Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Making a Bracha Before the Mitzvah/Action May Be Performed

We do not live in a heliocentric solar system.  You don't have to take my word for it... here is a scholarly article entitled, The sun's orbital motion from High Energy Astrophysics Division at the
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.  For those who prefer Yahoo Answers, here you go.  All that being said, of course, you aren't very far off at all to assume a heliocentric solar system.  In fact, I find it an interesting kindness from the Creator to make the sun so (relatively) heavy, for otherwise Newton and Kepler would have had a devil of a time making any sense of the date.  None the less, whether or not you ever actually make a calculation that will be wrong of you assume a heliocentric solar system, you should know that there is such a concept.

I had a question rattling around for a long time: Suppose you have a mitzvah that cannot be performed before a certain time; tzitzis, t'fillin, chanuka candles, etc.  Is one permitted to make the bracha before the time that one can perform the mitzvah or must one wait to make the bracha until the time that he could also perform the mitzvah?  Yes, I know we are taking three or five seconds and, yes, I know we usually don't really the time when one can start the mitzvah that accurately.  But still... I wondered.  I saw something in the sefer וזות הברכה that indicates that one should actually wait; but first, for all you eye rollers out there, reasons to think it should be ok to recite the bracha early.

First of all, what is a bracha, anyway?  Perhaps it is just an announcement that I am going to perform a mitzvah/benefit from this world, but not really part and parcel of the mitzvah or even my performance of said mitzvah.  Consider kiddush Friday night.  One first says the bracha of בורא פרי הגפן and then the bracha of kiddush. It is, of course, forbidden to eat or even drink anything (even water) before kiddush.  That means that at the moment that one says the bracha of בורא פרי הגפן, it is actually forbidden to drink that wine.  Now, if it is permitted to make a bracha when the one only way to remove the issur is to make another statement -- which one might not be able to make (if he, G-d Forbid, choked, for example) -- then it certainly permitted to make a bracha when only the passage of time -- which can't be stopped -- will permit the action.

Want another proof?  There is  machlokes Rema and Shulchan Aruch if a woman can make a bracha on a time-bound positive mitzvah.  Since she is not commanded, says the Shulchan Aruch, how can she say "who commanded us"?  The Rema counters that the bracha is merely stating that Jews are commanded, even though this particular Jew (the woman) is exempt.  Again we see that a bracha is more of an announcement than part of the performance of the mitzvah.  In fact, the Shulchan Aruch might agree in this case because here, unlike the case of the woman, the person will become obligated in the action "real soon now, y'hear".

On the other hand, the sefer וזות הברכה brings a Rashba that says that the mitzvah is the avoda of the body, but the bracha is avoda of the soul.  Given that, perhaps one should wait to say the bracha until the time has come to perform the mitzvah.  Or maybe since the soul is outside of time, one needn't wait.  Or maybe since to be alive in this world means that the soul and body are connected, so the soul needs to yield to the time-bound body and wait.

On a practical level, not much difference, but אליבא דאמת... the difference is sublime.


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: Sometimes a Food Loses Its Identity When It Loses Its Bracha; Sometimes It Doesn't

Let's start with a question: Why are We Allowed to Drink Coffee and Whiskey Made by Non-Jews?  Before you ask,"Why would I think that I shouldn't be able to drink whiskey and coffee made by non-Jews?", I'll tell you. Simple, we all know that Chazal made a decree -- known as בישול עכו''ם/bishul akim -- that particular foods cooked by non-Jews are forbidden.  There are basically two criteria that determines if a dish falls into this category:
Is not consumed raw.Fit for a royal banquet. Cooked carrots, therefore, are not a problem since they can be eaten raw (I actually prefer them that way).  Baked beans are find because the are not prestigious enough.  (For great synopsis of the laws, see the article on the Star-K site, FOOD FIT FOR A KING, by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita.)  There are lots of cool questions and details (baked potatoes are prestigious, does that make even potato chips and issue?) which are for another time.  Clearly, though, both coffee an…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…