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Thought for the Day: Fulfilling One's Obligation to Make a Bracha Via a Proxy Who Is Not Obligated in Said Bracha

This is not advice, it's just a fact.  If you want to know what is doing in someone's life, do not ask his chavrusa.  Maybe it is different in yeshiva; I wouldn't know, as I never had the merit of attending yeshiva.  Us בעל הבתים/regular Yossies who are at work all day take are precious few minutes in בית מדרש very seriously.  Not to say we don't have fun!  Just this morning I came home late because of having so much fun that I lost track of time.  What happened?  Well...

We learn two (usually, sometimes more) halachos after (in the summer, before in the winter) davening from the Orach Chaim section of the Shulchan Aruch as explained by the Mishna Brura and with color commentary by R' Dovid (the Chicago Vasikiner Rebbe).  We are currently learning hilchos brachos; in particular, the thanksgiving blessing (סימן רי''ט).  The general rule is that one makes that bracha after surviving one of four situations: being released from a prison where you could have died (חבוש), being healed from a life threatening illness (יסורים), crossing the sea (ים), and crossing the dangerous wilderness/desert (מדבר); the acronym חיים/life is, of course, not by accident.

For various reasons beyond the scope of this TftD, it is sometimes desirable to have someone other than the beneficiary of HaShem's beneficence actually make the bracha and as a proxy for the beneficiary himself.  In that case, it is really, really important that the beneficiary answer אמן to the proxies bracha.  Usually, though, it is not required -- though it is a very nice thing and quite important -- for one to answer אמן in order to fulfill his obligation.  Why not usually and why yes now?

The fundamental principle on which one is able to have his obligation for a bracha fulfilled by proxy is שומע כעונה, which means that the one who said the words is an actual proxy for the one who hearkens (i.e., listens with intent).  The simplest case is where both you and the proxy wants to eat an apple.  You both take your apples, he makes the bracha, you hearken -- you can eat!  It is just as if you also said the bracha.  Interestingly -- and something that warrants taking care -- if the proxy is in a place or situation where he is not allowed to make a bracha, then his bracha doesn't work for him and it also doesn't work for you.  But you could have made the bracha, you'll say.  Then you'll realize: oh, yeah... he's my proxy, so I have only fulfilled my obligation as much as he has.

What's an example of being in a situation where the proxy is not allowed to make a bracha?  One case is where he needs to urgently use the wash room.  (If you see your host Friday night hopping from one foot to the other before kiddush, you might want to rethink relying on him as your proxy.)  Another case is where he just doesn't need the bracha.  For example, if you want to eat an apple, but your would-be proxy does not want to eat an apple (or is in the middle of eating one), then he can not be a proxy for you.

Now let's look at our case: you need a ברכת הגומל/thanksgiving blessing and you have designated a proxy who does not need to make a ברכת הגומל.  Usually, as we have seen, that won't work.  However, in the case of ברכת הגומל, the halacha is that one who hears a Jew making ברכת הגומל should respond with a bracha -- or at least אמן.  So here's the cool part: when your proxy makes the ברכת הגומל for you, he is now obligated in an אמן -- which you can fulfill for him by proxy!  That is, he is making your bracha by proxy and you are making his amein by proxy.

That is just too cool for words.  Why would you want to do that?  You mean, why except to exercise a totally cool halachic subtlety?  I think that's like asking the price of a fur coat ... if you have to ask, you can't afford it.


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