -- that is: Baruch Atah, HaShem, Melech HaOlam -- contradicts what he actually says at the end, do we say the bracha is what he intended or what he actually said?  Let's say that a different way: the gemara seriously contemplates that your thoughts and intention during the main part of the bracha can override the words you actually say.

Since the gemara leaves the matter unresolved, the rishonim debate how we should pasken.  Tosofos brings two opinions: (1) the R'if who throws in the towel and defaults to "safeik brachos l'hakeil", so don't make another bracha. (2) the R"i disagrees and if your intention is wrong during the main part of the bracha, then you're done; you need to make a new bracha.  The Shulchan Aruch (OC 209:1) goes even further.  The m'chaber says that if you have a cup of beer or even water in your hand and intend to make a sh'ha'kol during the main part of the bracha (Baruch Atah HaShem, Elokeinu Melech HaOlam), then even if you end up saying the words "borei pri ha'gafen", you don't need to make a new bracha.  The Mishna Brura says that everyone argues and l'ma'aseh you would need to make another bracha.  Even so, the fact that there is a really position out there that your thoughts could override your words to the point that it would be considered a good bracha is just astounding.

You may want to think about that before you make your next bracha.  You might then want to think during your next bracha.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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…

Thought for the Day: Hydroponically Grown Humans... I Feel Sick

I am quite openly not at all objective about abortion in particular and the treatment of human embryos and fetuses in general.  I am, after all, the survivor of a failed abortion attempt.  Not "thought about it, but couldn't go through with it"; not "made appointment, but then chickened out at the lost moment"; but, "tried a procedure, but was unsuccessful in attempt to abort".  Nonetheless, I try very hard to listen to the liberal arguments (which I also used to chant as part of the general liberal catechism), and am genuinely empathetic to the plight of women who find themselves in that difficult position.

What I heard on NPR this morning, however, has left me feeling physically ill.  You can read about it, if you like, but here's the bottom line:  Scientists in Cambridge have achieved a new record, they fertilized a human ova and then kept it alive in vitro (that is, in a test tube/petri dish in a laboratory) for 14 days.  The scientist involve…