Do I say Yaaleh Veyavo, Retzei or both?

Since Rosh Chodesh falls on motza’ei Shabbos, I thought it appropriate to discuss:

Do I say Yaaleh Veyavo, Retzei or both?

Question #1: Is it Shabbos versus Rosh Chodesh?

“When Rosh Chodesh begins on motza’ei Shabbos, do I say Yaaleh Veyavo in bensching at seudah shelishis?”

Question #2: Why is this night of Chanukah different from all other nights?

“Chanukah begins this motza’ei Shabbos. If I finish seudah shelishis after nightfall, do I include Al Hanissim in bensching?”

Introduction

When we recite birchas hamazon on Shabbos, Yom Tov, Chol Hamoed, Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah and Purim, we include special prayers to commemorate the holiday: on Shabbos, a passage beginning with the word Retzei; on Yom Tov, Chol Hamoed and Rosh Chodesh, the opening words are Yaaleh Veyavo; and on Chanukah and Purim, Al Hanissim.

In a different article, I discussed whether one recites these additions when one’s meal was divided between a holiday and a weekday – i.e., one ate part of his meal on the holiday and part before or after; or when the change of date transpired between the eating of the meal and the bensching. Does one recite the special addition to commemorate the holiday when this happens, or does one omit it? We discovered that there are several opinions as to what to do. These are the earliest opinions that I found:

  1. When one bensches

The Rosh rules that one recites the version of birchas hamazon appropriate to when one bensches, regardless as to when one ate the meal. In his opinion, one who finished seudah shelishis after nightfall does not recite Retzei. Similarly, one whose Purim seudah ends after Purim does not recite Al Hanissim. The Rosh also holds that someone who completed a meal before Rosh Chodesh and bensches after it is dark should recite Yaaleh Veyavo.

  1. The beginning of the meal

The Maharam, as understood by the Bach and the Aruch Hashulchan, maintains that the text of the bensching is established according to what was correct when the meal began. Therefore, one who finished seudah shelishis after nightfall recites Retzei, since his meal began on Shabbos. (There is an exception – if he did something to declare that Shabbos is over, such as reciting havdalah, davening maariv, or even simply answering borchu, he does not recite Retzei any more, as it is therefore inconsistent to mention Shabbos in bensching.)

  1. All of the above

The Maharam, as understood by the Taz, contends that one adds the special prayer if either the meal began on the holiday or one is bensching on the holiday. Thus, one who finished seudah shelishis after nightfall recites Retzei, and someone who completed a meal before Rosh Chodesh and bensches after it is dark should recite Yaaleh Veyavo.

The halachic conclusion

The halachic consensus regarding someone who began his meal on Shabbos or Purim and continued it into the night is that one recites Retzei or Al Hanissim, following the position of the Maharam and not the Rosh.

Conflicting prayers

The topic of our current article adds a new aspect to this question – what to do when Rosh Chodesh or Chanukah begins on motza’ei Shabbos, and seudah shelishis started on Shabbos and was completed on Rosh Chodesh or on Chanukah. According to the Rosh, one should recite Yaaleh Veyavo or Al Hanissim, whether or not one ate on Rosh Chodesh or on Chanukah. However, the consensus of halachic opinion is that the Maharam’s opinion is accepted, in this topic, over that of the Rosh. According to those who understand that the Maharam ruled that one should always recite the text of birchas hamazon appropriate to the beginning of the meal, one should recite Retzei. Yet, many authorities follow the second interpretation of the Maharam mentioned above, that one adds the special prayer if either the meal began on the holiday or one is bensching on the holiday. What complicates our question is that there may be a requirement to recite both Retzei and either Yaaleh Veyavo or Al Hanissim, yet mentioning both in the same bensching might be contradictory in this instance, since the holiday begins after Shabbos ends. As we will soon see, whether or not this is a problem is, itself, debated by the authorities.

The earliest authority that I found who discusses this predicament is the Bach (end of Orach Chayim, 188). Regarding what to recite when seudah shelishis continues into Rosh Chodesh, he concludes that one should say Retzei and not Yaaleh Veyavo, because the beginning of a meal determines the exact text of its birchas hamazon. As I mentioned above, this is precisely the way the Bach understands the Maharam’s position – that the proper bensching is always determined by the beginning of the meal. Since the halacha follows the Maharam’s position, the Bach comfortably rules according to his understanding of the Maharam, that one recites Retzei and not Yaaleh Veyavo.

The Magen Avraham (188:18; 419:1) analyzes the issue differently from the way the Bach does. First, he considers the possibility that one can recite both Retzei and Yaaleh Veyavo. This is based on his understanding of the Maharam’s position that ending a meal on Rosh Chodesh or a different festival is reason to recite the holiday additions, even if the meal started on a weekday. However, the Magen Avraham concludes that one cannot recite both Retzei and Yaaleh Veyavo in this instance, because this is an inherent contradiction: If it is already Rosh Chodesh, it is no longer Shabbos, and if it is still Shabbos, it is not yet Rosh Chodesh. Since this is now a conundrum, the Magen Avraham concludes that one should follow the Rosh’s opinion, that one recites whatever is appropriate to be said at this moment, which means to recite only Yaaleh Veyavo. Magen Avraham contends that this practice is followed only when one ate bread on Rosh Chodesh. If he did not eat bread on Rosh Chodesh, then he should say only Retzei, following the Maharam’s opinion that the special prayers are determined by the beginning of the meal.

Chanukah on motza’ei Shabbos

The Magen Avraham also rules that there is a difference in halachah between Rosh Chodesh and Chanukah. When Chanukah begins on motza’ei Shabbos and seudah shelishis extended into the beginning of Chanukah, he rules that one should recite only Retzei and not Al Hanissim, even if he ate bread on Chanukah.

Why is Chanukah different from all other nights?

The Magen Avraham explains that, whereas when reciting Yaaleh Veyavo on a weekday Rosh Chodesh bensching is required, reciting Al Hanissim in bensching of a weekday Chanukah is technically not required, but optional. Therefore, when his meal began on Shabbos (which was as yet not Chanukah) and he is, therefore, required to recite Retzei, even if he continued the meal into Chanukah and ate bread then, the optional addition of Al Hanissim does not cancel the requirement to recite Retzei.

More opinions

Thus far, we have seen two opinions concerning what to do for the bensching of a seudah shelishis that extended into Rosh Chodesh that begins on motza’ei Shabbos:

(1) The Bach, that one should recite Retzei and not Yaaleh Veyavo.

(2) The Magen Avraham, that if he ate bread on motza’ei Shabbos he should recite Yaaleh Veyavo, but otherwise he should recite Retzei.

A third position is that, once it is Rosh Chodesh, one should recite Yaaleh Veyavo and not Retzei (Maharash of Lublin, quoted by Shelah and Taz 188:7). The Maharash maintains that since at the time he bensches it is Rosh Chodesh, the requirement to recite Yaaleh Veyavo is primary and preempts the requirement to recite Retzei, which he considers to be secondary, since it is no longer Shabbos.

Why not both?

The Taz (188:7) disagrees with all the above-mentioned positions, challenging the assumption that one cannot recite both Retzei and Yaaleh Veyavo. He concludes that since Yaaleh Veyavo is recited after Retzei there is no contradiction, since Rosh Chodesh begins after Shabbos ends. Therefore, one who ate on Shabbos and is bensching on Rosh Chodesh should recite both additions.

To sum up, someone whose meal began on Shabbos and is bensching on Rosh Chodesh, should:

  • recite Yaaleh Veyavo, according to both the opinion of the Rosh and that of the Maharash,.
  • recite Retzei, according to the opinion shared by the Bach and the Aruch Hashulchan.
  • recite both Retzei and Yaaleh Veyavo, according to the conclusion of the Taz,.

According to the ruling of the Magen Avraham, if he ate bread after Rosh Chodesh arrived, he should recite Yaaleh Veyavo. If he did not, he should recite Retzei.

Rabbi, what should I do?

The Mishnah Berurah (188:33), when recording what to do, implies that one should follow the position of the Magen Avraham. He then mentions the Taz as an alternative approach – that one should say both Retzei and Yaaleh Veyavo. This is consistent with the Mishnah Berurah’s general approach of following the Magen Avraham, except when the latter’s position is opposed by most later authorities.

The Aruch Hashulchan, on the other hand, concludes neither as the Magen Avraham nor the Taz, but that what one recites is always determined by the beginning of the meal. Therefore, in this situation, he rules to recite Retzei and omit Yaaleh Veyavo, regardless of whether one ate on Rosh Chodesh.

Since there are many conflicting positions as to which additions to recite when Rosh Chodesh begins on motza’ei Shabbos, many people avoid eating bread after nightfall. They eat all the bread that they intend to eat towards the beginning of the meal, and upon completing the seudah, recite bensching including Retzei and omitting Yaaleh Veyavo. This approach follows the majority of halachic authorities (Bach, Magen Avraham, Aruch Hashulchan, Mishnah Berurah [according to his primary approach]), although it runs counter to the opinions of the Maharash and the Taz. Those who want to avoid any question recite birchas hamazon before the arrival of Rosh Chodesh.

Conclusion

In our daily lives, our hearts should be full with thanks to Hashem for all He does for us. Birchas hamazon provides a regular opportunity to elicit deep feelings of gratitude for what Hashem has done in the past and does in the present. All the more so should we should acknowledge Hashem’s help on special holidays.

 

 

Rabbi Avraham ibn Ezra, part II

A few weeks ago, we began reading about Rabbi Avraham ibn Ezra. This is a continuation of that article.

Rabbi Avraham ibn Ezra, part II

Question #1: The Right Bensch

“What is the correct text of our bensching?”

Question #2: Contract Law

“I signed a five-year employment contract, and now, three years later, I have an offer that is much better for me. Am I halachically required to turn down the new offer?”

Question #3: Pidyon Haben

“When should I schedule the pidyon haben of my son?”

Question #4: Touching Kuf

“If a sefer Torah was written in which the two parts of the letter kuf touch, is the sefer Torah invalid?”

Question #5: What is going on?

What do the previous questions have to do with one another, and with the title of this article?

Introduction:

Rav Avraham ibn Ezra, one of the early rishonim, is known as a commentator on Tanach, for his massive knowledge of Hebrew grammar (dikduk), philosophy, mathematics and astronomy, and for his skills as a paytan, a poet. In the first installment of this article, we discussed what we know of his personal history and his scholarship. At this point, we will discuss other aspects of ibn Ezra’s many contributions to Torah knowledge and observance.

Ibn Ezra and Kalir

One of ibn Ezra’s controversial positions was his strong opposition to the piyutim of Rav Elazar Kalir, the preeminent, prolific and perhaps earliest of the paytanim. In an essay incorporated in his commentary to Koheles (5:1), ibn Ezra levels harsh criticism against the piyutim authored by Rav Kalir. He divides his arguments into four categories.

Simplicity of language

Ibn Ezra notes that prayers should be recited in simple language. After all, a person should understand the prayers he utters. Since piyutim are usually intended as a form of prayer, one should not recite piyutim whose intent is not clear. Because of this, ibn Ezra advises reciting the piyutim written by Rav Saadyah Gaon, which can be understood literally.

Mixed language

Ibn Ezra’s second criticism of Kalir is that he mixed the Hebrew of his piyutim with vocabulary whose basis is in the Gemara, treating Talmudic language as if it were on the same level as the Hebrew of Tanach. As ibn Ezra notes, the Gemara (Avodah Zarah 58b) says “loshon Torah le’atzmah, loshon chachamim le’atzmo” which he understands to mean that the Hebrew used by the Gemara should be treated as a different language from that of Tanach. Therefore, one should not mix these two “languages” when reciting prayers.

Grammatical creativity

The third criticism of ibn Ezra is that he is unhappy with Kalir’s creative approach to Hebrew grammar and structure, allowing poetic style to influence the Hebrew that he used. Ibn Ezra also criticized Kalir’s creation of new words by changing masculine words to feminine, and vice versa, for poetic effect or to accomplish his allusions.

Use of midrashim

Ibn Ezra’s fourth criticism of Kalir is that his piyutim are filled with midrashim, which ibn Ezra contends should not be included in prayers.

Ibn Ezra notes that when Rav Saadyah wrote piyutim, he steered clear of these four problems. In fact, Sefardim do not recite piyutim of Rav Kalir, whereas among Ashkenazim he is the most commonly used paytan.

Ibn Ezra notes that there were those who took issue with him for criticizing Kalir, since the latter had passed on many years before and was unable to respond.

Response to ibn Ezra

We should note that Shibbolei Haleket quoted very selectively from this essay of ibn Ezra, omitting any mention of ibn Ezra’s criticism of Rav Kalir’s writings.

Furthermore, none of ibn Ezra’s criticisms should be taken as casting aspersion on Rav Elazar Hakalir’s greatness. Shibbolei Haleket records that when Rabbi Elazar Hakalir wrote his poem Vechayos Asher Heinah Meruba’os (recited in the kedusha of musaf of Rosh Hashanah), the angels surrounded him with fire (quoted by the Magen Avraham at the beginning of Siman 68). Similarly, Rav Chaim Vital writes that his teacher, the Arizal, recited only the piyutim written by the early paytanim, such as Rav Elazar Hakalir, since they are based on Kabbalah.

Mules, Megillas Esther and ibn Ezra

The Book of Esther uses a few words that appear to be transliterated terms of Persian origin. In some instances, the commentaries grapple with understanding the meaning of these words. For example, the Megillah describes how the “achashteranim benei haramachim” were sent to deliver an urgent message. But what do these words mean? The Gemara (Megillah 18a) mentions that the amora’im were unaware of the exact translation of these words. One of the halachic rishonim, the Rivash, concludes that the word achashteranim is a composite word meaning “mules whose mothers are mares,” citing ibn Ezra as his source (Shu”t HaRivash #390).

Ibn Ezra and halachah

Although ibn Ezra is noted primarily for his abilities in language, commentary, mathematics and astronomy, there are many places where he is cited by later authorities as a halachic source. For example, he is quoted authoritatively by the Avudraham, the Beis Yosef (Orach Chayim 188) and later authorities regarding a controversy surrounding the correct text of our bensching. He is also quoted by authorities in regard to the correct pronunciation of the name of Hashem (Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 124).

Here are some other areas of halachah in which the ibn Ezra is quoted:

Contract law

“I signed a five-year employment contract, and now, three years later, I have an offer that is much better for me. Am I halachically required to turn down the new offer?”

There is discussion among halachic authorities about this topic, including several rishonim, the Rema (Choshen Mishpat 333:3) and the Shach (ad locum 333:17). In this context, ibn Ezra’s comments on Chumash are quoted as halachic authority. He understands that an eved Ivri, a Jewish slave, who is purchased for a maximum of six years, has worked mishneh s’char sachir, twice the amount of time usually allowed for a worker to commit himself. This means that the Torah does not recognize an employment contract that is longer than three years. His exact words are: “We find written ‘three years as the duration of a hired hand’ (Yeshayahu 16:14), and this is proof that a person does not have authority to hire himself out for more than three years. Furthermore, the one paying the wages cannot hire him [for more than three years]. And this is the reason [in the pasuk regarding the eved Ivri] for the word ‘mishneh – double’” (commentary to Devorim 15:18), since a Hebrew slave can be purchased for up to six years, or twice as long as an employment contract normally allows.

Inheritance of positions

In an interesting discussion germane to the laws of inheriting positions, ibn Ezra is quoted as supporting the right of a son-in-law to his late father-in-law’s rabbinic position, where no direct descendants are appropriate for the post (Shu’t Doveiv Meisharim Vol. 4). This is based on ibn Ezra’s comment that, at times, a son-in-law is referred to as a son (Bereishis 19:12).

When to redeem?

There is a discussion among halachic authorities as to whether the proper time to perform the mitzvah of pidyon haben is on the 31st day after birth, or after a lunar month equivalent (29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 3.3 seconds) has passed since birth. In this context, some authorities quote ibn Ezra in support of the second approach (Shu’t Shevus Yaakov 2:87).

When is nightfall?

Ibn Ezra is perhaps the earliest authority to determine when nightfall occurs on the basis of astronomical calculation. He notes that the length of time between sunset and nightfall varies from place to place and is dependent on how long it takes the sun to reach a certain point beyond the horizon – what is called today the solar depression angle.

Matzoh and Hagadah

Ibn Ezra is quoted among the list of authorities who contend that eating matzoh on Pesach after the first night fulfills some level of mitzvah. Another halachah quoted in his name is the mitzvah of reciting the Hagadah the entire night of Pesach. Ibn Ezra cites an approach that the words leil shimurim, describing the Seder night, mean that we are supposed to be shimurim, not that we are the ones being protected. He explains this to mean that one should be alert and “on guard” throughout the night, using the night exclusively to thank Hashem and to retell the wondrous deeds He performed leading to and including our exodus from Egypt. This interpretation is also quoted in his name by poskim (Shu’t Seridei Eish 1:47).

Ibn Ezra and the physician

Another interesting halachic insight is quoted in his name. The Avnei Neizer, one of the greatest poskim of the late nineteenth century, was asked the following: A person is seriously ill, and the physicians have recommended that he take a medication that is non-kosher. Granted that this is pikuach nefesh, a life-threatening emergency, and therefore supersedes the requirement to keep kosher, is the patient permitted to be stringent and not take the medicine, or does this violate the Torah’s laws?

Ibn Ezra contends that the Torah’s instructions to heed medical opinion apply only to external injuries, but not to an internal medical condition. He states that in the era of prophecy, a prophet’s opinion about what was happening inside the body was more accurate than a physician’s. A result of this idea is that one is not required – and perhaps, according to ibn Ezra, not permitted – to violate a mitzvah for an internal remedy advised by a physician.

Together with other halachic reasons and bases, the Avnei Neizer rules that the individual does have the right to rely on these opinions and not consume non-kosher (Shu’t Avnei Neizer, Choshen Mishpat #193).

It should be noted that the late Klausenberger Rebbe ruled that today, since we now have various methods for checking what is going on inside our bodies, what would have been considered an internal matter in earlier days is now under the heading of something that doctors should treat, even according to ibn Ezra – and that, therefore, a person should definitely follow doctor’s orders (Shu’t Divrei Yetziv, Likutim #114).

Aliyah la’regel

In an interesting responsum of Rav Moshe Feinstein to the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rav Moshe rules that the mitzvah of being oleh regel, to visit the Beis Hamikdash grounds on the Yomim Tovim and offer korbanos, does not require that one walk to the har habayis, but that one may travel there in a different way (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Kodoshim #21. This responsum is located at the end of the first volume of Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim I). Rav Moshe brings support for this approach from the commentary of ibn Ezra.

Ibn Ezra and the kuf

One of the rishonim quotes ibn Ezra as the halachic authority to resolve the following question: If a sefer Torah was written in which the two parts of the letter kuf touch, is the sefer Torah invalid? The Tashbeitz, who was asked this question (Shu”t Tashbeitz 1:51), brings evidence from ibn Ezra that he held that it is perfectly fine, and even preferable, to write a sefer Torah this way. Although we do not follow this ruling, the Tashbeitz, based on ibn Ezra, did.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we see that ibn Ezra made many contributions to the halachic knowledge of Klal Yisroel. The main lesson to be learned from his life is that one should strive to grow in prayer and in studying and teaching Torah to the extent of one’s ability, notwithstanding the adversity of personal circumstances.

 

Praying for a Rainy Day when Traveling to or from Eretz Yisroel in November

Whereas in chutz la’aretz ve’sein tal umatar (the prayer for rain added to the beracha of Boreich Aleinu in the weekday shemoneh esrei) is not recited until the evening of December Fourth (this year; the exact date varies), people in Eretz Yisroel began reciting this prayer on the Seventh of MarCheshvan. This difference in practice leads to many interesting shaylos. Here are some examples:

Question #1:

Yankel, who lives in New York, is in aveilus, l”a, for his father, and tries to lead services at every opportunity. He will be visiting Eretz Yisroel during the month of November. Does he recite the prayer according to the Eretz Yisroel practice while there? Which version does he recite in his quiet shemoneh esrei? Perhaps he should not even lead services while he is there?

Question #2:

Does someone from chutz la’aretz who is currently attending yeshiva or seminary in Eretz Yisroel recite ve’sein tal umatar according to the custom of Eretz Yisroel or according to the chutz la’aretz practice?

Question #3:

Reuven lives in Eretz Yisroel, but is in chutz la’aretz on the Seventh of MarCheshvan. Does he begin reciting ve’sein tal umatar while in chutz la’aretz, does he wait until he returns to Eretz Yisroel, or does he follow the practice of those who live in chutz la’aretz?

In order to explain the halachic issues involved in answering these shaylos, we must first explain why we begin requesting rain in Eretz Yisroel on a date different from that in chutz la’aretz.

The Gemara (Taanis 10a) concludes that in Eretz Yisroel, one begins reciting ve’sein tal umatar on the Seventh of MarCheshvan, whereas in Bavel one begins reciting it on the sixtieth day after the autumnal equinox. (The Gemara’s method for calculating the autumnal equinox is not based on the solar year, but on a different calculation. The reason for this is beyond the scope of this article.) Someone who recites ve’sein tal umatar during the summer months in Eretz Yisroel must repeat the shemoneh esrei, since this request in the summer is inappropriate (Taanis 3b; Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 117:3).

WHY ARE THERE TWO DIFFERENT “RAIN DATES”?

Since Eretz Yisroel requires rain earlier than Bavel, Chazal instituted that the Jews in Eretz Yisroel begin requesting rain shortly after Sukkos. In Bavel, where it was better if it began raining later, reciting ve’sein tal umatar was delayed until later. This practice is followed in all of chutz la’aretz, even in places where rain is not seasonal, or where rain is needed earlier — although the precise reason why all of chutz la’aretz follows the practice of Bavel is uncertain (see Rashi and Rosh to Taanis 10a; Shu”t Rosh 4:10; Tur and Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 117, and my article on reciting ve’sein tal umatar in the southern hemisphere).

LOCAL CONDITIONS

If a certain city needs rain at a different time of the year, can they, or should they recite ve’sein tal umatar then? The Gemara (Taanis 14b) raises this question and cites the following story:

“The people of the city of Nineveh (in contemporary Iraq) sent the following shaylah to Rebbe: In our city, we need rain even in the middle of the summer. Should we be treated like individuals, and request rain in the beracha of Shma Koleinu, or like a community and recite ve’sein tal umatar during the beracha of Boreich Aleinu? Rebbe responded that they are considered individuals and should request rain during the beracha of Shma Koleinu.”

This means that an individual or a city that needs rain during a different part of the year should recite ve’sein tal umatar during the beracha of Shma Koleinu, but not as part of Boreich Aleinu.

NATIONAL CONDITIONS

Is a country different from a city? In other words, if an entire country or a large region requires rain at a different time of the year, should its residents recite ve’sein tal umatar during the beracha of Boreich Aleinu? The Rosh raises this question and contends, at least in theory, that a country should recite ve’sein tal umatar in Boreich Aleinu. In his opinion, most of North America and Europe should recite ve’sein tal umatar during the summer months. Although we do not follow this approach, someone who recites ve’sein tal umatar at a time when his country requires rain should not repeat the Shemoneh esrei, but should rely retroactively on the opinion of the Rosh (Shulchan Aruch and Rama 117:2). Similarly, someone in chutz la’aretz who recited ve’sein tal umatar as part of Boreich Aleinu in error after the Seventh of MarCheshvan should not repeat Shemoneh esrei afterwards, unless he lives in a country where rain is not necessary at this time (Birkei Yosef 117:3; cf. Shu”t Ohalei Yaakov #87 of the Maharikash,  who disagrees.).

With this introduction, we can now begin to discuss the questions at hand. What should someone do if he lives in Eretz Yisroel but is in chutz la’aretz, or vice versa, during the weeks when there is a difference in practice between the two places? As one can imagine, much halachic literature discusses this shaylah, although I am surprised to report that I found no discussion concerning this question dating back to the Rishonim. I found three early opinions, which I quote in chronological order:

Opinion #1

The earliest opinion I found, that of the Maharikash (Shu”t Ohalei Yaakov #87) and the Radbaz (Shu”t #2055), discusses specifically an Eretz Yisroel resident who left his wife and children behind while traveling to chutz la’aretz. (In earlier generations, it was common that emissaries from the Eretz Yisroel communities traveled to chutz la’aretz for long periods of time to solicit funds.) These poskim ruled that if the traveler is leaving his family behind in Eretz Yisroel, he should begin reciting ve’sein tal umatar on the Seventh of MarCheshvan, following the practice of Eretz Yisroel, regardless of whether he himself was then in Eretz Yisroel or in chutz la’aretz. However, if he is single, or alternatively, if he is traveling with his family, then when he begins reciting ve’sein tal umatar depends on whether he will be gone for the entire rainy season. If he leaves Eretz Yisroel before the Seventh of MarCheshvan and intends to be gone until Pesach or later, he recites ve’sein tal umatar according to the practice of chutz la’aretz. If he intends to return before Pesach, he recites ve’sein tal umatar beginning on the Seventh of MarCheshvan, even though he is in chutz la’aretz.

The key question here is, what is the criterion for determining when someone recites ve’sein tal umatar? These poskim contend that it depends on his personal need. If his immediate family is in Eretz Yisroel, it is considered that his personal need requires rain already on the Seventh of MarCheshvan. Therefore, he begins reciting ve’sein tal umatar on that date, even should he himself be in chutz la’aretz (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 2:102).

Opinion #2

The Pri Chodosh (Orach Chayim 117) quotes the previous opinion (of the Maharikash and the Radbaz) and disputes their conclusion, contending that only one factor determines when the traveler begins reciting ve’sein tal umatar – how long he plans to stay abroad. If he left Eretz Yisroel intending to be away for at least a year, he should consider himself a resident of chutz la’aretz (for this purpose) and begin reciting ve’sein tal umatar in December. If he intends to be away for less than a year, he should begin reciting ve’sein tal umatar on the Seventh of MarCheshvan. Furthermore, the Pri Chodosh states that whether one leaves one’s immediate family behind or not does not affect this halacha.

These two approaches disagree fundamentally regarding what determines when an individual recites ve’sein tal umatar? According to Opinion #1 (the Maharikash and the Radbaz), the main criterion is whether one has a personal need for rain as early as the Seventh of MarCheshvan. According to Opinion #2 (the Pri Chodosh), the issue is whether one is considered a resident of Eretz Yisroel or of chutz la’aretz.

According to this analysis of Opinion #2, a resident of chutz la’aretz who intends to spend a year in Eretz Yisroel begins reciting ve’sein tal umatar on the Seventh of MarCheshvan, whereas, if he intends to stay less than a year, he follows the practice of chutz la’aretz (Pri Megadim; Mishnah Berurah; cf. however Halichos Shelomoh, Volume 1 8:28 pg. 107). However, according to Opinion #1, he would being reciting ve’sein tal umatar on the Seventh of MarCheshvan if he or his family intend to spend any time during the rainy season in Eretz Yisroel.

Opinion #3

The Birkei Yosef quotes the two above-mentioned opinions and also other early poskim who follow a third approach, that the determining factor is where you are on the Seventh of MarCheshvan. (See also Shu”t Dvar Shmuel #323.) This approach implies that someone who is in Eretz Yisroel on the Seventh of MarCheshvan should begin praying for rain, even though he intends to return to chutz la’aretz shortly, and that someone who is in chutz la’aretz on that date should not, even though he left his family in Eretz Yisroel.

Dvar Shmuel and Birkei Yosef explain that someone needs rain where he is, and it is not dependent on his residence. Birkei Yosef points out that if there is a severe drought where he is located, it does not make any difference if he lives elsewhere; he will be a casualty of the lack of water. This was certainly true in earlier generations, when water supply was dependent on local wells. Even today, when water is supplied via piping from large reservoirs, this opinion would still rule that the halacha is determined by one’s current location, and not one’s permanent residence.

Opinion #3 (the Birkei Yosef’s approach) is fairly similar to that of Opinion #1 (the Maharikash and the Radbaz), in that both approaches see the determining factor to be temporary need and not permanent residency. However, these two opinions dispute several details, including what is the ruling of someone in chutz la’aretz whose family remains in Eretz Yisroel. According to Opinion #1, this person begins ve’sein tal umatar on the Seventh of MarCheshvan, whereas Opinion #3 contends that he begins only when the other bnei chutz la’aretz do.

Why does Opinion #3 disregard his family being in Eretz Yisroel as a factor, whereas Opinion #1 is concerned with this fact? Birkei Yosef explains that praying for rain for one’s family when one is in chutz la’aretz is praying for an individual need, which one does in Shma Koleinu, not in Boreich Aleinu, since the rest of the community there has no need for rain. Opinion #1 presumably holds that praying for Eretz Yisroel when I am in chutz la’aretz is not considered praying for an individual, even though my reason to pray for rain in Eretz Yisroel is personal.

After analyzing these three conflicting opinions, how do we rule? Although the later poskim, such as the Mishnah Berurah, refer to these earlier sources, it is unclear how they conclude halachically. (See Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer 6:38, which contains a careful analysis of the words of the Mishnah Berurah on this subject.) Thus, an individual should ask his Rav what to do in each case.

TRAVELING AND RETURNING

What does one do if he travels and returns within these days? Assuming that he began to recite ve’sein tal umatar on the Seventh of MarCheshvan because he was in Eretz Yisroel (and he followed those opinions that rule this way), does he now stop reciting it upon his return to chutz la’aretz?

This question is raised by the Birkei Yosef (117:6), who rules that he continues reciting ve’sein tal umatar when he returns to chutz la’aretz.

What does one do if he is reciting ve’sein tal umatar, and the community is not, or vice versa — and he would like to lead the services? Birkei Yosef rules that he should not lead the communal services; however, if he forgot and did so, he should follow his own version in the quiet Shemoneh esrei and the community’s version in the repetition (Birkei Yosef 117:8). However, Rav Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach permitted him to lead the services, following the community’s practice in his public prayer and his own in his private one (Halichos Shelomoh 5:21; note that according to Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 2:23, 29; 4:33 he should not lead the services.).

Let us now examine some of the shaylos we raised above:

Question #1:

Yankel, who lives in New York, would like to lead services when visiting Eretz Yisroel during the month of November.

According to all of the opinions involved, when davening privately Yankel should not recite ve’sein tal umatar until it is recited in chutz la’aretz, since he does not live in Eretz Yisroel, does not have immediate family living there, and was not there on the Seventh of MarCheshvan. As explained above, according to most opinions, he should not lead the services, since he is not reciting ve’sein tal umatar and the congregation is, whereas according to Rav Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach, he may lead the services. According to Birkei Yosef (Opinion #3 above), if he is in Eretz Yisroel on the Seventh of MarCheshvan, he should begin to recite ve’sein tal umatar then, since he now has a need for rain; he should continue to recite this prayer even when he returns to chutz la’aretz. However, in this case, when returning to chutz la’aretz, he should not lead services, according to most opinions, since he is reciting ve’sein tal umatar and they are not. If he forgot and led the services, he should recite ve’sein tal umatar in the quiet Shemoneh esrei but not in the repetition.

According to the Pri Chodosh (Opinion #2 above), if he is in Eretz Yisroel on the Seventh of MarCheshvan, he should not recite ve’sein tal umatar, since he lives in chutz la’aretz. Following this approach, he should not lead services when in Eretz Yisroel, but he may resume when he returns to chutz la’aretz.

Question #2:

Does someone attending Yeshiva or seminary in Eretz Yisroel, recite ve’sein tal umatar according to the custom of Eretz Yisroel or according to the chutz la’aretz practice?

The answer to this question will depend upon which of the above-quoted authorities one follows. According to Opinion #1 (the Maharikash, the Radbaz) and Opinion #3 (the Birkei Yosef), they should follow the practice of Eretz Yisroel, since they need the rain, while in Eretz Yisroel, even though they are not permanent Israeli residents. According to Opinion #2 (the Pri Chodosh), if they are staying for less than a year, they follow the practice of chutz la’aretz, whereas if they are staying longer, they should begin reciting it from the Seventh of MarCheshvan. Several people have told me that Rav Elyashiv ruled that they should recite ve’sein tal umatar while they are in Eretz Yisroel, unless they intend to return before the end of the rainy season.

Question #3:

Reuven lives in Eretz Yisroel, but is in chutz la’aretz on the Seventh of MarCheshvan. Does he begin reciting ve’sein tal umatar while in chutz la’aretz, does he wait until he returns to Eretz Yisroel, or does he follow the practice of those who live in chutz la’aretz?

According to Opinions # 1 and #2, he should follow the practice of those living in Eretz Yisroel, but for different reasons. According to Opinion #1, the reason is because he knows that he will return to Eretz Yisroel during the rainy season and therefore follows the practice there. According to Opinion #2, since he left Eretz Yisroel for less than a year he is considered an Eretz Yisroel resident.

Although it would seem that the Birkei Yosef (Opinion #3) would hold that he should not recite ve’sein tal umatar until the bnei chutz la’aretz do, it is not absolutely clear that he would disagree with the other poskim in this case. One could explain that he ruled only that one follows the bnei chutz la’aretz if he is there for an extended trip, but not if he is there for only a few weeks that happen to coincide with the Seventh of MarCheshvan. For this reason, when someone recently asked me this shaylah, I ruled that he should follow the practice of those dwelling in Eretz Yisroel. Subsequently, I found this exact shaylah in Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer (6:38), and was very happy to find that he ruled the same way I had. (However, Halichos Shelomoh 8:19 rules that he should recite ve’sein tal umatar in Shma Koleinu and not in Boreich Aleinu.)

CONCLUSION

Rashi (Breishis 2:5) points out that until Adam HaRishon appeared, there was no rain in the world. Rain fell and grasses sprouted only after Adam was created, understood that rain was necessary for the world and prayed to Hashem for rain.  Whenever we pray for rain, we must remember that the essence of prayer is drawing ourselves closer to Hashem.

 

May I Pass Up This Mitzvah?

Question #1: Inexperienced Father

Abba Chodosh asks me the following question: “Before we relocated for a particular job, I had trained as a mohel. Since our children born since that time were daughters, I never ended up performing a bris without the supervision of an experienced mohel. Now that my son was born, am I required to perform the bris myself?”

Question #2 Successful Mezuzos

Baal Eisektov asks: “Thank G-d, we are inaugurating a new branch of our business. Common practice is to give a rav the honor of installing the mezuzos. But shouldn’t I be doing that myself, because of the principle of mitzvah bo yoseir mibishlucho?”

Question #3 Sharing the Challah

Leah asks me: “Recently, I participated in a tour of a large bakery, and the mashgiach offered me to take challah there, which I did. Someone afterwards told me that the mashgiach should not have been so free in giving away his mitzvah. Did he, indeed, do something wrong?”

Answer: May I delegate?

One of the most basic rules of business and life management is to learn how to entrust responsibility and tasks to others. Does this concept extend to the observance of mitzvos? If I have a mitzvah to carry out, am I permitted to assign it to someone else?

All of the questions asked above are contingent on the same basic underlying issue: Under what circumstances may I hand over the performance of a mitzvah that I could do myself?

The basics

The Gemara rules that one fulfills a mitzvah when it is performed by an agent, although it is preferable to do it himself (Kiddushin 41a). This is called mitzvah bo yoseir mibishlucho, it is better to perform a mitzvah yourself, rather than have someone else do it for you. This rule is not needed in cases of mitzvah shebegufo, where the mitzvah is incumbent on a person to do with and upon his own body, and a sheliach cannot be made at all. An example of the latter case is the wearing of tefillin: I cannot make someone an agent for me by asking that he don tefillin in my stead, because the mitzvah is that the tefillin be placed on my arm and my head.

Anything done wrong?

Our first consideration is: Granted that, under normal circumstances, a person should perform the mitzvah himself, has he violated anything by requesting that an agent do it for him? The Gemara implies that a person (a meshalei’ach) delegating someone else to perform a mitzvah for him has done nothing wrong; he has, however, forfeited an opportunity to perform a mitzvah.

However, other factors may have an impact on the final ruling. Let us consider, for a moment, the situation above, where the father has been trained as a mohel, but is lacking extensive experience. What if his wife, the baby’s mother, prefers that he not perform the bris, and that they opt to use an experienced mohel instead? Does Abba’s shalom bayis become a factor in whether or not he should perform the bris? If he is not violating anything by appointing an agent, then I would personally rule that his wife’s serenity is the most important factor. However, this may not be true if it is prohibited to assign the mitzvah to someone else.

Are there circumstances in which it is fine to have the agent perform a mitzvah for me? What are the halachic principles upon which I can base my decision?

Kisuy hadam practices

Much of the halachic literature discussing these questions originates with the mitzvah of kisuy hadam. The Gemara teaches that the mitzvah of kisuy hadam, the Torah’s requirement that one cover the blood with earth after shechting poultry or chayos, such as deer and antelope is incumbent upon the shocheit. According to the rule of mitzvah bo yoseir mibishlucho, the shocheit should cover the blood himself. Yet, it was, and is, common practice that shochatim honor someone else with fulfilling the mitzvah. Is this permitted? Let us see if we can find Talmudic precedents for the practice.

Kohen application

The Gemara (Bava Kamma 110a) teaches that an elderly or ill kohen for whom it is difficult to offer a korban himself may bring his korban to the Beis Hamikdash and ask a different kohen to offer it in his stead. Notwithstanding that it is a mitzvah of the elderly kohen, he may delegate the performance of the mitzvah, since it is difficult for him. Thus, we see that, at least under certain circumstances, one does not violate halachah by asking someone else to perform a mitzvah in one’s place. The Tevuos Shor (28:14) notes that we see from this Talmudic passage that there are situations in which a person is able to perform a mitzvah himself, yet he has the option of passing the opportunity to someone else.

Yibum application

Here is another Talmudic precedent that permits someone required to observe a mitzvah to defer it to someone else. One of the Torah’s mitzvos, yibum, is that a man should marry his late brother’s widow, if his brother left no descendents. The Mishnah teaches that the mitzvah devolves specifically upon the oldest surviving brother. If he chooses not to fulfill the mitzvah, then and only then does the mitzvah pass to his younger brother.

The Gemara (Yevamos 44a) discusses a situation in which there are at least seven brothers in a family, of whom five are married without any children. The five married brothers all die, thereby creating five mitzvos of yibum for the oldest brother to perform. The Gemara’s conclusion is that if the oldest brother wants to marry as many as four of the widows, he may, clearly noting that he is not required to do so, even should he have the financial and physical ability to provide the needs of all four widows. The Gemara advises against his marrying more than four, out of concern that he will not be able to provide his new wives with sufficient attention. (We can definitely conclude that marital expectations have changed since the time of the Gemara.)

The Tevuos Shor (28:14) notes that we see from this Talmudic passage that there are situations in which a person could perform a mitzvah himself, yet he has the option of passing the opportunity to someone else. Based on this and other Talmudic sources, the Tevuos Shor justifies the practice of shochatim honoring someone else with the mitzvah of kisuy hadam.

This ruling of the Tevuos Shor can be used to explain the practice that forms the basis of Mr. Eisektov’s question. Why is there a common practice of honoring a respected rav with installing mezuzos at a new business? The answer is that, since the owners are doing it to honor the rav, they view this consideration as a greater mitzvah than performing the mitzvah themselves.

However, other authorities disagree with the Tevuos Shor’s approach, contending that providing someone else with honor is not sufficient reason to justify not fulfilling the mitzvah oneself (Binas Adam #7). Still others are of the opinion that the opposite of the Tevuos Shor‘s approach is true: they posit that asking someone to act as one’s agent is permitted, since one still fulfills the mitzvah, whereas honoring someone with the mitzvah without making him an agent is forbidden (Peleisi 28:3).

Sandek application

Here is another situation in which we see how a respected early authority ruled. “The father of a newborn boy who does not want to be the sandek himself, because he desires to have harmonious family relationships and demonstrate his respect, should give the honor to his own father, the baby’s paternal grandfather. However, if the baby’s paternal grandfather prefers that his own father (the baby’s great-grandfather) be honored, then he may give the honor to the great-grandfather, and this is the prevalent custom.” (Leket Yosher) The time-honored role of the sandek, the one who holds the baby during a bris, is, in itself, a mitzvah. By holding the baby, the sandek assists the mohel doing the mitzvah. Since the mitzvah of bris milah is the father’s, logic suggests that a father who is not a mohel should be the sandek. However, since he does not want anyone to be upset and also wants to fulfill his own mitzvah of respecting his parents, common practice is that the father honors someone else with being sandek.

Those who permit honoring someone else with the mitzvah of kisuy hadam would no doubt rally support to their approach from the ruling of the Leket Yosher. Those who feel that the shocheit should not honor someone else with the mitzvah of kisuy hadam will presumably contend that the sandek is not actually fulfilling a mitzvah that is required of him, and that is why its performance can be transferred to someone else. On the other hand, since kisuy hadam is incumbent on the shocheit, they would contend that he may not honor someone else with this mitzvah.

Passing on a bris

At this point, I would like to discuss how these rules affect the laws of bris milah, which was the first question I mentioned above (and the reason why I chose to discuss the topic the week of Parshas Lech Lecha). The Or Zarua, a rishon, writes that it is forbidden for a father who is a qualified mohel to have someone else perform his son’s bris milah (Hilchos Milah #107). (The Or Zarua, a native of what is today the Czech Republic, traveled to attend the yeshivos of the Baalei Tosafos in Northern France. He subsequently became the rav of Vienna, where he apparently opened a yeshivah. The Maharam of Rothenberg was one of the Or Zarua’s disciples.) According to the obvious reading of the Or Zarua, we already have enough information to answer Abba Chodosh’s question above: Abba had once trained to be a mohel, but never practiced. Now that he has his first son, is he required to perform the bris himself, or may he have a more experienced mohel do it? Assuming that Abba can still perform a bris safely, the Or Zarua would seem to rule that he is required to be the mohel.

However, this answer is not obvious. Firstly, the Rema (Darkei Moshe, Yoreh Deah 264:1) wonders why the Or Zarua rules that it is prohibited for the mohel to have an agent perform the mitzvah for him. We fully understand that it is not preferred – the Gemara says that it is better to perform a mitzvah oneself, rather than have it performed by someone else. However, the Or Zarua does not say simply that it is preferred that the father perform the mitzvah himself – the Or Zarua prohibits having someone else perform the mitzvah!

In his comments on the Shulchan Aruch, the Rema omits mention of the Or Zarua’s ruling, a factor noted by some authorities as proof that the Rema rejected the position of the Or Zarua (Tevuos Shor 28:14). However, the Shach (Choshen Mishpat 382:4) independently reaches the same conclusion as the Or Zarua, based on his analysis of a statement of the Rosh. The Shach’s comments require an introduction.

A mitzvah snatcher

The Gemara rules that someone who performs a mitzvah that another person is required to do and is planning to perform is charged a fine of ten gold coins for stealing someone else’s mitzvah (Bava Kamma 91b; Chullin 87a). One of the Gemara’s cases is as follows: A shocheit slaughtered a bird, and then, before he had a chance to fulfill the mitzvah of covering the blood, someone else covered it, thus snatching the mitzvah. The shocheit brought the offending party to a din Torah before Rabban Gamliel, who fined the mitzvah snatcher ten gold coins. Rashi (Chullin 87a s.v. Litein) explains that the fine is for depriving someone of the reward he should have received for the mitzvah.

When citing this Gemara, the Rosh (Chullin 6:8) recounts the following story: The father of a newborn asked a mohel to perform the bris, but a different mohel performed it without getting permission. Subsequently, the first mohel sued the second mohel in Rabbeinu Tam’s beis din for stealing the mitzvah. Rabbeinu Tam ruled that, although the interloping mohel’s act was despicable, for a variety of technical reasons not germane to our topic, there are no grounds to fine the mohel for stealing the bris.

The Rosh agrees with the ruling, but for a reason that Rabbeinu Tam did not mention: Although the father told the mohel to perform the bris, the mohel does not thereby become the “owner” of the mitzvah, unlike the shocheit in Rabban Gamliel’s case, who was already obligated in the mitzvah.

The Rosh closes his discussion with the following words: “However, if the father does not want to perform the milah, all Jews are obligated to perform the bris. The words that the father spoke to the mohel did not have sufficient weight to transfer ownership of this mitzvah to him, thus making it impossible to fine a second person who performed the mitzvah, albeit without permission.” Based on this Rosh, the Rema (Choshen Mishpat 382:1) concludes that someone who performed the bris on a child whose father was intending to carry it out himself must pay the father ten gold coins, but if the father asked a mohel to perform the bris, then the interloping mohel is absolved of any fine.

Can the father make an agent?

The following question is raised relative to the comments of the Rosh: We see from the Rosh that the interloping mohel who takes the mitzvah away from the father is fined, whereas if he takes the mitzvah from a different mohel, he is not. But why is this so? In the latter instance, he also “stole” the mitzvah from the father, since the first mohel was the father’s agent, and the interloping mohel was not? Thus, the father would have fulfilled the mitzvah through his agent had the first mohel performed the bris, but he was deprived of the mitzvah by the second mohel (Ketzos Hachoshen 382:2).

There are a few ways to resolve this question. The Ketzos Hachoshen concludes that when the Torah gave the father a mitzvah to circumcise his child, the Torah was not simply asking him to make sure that his son has a bris, but was requiring the father to perform the bris himself. The father cannot make a mohel an agent to circumcise his son, just as one cannot make an agent to don tefillin. Neither of these mitzvos can be performed through agency. Therefore, when the father asks a mohel to perform the bris for him, he is demonstrating that he does not intend to perform this mitzvah himself, and the second mohel did not steal it from him. This appears to be the way the Shach (Choshen Mishpat 382:4) understood the Rosh also, and for this reason he writes: “We can demonstrate from the words of this Rosh that a father who is a mohel is not permitted to give the mitzvah to someone else… I saw many men who are capable of performing the bris themselves who honor others with the mitzvah. In my opinion, they thereby are abrogating the important mitzvah of milah. The local beis din should take action to stop this.”

Everyone is an agent

However, there is an alternative way to explain the Rosh, which reaches a different conclusion. The Mishneh Lamelech (Bechoros end of 4:1; see also Terumas Hadeshen #188) contends that once someone revealed that he does not want to do a mitzvah himself, anyone who performs it is his agent. Therefore, when a father appoints someone to perform his son’s bris, any Jew who properly performs the bris milah is now acting as the father’s agent. The second mohel did not deprive the father of any mitzvah.

According to the second approach, no matter who performs the bris, the father has fulfilled the mitzvah, and he is not in violation for appointing an agent. However, if this is true, why does the Or Zarua prohibit a father from appointing someone to circumcise his son? The Tevuos Shor explains that there is a difference between honoring someone else to perform the mitzvah that one would prefer to do, which is permitted, and having someone else perform a mitzvah because one is not interested to perform it. In the latter case, failure to fulfill the mitzvah oneself violates mitzvah bo yoseir mibishlucho. The Tevuos Shor thus concludes that one may appoint someone else to do the milah. He also concludes that it is permitted for a shocheit to honor someone else with performing kisuy hadam. As I mentioned above, there are other authorities who disagree with this conclusion.

Conclusion:

The following anecdote about Rav Pam demonstrates his observing the principle of mitzvah bo yoseir mibishlucho. Someone offered to mail a letter for him, but Rav Pam told him that he preferred to mail the letter himself, since it was a donation to tzedakah. Since mailing the letter is part of the mitzvah, one should do it himself, because of mitzvah bo yoseir mibishlucho.

 

Rabbi Avraham ibn Ezra

Those who would like to read articles about Shabbos Rosh Chodesh should note that there are several articles on the subject on this website.

Among the rishonim in this week’s parsha, we find a dispute as to when the rainbow was created. The pesukim imply that the rainbow was created after the mabul as a covenant, and, indeed, the Ibn Ezra explains the verse this way, disputing an earlier interpretation of the posuk from Rav Saadyah Gaon. However, the Ramban contends that the rainbow was created during the six days of Creation. This provides us with an opportunity to discuss a great rishon, about whom most people know very little.

Rabbi Avraham ibn Ezra

Question #1: The Right Bensch

“What is the correct text of our bensching?”

Question #2: Contract Law

“I signed a five-year employment contract, and, three years later, I have an offer that is much better for me. Am I halachically required to turn down the new offer?”

Question #3: Pidyon Haben

“When should I schedule the pidyon haben of my son?”

Question #4: Light Refraction

“When did water begin to refract light?”

Question #5: What is going on?

“What do the previous questions have to do with one another and with the title of this article?”

Introduction:

Rav Avraham Ibn Ezra, one of the early rishonim, is known primarily as a commentator on Tanach, for his massive knowledge of Hebrew grammar (dikduk), philosophy, mathematics and astronomy, and for his skills as a paytan, a poet. Since this is a halachah column, the second part of this article will discuss his little-appreciated contribution to halachic knowledge. But, first, I will share some details of his very tragic personal life.

According to the estimate of historians, ibn Ezra was born in Moslem Toledo, Spain, about the year 4853 (1093), or perhaps a bit earlier, and passed away about 4927 (1167). In his younger years, in Spain, he was a close friend of Rav Yehudah Halevi, the author of the Kuzari and many piyutim and kinos, including the poem Yom Layabasha, traditionally sung at brissin and as part of davening on the seventh day of Pesach.

In addition to ibn Ezra’s famous work on Tanach, he also authored many works on Hebrew grammar, mathematics, astronomy and philosophy. One of his works, Sefas Yeser, is a defense of Rav Saadyah Gaon’s approach to dikduk that was challenged by Dunash ibn Labrat. Dunash, who is quoted by Rashi dozens of times, was a grammarian, Hebraist and Tanach expert who lived in the tenth century, and was himself a talmid of Rav Saadyah. Notwithstanding this, he often disagreed with his rebbe, and he even wrote a sefer delineating his points of dispute. Ibn Ezra wrote a response to this work, in which he explained why he felt Rav Saadyah was correct. By the way, Dunash is also known for his poetry. We are all familiar with two of his compositions, Dror Yikra, the Shabbos zemer, and Devei Haseir, recited at weddings and sheva brachos.

Ibn Ezra was highly respected, both by his contemporaries and by other great Torah leaders. For example, in a lengthy letter written to the Rashba by a talmid chacham from Provence, ibn Ezra is described as “a tremendously wise, well-known scholar, whose understanding of the truth, intensity in his pursuit of wisdom, and distancing errors in faith in the Torah and the writings of the Prophets surpassed all those who preceded him. Our forefathers told us of the rejoicing of the great scholars of our area when he passed through our area. For their benefit, he wrote commentaries on the Torah and the Prophets, and wherever he noticed something that required clarification, he pointed this out, sometimes with a full commentary and sometimes with just a short hint, depending on the need. He also wrote a short book called Yesod Hamora, explaining the reasons for the mitzvos and briefly alluding to deeper nuances of words. He wrote another book, explaining the secret of the Holy Name…. He also wrote works on Hebrew grammar, punctuation and the proper writing of the letters, and short works on engineering, language structure, mathematics and astronomy” (see Shu’t HaRashba 1:418).

Ibn Ezra wrote much poetry, including two of our standard Shabbos zemiros, Tzomoh Nafshi and Ki Eshmera Shabbos.

His primary fame for most talmidei chachamim is his commentary to Tanach. The Ramban writes, in the introduction to his own commentary on the Torah, that he used two commentaries, those of Rashi and of ibn Ezra, and he does not comment on a posuk that they already explained unless he has something to add.

Ibn Ezra and Chumash

In his poetic introduction to his commentary on Chumash, ibn Ezra mentions numerous commentaries on Chumash, most of which would otherwise be completely unknown to us, and notes their widely varying styles. There, he categorizes them into five styles of commentary, and he criticizes four of them, either for not being relevant to understanding the chumash, or for errors in their comprehension of Hebrew grammar. He saves his most scathing attacks for the Karaite commentaries, several of which he mentions by name, and strongly refutes their scholarship.

Ibn Ezra often quotes from Rav Saadyah Gaon’s commentary to Chumash, always translating Rav Saadyah’s Arabic commentary into Hebrew. In ibn Ezra’s commentary to Tanach, he utilizes his vast understanding of dikduk, and also his knowledge of mathematics, astronomy and geography.

Ibn Ezra held that studying Chumash or Tanach requires one to understand the exact meaning of the verses, even when the result of this study conflicts with the midrashic interpretation of Chazal and even if it does not agree with halachah. This is how he understood the axiom, ein mikra yotzei midei peshuto, every verse should be explained on the basis of its literal meaning. In this approach, he differed with Rashi and the Ramban, both of whom reject any interpretation of a posuk that conflicts with halachah. Although the rishonim accepted ibn Ezra’s right to differ with them in this policy, not all Gedolei Yisroel were happy with his approach. For example, the Maharshal, who lived hundreds of years later, writes very strongly against those who explain pesukim not according to halachah, singling out ibn Ezra for his criticism (Introduction to Yam shel Shelomoh commentary to Chullin).

It is interesting to note that we find this dispute among rishonim reflected among the later commentaries on Chumash written in the nineteenth century. Whereas the Kesav Vehakaballah, Hirsch and the Malbim all follow the approach of Rashi and the Ramban that every interpretation of Torah shebiksav must fit perfectly with Chazal’s understanding of the Torah shebe’al peh, the Netziv, in his commentary Ha’ameik Davar, occasionally accepts or offers a commentary that is not necessarily reflected by the Torah shebe’al peh, thus following the general approach of ibn Ezra regarding this issue.

Ibn Ezra and the Nochosh

In some instances, we are indebted to the ibn Ezra for providing us with background to the writings of early Gedolei Yisroel that would otherwise have become completely lost. For example, in his commentary to Bereishis (3:1), he reports that Rav Saadyah Gaon held that the nochosh walked on two feet and was an intelligent animal, smarter than all the other animals except for man, but smart enough to have a conversation with man. Ibn Ezra then quotes a debate on this topic in which Rav Shmuel ben Chofni, son-in-law of Rav Hai Gaon, disagreed with Rav Saadyah, and in which Rav Shelomoh ibn Gabirol came to the defense of Rav Saadyah’s position. This entire debate was saved for posterity due to its inclusion in ibn Ezra’s commentary.

Ibn Ezra on Tanach

We have access to ibn Ezra’s commentary on all of Tanach, except for the books of Yirmiyahu and Yechezkel. It remains historically unresolved whether he never wrote on these books or whether he did write commentaries but they were lost.

Although he was obviously quite fluent in Arabic, he wrote his works in Hebrew, although until his time most works on Hebrew grammar or philosophy had been written in Arabic. He thereby became one of the earliest sources of bridging the Torah that was spread in Spain and North Africa, which at the time were Arabic speaking areas, to the Ashkenazic communities of France and Germany and to the communities of the Provence. (The Jews of the many communities of the Provence, in southern France, such as Montpellier, Lunel, Marseille, Narbonne and Posquieres, were technically neither Ashkenazim nor Sefardim. The customs prevalent there represented their own unique minhagim. For example, the communities of the Provence began reciting V’sein Tal Umatar on the seventh of Marcheshvan, which we know as minhag Eretz Yisroel, but which reflects neither Ashkenazic nor Sefardic normative practice.)

Ibn Ezra had very strong opinions about the role of piyutim and selichos in our liturgy. In his commentary to Koheles (5:1), he takes very strong umbrage at the piyutim of Rav Elazar Hakalir. Aside from ibn Ezra’s objection to the grammatical liberty that Kalir takes in constructing new words and new usages, ibn Ezra also objects to the writing style of Kalir – often, his words allude to ideas and events but have no obvious meaning. Ibn Ezra notes that piyutim and selichos are prayers, and as such, the main focus should be ensuring that people understand what they are saying, something very challenging in Kalir’s works. Instead, ibn Ezra recommends the piyutim of Rav Saadyah, which can be understood easily because they are written clearly.

In this, ibn Ezra influenced the style of the Sefardic piyutim, where the poetry is easier to understand, and is therefore often very different from that of the Ashkenazim, which is heavily based on and influenced by the poetry of Rav Kalir. This difference is noted by many authorities. For example, Shu’t Maharshdam (Orach Chayim #35), writes that he prefers the piyutim of the Sefardim, written predominantly by Rav Yehudah Halevi, ibn Ezra and Rav Shelomoh ibn Gabirol, because they write in a clear way that is easy to understand. (The Ashkenazic use of Rav Kalir’s writings is somewhat influenced by the opinion of the Arizal, who, although he lived among Sefardim, himself used the piyutim of Kalir which, he said, are based on deep kabbalistic understanding [see, for example, Shu’t Minchas Elazar 1:11].)

Had ibn Ezra’s approach been accepted, our Tisha B’Av kinos, most of which are taken from the writings of Kalir, would be far more comprehensible. The same can be said for much of our piyutim on Yomim Nora’im and, for those who recite them, on the other Yomim Tovim.

His Personal History

In addition to his prolific writings of piyutim and selichos, ibn Ezra authored much personal poetry, in some of which he describes aspects of his difficult life. He was born and lived his early life in Moslem Spain, but was forced to flee Spain during an uprising and civil war between rival Moslem groups. (Does any of this sound familiar?) His travels at this time took him wandering through Italy, France, England, and back to France. He lived in dire poverty, and it appears that he spent the rest of his life wandering from community to community. There is evidence that he may at one time have traveled as far as Eretz Yisroel and Egypt. For example, he is very familiar with Egyptian geography, describing in detail the distance between the land of Ramses and the government headquarters at the time prior to the Exodus, which he notes was a distance ofe six parsa’os, or about 4.5 miles (commentary to Shemos 12:31). He understood that the purpose of some of the pyramids was to store the grain in Yosef’s day (commentary to Shemos 12:31).

He suffered much great personal tragedy, including the loss of his wife as a young woman and several of his children. While ibn Ezra was wandering through Europe, one son, Yitzchak, apparently a talmid chacham of note, fled to Baghdad, where he was forced to convert to Islam. When he was able to, he returned to Judaism, and wrote that he had always observed the mitzvos and made a statement recognizing Islam only in order to avoid being killed. Shortly thereafter, Yitzchak passed on. Meanwhile, his father, back in Europe, was unaware of these events, and found out about them some three years after his son’s passing.

We have no idea where ibn Ezra was when he died, or where he was buried.

Ibn Ezra and Rabbeinu Tam

During his travels in France, ibn Ezra made the acquaintance of Rabbeinu Tam, and they continued their correspondence afterward. In two places (Rosh Hashanah 13a s.v. De’akrivu and Kiddushin 37b s.v. Mimacharas), Tosafos mentions Torah discussion between ibn Ezra and Rabbeinu Tam. In a third place (Taanis 20b s.v. Behachinaso), Tosafos mentions ibn Ezra in an interesting context. Tosafos there explains the concept of family names, something unheard of among Ashkenazic Jewry in their day, whereas ibn Ezra was, indeed, a family name. As Avraham ibn Ezra, our hero, mentions in the introduction to some of his works, his father’s name was Meir.

We will continue this article about ibn Ezra in a few weeks, be”H.

 

Aliyah Laregel

This website contains many articles on a wide range of Yom Tov related topics that can be found under the headings Sukkah, Esrog, Yom Tov, Hallel, Chol Hamoed, Eruv Tavshillin. The enclosed article discusses a different aspect of Yom Tov observance, that of…

Aliyah Laregel

Question #1: Yizkor on Simchas Torah?

“Is there a reason why Yizkor is recited in Eretz Yisroel in the middle of the Simchas Torah davening?”

Question #2: No Aliyah Laregel

“Someone once told me that when the Beis Hamikdash is rebuilt, the mitzvah of Aliyah Laregel will be optional. How can that be?”

Question #3: Women and Yaaleh Veyavo

“If a woman forgot Yaaleh Veyavo in bensching of Yom Tov, does she repeat the bensching?”

Introduction:

Although we cannot observe the beautiful mitzvah of Aliyah Laregel until the Beis Hamikdash is rebuilt, many halachic observances and customs result from the laws associated with this mitzvah. The questions above reflect some of those practices.

The mitzvah of Aliyah Laregel

The mitzvah of Aliyah Laregel is mentioned several places in the Torah. In parshas Ki Sissa (Shemos 34:23), the Torah states: Shalosh pe’amim bashanah yeira’eh kol zechurcha es penei Ha’adon Hashem, Elokei Yisroel, “Three times a year shall all your males appear in the Presence of the Lord, Hashem, the G-d of Israel,” and a similar posuk appears in parshas Mishpatim (Shemos 23:17). In parshas Re’eih (Devorim 16:16), the Torah specifies that the three times are Pesach, Shavuos, and Sukkos. In this last place, the Torah concludes with the following statement: “Three times a year, all your males shall appear before Hashem, your G-d, in the place that He will choose, and you should not appear before Hashem empty-handed. Each man should bring with him according to the bounty that Hashem your G-d has provided you.”

This last verse teaches that the mitzvah is not only to ascend to Yerushalayim and to the Har Habayis (the “Temple Mount”), but also to bring korbanos when we come. It also states that a wealthier individual is obligated to spend more on his korbanos than a pauper (Mishnah, Chagigah 8b).

Three mitzvos

When the Tosefta (Chagigah 1:5) and the Gemara (Chagigah 6b) discuss the details of Aliyah Laregel, they refer to it as three mitzvos: “The Jewish people were commanded three mitzvos when they were oleh regel,” that is, traveling to the Beis Hamikdash grounds on Yom Tov required three specific mitzvah actions:

  1. From the words of the above-quoted posuk, “You should not appear before Hashem emptyhanded,” we derive that one is required to offer a korban olah when we appear in the Beis Hamikdash, called an olas re’iyah. This korban is completely consumed on the mizbeiach, except for its hide, which is given to the kohanim as one of the gifts that the Torah provides.
  2. The mitzvah of offering special korbanos shelamim in honor of the festival, called Chagigah or shalmei chagigah. Some of the meat of this korban goes to the kohanim, but most of it goes to the owners who serve it as part of their Yom Tov meals while in Yerushalayim. Any tahor Jewish person is permitted to eat from this korban.
  3. The mitzvah of simcha, which includes offering korbanos and eating their meat on each day of the festival, including chol hamoed. Since meat of korbanos may be eaten only in Yerushalayim, this means that, at the time of the Beis Hamikdash, the entire Jewish people spent the whole Yom Tov, including all the days of chol hamoed, in Yerushalayim.

One fulfills this latter mitzvah with any animal korban from which one is permitted to eat, including other korbanos that one must offer anyway (Mishnah, Chagigah 7b). In other words, one may wait to bring his other required korbanos, such as firstborn animals, maaser beheimah, donated shelamim offerings, and chata’os until Yom Tov, and offer them then, while one is in Yerushalayim anyway. When he offers them on Yom Tov, he may fulfill the requirement of consuming shalmei simcha with the meat of these korbanos. (In the case of chata’os and similar korbanos, this approach can be used only by kohanim, since no one else is permitted to consume them.)

Rules of Har Habayis

One is required to be completely tahor when ascending the Har Habayis and to do so with complete awe of the sanctity of the place, and to act appropriately. Among the specific laws that apply on Har Habayis is a prohibition against wearing shoes and of carrying one’s wallet or money belt.

Exempt from Aliyah Laregel

Notwithstanding the words of the Torah that all the males should ascend the Har Habayis three times a year, Chazal derive that there is a long list of men who are exempt from fulfilling the mitzvos of re’iyah. This list includes:

  1. Difficulty in walking

Anyone who has difficulty walking is exempt from the mitzvah of Aliyah Laregel. This includes the elderly, the ill, someone with a lameness or injury in his legs, and even those who are unused to walking without shoes, since one is prohibited from wearing shoes on the Har Habayis (Chagigah 4a). Someone who can walk there only because he uses a prosthesis is also exempt from the mitzvah (Chagigah 3a; 4a). Similarly, someone who has discomfort in one leg, even if he has no discomfort in the other leg and can still walk, is also exempt (Chagigah 3a).

  1. Vision impaired

Anyone whose vision is impaired is exempt from the mitzvah. This includes someone who can see out of only one eye (Chagigah 4b).

  1. Hearing impaired

Someone who cannot hear, but can speak, or someone who can speak but not hear is exempt from the mitzvah of re’iyah, although they are obligated in simcha and indeed all other mitzvos of the Torah (Chagigah 2b). Also, someone who does not hear in one ear is exempt from re’iyah (Chagigah 3a).

All three of these categories of people who are exempt from the mitzvah of Aliyah Laregel and of offering the olas re’iyah and the shalmei chagigah are still obligated in the third mitzvah mentioned above, of partaking in korbanos simcha (Rambam, Hilchos Chagigah 2:4, based on Gemara Chagigah 4a). This is, of course, assuming that they went to Yerushalayim for Yom Tov, because one may eat these korbanos only there.

  1. Tamei

People who are tamei are exempt from fulfilling the mitzvah of Aliyah Laregel (Gemara Chagigah 4b; Tosefta Chagigah 1:1). Someone who is tamei is required to make himself tahor in order to fulfill the mitzvah of Aliyah Laregel. However, if he did not purify himself or was unable to do so, he is now exempt from the mitzvah, since as long as he is tamei he may not enter the Beis Hamikdash grounds. Indeed, someone who is tamei cannot fulfill the mitzvah of Aliyah Laregel, since he is not allowed to enter the Beis Hamikdash grounds (Rambam, Hilchos Chagigah 2:1).

There is a major difference between the various categories of exemptions from Aliyah Laregel. People excused from the mitzvah for medical reasons may perform the mitzvah, and if they do so, they will be rewarded as einam metzuvim ve’osim, those who perform a mitzvah that they are not obligated to perform. However, someone who is tamei is forbidden to participate in Aliyah Laregel, since doing so would cause him to violate the sanctity of the Beis Hamikdash. He should try to make himself tahor as soon as possible.

  1. Uncircumcised

There are specific situations in which someone is not obligated to have a bris milah performed, because of the danger that is involved. Although such a person is exempt from the mitzvah of bris milah, he is still not circumcised, and, as such, he is exempt from several of the Torah’s mitzvos, including the mitzvah of Aliyah Laregel. Similar to the person who is tamei, this individual is forbidden to observe the mitzvah.

Children

Although a child is not required to observe any mitzvah, Chazal required the father to see to it that he observe most mitzvos, in order to acquaint himself with keeping them. In this context, we find a dispute between Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel. Both schools hold that a father is required to have his minor son accompany him on the mitzvah of entering the Beis Hamikdash on Yom Tov. The question is: From what age is the father obligated to do so? According to Beis Shammai, the father is obligated to do so from when the child is old enough to ride his father’s shoulders, when the father walks from Yerushalayim to the Har Habayis.

We should be aware that the responsibility of a father to train his child to perform a mitzvah is only when the child will be obligated to fulfill that mitzvah when he becomes an adult. Thus, regarding the mitzvah of Aliyah Laregel, should the child fit any of categories 1-3 above that exempt an adult from this mitzvah, the father is not obligated to bring the child with him when he is oleh regel (Rambam, Hilchos Chagigah 2:3).

Smelly professions

There are certain professions that leave their artisans with a malodorous odor. Tanners and copper smelters, for example, are surrounded by substances whose ill fragrance sometimes permeates their clothing and hair. Are they obligated in the mitzvah of Aliyah Laregel, or do we say that since their attendance might adversely affect other people required to observe the mitzvah that they are exempt? This question is discussed by the Gemara (Chagigah 4a). The Rambam (Hilchos Chagigah 2:2) concludes that they are required to clean themselves and their clothes fully and fulfill the mitzvah of Aliyah Laregel.

Yizkor and Aliyah Laregel

I mentioned previously the posuk from parshas Re’eih (Devorim 16:16), in which the Torah specifies that each person is obligated to donate according to the bounty that Hashem has provided him. At this point, I want to address one of our opening questions:

“Is there a reason why Yizkor is recited in Eretz Yisroel in the middle of the Simchas Torah davening?”

To answer this question, we need to explore the history of this prayer. Yizkor is a custom that began among Ashkenazim in chutz la’aretz and is recited four times a year: on Yom Kippur, the eighth day of Pesach, the second day of Shavuos and on Shemini Atzeres. Why specifically on these four days?

On all of these days, there was a custom to make donations to tzedakah, and, at one point, there became established an idea of reciting a prayer that the tzedakah donated should serve for the benefit of one’s departed parents and other relatives. On Yom Kippur, it is obvious why special donations were made to tzedakah, but why specifically on the three days of Yom Tov mentioned above, as opposed to the other days of Yom Tov?

The answer is that in chutz la’aretz, the reading for these three yomim tovim — the eighth day of Pesach, the second day of Shavuos and Shemini Atzeres — is in parshas Re’eih, and the last posuk of the reading states: “Each man should bring with him according to the bounty that Hashem your G-d has provided you.” Although the literal meaning of the posuk refers to the amount one should spend on the korban olas re’iyah, it certainly can be understood to include gifts for tzedakah, and indeed that became an accepted practice. The people made donations to tzedakah, but decided to have them as an iluy neshamah, an elevation for the souls of their departed relatives. (By the way, in some German communities, there was no minhag of Yizkor and instead, they observed a different practice on those days, called matanas yad.)

When the Ashkenazim began returning to Eretz Yisroel in the nineteenth century, they realized that in Eretz Yisroel, there is no eighth day of Pesach or second day of Shavuos, and the day that is called Shemini Atzeres in chutz la’aretz is called and observed as Simchas Torah, when we read parshas Vezos Haberacha and the beginning of Bereishis. Thus, parshas Re’eih is never read on Yom Tov.

Because people did not want to lose this beautiful minhag of reciting Yizkor, they continued to observe the practice on the day of Yom Tov closest to those days, that is, on the seventh day of Pesach, Shavuos, and on Simchas Torah.

Beloved servants

We have discussed some of the laws of the mitzvah of Aliyah Laregel, a topic that we will continue to discuss in a future article, when we will iy”H answer the remaining of our opening questions. Contemplating this special mitzvah of Aliyah Laregel should give every one of us chizuk. Consider that Hashem Yisborach commanded us to come to the Beis Hamikdash “in order to be seen.” The message here is that we are His beloved servants and He desires to see us, as it says in the Gemara (Chagigah 4b), “A servant whom his master desires to see.” Furthermore, the Gemara describes Klal Yisroel as “the servant whom the master desires to eat at his table.”

May we soon merit fulfilling this mitzvah in the third Beis Hamikdash, may it be rebuilt speedily, and that Hashem should look upon us favorably! Wishing all of our readers, together with all of Klal Yisroel, a good Yom Tov!

 

Keeping My Feet Together

Many articles on various Rosh Hashanah topics are available for reading or downloading under the headings “Rosh Hashanah,” “Shofar” or “Tashlich.”

Keeping My Feet Together

Question #1: Proper posture

“The Shemoneh Esrei on Rosh Hashanah is very long. Is it sufficient that I stand with my heels touching, or must my feet be side-by-side touching their entire length?”

Question #2: Standing straight

“Why do we keep our feet together during kedushah but not when responding to kaddish?”

Question #3: Kaddish together

“Is it required to have one’s feet together when reciting kaddish?”

Answer:

Fulfilling the mitzvah of davening requires that we observe many halachic details. The Rambam organizes these laws under two headings: essential and non-essential components. In Chapter 4 of Hilchos Tefillah, he lists five essential components of prayer, meaning the Shemoneh Esrei. These are:

1) Cleansing one’s hands before prayer

2) Having one’s body properly covered

3) Praying must be in a place that is clean and without inappropriate odor

4) Not davening when one senses bodily needs

5) Having basic, proper intent and focus

The Rambam calls these five requirements “essential,” which means that a prayer missing any of these qualities does not fulfill the mitzvah and one is required to recite it again. Someone who cannot meet these requirements is exempt from praying until he can meet them. Therefore, it is preferred that someone unable to fulfill the basics of these requirements miss the prayer rather than recite a tefillah that violates these laws. Many of these topics are available for reading or downloading on RabbiKaganoff.com

Non-essentials

In Chapter 5 of Hilchos Tefillah, the Rambam lists eight non-essential components of prayer, meaning that these are important aspects, but one fulfills the mitzvah to pray even if they are entirely missing. These eight aspects are:

  1. Standing during prayer
  2. Facing the Beis Hamikdash
  3. Correct positioning
  4. Appropriate attire
  5. Proper location
  6. Volume
  7. Bowing
  8. Prostrating

The Rambam notes that these requirements are not essential, and that, therefore, someone who failed or was unable to do them has fulfilled the mitzvah to daven. Furthermore, one who is unable to fulfill any of these aspects should daven anyway. Therefore, although davening while properly attired is very important, one who will be unable to dress appropriately should daven and observes this law only to the extent that he can under the circumstances.

Correct positioning

One article cannot cover all the laws of these rules, so here we will discuss one aspect of the requirement to position one’s body in a certain way. The Rambam (Hilchos Tefillah 5:4) states the following aspects of positioning one’s body:

When standing to daven shemoneh esrei, one’s feet should be together and alongside one another.

One’s eyes should be facing downward, yet his heart should be directed upward, as if he is standing in heaven.

One’s hands should be resting on one’s heart, with the right hand atop the left, standing in fear and awe like a servant before his master.

One should not place his hands on his hips.

As I mentioned above, although these factors are important components of proper prayer, they are not essential, and one who neglected to do them has fulfilled the requirement to pray (see Mishnah Berurah 95:1; Kaf Hachayim 95:2). Therefore, someone who cannot put his feet together should daven without his feet together, rather than not daven at all (Kaf Hachayim 95:3).

Feet together

The Rambam states: “When standing to daven shemoneh esrei, one’s feet should be together and alongside one another.” The basis for this ruling is the Gemara (Brachos 10b) which mentions this requirement based on the following. In Yechezkel’s opening prophecy, he shares with us a vision of the heavenly courts, describing the feet of the angels as veragleihem regel yesharah, literally, “their feet were a straight foot” (Yechezkel 1:7). According to Targum and one interpretation of Rashi, the verse means that the angels stood in a way that their feet lay one alongside the other. The Gemara explains that when we daven we should also have our feet aligned, which Rashi explains to mean that one foot should be alongside the other so that they appear as one “foot.”

This passage of Gemara leaves one puzzled. Indeed, Yechezkel reports to us that the angels stood with their feet together. But why is a person who is praying required to emulate the position of the angels? Are we also required to pray while flying, as the angels sometimes do?

A simple approach

On a simple level, one could explain that standing with one’s feet together makes one feel somewhat vulnerable and therefore humble, and that this position allows one to fulfill davening with trepidation and humility (Levush, Orach Chayim 95:1). However, although this approach seems to supply a good reason for us to have our feet together when we pray, it does not seem to explain what the Gemara was saying since this has nothing to do with the fact that the angels stand this way.

The latter question is discussed by an early commentator, the Rashba (in his commentary to the Gemara Brachos), who writes the following:

“I was asked by someone who is an enemy of our people [probably someone trying to proselytize among the Jewish people]: Why do we keep our feet together when we pray, and what proof is being brought from the holy bearers of the divine chariot to someone praying?

“I responded as follows: ‘There are two major reasons for this. The first reason is that man’s body was created with limbs — his hands and legs — whose purpose is to enable him to reach and acquire what he wants and to distance himself from harm. The hands bring him items of pleasure, push away from him harmful items, and are what he uses against his enemy in warfare. His feet move him great distances in a very short time, and enable him to escape from harm.

“It is essential to prayer that a person realize that none of these abilities are man’s own activities and they will not save him without G-d’s help. Everything is dependent on G-d’s will. In order to entrench this idea in one’s soul, one must place one’s feet together when praying, to symbolize that his feet are completely bound and paralyzed. They are without any ability to flee from danger. This forces man to realize that all his abilities of locomotion are only because G-d helps him.” This reason is quoted by the Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 95 in the name of a much later authority, the Mahari Abohav.

The Rashba continues: “The same is true with one’s hands. The Gemara teaches that in times of difficulty, Rava would fold his arms when he prayed… This position demonstrates that it is as if one’s arms are bound and one is without help except for Hashem.”

The Rashba then adds: “There is another reason why we assume the position of the angels when we pray: The human species, whose purpose is to recognize the Creator and to praise He who created man from nothing, has a specific responsibility to serve G-d and to keep His commandments. Man is an angel, an emissary, placed on earth, just as the celestial angels serve and recognize their Creator. Mankind can therefore be called malach” (as he is in Malachi 2:7), which means G-d’s messenger. Thus, the Rashba explains that placing one’s feet together, whether performed by man or by angels, demonstrates a lack of ability, thereby recognizing that all our strength at all times comes from Hashem. We are also showing that we are, indeed, comparable to angels, since we are fulfilling G-d’s mission on Earth. To quote the Zohar (parshas Pinchas #229), “The Holy One, blessed is He, said: Those who pray with their feet together like the angels, I will open the gates of the Sanctuary for them to enter.”

There is yet another reason why we pray with our feet touching, side-by-side, which is that when we are talking to Hashem, it is essential that we be fully and exclusively focused. This places us on the levels of the angels who are always focused exclusively on their Divine mission.

Is regel a foot?

After explaining why we pray in a position similar to that of the angels, the Rashba adds: “You should realize that the word regel has a double meaning, for it means not only the foot but it also means cause (as in Bereishis 33:14 and 30:30). According to this interpretation, the verse in Yechezkel 1:7, veragleihem regel yesharah, should be translated as their cause is a straight cause, meaning that the angels consistently follow the path of truth.

“In this manner, someone standing and praying before Hashem must abandon thoughts of himself, and focus completely on the prayer he is reciting. Concentrating all his energies on this goal develops him such that everything he does, all the time, should be only for the purpose of strengthening his body in order to serve Hashem. Placing his legs together demonstrates having a straightforward cause directed toward the purpose for which he was created — to serve G-d. For this reason, man can be compared to the chariot that bears Hashem’s presence into the world.”

Should the front of the toes be separated?

Having established the basis for the practice that one’s feet should be together when reciting shemoneh esrei, we find a discussion in the rishonim whether the feet should be slightly separated in front. Rabbeinu Yonah quotes some who hold that the tips of both feet should not touch, so that it appears like a calf’s foot with its split hooves. Rabbeinu Yonah disputes this, saying that the requirement is only that the feet be together like one foot — there is no mention of making one’s feet look like a split hoof.

Nevertheless, we still find a dispute among early acharonim whether one should lechatchilah stand with a slight split at the front of one’s toes or not. The Olas Tamid writes that this is preferred. However, the Yeshuos Yaakov disagrees, contending that one should not have one’s feet slightly separate. He notes that the angels cover their feet that look like those of a calf so as not to be reminiscent of the eigel hazahav, the Golden Calf. Therefore, we should deliberately not have our feet look like this, reasons the Yeshuos Yaakov.

The Yerushalmi

Having quoted the passage of the Talmud Bavli that explains how we should stand when we pray, we should be aware that there is also a passage of Talmud Yerushalmi (Brachos 1:1) regarding this issue. There, the Yerushalmi quotes a dispute between Rabbi Levi and Rabbi Simon, one of whom held the same opinion as the Bavli that one should daven with one’s feet pressed together and the other holding that, when davening, one should assume the position that the kohanim did when walking in the Beis Hamikdash. There, the kohanim took very small steps such that the big toe of one foot was next to the heel of the other when they walked.

Since in a dispute between the Talmud Bavli and the Talmud Yerushalmi we rule according to the Bavli, it would appear that the dispute recorded by the Yerushalmi is halachically irrelevant. The commentaries are thus surprised to note that the Tur quotes the Yerushalmi, leading the Beis Yosef and the other commentaries to question why the Tur does so. Many answers are proposed to explain the Tur’s position. I will quote here two of them, whose answers yield halachic ramifications.

The Bach explains as follows: In his opinion, halachah requires that one daven with one’s feet in one of the two positions advocated by the Yerushalmi. The Bach contends that if one’s feet are in neither of these positions one has not fulfilled the requirements of prayer. The Tur agrees that it is preferable to place one’s feet alongside one another, since we rule as the Bavli does. However, he quotes the Yerushalmi because someone who failed to position his feet in either of these positions is required to daven again. Furthermore, someone who cannot align his feet alongside one another should position them so that the toe of one foot is alongside the heel of the other. Thus, although we follow the ruling of the Bavli that one should daven with the two feet alongside one another, it is also important to know the conclusion of the Yerushalmi, which is why the Tur included this information.

Several authorities note that, according to this approach, the Tur’s interpretation of the topic has him in dispute with the Rambam’s ruling, quoted above, that positioning is never essential to prayer, and that one fulfills the mitzvah of davening with one’s feet in any position. Since they see no evidence that such a dispute exists, they are reticent to create one on this basis and instead suggest other approaches to resolve why the Tur quoted the Yerushalmi. Notwithstanding this conclusion, some authorities opine that someone who davened with his feet apart should daven a voluntary prayer (called a tefilas nedavah), to make certain that he fulfilled the mitzvah (Olas Tamid). Later authorities reject this approach and rule that one should assume that he fulfilled the mitzvah (Kaf Hachayim).

Another approach

The Aruch Hashulchan suggests a different explanation why the Tur presented the Yerushalmi’s discussion. He explains that the Tur wants us to realize that someone who is unable to have his feet together for whatever reason, but who can assume the alternative position of having his toe touching his heel, should daven in the latter position. According to this approach, everyone accepts that these rules are all only lechatchilah and that one who davened with his feet in a completely different position has fulfilled the mitzvah, bedi’evid, after the fact.

Sitting with your feet together?

Is someone who must pray from a sitting position, either because of health reasons or because of travel, required to daven with his feet together? The Pri Megadim rules that he should still keep his feet together while davening. He further explains that someone who must daven while sitting should not lean backwards or to the sides while praying, and should also be careful not to stretch or cross his legs while davening, because these positions all convey an air of conceit.

All or nothing?

At this point, let us refer to the first question with which I opened our article: “The Shemoneh Esrei on Rosh Hashanah is very long. Is it sufficient that I stand with my heels touching, or must my feet be side-by-side touching their entire length?”

From what we have seen, it is clear that the proper position for davening is to have one’s feet side-by-side and touching their entire length.

Kedushah

At this point, let us address the remaining of our opening questions:

“Why do we stand with our feet together during kedushah but not when responding to kaddish?”

“Is it required to have one’s feet together when reciting kaddish?”

By way of introduction, let me quote a discussion from a late rishon, the Terumas Hadeshen (#28). He quotes the following question:

“Should an individual align his feet when he responds to the chazzan’s kedushah?”

To which he answers, “It appears to me that he should, since the prayer states, We shall sanctify his name just as they sanctify His Name in the highest heavens, and in the heavens they recite the kedushah with a ‘straight foot,’ as the verse reads ‘their feet were a straight foot.’ We should attempt to act like the angels to the best of our ability; there is neither conceit nor foolishness in our doing so. Indeed, this is the proper way to act.” This answer of the Terumas Hadeshen is quoted subsequently by all the authorities, and is codified in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 95:4).

Borchu

Although none of the reasons mentioned above applies to reciting Borchu, that is, we are not trying to compare ourselves to angels, nor is it the ultimate prayer; nevertheless, the custom is that Borchu is recited with one’s feet together. This custom is recorded by some late authorities (Aruch Hashulchan). Therefore, one should align one’s feet when reciting Borchu. However, since there is no halachic source that requires reciting Borchu with one’s feet together, one should not admonish someone who recites Borchu with his feet apart.

Kaddish

I have found no early source that requires one to have one’s feet together while reciting kaddish. Although it is standard practice that people recite kaddish with their feet together, since there does not appear to be an early halachic source for this practice, one should not admonish someone who fails to do so.

Conclusion

Understanding how much Chazal were concerned about the relatively minor aspects of davening, such as how we position our feet, should make us more aware of the fact that davening is our attempt at building a relationship with Hashem. As the Kuzari notes, every day should have three very high points — the three times that we daven, and from these three prayers we gain our strength and inspiration for the rest of the day.

 

Responsible Jews

Since parshas Netzavim alludes to the agreed covenant of one Jew being responsible for others, it is an appropriate time to discuss the laws and rules of what we call areivus.

Responsible Jews

Question #1: Making Kiddush Twice

When might I be required to recite the two brochos of the Friday night Kiddush a second time on Shabbos morning?

Question #2: A Halachic Conundrum

Can a situation exist whereby someone is halachically required to observe a mitzvah, but cannot fulfill it without someone else performing it on his behalf?

Introduction

Answering both of our opening questions requires that we spend some time understanding a halachic concept called areivus. In the midst of the discussion of the tochachah in parshas Bechukosai, the harsh admonition for not observing the mitzvos, the Torah mentions Vechoshlu ish be’achiv, “Each man will stumble over his friend” (Vayikra 26:37). Rashi suggests a different understanding of the letter beis – not “Each man will stumble over his friend,” but “Each man will stumble because of his friend.” A midrash that may have served as Rashi’s source reads more explicitly: “Vechoshlu ish be’achiv — Do not explain this as over his friend, but because of the sins of his friend.” The midrash continues: “From this we see the concept she’Yisroel areivin eilu la’eilu,that Jews are accountable for one another (Eichah Rabbah, Parashah 3). This idea is popularly referred to as kol Yisroel areivim zeh lazeh, an expression that I have not found in Chazal, although it is used frequently by rishonim and acharonim. The closest use I found in Chazal is in a passage of Gemara, where it says “Vechoshlu ish be’achivmelameid shekulan areivim zeh bazeh” (Sanhedrin 27b).

Different halachic ramifications

There are numerous halachic ramifications of this general concept, including:

(1) The mitzvah of tochachah, which requires that one Jew reprove another Jew who is disobeying the laws of the Torah (see Vayikra 19:17).

(2) The prohibition called chanufah, usually translated as “flattering,” that prohibits complimenting or honoring someone, either implicitly or explicitly, who violates the Torah (Sifrei, Bamidbar 35:33).

(3) A requirement to protest when we see someone breaching the Torah (see Shabbos 54b).

(4) A legal concept called areivus. Although we usually think of areivus as a social responsibility, it also includes a legal concept with very specific halachic ramifications.

We will leave the details of the first three mitzvos for another time. This article will explore some of the concepts of the fourth, the law of areivus.

Areivus explains why someone who has already fulfilled a mitzvah can perform it again to assist someone else fulfill their obligation. To understand this properly, I will first introduce an overview of how areivus works and what it accomplishes. We will then study some Talmudic passages that explain the principles of areivus.

How areivus operates

Here is a very common example of how areivus operates: Reuven has not yet fulfilled the mitzvah of reciting Kiddush, but he is unable to read the text himself. There are people available who can recite Kiddush on Reuven’s behalf, but they have already fulfilled the mitzvah. Does Reuven fulfill the mitzvah if they recite Kiddush on his behalf?

The answer is that he does, because of the concept of areivus. Since Reuven is obligated to fulfill the mitzvah, and the other people are also commanded to observe it, they may recite Kiddush on his behalf, notwithstanding that they are not fulfilling the mitzvah at the moment. (The person performing the act of the mitzvah is called the motzi, because he is enabling someone else to fulfill the mitzvah. The word motzi can be used either as a noun, defining the person performing the mitzvah, or as a verb, when it describes the performance of a mitzvah on behalf of someone else. In the course of this article, I will be using the word both ways, so stay alert!)

The three requirements:

For areivus to work, three requirements must be met:

  1. The motzi must be obligated

The motzi must be someone who is obligated to observe this mitzvah.

As we mentioned above, the motzi does not need to be fulfilling the mitzvah at the moment — he may have fulfilled the mitzvah already, or, for that matter, plan to observe the mitzvah later.

  1. Have in mind to be motzi

The motzi must have in mind that he is performing the mitzvah on behalf of someone else, who will now be fulfilling the mitzvah. He can have in mind that whoever hears the words or sounds of the mitzvah, even if the motzi is unaware that the other person is listening, thereby fulfills the mitzvah.

  1. Have in mind to fulfill the mitzvah

The person for whom the motzi is performing the mitzvah must have in mind that by hearing the words or sounds of the mitzvah, he (or she) is fulfilling the mitzvah.

Some Talmudic background

Before we discuss some practical examples of these laws, we will explore some of the Talmudic sources that demonstrate these rules. The first passage we will study requires an introduction.

The Torah recognizes a halachic status called an eved kena’ani, a gentile slave, which is someone non-Jewish who is owned by a Jew. An eved is not required to observe all the mitzvos of a Jew – after all, he is not Jewish — yet he must observe many of the mitzvos. The eved accepts the obligation to fulfill these mitzvos in a procedure that is similar to that of geirus, conversion. After circumcision, he immerses in a mikveh and accepts the mitzvos that an eved is obligated to keep.

As just mentioned, an eved is not obligated to observe all the mitzvos. For example, he is exempt from such mitzvos as shofar, sukkah, tefillin, and studying Torah. However, when an eved is freed, he achieves the status of a Jew and becomes obligated to observe all the mitzvos, like any other Jew.

A blasting slave!

Since an eved is not obligated to observe the mitzvah of shofar, a Jew does not fulfill the mitzvah if an eved blows the shofar on the Jew’s behalf. As I mentioned above, the first rule of areivus is that the motzi must be someone who is obligated to observe this mitzvah.

The half slave

What happens if a slave was purchased by two people in equal partnership, and then one of the owners frees him? That owner can only free the half that he himself owns. That half of the slave is now free, which means that he is obligated to observe mitzvos. On the other hand, half is still owned by the other master. This means that the eved now has the nebulous status of being half-Jewish and half-eved. The halachah calls him very literally chatzi eved chatzi ben chorin, “half slave, half freedman.”

Here is where this half-slave now trods new halachic ground. His half that is free is duty-bound to observe all the mitzvos, whereas the other half is obliged to observe only those mitzvos compulsory for an eved. Regarding most mitzvos, this means that he now observes them. He will be obligated to observe, for example, the mitzvah of sukkah.

What does he do in regard to fulfilling the mitzvah of shofar, since half of him is obligated to observe the mitzvah, and the other half is not? Can he blow shofar to fulfill the mitzvah, or must he hear the shofar from someone else?

The Gemara quotes a beraisa that rules that a half-eved is required to hear shofar, but cannot blow shofar on behalf of other people, even on behalf of other half-eveds. The Gemara then explains that he does not fulfill the mitzvah if he blows shofar even to fulfill the mitzvah for himself. Why not? How can he be required to observe the mitzvah of shofar and not be able to fulfill it himself?

The answer is that his eved part is not required to observe the mitzvah, and his non-eved half cannot blow the shofar by itself. As a result, the shofar is being blown by someone who is not fully obligated in the mitzvah (Rosh Hashanah 29a). Even if the chatzi eved chatzi ben chorin happens to be a master blaster, he has no other way to fulfill the mitzvah other than to hear the shofar blown by someone else, that is, a Jewish adult male who is fully obligated in the mitzvah! (Since a fully freed man has the halachic status of a Jewish adult male, he can be motzi others in the mitzvah, including a chatzi eved chatzi ben chorin.) Thus, we have an anomalous situation — he is required to observe the mitzvah, yet someone else must be motzi him! We now have the answer to one of our opening questions: “Can a situation exist whereby someone is halachically required to observe a mitzvah, but cannot fulfill it without someone else performing it on his behalf?”

Areivus and brochos

The Gemara discusses whether areivus will allow someone to recite a brocha for you before you eat, even  when the one reciting the brocha is not eating. Why should this case be halachically any different from what we have already discussed? Allow me to explain.

Of the conditions mentioned above for areivus to work, one was that both the motzi and the person fulfilling the mitzvah must be required to observe the mitzvah. The reason for these requirements takes us back to our Biblical sources for the concept of areivus — one Jew is responsible for another. Since one Jew is responsible for the mitzvah observance of another, the inability of one Jew to fulfill a mitzvah devolves onto other Jews. They become required to fulfill his mitzvah for him.

However, this concept holds true only regarding a mitzvah that the motzi is required to perform. Since no one is required to eat specific foods or to smell pleasant fragrances, these brochos hanehenin, blessings of benefit, are not required unless one is, himself, benefiting. Consequently, the rule of areivus does not apply. The Gemara explains that although areivus allows a motzi to recite a birchas hamitzvah on behalf of someone else, one cannot recite a brocha of benefit, unless the motzi is also enjoying the benefit.

Exception

The Gemara subsequently concludes that there are two instances in which one may use areivus and recite the brocha, even though the motzi is not presently fulfilling the mitzvah. These two exceptions are the brocha of hamotzi, recited prior to eating matzoh at the Pesach seder, and the brocha of hagafen, recited as part of Kiddush. In these two instances, although the brocha appears to be a regular brocha of benefit, since one is required to partake in this benefit in order to fulfill these mitzvos, one is therefore required to recite these brochos. Consequently, they have the halachic status of birchos hamitzvah. Thus, in these two instances, one person can be motzi another in the brochos, although the motzi is not fulfilling the mitzvah.

King Yannai

A difference passage of Gemara (Brochos 48a) relates an interesting story that reflects a different context of the law of areivus. To quote the entire passage of Gemara:

King Yannai and his queen had concluded a banquet, and, since he had killed all the rabbis, there was no one to bensch on their behalf.

Yannai said to his wife, “Who will provide us with someone to recite the brochos for us?”

She answered him, “If you swear to me that you will not give him any trouble, I’ll bring you such a man.” He swore to her. She then brought her brother, Shimon ben Shetach, and had him sit between them at the head of the table. Yannai then said to Shimon ben Shetach, “See how much honor we give you!” to which Shimon ben Shetach responded, “It is not you who provide us with this honor, but the Torah.” Yannai then turned to his wife, “I see that he does not accept my rule.”

They then brought Shimon ben Shetach a cup of wine upon which to recite the brochos of bensching. He now wondered aloud. “How should I recite the zimun (since he had not eaten with them)? Should I say, ‘Blessed is He from Whose [bounty] Yannai and his friends have partaken’?” He then drank the cup of wine, because he held that this would require him to recite birchas hamazon (see Tosafos ad loc.). They then brought him another cup of wine, which he used for the bensching.

The Gemara concludes that Shimon ben Shetach followed his own opinion here, which is not accepted by the other authorities, in that he held that one could recite birchas hamazon to be motzi others, even if all that he had consumed was a cup of wine. The accepted halachah is that one must eat bread to recite birchas hamazon and to be motzi others in zimun.

There are several fascinating historical, sociological and halachic conclusions to be drawn from this passage of Gemara.

  1. Although King Yannai had assassinated almost all of the rabbonim and gedolei Yisrael, he was still interested in having birchas hamazon recited at his banquet.
  2. No member of King Yannai’s entourage knew birchas hamazon by heart, yet they wanted it to be said correctly.
  3. None of the assembled had a written copy of birchas hamazon. (Based on a passage of Gemara in Mesechta Shabbos [115b], this is probably accurate. However, we will leave this topic for a different article.) Alternatively, none of them knew how to read.
  4. Although Yannai’s wife suspected that, given the opportunity, Yannai would kill Shimon ben Shetach, she knew that if he swore an oath, he would abide by it. Thus, he was more concerned about violating his oath than eliminating someone whom he felt challenged his authority.
  5. Notwithstanding King Yannai’s personal history, Shimon ben Shetach was unafraid of talking to him in a direct, blunt way. (See a similar story about Shimon ben Shetach and King Yannai in Sanhedrin 19).
  6. Although Shimon ben Shetach was the head of the Sanhedrin (see Chagigah 16b), there are areas of halachah in which we do not rule as he does.
  7. Shimon ben Shetach assumed that the wine was kosher.

Women leading zimun

Another passage of Gemara (Brochos 20b) applies the above-quoted rules of areivus to a different situation. The Gemara there discusses whether the requirement that a woman recite birchas hamazon is min haTorah or only miderabbanan. The Gemara notes that a practical difference in halachah that will result is whether women may lead the bensching – what we call the zimun. In earlier days, the person who led the zimun also bensched on behalf of the assembled. Thus, a requirement is that he be someone obligated to fulfill the mitzvah on the same level as they are. Only someone who is required to bensch min haTorah may lead the zimun if it includes men, who are required to bensch min haTorah. Therefore, if women are required to bensch min haTorah, they may lead the bensching of a group that includes men. On the other hand, if women are not required, they may not lead such a bensching.

Since the question whether women are obligated to bensch min haTorah or not remains unresolved, women do not lead a zimun when men are part of the zimun. However, when there are only women in attendance, they may create their own zimun (Brochos 45b; Arachin 3).

Areivus in action!

Here are some less common applications of the mitzvah of areivus. Mr. Goldberg is, unfortunately, hospitalized, and no one else in his family is able to recite Kiddush. On his way home from shul, Mr. Berkowitz can stop off at the Goldberg house and recite Kiddush on their behalf, although he is not fulfilling the mitzvah now, but intends to fulfill the mitzvah only when he gets to his own home. This is because the Goldbergs are required to recite Kiddush, and the law of areivus allows another Jew obligated in the mitzvah to perform the mitzvah on their behalf. (According to some authorities, the ladies of the house should daven maariv before Mr. Berkowitz can recite Kiddush for them. This is a topic that we will leave for a future article.)

Havdalah and not Kiddush

One of my daughters was born when I was a rav in a small Jewish community. Since it has become common custom that one celebrates the birth of a daughter with a Kiddush, I was now faced with an interesting conundrum. Some of the people who would attend the Kiddush might drive on Shabbos to attend, so I could not consider the standard Kiddush as an option. My wife and I decided to avoid this problem by making a melaveh malkah on a Saturday night instead.

What does this have to do with areivus?

Although I had already made havdalah that night, at the melaveh malkah, I recited havdalah another time, on behalf of those individuals who had not yet performed the mitzvah. This could be done, because of the concept of areivus. Of course, this should be done only when there are individuals who have not as yet performed the mitzvah and would have in mind to fulfill the mitzvah of havdalah when it is performed for them.

Kiddush Shabbos morning

Sometimes, one has guests Shabbos morning who did not yet recite or hear the Friday night Kiddush. Since that Kiddush can be recited the entire Shabbos, these guests are required to hear both brochos of Kiddush during the daytime of Shabbos. Therefore, one should recite that Kiddush on their behalf at the Shabbos morning meal. However, bear in mind that, since they will be yotzei only if they intend to be, they must be sufficiently interested in Judaism to understand that they are thereby fulfilling a mitzvah. I suggest discussing this with your own rav or posek for guidance what to do.

Conclusion

The mitzvos of the Torah were given not to the Jewish people as individuals, but as a community, and to each individual Jew as a member of that community. This affects many areas of halachah, one of which is the mitzvah of areivus that we have just introduced. My fellow Jew’s obligation to observe mitzvos transfers to me in a way that I can now enable him to perform them.

 

Found Money – A Drama in Real Life

Parshas Ki Seitzei includes the mitzvah of hashavas aveidah. This article was published previously in my book From Buffalo Burgers to Monetary Mysteries. Should you be interested in purchasing the book, you may do so via the website, RabbiKaganoff.com, or by sending me an e-mail note.

Hershel calls me one day, somewhat agitated and very excited, with the following shaylah:

“While making an unusual household repair, I discovered a wad of hundred-dollar bills hidden in a secret place,” he begins. The questions now come tumbling out. “I know this is not money I ever put aside. How do I determine who the owner is? May I trust any previous resident of the house who claims that the money is his? Do I need to be concerned that the money was used for illegal activity? What do I do if I can’t find the owner?” And then finally, with a hopeful tone in his voice, “May I borrow the money while I am trying to locate the owner? We are behind on the mortgage, and it would be really helpful!”

Before answering Hershel’s questions, we need to clarify the Torah’s rules for returning lost objects:

BASIC HASHAVAS AVEIDAH RULES

As we are all aware, there is a mitzvah to return a lost object to its owner (Devorim 22:1-3; Shemos 23:4; Bava Metzia 26b). There are actually two different mitzvos, a prohibition against ignoring the lost object and a positive mitzvah to return it. Someone who retrieves the lost object and successfully returns it fulfills both mitzvos.

There are several questions we must answer when confronted with a hashavas aveidah situation. Among them are:

  1. Where did you find the item? Did you find it in a place where there are many people who do not observe the laws of hashavas aveidah, in which case the owner would assume that the finder would probably not return it? Or perhaps you found it in a shul or other place where the people passing through observe the halachos of hashavas aveidah.
  2. Is it an object that the owner probably already knows that he lost, such as large amounts of money, or is it something that he probably does not realize he lost, such as a pen or small change?
  3. Does the item have an identifying marking, called a siman, or not?
  4. Was the item placed intentionally, or does it appear to have been dropped?

YIUSH

An important principle governing the laws of lost objects is the concept called yiush, which means that the owner does not expect to retrieve the lost item. Once the owner has given up hope of getting the object back, it is halachically considered that he has relinquished possession (Chinuch, Mitzvah 538; Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 262:5). At this point, there is no requirement to return the lost item, and one certainly does not need to try to locate the owner. Nevertheless, it is still a mitzvah lifnim mishuras hadin, beyond the requirements of halacha, to return the lost object (Bava Metzia 24b).

EXAMPLE: If a driver observed something blow out of his car window and did not return for it, we may assume that the owner was me’ya’eish (gave up hope of retrieving it).

We now understand the basis of the first question we posed above: Was the item found in a place where the owner would assume that it will not be returned, such as a shopping mall, or in a place where it might be returned, such as a shul?

Based on what we have explained, there is no halachic requirement to return an item that was lost in a mall or other place frequented by people who do not observe hashavas aveidah. The finder may assume that the owner gave up hope of having the item returned, even if it has a siman. However, it is a mitzvah lifnim mishuras hadin to return the item.

Many poskim contend that there is no halachic requirement to return an item that is used by a child, such as a toy or child’s garment. Since adults know that children lose things all the time, these items are categorized as aveidah mi’daas, items that the owner knows may be lost since he gave them to someone who is not halachically responsible (see Bava Basra 87b; Mishpetei Torah III pg. 44). Therefore, when a parent gives a child these items he is not surprised when they are lost—it is an assumption that they will periodically lose their clothes, toys, and school supplies.

This halacha does not apply to an item that might be used by a child over bar- or bas-mitzvah, since they are halachically responsible.

ITEMS THAT THE OWNER DOES NOT KNOW HE LOST

Until now we have been discussing items that the owner knows that he lost. What is the halacha concerning items that the owner does not yet realize that he has lost?

The Gemara discusses the rule governing yiush shelo midaas (lit., giving up hope without knowledge), which refers to items that someone will give up hope of retrieving as soon as he realizes he lost them; however, he does not yet know that he has lost them. Are these items already considered ownerless? This question is probably the most famous dispute between the two great Talmudic scholars Abaye and Rava, and it is often taught as an introduction to didactic Gemara study.

The Gemara concludes that yiush shelo midaas is not valid yiush until the owner realizes his loss. This means that, although the owner will eventually give up hope of retrieving the item, until he realizes his loss, the item is still his property and someone else may not take possession of it.

How does the finder know if the owner has realized his loss? In general, this depends on the item. Someone who finds a large item that the owner was probably carrying himself may assume that the owner has already realized his loss by the time it was found. Similarly, if you found a large quantity of money on the street, you can assume that the owner is already aware of his loss since one tends to check one’s pockets frequently when carrying large sums of money. Therefore, we assume that the owner realized his loss by the time the finder found it. It is therefore permitted for the finder to keep the item.

On the other hand, if one finds an item that might go unnoticed for a while, such as small change, one should assume that the owner may not yet know of his loss and one should not assume that the finder can consider it his.

WHAT IS A SIMAN?

One of the distinctions I mentioned above was between items that have an identifying marking, called a siman, and those that do not. What is a siman and why is it so significant to the halachos of lost objects?

Someone who lost an item in a shul or similar place where most of the people are halacha abiding would assume that people would try to return the item. As we will explain shortly, to return a lost item, it is important that the item have a siman that the owner can use to identify it. A siman may be a name tag or an unusual marking or blemish on the object – anything that the owner would know about but that someone else probably would not.

MUST IT BE A PHYSICAL SIMAN?

An item placed in an unusual way or in an unusual location also has a valid siman – someone who knows this information would be demonstrating that he or she is the item’s owner. For example, although money does not usually have a siman, coins placed in a pile or in an unusual location have a valid siman (see Bava Metzia 23b).

The number of bills involved would also be a valid siman. Thus, the number of bills in a wad of dropped bills is a valid siman (Bava Metzia 23b).

Combining the rules that we have learned we reach the following conclusion:

Someone who finds a lost item in a shul or other place where the owner would assume that people observe hashavas aveidah should see if the lost item has a siman. If it does, then the owner will assume that he can still retrieve his lost item, and the finder is required to notify people that he found such an item.

In the days of Chazal there were different methods utilized for this notification. A contemporary method is to hang up a sign on a bulletin board near where the item was found or to bring the item to a functioning “lost and found” depot.

When finding a lost object that has a siman, one should not announce it in a way that gives away its siman. Thus, if one found a watch in shul, one should announce (on the sign or bulletin) that he found a watch and leave it for the owner to identify the item by its defining characteristics (Bava Metzia 28b).

AN ITEM THAT WAS PLACED INTENTIONALLY

If the item appears to have been placed and forgotten, rather than dropped, one should leave the item where it is, since the owner will probably try to retrace his steps to find it.

If the item was left in a very secure place, one should leave the item there, since it will not disappear (Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 260:1). Thus in Hershel’s case, if the owner does not surface and cannot be located, the money should be left in its place and not touched, and certainly not borrowed, until the owner returns for it. In this instance, even if Hershel removed it from its place he should put it back since he knows that the owner did not return to look for it in the interim (Rama 260:10 and Sma 48).

However, if the item was left in a place where it will be thrown away, one should try to return it to its owner (Bava Metzia 25b).

WHEN DOES THE FINDER NOT RETURN IT?

One should not return the item without determining that the person can prove he is the owner. This is accomplished when the owner provides his siman identifying himself as the legitimate owner of the lost item.

If the claimant is dishonest, one should not return the lost item to him, even if he seemingly demonstrates that he is the correct owner. This is because of suspicion that he has discovered proof to claim falsely that he is the owner (Bava Metzia 28b).

WHEN SHOULD YOU NOT PICK UP A LOST ITEM?

If the lost item has no siman, you are not obligated to pick it up since you will anyway be unable to return it to the owner. Furthermore, there are two different circumstances whereby one should not pick up the lost item, and if one did, one may not keep it, even though the lost item has no siman. One case we mentioned above — where the owner originally placed the item there intentionally and subsequently forgot to retrieve it (makom hinuach). In this case, one should not pick up the lost item because the owner might still be able to retrace his steps and find the item, yet if you pick it up he will be unable to claim it since it has no siman (see Bava Metzia 25b). However, if leaving the item in its place will cause it to become destroyed or stolen, one should remove it and try to “announce” it using its location as a siman (ibid.).

WHAT IF THE OWNER DOES NOT KNOW HE LOST IT?

The second case where one should not pick up the lost item is where the owner does not yet know that he lost it (yi’ush shelo midaas) and the item has no siman. As explained above, since the owner does not yet realize his loss, he has not yet relinquished ownership. Therefore, the finder cannot keep the lost object.

In both of these instances, if the item has been lost for a long enough time that one may assume that the owner found out about his loss, one may keep the lost item. This is because of the following reason:

MAY I EVER KEEP AN ITEM THAT I FOUND?

If the owner knows that he has lost the object and despairs of retrieving it, then the finder may keep it, provided he picked it up only after the owner gave up hope to ever get it back (Bava Metzia 22b). Therefore, if the finder can assume reasonably that the owner has already given up hope that he will retrieve the lost object, the finder may keep it (Chinuch, Mitzvah 538).

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE “FOUND MONEY”?

Having explored the basic laws of hashavas aveidah, we now return to the saga of Hershel’s found money.

In our particular case, we can assume that someone who had lived previously in the house lost the money. Thus, we should be able to identify all the possible candidates and then try to narrow down the list.

We have no halachic reason to be concerned that the money was earned illegally.

I asked Hershel who had lived in the apartment previously. He told me he would contact the previous tenant and find out what he could.

Hershel contacted the previous tenants, a fine, halachically-committed couple, Chayim and Rochel. Hershel asked them if they had hid money in the apartment and forgotten about it, without hinting to them where the hiding place was so that he would not reveal the siman.

“No, I have no recollection of hiding money in the apartment that we left behind,” responded Chayim, “I am sure the money is not ours.”

From Chayim, Hershel found out the identity of the previous resident of the apartment, a not-yet-observant Jew, Phil. With a bit of luck, Hershel located Phil, and began to explain to him about the money.

“I hid money all over the house, in every hiding place you can imagine!” responded Phil, “I don’t even remember all the hiding places I used. Indeed, I probably didn’t take all the money with me when I left. I am sure the money is mine!”

Of course, this statement does not provide us with any help. Maybe the money is indeed Phil’s, but he must provide us with a siman. Not remembering the siman does not allow us to give it to him. For all we know, Phil could be a dishonest person, and the money belongs to one of the tenants who lived there before him.

Unfortunately, this put Hershel in a very difficult position. As mentioned above, one may not return money to a dishonest person, even if he provides a siman, because of concern that he might have guessed right (Mishnah Bava Metzia 28b). Thus, if Phil is indeed dishonest, Hershel could not trust him, even if Phil would guess where the money had been found.

Hershel attempted to explain to Phil that perhaps he could provide some more information about the money, such as where the money was hidden or how much money there was. Phil became very testy. “I am telling you the money is mine. What’s the matter, you don’t trust me?!”

Hershel called me back, a bit disappointed. He had tried to fulfill the mitzvah of hashavas aveidah, but unfortunately the trail ended here. We will never know whether Phil was the legitimate owner of the money, but the halacha requires us to be reasonably certain who is the owner before we return to him the lost item. Furthermore, there was no way to trace tenants of the apartment who lived there before Phil and to try to ascertain whose money it was. Hershel assumed that he would have to leave the money where he found it, hoping that perhaps one day someone will come by to identify the money properly by its simanim.

Maybe one day the true owner will realize that he had left money in the house and come back for it. Not coming back for the money could only be attributable to two causes:

  1. The loser has forgotten about the money. In this case, the finder may not keep it since the loser never intentionally gave up hope of finding it. If at some time in the future he remembers about the money, he may recall where he put it and come back to claim it. Thus, the money is still the property of the loser. In this instance, Hershel should leave the money in place as long as he retains residence in the house (Sma 262:12).
  2. The loser remembers that he hid the money, but he cannot recall where. In this instance, we may assume that when he realized that he cannot remember where he put the money, he would give up hope of ever finding the money again, and the money is hefker, ownerless. In this situation, Hershel would be allowed to keep the money (Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 260:1 as understood by Pischei Choshen Vol. I, pg. 282).

We see that returning lost items is a beautiful and important mitzvah, and that, sometimes, the details of the halacha are fairly complicated.

 

What Berachos Will We Recite When Mashiach Comes?

Since Parshas Shoftim discusses the laws of the Jewish king, I thought it appropriate to discuss this topic, since we hope that the next Jewish king will come soon and be the Mashiach. This article was previously published in my book From Buffalo Burgers to Monetary Mysteries. Should you be interested in purchasing the book, you may do so via the website, RabbiKaganoff.com or by sending me an e-mail.

What Berachos Will We Recite When Mashiach Comes?

Shimon asked me recently what berachos we will recite when mashiach comes, and when we will recite those berachos. I must admit that, surprisingly, no one had ever asked me this shaylah before. I did discover two short responsa on the topic, both dealing only with certain aspects of the subject.

Subsequently, my son showed me a pamphlet that included a list of berachos that we will recite upon that auspicious occasion. However, the list included errors and was incomplete. Hopefully this article will prepare us better for the occasion we daven for three times a day, and will itself hasten the redemption.

Before discussing the shaylah, we must first clarify an important fact, one that a surprising number of Jewish people do not know:

Who is mashiach, and what will he accomplish?

Mashiach is a Torah scholar descended from David HaMelech, who will reestablish the halachic Jewish monarchy in Eretz Yisrael and influence the entire Jewish people to observe halacha meticulously, to the finest detail.[i] He will be wiser than his ancestor, Shelomoh HaMelech, will be a prophet almost as great as Moshe Rabbeinu; he will teach the entire people how to serve Hashem, and his advice will be sought by all the nations of the world. He will gather the Jews who are presently scattered to the ends of the world, expand Jewish territory more than ever before, and rebuild the Beis HaMikdash. (This follows the approach of the Rambam, Hilchos Melachim Chapter 11. There is a dispute as to whether the third Beis HaMikdash will be built under mashiach’s supervision, or whether it will descend from heaven.[ii] There is also a dispute whether the ingathering of the exile is performed by mashiach or occurs immediately prior to his arrival. We will find out for certain when the events unfold.) After mashiach establishes his dominion, there will be no more wars, famine, jealousy, or competition, since the entire world will be filled with only one desire: to know Hashem and draw close to Him.[iii]

The fact that mashiach is both the political leader of klal Yisrael and also a leading talmid chacham caused Rav Shmuel Hominer, a great tzadik and talmid chacham of the previous generation, to ask Rav Shelomoh Zalman Auerbach the following interesting shaylah, which I paraphrase:

“When we merit meeting mashiach, we will be required to recite four berachos to praise Hashem upon the occasion: (1) chacham harazim, The wise One who knows all secrets [which I will explain shortly]; (2) shechalak meichachmaso lirei’av, Who bestowed of His wisdom to those who fear Him; (3) shechalak mikevodo lirei’av, Who bestowed of His honor to those who fear Him; and (4) shehecheyanu.” Rav Hominer then proceeded to ask whether the second and third berachos, both of which begin with the word shechalak should be recited as two separate berachos, or if they are combined into one beracha, shechalak meichachmaso u’mikevodo lirei’av, Who bestowed of His wisdom and honor to those who fear Him. Let me explain his question:

Chazal instituted the following blessing, to be made when one sees a Jewish king:  Baruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech haolam shechalak mikevodo lirei’av, that Hashem bestowed of His honor to those who fear Him. A different, but similar, beracha was instituted to be recited upon seeing a tremendous talmid chacham: Baruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech haolam shechalak meichachmaso lirei’av, that He bestowed of His wisdom to those who fear Him.[iv]

Chazal also instituted the recital of similar berachos when one sees a non-Jewish king, shenasan mikevodo lebasar vadam, that Hashem gave of His honor to human beings; and shenasan meichachmaso lebasar vadam, that Hashem gave of His wisdom to human beings, when one sees a gentile scholar.[v]

(Note that the berachos recited over a Jewish king or scholar use the word shechalak whereas the berachos recited over gentiles use the word shenasan. The word shechalak implies that the recipient of this power or wisdom recognizes that these are gifts received from Hashem, and that Hashem retains total control over them.[vi] However, the gentile king or scholar views these Divine gifts as his own accomplishments and does not recognize Hashem’s ongoing involvement in his success.)

Since mashiach will be both a king and a Torah scholar, Rav Hominer assumed that someone meeting him should recite both berachos. However, Rav Hominer queried whether these two similar berachos are combined into one beracha, shechalak meichachmaso umikevodo lirei’av  – that Hashem bestowed of His wisdom and honor to those who fear Him.

Rav Shelomoh Zalman replied that we do not combine these two berachos, even when seeing a Jewish king who is also a talmid chacham.[vii] He pointed out that berachos are generally kept separate, even when their themes are similar. As Rav Shelomoh Zalman noted, an earlier author, the Teshuvah Mei’Ahavah,[viii] discussed this same shaylah in the eighteenth century and reached the same conclusion.

It is noteworthy that several poskim contend that we no longer recite the beracha shechalak meichachmaso lirei’av upon seeing a noteworthy talmid chacham, maintaining that our generations no longer possess Torah scholars of the stature required to recite this beracha. (This approach is quoted by Shu’t Teshuvah Mei’Ahavah, 2:237; Ben Ish Chai, Parshas Eikev 1:13; and Aruch HaShulchan 224:6. On the other hand, Chayei Adam 63:8; Kaf HaChayim 224:18; and Shu’t Shevet HaLevi 10:13 rule that we do recite this beracha today. Several anecdotes are recorded about great talmidei chachamim who recited the beracha upon seeing gedolim, such as the Ragitzchaver Gaon, the Chazon Ish, the Brisker Rav, and Rav Gustman. See, for example, Piskei Teshuvos, Chapter 224 footnote #17.) Nevertheless, both Rav Hominer and Rav Shelomo Zalman assumed that we will recite this beracha upon witnessing mashiach, either because they held that we do recite this beracha today, or that mashiach will clearly be a scholar of this league.

Baruch Chacham Harazim — Knower of Secrets

In the above-quoted correspondence with Rav Shelomoh Zalman, Rav Hominer, mentioned that we will recite two other berachos when greeting mashiach: Baruch chacham harazim and she’hechiyanu. What is the beracha of Baruch chacham harazim?

The Gemara[ix] records that someone who witnesses 600,000 Jews gathered together recites Baruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech haolam chacham harazim, the wise One who knows all secrets.[x] This beracha praises Hashem for creating such a huge multitude of people, each with his own unique personality and physical appearance. (The Gemara records a different beracha to recite when observing a similarly large-sized throng of gentiles.) The wording of the beracha notes that only Hashem knows the secrets that are in the heart of each of these people.[xi]

Rav Hominer pointed out that since the entire Jewish people will surround mashiach, there will be no doubt at least 600,000 Jews together, enabling us to say this beracha. Note, however, that we will recite this beracha upon seeing the huge crowd, and will not recite the other berachos until we actually see mashiach.

Shehecheyanu

The fourth beracha mentioned by Rav Hominer is shehecheyanu, based on the halacha that if one sees a close friend whom one has not seen for thirty days, one recites shehecheyanu because of one’s excitement.[xii] Certainly, seeing mashiach for the first time will generate more excitement than seeing a close friend that one has not seen for thirty days! (Compare this to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 225:2.)

Shehecheyanu or hatov vehameitiv

However, I would raise the following query: Should we recite shehecheyanu or hatov vehameitiv (He who is good and brings benefit) upon seeing mashiach?

The Mishnah teaches: “Upon hearing good tidings, one recites Baruch hatov vihameitiv.

One who builds a new house or purchases new items recites Baruch shehecheyanu vekiyemanu vehigiyanu lazman hazeh.[xiii] When one hears good tidings that are beneficial only for him, he recites shehecheyanu; if others benefit also, he recites hatov vehameitiv.[xiv] Similarly, when acquiring new appliances, one recites hatov vihameitiv if other people benefit; if only one person benefits, as is usually the case when purchasing new clothes, then he or she recites shehecheyanu.[xv]

So, which beracha will we recite upon the coming of mashiach, shehecheyanu or hatov vihameitiv? After all, it is not just the excitement of seeing the mashiach, but the realization that he will change the entire world for the better that generates the excitement and the beracha.

In my opinion, we will recite both shehecheyanu and hatov vehameitiv, but not at the same time. We will certainly recite hatov vehameitiv when we hear the wonderful tidings of mashiach’s arrival. After all, if one recites the beracha when hearing that one receives any kind of bounty, how much more so for the gift of mashiach’s long-awaited arrival!

In addition, according to Rav Shmuel Hominer and Rav Shelomoh Zalman, one will recite shehecheyanu upon seeing mashiach the first time, due to the personal pleasure of witnessing him.

Although this now completes the list of berachos mentioned by Rav Hominer, I believe at least one more beracha should be added to the list:

Returning the widow to her property

The Gemara[xvi] teaches us that someone who sees Jewish houses in Eretz Yisrael that have been restored after the churban recites the beracha of matziv gvul almanah, He who reestablishes a widow in her borders, referring to the restoration of the Jewish people to the Holy Land. Rashi explains that this Gemara applies to a period such as that of Bayis Sheini, when the Jews returned to Eretz Yisrael after the exile, and the Rif states that it refers specifically to the restoration of shuls and Batei Medrash. Obviously, we will recite this beracha the first time we see either the restored Beis HaMikdash or the batei medrash and shuls of a rebuilt Yerushalayim.

Why don’t we recite this beracha now?

We do not recite this beracha until mashiach arrives and we no longer need to worry about our enemies.[xvii] However, as soon as mashiach has accomplished his purpose, we will recite this beracha on every rebuilt shul and beis medrash we see in Eretz Yisrael. Thus, we might recite this beracha even before actually seeing mashiach himself!

An earlier teshuvah

There actually was an earlier responsum, discussing what berachos we will recite when mashiach arrives. Someone asked Rav Chayim Felaggi, zt”l, a great nineteenth-century posek who was the rav of Izmir, Turkey, the following shaylah, “When mashiach redeems us, what beracha will we recite upon the redemption and in appreciation of Hashem’s benefiting us?”

Since the teshuvah is fairly short, I am translating it:

“It appears that we should recite a beracha of ‘ga’al Yisrael,’ ‘That you redeemed us from this bitter exile,’ similar to when we complete retelling the story of our Exodus on Pesach and recite ‘And we thank You and recite a new song on our redemption. We conclude with the beracha, “He who redeemed Israel.”’ After the future redemption, we will recite a similar beracha. We will also recite shehecheyanu for experiencing this wondrous time, since, without question, this day will be established as a Yom Tov.”[xviii]

Recently, I saw someone rule that we will recite a beracha “Baruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam Go’el Yisrael” as soon as mashiach arrives. However, I believe this to be an incorrect understanding of Rav Felaggi’s teshuvah. Nowhere do Chazal record a beracha with the text “Baruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam go’el Yisrael, nor do they specifiy a beracha to be made when one is redeemed. Rather, what Rav Chayim Felaggi contended is that the Sanhedrin of the mashiach era will institute a celebration to commemorate the wondrous events that transpire, and will presumably institute the recitation of a beracha similar in structure to the beracha that we make immediately prior to drinking the second cup of wine at the Seder, which closes with the words ga’al Yisrael. In addition, the Sanhedrin will, presumably, make the day of mashiach’s arrival into a Yom Tov that will be celebrated with the beracha of shehecheyanu, just as we recite this beracha to commemorate every Yom Tov.

Six berachos

Thus, we now have a total of six berachos to recite when mashiach arrives:

(1) hatov vehameitiv when we hear of his arrival;

(2) matziv gvul almanah, each time we see a newly reconstructed shul or Beis Medrash, and when we see the Beis HaMikdash;

(3) chacham harazim, upon seeing 600,000 or more Jews assembled;

(4, 5, 6) when we actually see mashiach, we will recite three berachos: shechalak meichachmaso lirei’av, shechalak mikevodo lirei’av and shehecheyanu. In what order should we recite these last three berachos?

I believe that the following Gemara[xix] demonstrates that shehecheyanu should be the last of this triad:

“Rav Pappa and Rav Huna, the son of Rabbi Yehoshua, were traveling when they met Rav Chanina, the son of Rabbi Ikka. They told him, ‘when we see you, we recite two berachos: asher chalak mei’chachmaso lirei’av and shehecheyanu.’” Thus we see that shehecheyanu is recited after the other berachos.

Which beracha is recited first?

Having resolved earlier that we will recite two different berachos, shechalak meichachmaso lirei’av and shechalak mikevodo lirei’av, which of these berachos is recited first?

I found no reference made by any posek concerning this question. On the one hand, perhaps one can demonstrate that the beracha on a talmid chacham is first, since we have a general rule that mamzer talmid chacham kodem lekohen gadol am ha’aretz, a mamzer who is a Torah scholar is given more honor than a kohen gadol who is boorish.[xx] On the other hand, the Gemara[xxi] cites a dispute between the prophet Yeshaya and King Chizkiyahu as to whether a king commands more respect than a prophet or vice versa. The Gemara implies that the king commands more respect. Thus, one could infer that the beracha relating to mashiach being king should be recited before the beracha on his being a talmid chacham.

What if I can’t see the mashiach?

Now a practical question:

What if you cannot actually see mashiach because of the large throngs that are there, but you know that he is in front of you. Do you recite these berachos anyway?

Two texts, two opinions

It would seem that whether one recites these berachos under such circumstances depends on a dispute among authorities, which is, in turn, dependent on two versions of a passage of Gemara:[xxii]

Version #1: Rav Sheisheis, who was blind, joined others who went to see the king. When the king arrived, Rav Sheisheis began reciting the blessing.

According to this version, Rav Sheisheis recited the beracha for seeing the king, although he could not and did not see him. Thus, someone may recite this beracha to Hashem for “seeing” (i. e., feeling) the honor that the king receives, even though he does not actually see the king himself.[xxiii]

However, there is another version of this text, which reads as follows:

Rav Sheisheis, who was blind, joined others who went to see the king. When the king arrived, Rav Sheisheis began blessing the king.

What is the difference between the two versions? According to the second version, Rav Sheisheis blessed the king, meaning he gave him an appropriate greeting, but there is no evidence that he recited the beracha on seeing a king, since he could not see him. It is very likely that one may not recite these two berachos unless one actually sees a king or a talmid chacham; it is insufficient just to be aware of his presence.[xxiv]

Conclusion

In conclusion, there may a total of as many as eight special berachos to recite when mashiach arrives, in the following order.

  1. When we first hear from a reliable source the good news of mashiach’s arrival, we will recite, “Baruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech haolam hatov vehameitiv.
  2. When we see the huge throngs of Jews assembled to greet him, which will no doubt number at least 600,000 people, we will recite, “Baruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha’olam chacham harazim.”
  3. When we see the rebuilt Beis HaMikdash or rebuilt shullen or Batei Medrash, one should recite, “Baruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha’olam matziv gvul almanah.” Theoretically, one might recite this beracha before the beracha chacham harazim, if one sees the rebuilt Beis HaMikdash before one sees the huge throngs.
  4. When we actually see the mashiach, we will recite “Baruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech haolam shechalak mikevodo lirei’av.”
  5. Immediately after reciting this beracha, we will recite the beracha “Baruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha’olam shechalak meichachmaso lirei’av.” According to some poskim, one may recite these last two berachos when aware that mashiach is nearby, even if one cannot see him.
  6. When one actually sees mashiach, one should recite shehecheyanu.
  7. -8. According to Rav Chayim Felaggi, a Yom Tov will be established to commemorate mashiach’s arrival, and on that holiday we will again recite shehecheyanu, and a longer beracha mentioning some of the details of the miraculous events of his arrival. This beracha will close with the words Baruch Attah Hashem ga’al Yisrael.

Now that we have completed our discussion and review of these halachos, let us daven hard that we soon have the opportunity to recite these berachos!

 

[i]  Rambam, Hilchos Melachim, Chapter 11

[ii] Rashi, Sukkah 41a; Yerushalmi, Maaser Sheini 5:2 and Meleches Shelomoh ad loc.

[iii]  Rambam, Hilchos Melachim, Chapter 12

[iv]  Berachos 58a

[v] Berachos 58a; Tur and Shulchan Aruch 224; cf. Rambam, Hilchos Brachos 10:11, who records a different text for these brachos

[vi] Avudraham, quoted by Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 224

[vii] Minchas Shelomoh 1:91:27

[viii] Shu’t Teshuvah Mei’Ahavah (2:237)

[ix] Berachos 58a

[x] Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 224:5

[xi] Rashi Berachos 58a

[xii] Berachos 58b and Tosafos ad loc.

[xiii] Berachos 54a

[xiv] Berachos 59b; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 222:1

[xv] Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 223:3, 5

[xvi] Berachos 58b

[xvii] Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 224; Maharsha, Berachos 58b; Shu’t Har Tzvi #84; cf. Magen Avraham 224:8

[xviii]  Shu’t Lev Chayim 2:42

[xix] Berachos 58b

[xx] Mishnah, Horiyos 13a

[xxi] Berachos 10a

[xxii] Berachos 58a

[xxiii] Magen Avraham 224:6

[xxiv] Elyah Rabbah 224:6