Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Bracha on Each of Four Cups at Seder Because Each is a Separate Mitzvah

My older grandchildren in Chicago are just getting to the age of learning to say brachos.  Their enthusiasm is inspiring.  Of course, being, six-ish, she can be a bit (a bit, you say?) over exuberant.  The other night, she washed for bread, took a new kind of roll, made a beautiful bracha, took one little nibble (I mean, barely scratched the surface), made a face, and gave it to her brother (who is somewhat less discerning in the bread department).  Some time later, I saw her carefully bentching.  I told her she hadn't eaten enough to bentch, so she asked me what she should say instead. I told her that she didn't have to say anything, and you said, "But I ate!  I must have to make some bracha!"  Such enthusiasm!

Many of us lose our enthusiasm at the seder table... "That much matzah!?!"  "That much maror!?!"  "That whole glass of wine?!?"  (Boys, of course, typically don't say that from the age of about 14 till they finally get tired of getting sick each year; usually before mid-90s, but it can go longer.)  We eat so much, of course, because the Torah requires that we eat (not just taste) matzah, maror, and wine (ok, drink; picky, picky).  Given that we have eaten enough, of course, we will also be required to bentch afterwards.  Interestingly, we do not want to eat such a quantity of parsley/potato that would require bentching afterward, because we want the בורא פרי האדמה to cover the maror as well.  We do that because we are nervous about making an extra בורא פרי האדמה on the maror, because maybe we are only eating it for the mitzvah.

Whoa, there!  But on the four cups of wine we specifically make a new בורא פרי הגפן because each cup is its own mitzvah.  Moreover, we specifically do not bentch after each cup, but only at the end.  What's going on?

First let's ask, "What's wrong with making more brachos, anyway?"  Suppose, for example, that I feel really spiritual today and want to praise HaShem a lot.  Why can't I take a whole handful of peanuts, eat them one at at time, and make a new בורא פרי האדמה each time?  You'll say, "You call yourself a rabbi?!  THOSE EXTRA BRACHOS WOULD EACH BE A BRACHA L'VATALA!"  I'll answer, "First, I don't call myself a rabbi; R' Fuerst did.  Second: That is precisely my question; why would each bracha be a bracha l'vatala?  I am just praising HaShem each time creating this peanut."

R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, z"tzl (Minchas Shlomo, Vol 1, Article 18) explains the problem and then uses that to explain why I do make a bracha on each cup at the seder.  The problem is in the attitude of,  "I feel spiritual today, so I'll make a lot of brachos."  So one day I'll make a lot of brachos, but another day I'll make only one.  Someone watching (like those little grandchildren) will say to themselves, "Oh!  I guess you make brachos when you want to, but don't need to."  Your stringency leads to rampant leniencies.  Therefore Chazal were very particular in when you can make a bracha.

Ah... since Chazal are so particular, when they specifically mandate a new bracha for each cup, it will stand out.  The Pesach sefer experience becomes all the more special.  It also gets the children to ask more questions... which is really what they seder is all about.


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…