How Many Should Be Saying Kaddish?

Question: Is it better that each mourner recite only one kaddish, or that all the mourners recite all the kaddeishim?

Answer: Most people are under the impression that whether the “mourner’s kaddish” (kaddish yasom) is recited by only one person or whether many recite it simultaneously is a dispute between the practices of Germany and those of Eastern Europe. However, we will soon see that this simplification is inaccurate. There were many communities in Eastern Europe where kaddish was said by only one person at a time, and this was the universal Ashkenazic practice until about 250 years ago.

The custom that many people recite the mourner’s kaddish simultaneously was accepted and standard Sefardic practice (meaning the Jews of North Africa and the Middle East), going back at least to the early 18th century (see Siddur Yaavetz, comments after Aleinu), although when this custom was instituted is uncertain. But before we explore the issue of whether more than one person may say kaddish simultaneously, let us first examine the origins of reciting the mourner’s kaddish altogether.

Origins of kaddish

Although the Gemara refers to kaddish in numerous places (Brachos 3a, 57a; Shabbos 119b; Sukkah 39a; Sotah 49a), it never mentions what we call kaddish yasom,the kaddish recited by mourners, nor does it recommend or even suggest, anywhere, that a mourner lead the services. The Gemara, also, makes no mention of when kaddish is recited, with the exception of a very cryptic reference to kaddish recited after studying aggadah (see Sotah 49a). A different early source, Masechta Sofrim, mentions recital of kaddish before borchu (10:7) and after musaf (19:12). The fact that the Gemara says nothing about a mourner reciting kaddish or leading services is especially unusual, since the most common source for these practices is an event that predates the Gemara. The Or Zarua, a rishon, records the following story:

Rabbi Akiva once saw a man covered head to toe with soot, carrying on his head the load that one would expect ten men to carry, and running like a horse. Rabbi Akiva stopped the man, and asked him: “Why are you working so hard? If you are a slave and your master works you this hard, I’ll redeem you. If you are so poor that you need to work this hard to support your family, I’ll find you better employment.”

The man replied, “Please do not detain me, lest those appointed over me get angry at me.”

Rabbi Akiva asked him: “Who are you, and what is your story?”

The man answered: “I died, and every day they send me like this to chop and carry these amounts of wood. When I am finished, they burn me with the wood that I have gathered.”

Rabbi Akiva asked him what his profession was when he was alive, to which he answered that he had been a tax collector (which, in their day, meant someone who purchased from the government the contract to collect taxes) who favored the rich by overtaxing the poor, which the Or Zarua calls “killing the poor.”

Rabbi Akiva: “Have you heard from your overseers whether there is any way to release you from your judgment?”

The man responded: “Please do not detain me, lest my overseers become angry with me. I have heard that there is no solution for me, except for one thing that I cannot do. I was told that if I have a son who would lead the tzibur in the recital of borchu or would recite kaddish so that the tzibur would answer yehei shemei rabba mevorach…, they would release me immediately from this suffering. However, I did not leave any sons, but a pregnant wife, and I have no idea if she gave birth to a male child, and if she did, whether anyone is concerned about teaching him, since I have not a friend left in the world.”

At that moment, Rabbi Akiva accepted upon himself to find whether a son existed and, if indeed he did, to teach him Torah until he could fulfill what was required to save his father. Rabbi Akiva asked the man for his name, his wife’s name, and the name of the town where he had lived. “My name is Akiva, my wife’s name is Shoshniva and I come from Ludkia.”

Rabbi Akiva traveled to Ludkia and asked people if they knew of a former resident, Akiva, the husband of Shoshniva, to which he received the following answer: “Let the bones of that scoundrel be ground to pulp.” When Rabbi Akiva asked about Shoshniva, he was answered: “May any memory of her be erased from the world.” He then inquired about their child, and was answered: “He is uncircumcised — for we were not interested in involving ourselves even to provide him with a bris milah!” Rabbi Akiva immediately began his search for the son, whom he located — it turned out that he was already a young adult. Rabbi Akiva performed a bris milah on him and attempted to teach him Torah, but was unable to do so. For forty days, Rabbi Akiva fasted, praying that the child be able to study Torah, at which time a heavenly voice announced: “Rabbi Akiva, now go and teach him Torah!”

Rabbi Akiva taught him Torah, shema, shemoneh esrei, birchas hamazon, and then brought him to shul in order for him to lead the tzibur by reciting kaddish and borchu, to which the tzibur responded, Yehei shemei rabba mevorach le’olam ule’olmei olemaya and “Baruch Hashem hamevorach le’olam va’ed.

At that moment, Akiva, the husband of Shoshniva, was released from his punishment. This Akiva immediately came to Rabbi Akiva in a dream and told him: “May it be Hashem’s will that you eventually reach your eternal rest in Gan Eden — for you have saved me from Gehennom.” (This story is also found, with some variation, in the second chapter of Masechta Kallah Rabasi.)

Other versions

When a different rishon, the Rivash, was asked about this story, he reported that it is not found in the Gemara, but perhaps its origin is in Midrash Rabbah or Midrash Tanchuma. He then quotes a story from the Orchos Chayim similar to that quoted by the Or Zarua. In conclusion, the Orchos Chayim emphasizes that, for the twelve months of mourning, a mourner should recite the last kaddish of the davening, maftir on Shabbos and Yom Tov, and lead the services for ma’ariv every motza’ei Shabbos (Shu’t Harivash #115).

A similar story is recorded in an earlier midrashic source, the Tanna Devei Eliyahu, where the protagonist is not Rabbi Akiva but his rebbe’s rebbe, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai (see Rambam, Peirush Hamishnayos, end of the fifth chapter of Sotah). In this version, the man was punished until his son turned five and was educated to the point that he could answer borchu in shul (Eliyahu Zuta,Chapter 17). No mention is made of the son reciting kaddish. However, the halachic sources all quote the version of the Or Zarua, in which the protagonist of the story is Rabbi Akiva.

Merits for the deceased

This story serves as the basis for the practice that a mourner leads the services and recite kaddish. Relatively little of this topic is discussed until the time of the Maharil, who was asked the following question:

“Should someone who is uncertain whether his father or mother is still alive recite kaddish?”

To this question, frequent in earlier times when cell phones were not so commonplace, the Maharil replied that he is not required to recite kaddish and he should assume that his parent is still alive (see Mishnah, Gittin 3:3). Once the parent reaches the age of eighty, one should view it as uncertain whether the parent is still alive. Upon this basis, I am aware of a gadol be’Yisrael who had escaped Hitler’s Europe before the war, who began to recite kaddish for his parents once the Nazis invaded the part of Russia where his parents were living.

The Maharil continues that if there are two people in shul, one reciting kaddish for a deceased parent and one who is uncertain whether his parents are still alive, the second person should not recite kaddish. This is because of the halachic principle of ein safek motzi midei vadai, someone who has a questionable claim does not preempt someone who has a definite claim or right — the person whose parents might still be alive should not recite kaddish, rather than someone whose parents are known to be deceased. This ruling of the Maharil assumes that kaddish is recited by only one person at a time.

The Maharil explains that, for this reason, he himself did not say kaddish when he was uncertain whether his parents were still alive. He then explains that someone who is not sure whether his parents are still alive and is capable to lead the services properly should lead the services in honor of his parents (Teshuvos Maharil #36).

Conclusions based on the Maharil

We see from the Maharil’s discussion that:

–          Only one person recites kaddish at a time.

–          Someone with living parents should not recite mourner’s kaddish because he is pre-empting mourners from reciting kaddish.

–          When no mourner will be leading the services, someone uncertain if he is a mourner should do so, provided he can do the job properly.

Obligatory versus voluntary kaddish

The Maharil (Shu’t Maharil Hachadoshos #28) was also asked how may a minor recite kaddish if it is a required part of davening, as only one obligated to fulfill a mitzvah may fulfill a mitzvah on behalf of others. The Maharil answered that the kaddeishim that are recited by the shaliach tzibur as part of davening cannot be recited by minors. These kaddeishim are obligatory and must be recited by an adult, who fulfills the mitzvah on behalf of the community. However, non-obligatory kaddeishim, such as kaddish derabbanan and the kaddeishim recited at the end of davening, may be recited by minors. As a curious aside, the Mesechta Sofrim (10:7) explains that these kaddeishim were established primarily as make-up for people who arrived late and missed the kaddeishim that are required.

It is curious that, already in the time of the Maharil, people assumed that the mourner’s kaddeishim are more important than those of the chazzan. The Maharil points out that this is incorrect, since the kaddeishim recited by the chazzan are required, and it is greater to perform a mitzvah that is required than something non-obligatory (gadol ha’metzuveh ve’oseh mimi she’eino metzuveh ve’oseh). There is greater merit to recite the kaddeishim of the chazzan that are part of davening.

Since minors cannot be chazzan, the Maharil rules that they should be called up for maftir, which a minor may receive, since they thereby recite borchu in front of the tzibur.

Mourner’s kaddish on weekdays

It appears from the Maharil’s responsum that, prior to his era, kaddish yasom was recited only on Shabbos and Yom Tov. In his day, a new custom had just begun in some communities to recite mourner’s kaddish on weekdays. The new custom enabled minors to recite kaddish daily and accommodated adults whom the tzibur did not want leading services.

Which kaddeishim should be said?

The Maharil writes that although the following kaddeishim are not required but customary, they should still be recited: after a shiur is completed, after bameh madlikin on Friday evening, and after pesukim are recited, such as when we recite kaddish after aleinu and the shir shel yom. He rules that someone whose parents are still alive may recite these kaddeishim. However, if his parents do not want him to recite these kaddeishim, he should not.

One at a time

At this point, let us address our opening question: Is it better that each mourner recite only one kaddish, or that all the mourners recite all the kaddeishim?

It appears that, initially, whoever wanted to recite what we call today the mourner’s kaddeishim would do so. Knowing the story of Rabbi Akiva, it became an element of competition, with different people trying to chap the mitzvah. This situation sometimes engendered machlokes and chillul Hashem. To resolve this problem, two approaches developed for dealing with the issue. Sefardim followed the approach that all who wanted to say kaddish recited it in unison. This practice is praised by Rav Yaakov Emden in his commentary on the siddur (at the end of Aleinu). Among Ashkenazim, the approach used was to establish rules of prioritization, whereby one person at a time recited kaddish.

These prioritization rules are discussed and amplified by many later Ashkenazi authorities, implying that the early Ashkenazi world had only one person reciting kaddish at a time. We do not know exactly when the custom began to change, but by the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century, several major Ashkenazi authorities, among them the Chayei Odom (30:7) and the Chasam Sofer (Shu’t Orach Chayim #159; Yoreh Deah #345), discuss a practice whereby kaddish was recited by more than one person simultaneously. About this time, we find another custom in some communities, in which the mourner’s kaddish was said by only one person, but where everyone who chose could join in the recital of a kaddish derabbanan that was recited at the end of the daily morning prayer (see Shu’t Binyan Tziyon #1:122), presumably after the rav taught a shiur in halachah.

Merged community

With this background, we can understand the following mid-nineteenth century responsum. An Ashkenazi community had two shullen and several shteiblach. The main shul was in serious disrepair, so an agreement was made to close all the smaller shullen in order to pool resources and invest in one large, beautiful new shul and have no other minyanim. Part of the plan was that the new shul would permit all mourners to recite all the kaddeishim in unison. Subsequently, some individuals claimed that the community should follow the practice of the Rema and the Magen Avraham of prioritizing the recital of kaddish and having one person say it at a time. The community leaders retorted that this would create machlokes, since there would be only one shul and many people would like to say more kaddeishim than they can under the proposed system. Apparently, the dispute even involved some fisticuffs. The community sent the shaylah to Rav Ber Oppenheim, the rav and av beis din of Eibenschutz. He felt that the community practice of having all the mourners recite kaddish together should be maintained, but first wrote an extensive letter clarifying his position, which he sent to Rav Yaakov Ettlinger, the premier halachic authority of central Europe at the time. I will refer to Rav Ettlinger by the name he is usually called in yeshiva circles, the Aruch Laneir, the name of his most famous work, the multi-volumed Aruch Laneir commentary on much of Shas. The Aruch Laneir’s reply was subsequently published in his work of responsa called Shu’t Binyan Tziyon.

The Aruch Laneir contended that one should not change the established minhag of Germany and Poland, in practice for more than three hundred years, in which only one person recites kaddish at a time. He further notes that, although the Yaavetz had praised the practice that several people recite kaddish in unison, the Yaavetz himself had lived in Altoona, Germany, where the accepted practice was that only one person said kaddish at a time. (The Aruch Laneir notes that he himself was the current rav of Altoona and had been so already for several decades.)

Furthermore, the Aruch Laneir contends that one cannot compare Ashkenazic to Sefardic observance for a practical reason. The Sefardim are accustomed to praying in unison, and therefore, when they say kaddish, everyone exhibits great care to synchronize its recital. When Ashkenazim attempt to recite kaddish in unison, no one hears the kaddeishim. The Aruch Laneir notes that when the kaddish derabbanan is recited by all mourners, the result is a cacophony. He writes that he wishes he could abolish this custom, since, as a result, no one hears or responds appropriately to kaddish.

In conclusion, the Aruch Laneir is adamant that where the custom is that one person at a time recite kaddish, one may not change the practice. On the other hand, we have seen that other authorities cite a custom whereby all the mourners recite kaddish in unison.

Conclusion: How does kaddish work?

The Gemara (Yoma 86a) records that any sin that a person commits in this world, no matter how grievous, will be atoned if the person does teshuvah. This does not mean that the teshuvah accomplishes atonement without any suffering. Some sins are so serious that a person must undergo suffering in this world, in addition to performing teshuvah, before he is forgiven.

The greatest sin a person can be guilty of is chillul Hashem. Only teshuvah, suffering, and the individual’s eventual demise will be sufficient to atone for this transgression. Thus, a person’s death may result from his having caused a chillul Hashem.

The Maharal of Prague had a brother, Rav Chayim, who authored a work entitled Sefer Hachayim, in which he writes that most people die because they made a chillul Hashem at some point in their life. The reason a mourner recites kaddish is to use the parent’s death as a reason to create kiddush Hashem – by reciting kaddish – thus, atoning for the original chillul Hashem (Sefer Hachayim, end of chapter 8). May we all merit creating kiddush Hashem in our lives.

Second Zachor Readings

Question #1: Birchos haTorah min haTorah

Is birchos haTorah min haTorah?

Question #2: Parshas Zachor

Should a second parshas Zachor reading have a minyan?

Question #3: America, America

Is there an American angle to this halachic discussion?

Foreword

The halachic authorities dispute whether women are obligated to hear parshas Zachor, the Sefer Hachinuch (Mitzvah #603) ruling that they are exempt, whereas Rav Yaakov Ettlinger (author of Aruch Laneir and posek hador of western and central Europe during his lifetime), obligates them (Shu”t Binyan Tzion 2:8). A third opinion is that, although women are definitely required to observe the mitzvah of remembering what Amalek did to us, they are not required to hear parshas Zachor because it is a time-bound mitzvah miderabbanan (Shu”t Toras Chayim, Orach Chayim #37; Kaf Hachayim 685:30).

There is a second dispute, whether an individual is required min haTorah to hear the reading of parshas Zachor with a minyan, annually, which some rishonim require (Rosh, Berachos 7:20; Terumas Hadeshen 1:108) and others exempt (Sefer Hachinuch). If we combine the strictest interpretation of both rulings, we would conclude that women are obligated min haTorah to hear parshas Zachor annually with a minyan, although I am unaware of any early halachic authorities who rule this way.

In contemporary practice, women strive to hear parshas Zachor. To enable those taking care of children during the morning reading, many shullen schedule an additional reading some time later that day, to facilitate the hearing of parshas Zachor.

Some contemporary authorities have questioned this practice because of the following observation: There are poskim who forbid reading from a sefer Torah in public without reciting a berocha before and after the reading (Toras Raphael, Hilchos Keri’as HaTorah #2). This is based on the ruling of earlier prominent authorities who contend that such readings require the recital of a berocha min haTorah (Be’er Sheva, Sotah 41a; Shu”t Mishkenos Yaakov, Orach Chayim #63). Several early authorities attribute this position to the Talmud Yerushalmi (Shu”t Meishiv Davar 1:16; cf., however, Toras Raphael who disagrees) or other very early sources.

On the other hand, when there is no obligation to read from the Torah, many authorities forbid reciting a berocha when reading from a sefer Torah, considering it a berocha levatalah, one recited in vain (Elyah Rabbah 566:3; Pri Megadim, Mishbetzos Zahav Orach Chayim 566:7; Chayei Adam 31:11; Meishiv Davar 1:16; Shu”t Har Tzvi, Orach Chayim #52, #69, #70). This may potentially create a conundrum: It would be forbidden to recite berochos for an extra reading of parshas Zachor because of concerns about berocha levatalah. Yet, some authorities prohibit reading from the Torah in public without a berocha. Thus, we have a predicament whose obvious solution is to avoid extra public reading from a sefer Torah. On the other hand, we want to have an extra reading to facilitate fulfilling the mitzvah for those who cannot be in shul for the regular reading.

Other readings

A similar, but not identical, shaylah occurs on several other occasions, depending on various local customs. Many have the minhag to read sefer Devarim, or sections thereof, from a sefer Torah on the night of Hoshana Rabba. Similarly, many Chassidic kehillos read, on the first twelve days of Nisan, the passage in parshas Naso describing the dedication of the Mishkan, called parshas hanesi’im. There was also a custom that, upon completing the writing of a new sefer Torah, the sofer read from the brand new sefer Torah in front of the assembled (Toras Raphael). Other customs of reading from a sefer Torah on various occasions are recorded in different halachic sources (e.g., Shu”t Tashbeitz 2:39; Levush; Shu”t Minchas Yitzchak 8:84). Explaining the sources for this discussion and suggesting resolutions is the topic of this article.

Introduction

After the Rambam wrote his Sefer Hamitzvos, in which he listed his opinion of the count of the 613 mitzvos, the Ramban wrote an extensive commentary disputing dozens of points made by the Rambam. The Ramban also listed 34 mitzvos, 17 mitzvos aseih and 17 mitzvos lo saaseh, which he felt should be included in the count of the mitzvos according to the Rambam’s rules, but were omitted. In the Ramban’s listing of the “missing” mitzvos aseih, he includes the mitzvah (#15) to recite a berocha prior to reading the Torah.

Although it is unclear whether the Ramban here is counting a mitzvah to recite birkas haTorah prior to studying Torah, or a mitzvah to recite it prior to reading from a sefer Torah, several authorities assume that he meant the latter. In other words, although reading the Torah in public is not required min haTorah, when doing so, the requirement to recite a berocha is. All halachic authorities agree that the berocha after an aliyah is only a mitzvah miderabbanan.

Berocha before leining

The major discussion on this topic stems from the writings of three prominent acharonim, the Be’er Sheva (commentary to Sotah 41a), the Mishkenos Yaakov (Shu”t Mishkenos Yaakov, Orach Chayim #63) and the Toras Raphael (Hilchos Birchos haTorah #2).

These acharonim base themselves on a careful analysis of a passage of Gemara:

Rav Yehudah said, “What is the source from which we know that there is a requirement min haTorah to recite birkas hamazon after eating: ‘When you have eaten and been satisfied, you shall bless Hashem, your G-d, for the wonderful land that He gave you’ (Devarim 8:10). What is the source from which we know that there is a requirement min haTorah to recite birkas haTorah before Torah: ki sheim Hashem ekra, havu godel lei’lokeinu (Berachos 21a, based on Devarim 32:3), in which Moshe told the Jewish people, ‘I am about to sing praise to Hashem. Prior to my doing so, I will recite a berocha (ki sheim Hashem ekra) to which you should answer amen’” (havu godel lei’lokeinu) [Rashi, Berachos 21a s.v. Ki].

(1) What did Rav Yehudah mean when he required a “berocha before Torah?” Was he referring to:

            (a) What we usually call talmud Torah or limud Torah,or

            (b) Before reading from a sefer Torah, what we usually call keri’as haTorah?

(2) If he meant what we usually call limud Torah, what type of limud Torah is included?

The Gemara (Berachos 11b) cites a four-way dispute among amora’im what type of limud Torah requires birkas haTorah:

            (a) Only the written Torah.

            (b) The written Torah and the halachic midrashim on the written Torah.

            (c) In addition to the above, also before studying Mishnah.

            (d) In addition to everything mentioned above, also before studying Gemara.

The Gemara concludes that we recite birkas haTorah prior to any type of Torah learning. However, this does not teach us whether this is required min haTorah or only miderabbanan.

Let us return to the passage of Gemara quoting Rav Yehudah’s ruling that birkas haTorah is min haTorah and is derived from the pasuk in parshas Ha’azinu.

Rabbi Yochanan then adds to, and somewhat disagrees with, Rav Yehudah’s statement by claiming that, with the use of two applications of the principle of kal vechomer, we can derive that reciting a berocha before eating is min haTorah, as well as a berocha recited after learning. The Gemara ultimately refutes the applications of kal vechomer and, therefore, Rabbi Yochanan’s two rulings. Thus, recital of a berocha before eating and after learning are not required min haTorah.

The question that concerns the Be’er Sheva and the Mishkenos Ya’akov is:

To which berocha after Torah is Rabbi Yochanan referring? The only time we ever recite a berocha after Torah is the berocha recited after keri’as haTorah. This implies that the “berocha before Torah,” which both Rav Yehudah and Rabbi Yochanan agree is min haTorah, means the berocha recited before reading the Torah in public. The Be’er Sheva and the Mishkenos Ya’akov, therefore, conclude that the requirement min haTorah of birkas haTorah applies when reading the Torah in public. This includes:

(A) What we call keri’as haTorah on Shabbos, Mondays, Thursdays and holidays.

(B) The mitzvah of hakheil, when the Jewish king reads selections of sefer Devarim to the entire Jewish people on chol hamo’ed Sukkos in the year following shemittah (Mishnah Sotah 40b).

(C) When the Yisraelim who were on ma’amados, “Temple Duty,” read the Torah daily, during their rotation at the Beis Hamikdash (Mishnah Ta’anis 26a).

These acharonim conclude that the mitzvah of reciting birkas haTorah before we begin studying Torah every day is only miderabbanan.

Because the Be’er Sheva and the Mishkenos Yaakov conclude that both Rav Yehudah and Rabbi Yochanan agree that there is a requirement min haTorah to recite a berocha prior to any public reading of the Torah, this applies even if someone already recited birkas haTorah earlier in the day. The earlier recitation fulfilled only a mitzvah miderabbana, while the subsequent reading of the Torah in public requires recital of a berocha min haTorah.

However, as mentioned above, many authorities prohibit reciting birkas haTorah on a reading of the Torah that was not instituted either by the Torah or by Chazal. An interesting historical example is when the Netziv was asked, in the 1880’s, by a rav in Cincinnati the following shaylah: The community was dedicating a new sefer Torah, and the convenient day to schedule the dedication was Sunday, when people were off from work. In honor of the auspicious occasion, one of the organizers included a reading of the Torah, complete with berachos. The rav in Cincinnati strongly opposed this, contending that the berachos would constitute berachos levatalah, since Chazal never established reading the Torah on a Sunday that is not a Jewish holiday. The Netziv agreed with the rav’s ruling, commenting that it is permitted to read from the Torah, providing that no berachos were recited. However, according to the Be’er Sheva and the Mishkenos Yaakov, it is prohibited min haTorah to read from the Torah in public without reciting birkas haTorah.

Family feud

On the other hand, in response to a similar shaylah, Rav Raphael Shapiro, the Netziv’s son-in-law, author of Toras Raphael, ruled that it is prohibited to read from the Torah altogether. This is because some authorities prohibit reciting a berocha on this reading, and others, the Be’er Sheva and the Mishkenos Yaakov, rule that it is prohibited min haTorah to read the Torah without first reciting a berocha. The Toras Raphael concludes that the only solution is not to read from the Torah in public when it is not required.

Birchos haTorah min haTorah

At this point, we can address our opening question: Is birchos haTorah min haTorah?

The answer is somewhat complicated. According to the Ramban, there is definitely a requirement min haTorah, at times, to recite birchos haTorah. However, it is uncertain whether this means before studying Torah every day, or before reading the Torah in public. Among the rishonim,we find a dispute whether birchos haTorah before studying Torah every day is required min haTorah, a dispute that the Toras Raphael analyzes at great length. And we have two very prominent acharonim, the Be’er Sheva and the Mishkenos Yaakov, who contend that the requirement to recite birchos haTorah is min haTorah only before reading the Torah in public, but not when studying the Torah, in which case the requirement is only miderabbanan.

Later authorities

The question concerning whether we may read from the Torah in public to fulfill a custom without reciting birchos haTorah is discussed in some more recent teshuvos and articles. For example, Shu”t Minchas Yitzchak (8:84) discusses the custom, particularly but not exclusively, among Chassidim, of reading from a sefer Torah on the first twelve days of Nisan the portion of parshas Naso that describes the offerings that the nesi’im brought when the Mishkan was dedicated. Those who observe this custom do not recite a berocha before reading the Torah, nor should they, since most authorities rule that such a berocha would be levatalah, since no takkanas chachamim is observed. However, according to the Toras Raphael, it would seem that this should not be read with a minyan present, in order not to violate (according to the Be’er Sheva and the Mishkenos Yaakov) the mitzvas aseih of reading from a sefer Torah without a berocha.

Disputing the analysis of the Toras Raphael, the Minchas Yitzchak explains that, although these early poskim ruled that the requirement to recite birkas haTorah before keri’as haTorah is min haTorah, they never stated that it is required to recite a berocha prior to a reading that is optional. The Minchas Yitzchak concludes that since many great talmidei chachamim read from the Torah parshas nesi’im in the month of Nisan without reciting a berocha, this is the accepted halacha, not the ruling of the Toras Raphael.

Another, similar reason why these practices do not conflict with the ruling of the early acharonim is that, in these instances, each individual would like to read the Torah by himself, and the public reading is simply because of efficiency. Therefore, this is not considered a public reading of the Torah and there is no requirement to recite birchos haTorah (Shu”t Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:380). Rav Moishe Shternbuch, who suggested this last approach, was referring to the custom of reading the book of Devarim on the night of Hoshanah Rabbah, which is also performed without a berocha.

Parshas Zachor

At this point, we can address the second of our opening questions: Should a second parshas Zachor reading have a minyan?

Now we can understand our conundrum: If a second parshas Zachor reading is scheduled and there is a minyan in attendance, the Toras Raphael would certainly require the recital of a berocha. According to the Be’er Sheva and the Mishkenos Ya’akov, it would seem that it is prohibited to read the additional reading of parshas Zachor without first reciting a berocha, because this violates the mitzvas aseih of the Torah. On the other hand, if no one is required to still hear the reading of parshas Zachor, many authorities would rule that reciting a berocha is a berocha levatalah. According to the Netziv, there would be nothing wrong with reading from the Torah when Chazal did not require it, as long as no berocha is recited. Thus, in his opinion, the second reading may take place as long as no berocha is recited. However, according to the Toras Raphael, we should, perhaps, not read the Torah in public at all, to avoid getting involved in the dispute. A simple solution might be not to have a minyan when the second reading takes place.

America, America

Is there an American angle to this halachic discussion?

Surprising as this might be, there are several angles to this discussion that involve American Jewish individuals and communities. I mentioned above that the responsum of the Netziv was addressed to a rav in Cincinnati, although I have no idea as to the identity of the rav. By doing some research, I was able to determine that the responsum of his son-in-law, the Toras Raphael, was addressed to Rav Yehudah Eliezer Anixter, a talmid of the Volozhin yeshivah who immigrated to the United States in 1871, eventually becoming a prominent rav in Rochester and Chicago, and the author of a sefer titled Chiddushei Avi. The Toras Raphael read one of the responsa in Chiddushei Avi and wrote the author his own responsum, in partial disagreement with Rav Anixter’s conclusion. And the above quoted Minchas Yitzchak was penned in reference to Chassidim from America visiting Eretz Yisroel who noted that the method of reading the parshas ha’nesi’im was done differently in Eretz Yisroel from the way it is done in chutz la’aretz, and asked the Minchas Yitzchak which approach is preferred.

Conclusion

In the introduction to Sefer HaChinuch, the author writes that the main mitzvah upon which all the other mitzvos rest is that of Talmud Torah. Through Torah learning, a person will know how to fulfill all of the other mitzvos. That is why Chazal instituted a public reading of a portion of the Torah every Shabbos, twice, and on Mondays and Thursdays. Knowing that the proper observance of all the mitzvos is contingent on Torah learning, our attention to keri’as haTorah will be increased, as well as our sensitivity to the recital of its berachos and our kavanah when reciting and listening to those berachos. This should lead to greater respect and attentiveness to the observance of all the mitzvos.

A Rishon Letzion Named Rapaport

Question #1: Fragrances on Motza’ei Yom Tov

May I include fragrances as part of havdalah when Yom Tov ends?

Question #2: Late Asher Yatzar

How long do I have to recite Asher Yatzar?

Question #3: Davening Outdoors

Is it permitted to daven in the courtyard outside a shul?

Question #4: A Rishon Letzion Named Rapaport

What do any of these questions have to do with parshas Shemos?

Foreword:

Rishon Letziyon is an old traditional title for the Sefardi rav of Yerushalayim. How did someone named Rapaport, which is a classic Ashkenazi family name, become Rishon Letziyon?

Introduction:

Parshas Shemos teaches that, for disobeying Pharaoh’s murderous commands, the Jewish midwives merited the “building of houses.” This is explained by the Midrash, quoted by Rashi, to mean that they were granted batei kehunah and batei malchus. Miriam was rewarded with batei malchus, that the royal house of Dovid Hamelech descended from her, and Yocheved merited batei kehunah — all kohanim are descended from her. The words batei kehunah mean “houses of kehunah,” which is a bit strange: why don’t Chazal simply call it beis kehunah, “the house of kehunah?” Although we will not answer this question, it became the source of the title of an important halachic work.

Batei Kehunah

A gadol beYisroel who lived three hundred years ago was descended from kohanim on both his father’s and his mother’s sides. Based on his lineage, he named his Torah works Batei Kehunah. This gadol, who is hardly known in the Ashkenazi world, carried the name Rav Yitzchak HaKohen Rapaport. He was the chacham bashi — a title for chief rabbi of a large city — in the Ottoman Empire, first of Izmir, Turkey, and subsequently became both the chacham bashi and the Rishon Letziyon of Yerushalayim. In numerous places, the Chida refers to the Batei Kehunah as the mofeis hador, or as mofeis doroseinu, “the wonder of our generation.” Considering that this was the same era in which lived such luminaries as the Gra, the Pnei Yehoshua, the Sha’agas Aryeh, the Noda Biyehudah, the Maharit Algazi and the Chida himself, this is a rather impressive accolade.

Rav Yitzchak Hakohen Rapaport

Rav Yitzchak Hakohen Rapaport was born in Jerusalem in 5445 (1685) to Rabbi Yehudah Rapaport. Rav Yitzchak’s father was born in Lublin, Poland, made aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, and there married the daughter of a family of major Torah scholars, who were kohanim and Sefardim. Thus, although Rav Yitzchak’s father had been born in Poland, hence the family name Rapaport, he was raised in a completely Sefardi environment. There was no Ashkenazi community in Eretz Yisrael at the time, and therefore Rav Yitzchak treated himself completely as a Sefardi. This explains how a Rishon Letzion could have such an Ashkenazi last name.

In his youth, Rav Yitzchak studied in the yeshiva of the Pri Chodosh, Rav Chizkiyah Di Silva. In his introduction to Batei Kehunah, Rav Yitzchak explains that he never left the beis medrash for fear that he would miss some of his rebbe’s Torah or that of the other great men who studied there. After the Pri Chodosh’s premature passing (according to various versions, he was somewhere between the ages of 39 and 46 when he passed away), Rav Yitzchak studied under the new rosh yeshiva, Rav Avraham Yitzchak, the author of the work Zera Avraham, another work well known in Sefardi circles, but that receives reactions of “what is that” among Ashkenazim.

Although Rav Yitzchak Rapaport always viewed himself as a resident of Yerushalayim, he served as the rav of Izmer for forty years, after which he returned to Yerushalayim, and was then appointed chacham bashi of the Holy City and Rishon Letzion. Among the Batei Kehunah’s many brilliant students, both from his period in Turkey and in Yerushalayim, we find an entire generation of gedolei Yisroel: the Maharit Algazi, the Chida, the Shaar Hamelech, the Ma’aseh Rokeach and Rav Mordechai Rebbiyo, the rav and rosh yeshivah of Hevron, author of the teshuvos Shemen Hamor.

Since this is a halachic column, I will discuss some of the interesting halachic positions of the Batei Kehunah, most of which we know because they are quoted by the Chida, who perused the private library of the Batei Kehunah after the latter’s passing in 5515 (1755). The library included notes written in the margins of his seforim, unpublished teshuvos and other private writings and manuscripts that the Chida quoted, predominantly in his Birkei Yosef commentary to the Shulchan Aruch, most of which would otherwise have become lost to future generations.

Fragrances on Motza’ei Yom Tov

Our opening question was: “May I include fragrances as part of havdalah when Yom Tov ends?” Let me explain the background to this question. The Rambam (Hilchos Shabbos 29:28) writes that when Yom Tov falls out midweek, at its end we are not required to recite the berachos on fragrances and on a lamp, unlike what we do every motza’ei Shabbos. The Rambam explains that we recite the beracha on fragrances on motza’ei Shabbos because our souls ache when Shabbos ends, and we provide them with some consolation with the pleasant fragrance. The Magid Mishnah raises the following questions about the Rambam’s statement:

(1) Indeed, why is the custom that we not smell fragrances when Yom Tov ends, just as we do when Shabbos ends?

(2) Why does the Rambam write that “we are not required to recite the beracha on fragrances?” Shouldn’t he write that we do not recite the  beracha on fragrances?

The Magid Mishnah answers that the soul aches only when Shabbos ends, because the sanctity of Shabbos is greater, as evidenced by the fact that we are not permitted to perform any melacha. Since cooking food and similar melachos are permitted on Yom Tov, the soul does not ache when Yom Tov ends.

If this is so, the Magid Mishnah asks, why do we not recite the beracha on fragrances as part of the kiddush/havdalah combination when Yom Tov is on motza’ei Shabbos, since the soul aches that Shabbos has ended? The Magid Mishnah answers that the festive celebration of Yom Tov consoles the aching soul the same way that fragrances would, thus rendering the use of besamim unnecessary. The Magid Mishnah then notes that the Rambam writes, “we are not required to recite the berachos on fragrances” when Yom Tov ends, because one can always take fragrances and recite a beracha before smelling them.

The Yad Aharon questions the wording of the Magid Mishnah that the custom is to not recite the beracha over fragrances as part of havdalah on Yom Tov. Would this not be an interruption in the havdalah, since it is not required?

The Chida (Birkei Yosef 491:3) quotes his rebbe, the Batei Kehunah, who wrote in the margin of his own personal copy of the Rambam that the Magid Mishneh wrote his comments very precisely. There would be no problem were someone to include besamim in his havdalah after Yom Tov. And the reason why the minhag is to forgo the besamim is because the soul does not ache when Yom Tov ends to the same extent that it does when Shabbos ends.

Late Asher Yatzar

At this point, let us analyze the second of our opening questions: How long do I have to recite Asher Yatzar?

The Levush discusses whether someone who does not have a need to relieve himself upon awaking recites Asher Yatzar anyway. He rules that he recites Asher Yatzar, because he undoubtedly relieved himself during the night without reciting Asher Yatzar – thus, he has an outstanding requirement to recite Asher Yatzar. The Adei Zahav, an early commentary on the Levush by Rav Menachem de Lunzanu, disagrees with the Levush, contending that, even if the Levush’s technical assumptions are correct – that we should assume that most people relieved themselves during the night without reciting Asher Yatzar – a person should still not recite Asher Yatzar upon awaking, because the time within which Asher Yatzar must be recited has expired by morning. The Adei Zahav rules that Asher Yatzar must be recited no more than six hours after relieving himself, and during the long winter nights, someone presumably has slept longer than that since he last relieved himself.

What is the source for the Adei Zahav’s ruling that Asher Yatzar must be recited within six hours? The Mishnah (Berachos 51b) states that you can recite an after blessing until the food that was eaten has been digested. The Gemara (Berachos 53b) discusses how long a time this is, Rabbi Yochanan ruling that it is until you are hungry again, whereas Reish Lakish seems to hold that it is the time it takes to walk four mil, which most authorities understand to be 72 minutes. (Some hold that it is a bit longer.) The Adei Zahav assumes that, according to Rabbi Yochanan, it takes six hours for someone to be hungry again after eating a full meal. The Adei Zahav explains that the time for Asher Yatzar, which is a rabbinic requirement, cannot be longer than it is for bensching, which is required min haTorah. Therefore, he concludes that the longest time within which someone can recite Asher Yatzar is six hours after relieving himself.

Never too late

The Yad Aharon disagrees with the Adei Zahav, contending that although an after beracha is associated with the food or beverage that was consumed and, therefore, can be recited only as long as one is still satiated from what he ate, Asher Yatzar is a general beracha of thanks to Hashem and never becomes too late to recite. This approach would explain the position of the Levush that someone can recite Asher Yatzar in the morning, notwithstanding that it might be far more than six hours since he relieved himself.

The Chida, after quoting the above literature, states, “The mofeis of our generation, our master and rebbe, wrote in the margin of his personal copy that the Yad Aharon’s understanding is inaccurate. The rishonim explain that berachos after eating are appreciation… Asher Yatzar is a beracha for the salvation and also for the relief of the discomfort” (Birkei Yosef, Orach Chayim 6:3). Later in his comments, the Chida explains that the Batei Kehunah held that Asher Yatzar has an expiration time, although he never shared with us how long he holds that would be.

There are other reasons to support the Levush’s position that someone should recite Asher Yatzar upon waking in the morning, even if he has no need to relieve himself. The Bach explains that Asher Yatzar should be treated like any other of the morning daily berachos, birkos hashachar, which most authorities assume are recited even if someone did not have a specific reason to recite them – such as, he is not wearing shoes or he is unable to rise from bed. Thus, even if someone had no need to use the facilities upon arising, he still should recite Asher Yatzar in the morning. This position is held by many other poskim, particularly the Rema (Orach Chayim 4:1), although he does not explain why he holds this way (see Magen Avraham 4:2; Elyah Rabbah 4:1; Aruch Hashulchan, Orach Chayim 6:1; Mishnah Berurah 4:3). However, the Levush appears to disagree with this opinion of his rebbe, the Rema, and the Bach, implying that only someone who relieves himself recites the beracha Asher Yatzar, a position held by many other authorities (Arizal; Adei Zahav; Birkei Yosef).

The Levush himself (Orach Chayim 7:3) notes that the laws of Asher Yatzar should not be compared to the laws of berachos on food, since reciting Asher Yatzar is part of nature (we refer in English to a “call of nature”), whereas when and what we eat is an individual’s choice. The Levush and the Elyah Zuta (4: 1) both contend that this last distinction means that there is no time limit for reciting Asher Yatzar; however, the Chida questions whether this distinction makes any difference. In yet a third place (Orach Chayim 47:6 in his sidenote), the Levush again alludes to this topic, contending that, like the berachos prior to studying Torah, Asher Yatzar is not dependent on the time it takes to digest food.

Other acharonim add another idea. The beracha of Asher Yatzar includes an acknowledgement that there are apertures in the body that must remain open. Since this is something that we must acknowledge always, it is always appropriate to recite this beracha. Furthermore, the beracha of Asher Yatzar includes acknowledgement of the removal of ruach ra, which happens when we wash our hands upon awakening and when washing our hands after using the facilities. As such, Asher Yatzar is always appropriate upon awaking in the morning (Bach; Elyah Rabbah).

Among the many opinions explaining the Levush, many differences in halacha result. If the time for reciting Asher Yatzar never expires, someone who forgot to recite Asher Yatzar after relieving himself, when he remembers he should recite Asher Yatzar, regardless of how much time has transpired. According to the Adei Zahav, he should recite Asher Yatzar only within six hours of relieving himself.

Davening Outdoors

At this point, let us discuss the third of our opening questions: “Is it permitted to daven in the courtyard outside a shul?”

Based on a verse in Daniel (6:11), the Gemara (Berachos 34b) rules that a person should daven in a building that has windows. Rashi explains that looking at the sky humbles a person, causing him to daven with greater kavanah. The Gemara then quotes Rav Kahana that davening in an open field is considered an act of chutzpah. Rashi explains that davening in a place that is relatively notexposed, rather than an open field, creates greater fear of the King, and the individual’s stubborn heart is broken.

The poskim explain that this refers to a situation where the person has an alternative. However, someone traveling, and the best place to daven is an open field, may daven there, and it is not a chutzpah (Magen Avraham; Mishnah Berurah).

Tosafos asks: According to the Gemara, when Yitzchak went lasuach basadeh (Bereishis 24:63), he went to pray (Berachos 26b), so how could Rav Kahana call this an act of chutzpah?

Tosafos provides two answers to his question.

(1) Yitzchak went to Har Hamoriyah to daven, which is where the Beis Hamikdash would be built, implying that this is certainly a place that will create greater fear of Heaven and more humility.

(2) Rav Kahana is discouraging davening in an open place, where his prayer may be disturbed by passersby, whereas Yitzchak was in an area where there was no one to disturb him.

According to the second answer of Tosafos, there is nothing wrong with davening in a place that is completely exposed, as long as he is comfortable that no one will disturb his prayers. According to his first answer, this is not true. We should note that Rashi’s reason disagrees with Tosafos’s second answer, and Rashi may accept Tosafos’s first reason (see next paragraph).

The Beis Yosef questions Tosafos’s second answer: why did Rav Kahana say that davening outdoors is a chutzpah? The concern is not of chutzpah, but because he will get distracted. For this reason, he follows the first reason of Tosafos in his Shulchan Aruch, and quotes Rashi’s reasoning: “A person should not pray in an open area, such as a field, because someone in a non-exposed place has greater fear of the King and his heart is broken” (Orach Chayim 90:5). We should note that several prominent poskim provide various explanations why Tosafos was not bothered by the Beis Yosef’s question (see Perisha, Bach, Taz, Magein Giborim, all in Orach Chayim 90).

The Magen Avraham (90:6) adds to this discussion by quoting the Zohar that implies that a person should daven inside a building. The Chida reports to us that the Batei Kehunah wrote a great deal about this topic. He concluded that it is sufficient if the area is enclosed, but it is not necessary for it to be roofed. The Birkei Yosef (Orach Chayim 90:2) notes that great rabbis often pray in the unroofed courtyards of shullen.

The Mishnah Berurah concludes this topic with the following ruling: Notwithstanding that the Shulchan Aruch rejected Tosafos’s approach, many acharonim justify this answer that it is acceptable to daven outdoors in a place where someone will not be disturbed. A traveler may daven outdoors, but should preferably daven under trees, if practical. However, someone who is home should not rely on this, and should daven indoors (Mishnah Berurah 90:11). Thus, it would seem that, according to the Mishnah Berurah, it is incorrect to daven outdoors in the courtyard of a shul when he has the option of davening in the shul itself. On the other hand, Sefardim, who tend to follow the conclusions of the Chida, probably have a strong halachic basis to daven inside gates, even if there is no roof above them, relying on the Chida who followed the ruling of his rebbe, Rav Yitzchak Rapaport, the author of the Batei Kehunah.

Conclusion:

The power of tefillah is very great. Through tefillah one can save lives, bring people closer to Hashem and overturn harsh decrees. We have to believe in this power. One should not think, “Who am I to daven to Hashem?” Rather, we must continually drive home the concept that Hashem wants our tefillos and He listens to them! Let us hope that Hashem will accept our tefillos together with those of all Klal Yisrael!

More about Birkas Hagomeil

Did Yaakov Avinu bensch gomeil after surviving his encounter with Eisav?

Question #1: “Upon reciting birkas hagomeil, an individual erred and recited the following: ‘Hagomeil tovim, shegemalani kol tuv’ (without the word “lechayavim”). Must he now repeat the beracha because he omitted a word?”

Question #2: “Thank G-d, my nine-year-old daughter is now recuperating successfully from surgery. Does she recite birkas hagomeil?”

Question #3: “Did the Chashmonayim recite birkas hagomeil upon winning their war?”

Answer:

In a different article, we learned that birkas hagomeil is to be recited by someone who has been saved from a dangerous situation. Specifically, Sefer Tehillim (107) and the Gemara mention four different types of individuals in treacherous predicaments — one who traverses a wilderness, a captive who was freed, an ill person, and a seafarer — whose safe return, release or recovery warrants reciting this beracha. The halacha is that one recites birkas hagomeil after surviving any life-threatening situation. This article will discuss some aspects of this beracha that were not yet covered.

Someone else reciting

May someone else recite some form of birkas hagomeil on behalf of the person who actually was in the difficult circumstance? In this context, we find the following Gemara passage (Berachos 54b):

“Rav Yehudah had been ill and recovered. When Rav Chona of Baghdad and other scholars came to visit him, they said to Rav Yehudah, ‘Blessed is the merciful One (in Aramaic, rachmana), Who returned you to us and not to the earth.’ Rav Yehudah responded, ‘You have exempted me from reciting birkas hagomeil!’”

Thus, we see that Rav Yehudah ruled that the praise recited by his visitors exempted him from reciting birkas hagomeil, notwithstanding the fact that Rav Chona and the others had not been ill and had no requirement to recite birkas hagomeil.

The Gemara proceeds to ask several questions about this conversation: “But do we not require a minyan for birkas hagomeil?” to which the Gemara replies that there indeed were ten people present when Rav Chona visited Rav Yehudah.

The Gemara then questions how Rav Yehudah could have fulfilled birkas hagomeil if he himself had not recited the beracha, to which it replies that he answered “Amen” to the blessing of Rav Chona of Baghdad.

Deriving Halacha

In addition to what we noted above, the above Gemara discussion teaches several additional halachos about birkas hagomeil:

1. Although the authorities quote a standardized wording for birkas hagomeil, we see that one fulfills his requirement even if one recited a version that varies considerably from the usual text, as long as it is a beracha that thanks Hashem for the salvation.

2. The person who was saved can fulfill his obligation by answering amen when he hears someone else thank Hashem, even though the person reciting the beracha has no requirement to bensch gomeil. This is a unique halachah, because usually one may fulfill a beracha or mitzvah by hearing it from someone else only when the person reciting the beracha is equally required to observe the mitzvah. Despite this rule, Rav Yehudah discharged his responsibility through Rav Chona’s beracha,even though Rav Chona personally had no requirement to recite birkas hagomeil.

3. We can also derive from this anecdote that someone may fulfill the requirement of birkas hagomeil through someone else’s beracha, even though the person who recited the beracha did not intend to recite it on behalf of the person who is obligated. This is also an unusual facet of birkas hagomeil, since in all other instances, the person fulfilling the mitzvah does so only if the person doing it intends to be motzi him.

4. Some authorities ask: Since Rav Chona was unaware that Rav Yehudah would fulfill the mitzvah, why was he not concerned that he would be reciting a beracha levatalah, a blessing recited in vain?

The answer is that Rav Chona of Baghdad’s recital was certainly praise to Hashem and thanks for His kindness, and therefore this blessing would certainly not be a beracha levatalah, even if no one fulfilled any requirement through it (Tur, Orach Chayim 219).

Uniqueness of birkas hagomeil

From these last rulings, we see that the concept of birkas hagomeil is unlike other berachos, and therefore, its rules are different. As long as the person obligated to thank Hashem is involved in an acknowledgement that Hashem saved him, he has fulfilled his obligation.

What about mentioning Hashem’s name?

One should not infer from the above story that one can fulfill reciting birkas hagomeil without mentioning Hashem’s name. This is because the word rachmana, which translates literally into English as “the merciful One,” also serves as the Aramaic word for G-d. Thus, Rav Chona of Baghdad did mention Hashem’s name in his blessing.

What about mentioning malchus?

The Rishonim note that from the way the Gemara quotes Rav Chona of Baghdad, “Blessed is the merciful One Who returned you to us and not to the earth,” one might conclude that it is sufficient to recite Baruch Ata Hashem for birkas hagomeil, and that one does not need to say also Elokeinu Melech haolam, the standard text prefacing all berachos. This would be very novel, since all berachos require an introduction that includes not only mention of Hashem, but also requires proclaiming that Hashem is King. However, the Tur and the Beis Yosef (Orach Chayim 219) reject this conclusion, contending that one does not fulfill birkas hagomeil unless one does mention sheim and malchus. We must therefore assume that the Gemara abbreviated the beracha recited by Rav Chona of Baghdad and that he had indeed mentioned Hashem’s monarchy in his blessing.

The text

What is the optimal nusach, the exact text, of this beracha?

Although our Gemara (Berachos 54b) quotes a wording for birkas hagomeil, it is apparent that different rishonim had variant readings of the text of the beracha. The most common version recorded is: Baruch Atta Hashem Elokeinu Melech haolam, hagomeil lachayovim tovos, shegemalani kol tov. “Blessed are You, Lord, our G-d, King of the Universe, Who grants good to those who are guilty, for He granted me much good.” The assembled then respond with “Amen,” and then add, Mi shegemalcha kol tov hu yigmalecha kol tov sela, “May He Who has granted you much good continue to grant you much good forever.” The established Sefardi custom is to recite two pesukim prior to reciting the beracha, which calls people to attention so that they can focus on the beracha and respond appropriately (Kaf Hachayim, Orach Chayim 219:14).

The wording of the beracha sounds unusual, for it implies that the person who recited this beracha is assuming that he was deserving of Divine punishment, yet was saved because of Hashem’s kindness. Why should the saved person make this assumption?

The Maharam Mintz (Shu”t #14), an early Ashkenazi authority, explains that someone who became ill or was imprisoned should be introspective, seeking to learn a lesson by discovering why this happened to him. In so doing, he should realize that he is indeed guilty of things for which he needs to do teshuvah. In this context, the Avnei Nezer (Shu”t Orach Chayim #39) asks the following: while the Maharam Mintz’s reason explains why a person who was captured or imprisoned should consider himself guilty, it is not clear how it applies to someone who survived a journey on the high seas or through the desert, since he himself chose to undertake the trip. To this, the Avnei Nezer answers that there could be one of two reasons why this traveler undertook this trip: one alternative is that he felt a compelling need to travel, for parnasah or some other reason, in which case he should ask himself why Hashem presented him with such a potentially dangerous situation. The traveler should contemplate this issue and realize that he needs to do teshuvah for something — which now explains why the beracha calls him “guilty.”

The other alternative is that the traveler could have avoided the trip, in which case he is considered guilty, because he endangered himself unnecessarily. In either instance, we can now appreciate why the person reciting the beracha refers to himself as being “guilty.”

What about a child?

If a child survived a situation that would require an adult to recite birkas hagomeil, does he do so?

Early halachic authorities rule that a child under the age of bar or bas mitzvah does not recite birkas hagomeil. The Maharam Mintz explains that it is inappropriate for a child to recite the wording hagomeil lachayovim tovos, “Who grants good to those who are guilty.” Harm that befalls a child is not a result of his own evildoing, but of his father’s; thus, a child reciting this text implies that his father is guilty, which is certainly improper for a child. Furthermore, to modify the beracha is unseemly, since one should not change the text of the beracha handed down to us by Chazal (quoted by Elyah Rabbah 291:3).

Some authorities are dissatisfied with this last answer, since we see that Rav Yehudah felt that he had fulfilled his requirement to recite birkas hagomeil when Rav Chona said, “Blessed is Hashem that returned you to us and not to the earth,” which is quite different from the text, “Who grants good to those who are guilty, for He granted me much good.” It would seem that any beracha text that includes a praise acknowledging thanks for Hashem’s rescue fulfills the requirement (see Shaar Hatizyun 219:5). Thus, it should be relatively easy to structure a birkas hagomeil text for children.

The above-quoted Avnei Nezer similarly disapproves of the rationale presented by the Maharam Mintz, although he agrees with the ruling that a child should not recite birkas hagomeil – but for a different reason. The Avnei Nezer explains that although any text thanking Hashem fulfills the mitzvah of reciting birkas hagomeil, the preferred way is for the person to say “I, who am guilty,” something that a child cannot say. Although one could modify the text so that a child would be able to recite birkas hagomeil and omit this concept, having a child recite a different beracha would no longer accomplish the mitzvah of chinuch, which requires a child to fulfill the mitzvah the way he would as an adult.

On the other hand, the Chida (Birkei Yosef 219:1) quotes authorities who disagreed with the Maraham Mintz, and ruled that a child should recite birkas hagomeil, although the Chida does not cite the rationale for this ruling. Presumably, these authorities contend that having a child recite this beracha is no different than any other mitzvah in which we are required to educate our children. Most authorities agree with the rulings of the Maharam Mintz and the Avnei Nezer and, as a result, in most communities, both Ashkenazi and Sefardi, children do not recite birkas hagomeil (Kaf Hachayim 219:2).

How much traveling?

One of the four instances for which the Gemara requires birkas hagomeil is surviving a trip through a desert. However, when the Rambam quotes this Gemara, he states, instead of those who traveled through the desert, “those who traveled on intercity roads recite birkas hagomeil when they arrive at a settled place.” The authorities dispute what the Rambam means, the Tur assuming him to mean that one recites birkas hagomeil after any trip. This position is certainly held by the Ramban, who writes (Toras Ha’adam, page 49) that the Gemara mentioned those who traveled through the desert only because that is the text of the verse in Tehillim, but the halacha is that any traveler recites birkas hagomeil upon arrival at his destination. For this reason, the Ramban and the Avudraham record that many Sefardim recite birkas hagomeil for any out-of-town trip, for, to quote the Talmud Yerushalmi (Berachos 4:4), kol haderachim bechezkas sakanah, all highways should be assumed to be dangerous.

The Rosh (Berachos 9:3), however, disagrees with the Ramban, contending that there is a difference between tefillas haderech, which one recites for any trip, and birkas hagomeil, which one recites only when one would be required to offer a korban todah. The verses in Chapter 107 imply that one is required to offer a korban todah only when one survives a major calamity. Thus, in the Rosh’s opinion, the statement kol haderachim bechezkas sakanah means that one should recite tefillas haderech any time one travels intercity, but not that one should recite birkas hagomeil. Reflecting this approach, the Rosh and Rabbeinu Yonah mention that in France and Germany the practice was to refrain from reciting birkas hagomeil when traveling from one city to the next.

The Bach also follows this approach and takes issue with the Tur’s interpretation of the Rambam, contending that even the Rambam is referring only to someone traveling through a completely barren area similar to a desert, but that the Rambam agrees that someone traveling through an area where food and water can be readily obtained does not recite birkas hagomeil afterwards. The Bach suggests that the Tur was not quoting the Rambam in support of this position, but the Ramban, and that scribes erred while redacting.

Airplane travel

Does someone who travels by airplane recite birkas hagomeil?

In researching the different teshuvos written on this subject, I found a wide range of halachic opinion. Rav Moshe Feinstein rules that anyone traveling by airplane must recite birkas hagomeil, regardless as to whether he was traveling over sea or over land exclusively. He contends that even those authorities who rule that one should recite birkas hagomeil only for the four types of calamities mentioned in Tehillim and the Gemara require birkas hagomeil for flying, since flying by air is identical to traveling by ship, as the entire time that one is above ground, one’s long-term life plans are all completely dependent on one’s safe return to land (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 2:59). I found another authority who agreed with Rav Moshe’s conclusion, but for a different reason. One should recite birkas hagomeil, not because air travel should be compared to seafaring, but because we rule that one recites birkas hagomeil for any type of danger to which one was exposed (Shu”t Betzel Hachachmah 1:20). Rav Ovadyah Yosef rules that Sefardim should recite birkas hagomeil after any air trip that takes longer than 72 minutes, just as they recite birkas hagomeil after any trip on land that takes this long (Shu”t Yabia Omer 2:Orach Chayim #14).

On the other hand, many contend that since this is a different method of travel from what was included in the original takanas Chazal, and, in addition, air travel today is not highly dangerous, one should not recite birkas hagomeil, at least not with the names of Hashem, which they are concerned might result in a beracha levatalah (Shu”t Chelkas Yaakov 2:9; Rav Zion Levy, in his question to Rav Ovadyah Yosef, published in Shu”t Yabia Omer, Orach Chayim II #14).

According to what we have thus far written, there should be no distinction drawn on the length of the flight or whether it traverses land or sea. According to Rav Moshe Feinstein’s approach, one should always recite birkas hagomeil for air flight, and according to those who dispute, one should not. Notwithstanding the strong logic, there is a prevalent custom that people bensch gomeil when flying overseas, but not when flying domestically. The Be’er Moshe (2:68) notes this practice, which he feels has very weak halachic foundation. Nevertheless, since this is the prevalent custom, he attempts to justify it and says that people should follow the custom.

Conclusion

Returning to our opening question:  Did Yaakov Avinu bensch gomeil after surviving his encounter with Eisav?

We can ask further: Did Yitzchak Avinu recite birkas hagomeil after the akeidah? Did Chananyah, Mesha’el, and Azaryah recite birkas hagomeil upon exiting the furnace, or Daniel after waving good-bye to the lions? Did the kohen gadol recite birkas hagomeil upon exiting the kodesh hakodoshim on Yom Kippur? Did Rabbi Akiva recite birkas hagomeil over the fact that he was the only one who had studied the deepest secrets of the Torah (called “pardes”) and remained physically and spiritually intact?

The Chida, in his Machazik Beracha commentary to Shulchan Aruch (219:1-3), presents a lengthy correspondence on this question that transpired between his father and another talmid chacham, Rav Eliezer Nachum. Rav Yitzchak Zerachyah Azulai, the Chida’s father, contended that only someone who was placed in a situation involuntarily, including one who traveled by sea or through the desert because circumstances compelled him to endanger himself, recites birkas hagomeil, but not someone who chose to give up his life to fulfill the mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem. Even when someone in the latter situation is saved by an obvious miracle, he should not recite birkas hagomeil since, had he lost his life, he would immediately have been elevated above all that this world could possibly offer. Similarly, he rules that the kohen gadol does not recite birkas hagomeil upon leaving the kodesh hakodoshim, since his entering was to fulfill a mitzvah of Hashem. Furthermore, he adds, that a kohen gadol worthy of his position was never in any danger to begin with – only an unworthy kohen gadol need be concerned of the dangers of entering the kodesh hakodoshim on Yom Kippur.

Rav Eliezar Nachum disagreed strongly with Rav Azulai’s position. Rav Nachum notes several midrashic and Talmudic passages that mention the tremendous songs of praise that were sung by the angels and by the great tzadikim mentioned above upon surviving these travails. Certainly, upon surviving these dangers one is required to recite birkas hagomeil to thank Hashem for his salvation.

The Place Where Yaakov Davened

Question #1: Ascending Har Habayis Today

“I have been told that it can be halachically permitted to ascend Har Habayis, and I have also heard that it is forbidden and could violate some very severe Torah laws. Which is true?”

Question #2: Non-Jews in the Beis Hamikdash

“Where in the Beis Hamikdash may a non-Jew pray?”

Question #3: Is Yaakov second rate?

“If Yaakov created the maariv prayer, why is his prayer treated as inferior to those created by Avraham and Yitzchak? After all, the Gemara’s conclusion is that tefillas arvis reshus, the evening prayer is optional (Brachos 27b).”

Introduction:

Our parsha opens: “Then Yaakov left Be’er Sheva, heading towards Haran. And he stopped at the place and spent the night there because the sun had already set.” Rashi raises the question that the posuk should say that he stopped at “a” place, not “the” place; it is clearly referring to a place with which we are already familiar. Rashi explains that this refers to Har Hamoriah, where Akeidas Yitzchok took place. We are more familiar with referring to this mountain as Har Habayis, literally, “the mountain of The House,” upon which the Beis Hamikdash was later built.

Chazal derive from here that Yaakov arrived at this holy place and instituted the prayer of maariv. Shelomoh Hamelech prayed that the Beis Hamikdash should be a place for both Jews and non-Jews to worship Hashem (see Melachim I 8:41), and this spirit is again emphasized in a later prophecy, ki beisi beis tefillah yikarei lechol ha’amim (Yeshayahu 56:8) “My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations.”

This provides an opportunity to discuss the laws mentioned in the Mishnah describing the different levels of sanctity that apply to the Land of Israel and the Beis Hamikdash area, all laws that we need to know today and will need to know even more thoroughly when the Beis Hamikdash is rebuilt, bimheirah be’yameinu.

The first chapter of Mesechta Keilim, which is an introduction to the entire seder and the concepts of Taharos, closes with the following: “There are ten levels of sanctity” germane to different places in Eretz Yisrael, and then the Mishnah enumerates the different levels. This article will list and explain these different levels, which should help us understand some of the laws that apply.

(1) Land of Israel

The lowest of these levels of sanctity is “the land of Israel itself, which is holier than all other lands” in that three offerings brought to the Beis Hamikdashkorban omer, bikkurim and the two loaves offered on Shavuos — can be brought only from produce of Eretz Yisrael.

There are many other halachos germane exclusively to Eretz Yisrael, such as that most agricultural mitzvos of the Torah apply only in Eretz Yisrael, at least min haTorah.

The special semicha given by Moshe Rabbeinu that is required for many halachic areas can be issued only in Eretz Yisrael (Sanhedrin 14a; Rambam, Hilchos Sanhedrin 4:6). Another halacha that can be fulfilled only in Eretz Yisrael is the appointment of a king over the Jewish people (Tosefta, Sanhedrin 4:6).

Eastern side of the Jordan

The eastern side of the Jordan became part of the Land of Israel in the days of Moshe, when the kings Sichon and Og attacked the Benei Yisrael, and they and their armies were annihilated. However, these lands were not originally part of the Land of Israel that was promised to the Benei Yisrael when they left Egypt. Can the korban omer, bikkurim and the two loaves of Shavuos be offered from produce of the eastern side of the Jordan River, which was not part of the originally promised Eretz Yisrael?

This is the subject of a dispute among the rishonim, in which Rashi (Sanhedrin 11b s.v. al shetayim and Menachos 83b s.v. kol ha’aratzos) rules that these korbanos can be brought from the eastern side of the Jordan, whereas the Ran (Nedorim 22a s.v. hahi) rules that they cannot.

(2) Walled Israeli cities

The next level of sanctity is that the walled cities of Eretz Yisrael, according to the Mishnah, are holier than other places in Eretz Yisrael in the following two ways:

(1) A metzora may not remain in these cities.

(2) Once a meis has been removed from these cities, it may not be returned. (And certainly if the person died outside a walled city, his remains may not be brought into the city). The Rambam and the Raavad disagree whether this ruling includes an absolute prohibition to bury someone in a walled city in Eretz Yisrael (Raavad, Hilchos Beis Habechirah 7:13) or whether someone who died within the walled city may be buried in the city (Rambam ad loc.). All agree that once the meis was removed from the walled city, it may not be returned to the city, and certainly may not be buried there.

Capital punishment

According to many early authorities, another law about the walled cities of Eretz Yisrael is that when a Beis Din carried out capital punishment, this was required to be performed outside a walled city in Eretz Yisrael (Rash and Rosh, Keilim 1:7, based on Mishnah Sanhedrin 42b; see also Tosafos ad loc. s.v. beis).

Purim

An obvious question is — why did I not mention that there is a difference in that the walled cities celebrate Purim on the fifteenth of Adar, sometimes called Shushan Purim, whereas unwalled cities celebrate Purim on the fourteenth of Adar.

The answer is that this has nothing to do with walled cities in Eretz Yisrael; even walled cities outside Eretz Yisrael that date back to the time of Yehoshua entering Eretz Yisrael would celebrate Purim on the 15th (see Ran, Megillah 2a s.v. kerachin, in the name of Tosafos).

(3) Yerushalayim

The third level is the walled city of Yerushalayim, in which it is permitted to eat maaser sheini, the meat of kodshim kalim (Keilim 1:8)such as korban pesach and shelamim, and bikkurim (see Bikkurim 2:2).

By the way, the current “Old City” walls of Yerushalayim, constructed by the Ottoman Turks almost 1500 years after the churban, are not the borders that define the halachic sanctity of the city. Without question, there are areas outside the current walls that did have the sanctity of Yerushalayim, and the walls probably encompass areas that were not part of the city at the times of Tanach and Chazal, and, therefore, do not have the sanctity of Yerushalayim. When Moshiach comes, it will be necessary to determine exactly where the borders of the halachic “old city” of Yerushalayim are.

(4) Har Habayis

The fourth level is Har Habayis, beyond which many tamei people may not enter, including zavim, zavos, niddos and women after childbirth, until they have been able to complete the first stage of their taharah process. Because of space considerations, we cannot explain the details of these types of tumah, but our readers should be aware that, because of these laws, many people who ascend the Har Habayis today violate a Torah prohibition equivalent to eating treif food.

For clarification purposes: In addition to walls surrounding the city of Yerushalayim, there were also walls surrounding the entire Har Habayis. The Kosel HaMaaravi, where we daven, is part of the western wall of the Har Habayis. These are not the walls of the Beis Hamikdash. The Beis Hamikdash occupied only a small area of the Har Habayis. Although the Har Habayis has much more kedusha than that of Yerushalayim, the Beis Hamikdash has much greater kedusha than that of the Har Habayis. Today when we are all temei’im, someone entering the area where the Beis Hamikdash once stood is chayov kareis, an extremely severe punishment (Kaftor Vaferech, Chapter 6; Kesef Mishneh, Hilchos Beis HaBechirah 6:14; cf. Ra’avad ad loc., who disagrees).

As we said, the Har Habayis has far less sanctity than the Beis Hamikdash. Nevertheless, most contemporary poskim prohibit ascending the Har Habayis. A minority of poskim permit entering areas of the Har Habayis that are not part of the Beis Hamikdash, in order to daven or perform a mitzvah, but only after performing certain taharah procedures, including washing oneself thoroughly, making certain that there are no chatzitzos (intervening substances on one’s body), and immersing in a mikveh. All agree that it is prohibited to enter any part of the Har Habayis if one is tamei with what halacha calls tumah hayotzei migufo, which includes people who are baalei keri, zav, zavah, niddah and yoledes.

Ascending Har Habayis today

At this point, let us address our opening question:

“I have been told that it can be halachically permitted to ascend Har Habayis, and I have also heard that it is forbidden and could violate some very severe Torah laws. Which is true?”

The answer is that most people who ascend the Har Habayis are, unfortunately, violating major halachos, and, for this reason, the vast majority of contemporary halachic authorities rule that no one, except for security personnel when necessary, should ever ascend Har Habayis. Unfortunately, since it has now become “stylish” in many circles to ascend the Har Habayis, many people are violating halachos, somethingthat they would never have done on their own without encouragement.

(5) Cheil

The fifth level is the “cheil,” beyond which non-Jews may not proceed, nor Jews who are tamei meis. The word “cheil” means a wall or fortification (see Tehillim 48:14, Yeshayahu 26:1). Most authorities assume that the sanctity of the cheil over the Har Habayis is only a rabbinic injunction, and that min haTorah it is permitted to enter the cheil with this level of tumah, but prohibited from entering the Beis Hamikdash proper (Raavad, Hilchos Beis Habechirah 7:16; Rash, Rosh and Gra, Keilim 1:8).

This is the first time the Mishnah has mentioned the category called tamei meis, tumah contracted through contact with a corpse. (Someone who was ever in the same room or under the same roof as a corpse also becomes tamei meis.) This status creates a major halachic concern, because it is a severe Torah prohibition to enter the Beis Hamikdash grounds while tamei, and virtually everyone today has become tamei meis. Although other forms of tumah can be removed by immersion in a mikveh at the appropriate time, tumas meis can be removed only by sprinkling on the person who is tamei from the water in which was mixed ashes of the parah adumah (the red cow or heifer whose processing is described by the Torah in parshas Chukas and in mesechta Parah). Since we do not know where the remaining ashes of the previously prepared paros adumos are, we cannot purify ourselves from tumas meis.

At this point, we can address the second of our opening questions: “Where in the Beis Hamikdash may a non-Jew pray?”

The answer is that he may pray anywhere on the Har Habayis that he would like, as long as it outside the cheil area. Technically speaking, this means that he is praying near the Beis Hamikdash, but not inside it.

(6) Ezras Nashim

The sixth level is the Ezras Nashim. The term “ezras nashim” is used today to mean the area of a shul which is designated for the women to daven. The original term refers to an area of the Beis Hamikdash, or, more technically, the entrance area of the Beis Hamikdash. Beyond this area, only someone completely tahor may enter. It is called the Ezras Nashim because women usually did not enter past this point, although they could, if there was a halachic reason for them to do so.

We should note that the Beis Hamikdash is oriented westward. In other words, from the Ezras Nashim until the Kodesh Hakodoshim, which is the highest level of sanctity, we are entering on the east, and moving toward the west, with the Kodesh Hakodoshim being the western most area of the Beis Hamikdash.

The Beis Hamikdash was not centered in the middle of the Har Habayis, but on its west-northwest side (Rambam, Hilchos Beis Habechirah 5:6). The Ezras Nashim is the beginning of the Beis Hamikdash itself.

(7) Ezras Yisrael

The seventh level is the Ezras Yisrael, beyond which anyone tamei is prohibited from entering min haTorah. Even someone with a very mild amount of residual tumah, called mechusar kippurim, may not enter this area.

The term Ezras Yisrael does not mean “He who helps Israel,” or “the help of Israel” (as it does when used in davening) but comes from the word azarah, as it is used many times in Yechezkel and Divrei Hayamim, where it refers to the “courtyard,” the enclosed areas of the Beis Hamikdash that are outside the Kodesh or Heichal. The term Ezras Nashim that we mentioned previously also uses the word azarah in the same sense.

(8) Ezras Kohanim

The eighth level is the area called the Ezras Kohanim. Normally, only kohanim are allowed to enter past this point, although there are circumstances in which a Yisrael is permitted to enter past this area to carry out some halachic responsibility.

The Ezras Kohanim was a strip of area alongside the eastern side of the mizbei’ach.

At this point, it is appropriate to quote the words of the Rambam: “The location of the mizbeiach is extremely exact, and it may never be moved from its location… We have an established tradition that the place where David and Shelomoh built the mizbeiach is the same place where Avraham built the mizbeiach and bound Yitzchak. This is the same place where Noach built a mizbeiach when he left the Ark and where Kayin and Hevel built their mizbeiach. It is the same place where Adam offered the first korban, and it is the place where he (Adam) was created….

“The dimensions and shape of the mizbeiach are very exact. The mizbeiach constructed when the Jews returned from the first exile was built according to the dimensions of the mizbeiach that will be built in the future. One may not add or detract from its size” (Hilchos Beis Habechirah 2:1-3). Prior to building the second Beis Hamikdash, the prophets Chaggai, Zecharyah and Malachi testified regarding three halachos about the mizbeiach that were necessary to reinstitute the korbanos, one of which was the exact location of the mizbeiach (Zevachim 62a).

(9) Between the mizbei’ach and the Kodesh

The ninth level is the area past the mizbei’ach, to which a kohein with a blemish or one who has not had his hair cut properly may not enter.

As the Mishnah teaches, a kohein with either of these disqualifications may not perform the service in the Beis Hamikdash, and if he did, the korban that he worked with became invalid (Mishnah Zevachim 15b).

(10) The Kodesh

The tenth level is the Kodesh. In the Beis Hamikdash, there actually was an area in front of the Kodesh called the Ulam, which has the same level of kedusha as the Kodesh. The the ulam area did not exist in the Mishkan.

Inside the Kodesh area was where the menorah, the shulchan and the golden mizbei’ach stood. The golden mizbei’ach was used daily only for the burning of the ketores, although on Yom Kippur it was also used for some of the holiest of the korbanos, those that were brought into the Kodesh Hakodoshim.

(11) The Kodesh Hakodoshim

The highest level of sanctity is that of the Kodesh Hakodoshim. This was entered only by the Kohein Gadol and only on Yom Kippur. In actuality, the Kohein Gadol entered the Kodesh Hakodoshim four times on Yom Kippur: The first time was with the Yom Kippur ketores, the second time to begin the kaparah of his special Yom Kippur bull offering, the third time to attend to the kaparah of the goat offering, and the fourth time, later in the day, to pick up the censer and the ladle with which he had offered the ketores when he first entered.

But one second; you told me that the Mishnah says that there are ten levels of sanctity, and then you listed eleven. This is inconsistent!

You are indeed correct. At the end of their commentaries to this chapter, the Rash and the Bartenura raise this question, to which there are many answers. The Rambam seems to understand that the first level that I counted, Eretz Yisrael, should not be included: The Mishnah is listing ten levels of sanctity above Eretz Yisrael.

Conclusion: Was Yaakov third rate?

At this point, let us return to the third of our opening questions: If each of our three daily prayers was established by one of our forefathers, why is it that two of these prayers are obligatory, and yet the Gemara concludes that maariv is optional? Even if we understand the Gemara to mean, as some rishonim explain, that it is only relatively optional – meaning that davening maariv is mandatory, but that it is more easily deferred – we want to know why Yaakov seems to get a second-rate standing. After all, he is considered the most chosen of the forefathers, bechir shebe’avos, so why should his prayer be considered of lesser importance?

The Penei Yehoshua (Berachos 26b s.v. mihu) explains that Yaakov never intended to create a new prayer at night, but intended to daven mincha! Suddenly, Hashem made the sun set, and it got dark early, in order to force Yaakov to stop at that place. Thus, Yaakov’s prayer was because he had missed mincha, but not because he was trying to institute a prayer in the evening. Since his creation of maariv was unintentional, it shows no lack of respect for Yaakov to suggest that it may have more lenient rules than the prayers created by Avraham and Yitzchak, shacharis and mincha.

Forgot Tal Umatar

Question #1: Forgot once!

What is the halacha if someone forgot to pray for rain?

Question #2: Forgot twice!!

“I just recited the words baruch Attah Hashem of the beracha Shema Koleinu, and I realize that I have not recited Vesein tal umatar! What do I do now?”

Question #3: Forgot a third time!!! Have I struck out?

“I went back to Boreich Aleinu because I forgot Vesein tal umatar the first time I said shemoneh esrei. But now I forgot Vesein tal umatar again. Do I get another chance?”

Foreword

Chazal (Mishnah, Taanis 2a, 5a and 10a; Gemara Taanis, 10a) instituted that a small prayer requesting rain be added to the shemoneh esrei during the winter months. The Mishnah and Gemara conclude that this prayer is begun in Eretz Yisrael on the Seventh of Marcheshvan and, in Bavel, sixty days after the equinox. This article will not discuss how we calculate “sixty days after the equinox” and why it falls in the beginning of December.

Bavel vs. Eretz Yisrael

Rashi (Taanis, 10a s.v. Tata’i) explains that “we” follow the approach of Bavel, which means that the commonly accepted practice outside Eretz Yisrael is to begin reciting Vesein tal umatar in early December (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 117:1,2). I have written articles that are on the website RabbiKaganoff.com in which I explained the disagreement between Rashi and the Rosh, who disputes his conclusion; I also presented the debate among the poskim regarding when Vesein tal umatar is recited in the southern hemisphere.

Edot hamizrah and Ashkenazim

It should be noted that the Edot hamizrah follow a very different procedure for reciting Vesein tal umatar than do Ashkenazim. Based on kabbalistic sources, the Edot hamizrah recite a completely different text for the entire Boreich aleinu beracha during the winter months than they do in the summer months. Ashkenazim, whether they daven nusach Ashkenaz or nusach Sefard, merely add the words tal umatar and a letter lamed between the word ve’sein and the word beracha. Either approach is acceptable.

There is an interesting advantage to the way the Edot hamizrah fulfill this requirement of reciting Vesein tal umatar. Since the entire beracha has two different versions, someone who is uncertain whether he recited Vesein tal umatar but knows that he began the winter version of the beracha may assume that he recited that version completely, including the proper recital of Vesein tal umatar (Halichos Shelomoh, Tefillah, Devar Halacha 8:30).

Forgot once

What is the halacha if someone did not recite Vesein tal umatar?

Someone who neglected to mention Vesein tal umatar in his shemoneh esrei and completed his shemoneh esrei must daven again (Berachos 26b). However, someone who forgot Vesein tal umatar in the beracha of Boreich Aleinu may still recite Vesein tal umatar in Shema Koleinu (Berachos 29a), immediately before the words ki Attah shomei’a tefillas, which iswhere he would recite aneinu on a fast day. Thus, one is required to recite Vesein tal umatar as an essential part of davening, but there are two places in davening where Vesein tal umatar may be included.

We should note that there are times when reciting Vesein tal umatar in the beracha of Shema Koleinu is preferable, as indicated in the following passage of Gemara: “The people of Nineveh sent the following she’eilah to Rebbe: Our city requires rain, even in the middle of the summer. Are we considered individuals that request rain in Shema Koleinu, or are we considered a community that recites Ve’sein tal umatar during Boreich Aleinu? Rebbe responded that they are considered individuals and should request rain during Shema Koleinu” (Taanis 14b).

Why should the people of Nineveh recite Vesein tal umatar in Shema Koleinu rather than in Boreich Aleinu? The answer is that someone who recites Vesein tal umatar in Boreich Aleinu when he is not supposed to must return to that beracha. (If he completed the shemoneh esrei without correcting his error, he must recite shemoneh esrei again from the beginning.) However, reciting Vesein tal umatar during Shema Koleinu does not violate the halacha and does not require that he repeat the davening. Someone looking for a job or a shidduch, or whose town is suffering from a drought, may request help during Shema Koleinu. Thus, requesting rain in Shema Koleinu is fitting any time of the year; requesting rain in Boreich Aleinu is reserved for the needs of a community, and only in the appropriate season.

We now know that there are situations when requesting rain in Shema Koleinu is the best thing to do. This is also the solution often suggested for someone who is uncertain whether he should recite Vesein tal umatar – for example, someone visiting or traveling to Eretz Yisrael who is uncertain whether he should recite Vesein tal umatar during the days between the 7th of Marcheshvan and December 4th (on the above website, I have an article on this topic). Similarly, some authorities rule that, in the southern hemisphere, it is best to recite Vesein tal umatar in Shema Koleinu, so as to accommodate differing opinions. I discussed this matter at length in the article that I referred to earlier.

This is what you dew

The Gemara states that, both in the beracha of Mechayeh Hameisim and in the beracha of Boreich Aleinu, only mention of rain, using either of the two words, geshem or matar, is essential (see Taanis 3a). Someone who forgot to mention either the wind or the dew, but requested that Hashem bring rain, has fulfilled his requirement and does not repeat anything at all. Therefore, a person reciting Vesein matar al penei ha’adamah but omitting the word tal, dew, should not correct himself, since this is an unnecessary repetition in the shemoneh esrei and constitutes a hefsek (Mekor Chayim 18:8).

Someone who forgot to recite either Mashiv haruach umorid hagashem or Vesein tal umatar, when required, is obligated to repeat the shemoneh esrei. However, there is an important difference between the two, as noted by the Tur. Someone who recited Morid hatal, praising Hashem for providing dew, rather than Mashiv haruach umorid hagashem, is not required to repeat the shemoneh esrei. On the other hand, someone who is required to recite Vesein tal umatar but prayed only for dew and said Vesein tal al penei ha’adamah is required to repeat the shemoneh esrei.

Geshem instead of matar?

Is there any halachic difference between reciting the word geshem and reciting the word matar? Both mean rain. What is the halacha if someone said Vesein tal ugeshem livracha instead of Vesein tal umatar? The Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chayim 114:2) rules that he has fulfilled the mitzvah and does not repeat any davening.

Before or after Aneinu?

What should someone do if it is a fast day and he has to say Vesein tal umatar in Shema Koleinu? Both requests, Aneinu and Vesein tal umatar, should be recited immediately before the words ki Attah shomei’a tefillas. Which one does he recite first?

Quoting the Avudraham, the Rema rules that Vesein tal umatar should be recited before Aneinu (Orach Chayim 117:5). The Magen Avraham (ad loc.) explains that this is because Vesein tal umatar is considered more vital than Aneinu – should someone omit Vesein tal umatar, he is required to repeat the davening, whereas omitting Aneinu never requires someone to repeat davening.

Finished davening

Someone who completed the shemoneh esrei and realizes that he did not say Vesein tal umatar must repeat shemoneh esrei from the beginning (Tosafos, Berachos 29b s.v. Ha). If he is still reciting personal prayers at the end of the shemoneh esrei, or he is still thinking about what personal prayers he wants to say, he is considered to be in the middle of shemoneh esrei. However, someone who backed up to say oseh shalom at the end of shemoneh esrei, or he who has concluded what he intends to daven, has completed his davening, and he must begin shemoneh esrei from the beginning in order to recite Vesein tal umatar.

What should someone do if he forgot Vesein tal umatar in its proper place, forgot it again in Shema Koleinu, and already began the beracha of Retzei. We know that he must return to the proper place to recite Vesein tal umatar, but the question is whether he returns only to Shema Koleinu, or must he return all the way back to Boreich Aleinu? This question is disputed by the ga’onim and the rishonim (see Tosafos, Berachos 29b s.v. Ha; Rosh, Berachos 4:14; Rashba, Berachos 29b; Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 117). The poskim conclude that he should return to Boreich Aleinu (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 117:5).

Completed Shema Koleinu

What is the halacha if someone completed the beracha of Shema Koleinu, but did not yet begin Retzei. May he recite Vesein tal umatar at this point and avoid repeating parts of the shemoneh esrei, or must he already return to Boreich Aleinu? This question involves a dispute among rishonim, some of whom contend that, as long as he has not begun the word Retzei he is still considered to be in the beracha of Shema Koleinu and it is still an acceptable place to recite Vesein tal umatar (Rosh, Taanis 1:1). On the other hand, other rishonim argue that once he recited the words Boruch Attah Hashem Shomei’a Tefillah, he has completed that beracha and can no longer recite Vesein tal umatar (see Biur Halacha 114:6).

Which rishon is correct?

There is a dispute between two of the greatest poskim of their era, the Shulchan Aruch and the Maharshal, regarding how we rule in this situation. The Shulchan Aruch concludes that the halacha follows the Rosh and, therefore, it is acceptable to insert Vesein tal umatar between the berachos of Shema Koleinu and saying the word Retzei. However, the Maharshal contends that the halacha is that once the beracha is completed, it is too late to add a missed addition.

How do we rule?

Since the Shulchan Aruch concludes like the Rosh, most later authorities follow this opinion that it is acceptable to add something to a beracha after its recital is completed, as long as one has not begun the subsequent beracha. This halacha may be applied to other additions to our davening, including Mashiv haruach umorid hagashem and Yaaleh Veyavo.

Forgot twice!!

At this point, we can address the second of our opening questions: “I just recited the words baruch Attah Hashem of the beracha Shema Koleinu, and I realize that I have not recited Vesein tal umatar! What do I do now?”

The later poskim dispute what someone should do in this situation. The Mishnah Berurah (117:19 and Biur Halacha 114:6) paskins that he should interpose the two words, lamdeini chukecha, which means that he has now made the potential beracha into a pasuk (Tehillim 119:12). Then he should recite Vesein tal umatar, followed by the closing of the beracha ki Attah shomei’a tefillas amcha Yisrael berachamim (tefilas kol peh, if he davens nusach Sefard) and close the beracha correctly Boruch Attah Hashem Shomei’a Tefillah. This method avoids the dispute among rishonim as to whether he must daven over or not; however, it creates an interruption in the middle of his prayers.

The Tehillah Ledavid (Orach Chayim 114:7) is not convinced that creating this interruption is better than completing the beracha by reciting Shomei’a Tefillah, then reciting Vesein tal umatar and continuing with Retzei.Rav Moshe Feinstein concludes, unlike the Mishnah Berurah, that he should definitely complete the beracha of Shomei’a Tefillah and then mention Vesein tal umatar (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim, 4:93).

Forgot three times — an ultra long shemoneh esrei

What is the halacha if someone (a) forgot to say Vesein tal umatar in Boreich Aleinu, then (b) forgot to say it in Shema Koleinu, (c) remembers it before he completed his shemoneh esrei, which requires him to return to Boreich Aleinu, but he then (d) forgot to say it (again) in Boreich Aleinu! Must he (1) begin his shemoneh esrei from the beginning, or (2) return to Boreich Aleinu, or may he (3) simply continue his shemoneh esrei and (hopefully) remember to say it in Shema Koleinu (this second time around). Rav Shelomoh Zalman Auerbach rules that he should follow the third option suggested – simply continue his shemoneh esrei and remember to recite Vesein tal umatar in his second recital of Shema Koleinu (Halichos Shelomoh, Tefillah,8:22).

Friday mincha

What is the halacha if someone omitted Vesein tal umatar in mincha on erev Shabbos, and now it is Shabbos. Someone who forgot to daven mincha on Friday davens an extra tefillah, called a tefillas tashlumin, on Friday night, to make up the missed mincha, even though the Shabbos eve prayer is completely different from the shemoneh esrei he would have said on Friday. Is the same halacha true if he davened Friday mincha, but omitted saying Vesein tal umatar? After all, he recited the shemoneh esrei on Friday afternoon, and the insertion Vesein tal umatar is not said on Shabbos; so, does he gain by repeating the shemoneh esrei of Shabbos?

Before answering this question, we need to research a related issue discussed already in the rishonim (Tosafos, Berachos 26b s.v. Ta’ah). Someone forgot Yaaleh Veyavo in mincha on Rosh Chodesh, and the following evening is no longer Rosh Chodesh. Does he recite a tefillas tashlumin after he recites maariv? On the one hand, someone who forgot Yaaleh Veyavo on Rosh Chodesh must daven again, but, in this instance, he will not be reciting Yaaleh Veyavo anyway.

The question is the following: Why does he repeat the shemoneh esrei when he forgot Yaaleh Veyavo? Is it because he cannot fulfill the requirement of tefillah on Rosh Chodesh without Yaaleh Veyavo? Or has he, indeed, fulfilled the mitzvah of tefillah, but he still has a requirement to recite Yaaleh Veyavo, and Yaaleh Veyavo cannot be said without shemoneh esrei. The practical difference between the two understandings is our case – where he already missed the opportunity to recite Yaaleh Veyavo at mincha, and will be unable to recite Yaaleh Veyavo the following evening because it is no longer Rosh Chodesh. If missing Yaaleh Veyavo means that he did not fulfill his obligation to pray mincha, he is required to daven maariv with a tefillas tashlumin in order to make up the missed mincha. However, if he fulfilled his requirement to daven mincha, but is missing Yaaleh Veyavo, nothing is accomplished by davening an extra maariv tefillah, since either way he has missed Yaaleh Veyavo.

Rabbeinu Yehudah, one of the baalei Tosafos (Tosafos, Berachos 26b s.v. Ta’ah), rules that, even though he forgot Yaaleh Veyavo, he fulfilled his obligation of to daven mincha and there is no tefillas tashlumin. On the other hand, the scholars of Provence require a tefillas tashlumin; without Yaaleh Veyavo he has not fulfilled the requirement to daven (quoted in Rosh, Berachos 4:2).

The conclusion of the Shulchan Aruch is that, in this instance, he should daven the extra prayer after Rosh Chodesh as a voluntary prayer, in order to avoid the halachic dispute.

In the same way, we should view the question that we asked about someone who omitted Vesein tal umatar in mincha on erev Shabbos. If he did not fulfill the requirements of tefillah, he is required to daven a tefillas tashlumin after Friday night maariv to fulfill his missed tefillah. However, if he fulfilled his obligation to daven, but is missing only his prayer for rain, nothing is accomplished by davening a Shabbos tefillah a second time, since he will not be reciting Vesein tal umatar in the replacement shemoneh esrei.

However, this situation cannot be resolved with a voluntary tefillah, because we cannot recite voluntary prayers on Shabbos. Therefore, he will not recite an extra tefillah because of the rule of safek berachos lehakeil –we do not recite berachos when it is uncertain that they are required (Shu”t Har Tzvi, Orach Chayim 1:54; Halichos Shelomoh, Tefillah 8:82; note that both of these sources mention that Rav Chayim Soloveichek of Brisk is quoted as disputing this conclusion).

A bit of a shlemiel

The later poskim discuss the following case: Someone davened shemoneh esrei on Rosh Chodesh and remembered to say Vesein tal umatar, but forgot to say Yaaleh Veyavo, which requires him to repeat the shemoneh esrei. When repeating the shemoneh esrei, he remembered to say Yaaleh Veyavo, but this time forgot to say Vesein tal umatar. He has now recited two tefillos, said both Yaaleh Veyavo and Vesein tal umatar, but has he fulfilled his davening requirement? The Steipler Gaon, who raises this question, says that he is uncertain what this person should do (Kehillas Yaakov, Berachos #12).

Conclusion

Rashi (Bereishis 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 always remember that the essence of prayer is drawing ourselves closer to Hashem.

Early Maariv

Question #1: Earliest Maariv?

When is the earliest time that I may daven maariv?

Question #2: Earliest Shabbos?

May I daven maariv earlier on Friday evening?

Question #3: Earliest Conflict?

What does “tartei desasri” mean?

Question #4: Early Meal?

If I make “early Shabbos,” when may I begin the Shabbos meal?

Background

We may have heard terms like “mincha gedolah,” “mincha ketanah,” “plag,” “Magen Avraham’s zman,” “Gra’s zman,” “tosefes Shabbos;” and “tartei desasri” and have an approximate idea of what they mean, yet not a perfect understanding.

Let’s explain some of the terms:

Mincha gedolah: This is the earliest time that it is permitted to daven mincha (Brachos 26b, see Rashi and Rambam), and is half an hour after halachic midday (ibid.). For virtually all the calculations that we will be making, “an hour” is what we call a sha’ah zemanis, which means that we divide the daytime into twelve parts, and each part is considered an hour. One of the major questions that we will be discussing is whether the “daytime” we are dividing is calculated from sunrise to sunset (which means that it averages out over the year to about sixty minutes) or whether it is calculated from halachic dawn until nightfall, in which case each hour is considerably longer.

Mincha ketanah: The preferred time to daven mincha is after mincha ketanah (Brachos 26b, see Rashi and Rambam). This is half an hour after the day is three-quarters over (ibid.). Expressing this in a more mathematical way, it is 9.5/12 or 19/24 of the day. Here the range among the various opinions is much wider than it is for mincha gedolah. The time on your home clock for mincha ketanah is much later when you end the day at nightfall than when you end it at sunset because your daytime hours and length of each hour are longer.

Plag, or, as it should properly be called, “plag hamincha,” is midway between mincha ketanah and the “end” of the day. The word plag literally means “splitting” or “half.” The mathematical way of expressing this is 10.75/12, or 43/48 of the way through the day, meaning that if you divide daytime into 48 quarter-hours, calculating backward from the end of the day by five of these quarter-hours is plag haminchah. The same dispute that I mentioned earlier, whether we calculate the end of the day from nightfall or from sunset, also makes a tremendous difference here regarding when is plag haminchah.

The main halachic factors determined by plag hamincha are when is the earliest time of day that one may daven maariv, and when is the earliest time of the day that someone may light the Shabbos lights and accept Shabbos.

Magen Avraham’s zman” and “Gra’s zman:” These terms are used most frequently in reference to the latest time by which Shema must be recited every morning, which is before a quarter of the day has passed. The difference between these two zmanim is that the Magen Avraham calculates the day from alos hashachar, sometimes called halachic dawn, until tzeis hakochavim (Magen Avraham 58:1), “when the stars come out,” whereas the Gra calculates it from sunrise to sunset (Orach Chayim 459:2; Aruch Hashulchan, Orach Chayim 261:10). Calculating the other three times of the day that I mentioned above — mincha gedolah, mincha ketanah, and plag hamincha — is also dependent on the same question: whether we calculate these zmanim by beginning the day at alos hashachar and ending it at tzeis hakochavim, or by beginning it at sunrise and ending it at sunset. (There are authorities who calculate some of these laws from alos hashachar to tzeis hakochavim and others from sunrise to sunset; see acharonim who explain above Magen Avraham; Achuzas Sadeh, page 62.)

The Gemara mentions that the cutoff-point between one day and the next, is at tzeis hakochavim, “when the stars come out” (Brachos 2a-b; Pesachim 2a; Megillah 20b). There are authorities who reach a different halachic conclusion, but we will discuss this some other time.

Tosefes Shabbos: the halachic requirement to begin observing Shabbos before the day has yet arrived and, also, to continue observing Shabbos for some time after the day is over on Saturday night. Even if we are able to calculate the exact moment that Shabbos begins and ends, we are required to add time, before it begins and after it ends.

Tartei desasri, literally, two that contradict, means two practices that conflict with one another, because they follow two opposing opinions. We will soon see how this applies to our discussion.

Opening questions

At this point, let us discuss our first opening question: When is the earliest time that I may daven maariv?

Although several Mishnayos discuss the beginning and ending time of many mitzvos and prayers, they make no reference to the earliest time to daven maariv. Instead, the Mishnah (Brachos 26a) states that “the maariv prayer has no established time.” The same Mishnah records a dispute among tanna’im when is the latest time to daven mincha (Brachos 26a): An anonymous tanna, whom the Gemara calls the “Sages” (chachamim), permits davening mincha “until evening,” whereas Rabbi Yehudah ends the time for mincha at plag hamincha, notwithstanding that the day is not yet over.

The Gemara (Brachos 26b) then quotes a Tosefta (Brachos Chapter 3) in which these tanna’im explain their opinions. Rabbi Yehudah contends that the latest time for mincha is at plag hamincha because this is the latest time that the afternoon korban tamid may be offered in the Beis Hamikdash. The Sages disagree with Rabbi Yehudah, contending that the korban tamid may be offered until the end of the day and, therefore, the prayer of mincha may also be recited until then. Thus, all agree that the time for davening mincha is dependent on when the afternoon korban tamid may be offered.

In the Tosefta and Gemara, it states that maariv has no “set time” because the remains of the korbanos that were offered during the previous day are burnt on the mizbeiach all night long.

Earliest Maariv?

As mentioned, the Mishnah says nothing about when the time for maariv begins. However, the following Gemara implies that it begins when the time for mincha ends. The Gemara notes that Rav davened the maariv of Shabbos when it was still Friday afternoon; the Gemara derives from this practice that Rav accepted the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah. The Gemara then concludes that, since Rav Huna and other great rabbis did not daven maariv until it was night, they follow the opinion of the Sages. Thereby, the Gemara implies that the time for maariv begins whenever the time for mincha ends; since Rav davened maariv before nightfall, he must hold like Rabbi Yehudah that it is now too late to daven mincha. According to the Sages, that the latest time for mincha is “evening,” one cannot daven maariv earlier.

Rabbi Yehudah or the Sages?

The Gemara discusses whether the halacha accords with Rabbi Yehudah, that the demarcation between mincha and maariv is plag hamincha, or whether we rule like the Sages, that it is the end of the day. After rallying various opinions in either direction, the Gemara concludes that there is no clear-cut accepted practice, and, as a result, each individual can choose which approach he wants to follow. This leads us to the following question, which the rishonim address: Can one daven sometimes according to the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah, and sometimes according to the Sages? Although there are many instances in halacha of tartei desasri, the one involving davening mincha and maariv is the most commonly referred to instance.

Tartei desasri

I explained above that this means following two practices that conflict with one another, because they follow opposing opinions. For example, the Gemara prohibits certain practices that would be following the opinion of Beis Hillel, in one aspect, and that of Beis Shammai, in another. This is prohibited because, taken together, someone is doing something not accepted by either academy (Eiruvin 7a).

At this point, our question is as follows: May someone follow the opinion of the Sages by davening mincha after plag, and also follow the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah and daven maariv before the day ends? Although the halacha does not definitively follow either Rabbi Yehudah or the Sages, davening mincha at a time that Rabbi Yehudah rules is too late, and maariv when the Sages consider it too early, is tartei desasri (Tosafos, Brachos 2a s.v. Mei’eimasai). Although I may follow either of the two opinions, tartei desasri implies that I cannot mix – since this results in following no opinion.

Most rishonim consider this a concern, the majority contending that someone should decide that he follows either Rabbi Yehudah, and never davens mincha after plag hamincha, or that he follows the Sages, and never davens maariv before the day ends.

Some rishonim rule that this is a problem only on the same day, i.e., one should not daven mincha after plag and maariv before the day ends on the same day, but there is no problem doing this on different days (see Mordechai, Brachos #89, cited by Magen Avraham). Although most rishonim do not hold this way, the prevalent custom is to follow this approach.

There is a minority opinion that there is no problem with davening mincha and maariv in a way that causes a tartei desasri, particularly when davening with a tzibur (see Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 235; Taz, Orach Chayim 235:2; Yad Efrayim, 267:1).

Fourteenth century conundrum

In the fourteenth century, it was apparently common among Ashkenazim that the summertime communal minchamaariv minyan was scheduled considerably before plag hamincha. This raises a major halachic concern, because no opinion cited by the Gemara allows davening maariv this early.

This issue was raised by perhaps the most prominent poseik of the era, the Terumas Hadeshen (1:1), who notes that the practice seems to defy the rules we would derive from the Gemara. Yet, he concludes that one should daven together with the community minyan. Although the Terumas Hadeshen does not fully explain his conclusion, he may opine that a community’s prayer schedule may be more flexible than that of an individual, as evidenced by a different passage of Gemara (Brachos 27b). We should note that the Gemara mentions this factor only regarding a situation in which an error occurred that caused the tzibur to daven too early.

Earliest Shabbos?

At this point, we will address the second of our opening questions: May I daven maariv earlier [than I usually do] on Friday night?

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 267:2) permits davening maariv on Friday evening while it is still day, even according to the Sages. This appears to contradict the Gemara, cited above, that permitted davening maariv early on Friday night only according to Rabbi Yehudah.

I am aware of at least four approaches that can be used to justify this practice, three of which are mentioned by the Magen Avraham (267:1):

(1) The Baal Halachos Gedolos and other authorities understand that a later passage of Gemara permits early maariv on Friday night even according to the opinion of the Sages. The rationale for this is because tosefes Shabbos permits davening early, since accepting Shabbos prohibits davening the weekday mincha of Friday. Once the time of mincha ended (because he accepted Shabbos), the time for maariv automatically begins, even though night has not yet begun (Mordechai; Olas Shabbos 267:1; Penei Yehoshua, Brachos 27a s.v. Amar rav Chanina).

(2) As I mentioned above, Chazal instituted the nightly prayer of maariv, corresponding to placing leftover parts of the day’s korbanos on the mizbei’ach. On a weekday in the Beis Hamikdash, what was not consumed by the fires during the day was burnt at night. However, this was the procedure only on a weekday. No leftovers were burnt on Friday night, because it is Shabbos; instead, they were burnt Friday afternoon. Since maariv corresponds to the burning of these parts of the korbanos, it is permitted to daven maariv at the time that these were offered – on Friday before nightfall.

(3) The Magen Avraham suggests a different reason why someone may daven earlier on erev Shabbos — based on the opinion of the Mordechai that permits following the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah one day and that of the Sages on a different day. Thus, you may daven mincha before plag and maariv after plag on Friday, notwithstanding that the rest of the week you daven mincha much later in the day.

(4) According to the above-mentioned responsum of the Terumas Hadeshen, a tzibur may daven maariv early, immediately after davening mincha, even though we would otherwise consider it too early to daven maariv. This approach might be based on the idea that tefillas aravis reshus, that maariv is less obligatory than the other tefillos, and therefore one can be more flexible with its time.

There are several halachic differences (nafka mina) that result from these various answers. For example, according to the first two approaches, it is acceptable to daven mincha on Friday evening after plag and maariv immediately after, and it is not considered tartei desasri.

The Magen Avraham concludes that someone davening maariv early on Friday evening should daven mincha before plag. This is because he accepts the third approach, that of the Mordechai, as the main heter, notwithstanding that he quoted three reasons to be lenient.

Nevertheless, the accepted practice, in most places, is to be less concerned than is the Magen Avraham.

Earliest Shema?

When is the earliest time to fulfill the mitzvah of reciting Shema at night?

Most rishonim assume that the earliest time to recite the Shema is at tzeis hakochavim. After all, most mitzvos that we observe at night are dependent on tzeis hakochavim.

However, when the Torah instructs us concerning the mitzvah of reading the Shema, it never says that the mitzvah is at night. The Torah teaches that we are to perform the mitzvah be’shachbecha, when we go to bed, or while we are in bed (see Rashi, Brachos 2a). This distinction produced much halachic literature at the time of the tanna’im, many of whom held that the time for reciting the evening Shema does not necessarily begin at tzeis hakochavim (Brachos 2b). Rabbeinu Tam concludes that one may fulfill the mitzvah of reciting Shema as early as plag hamincha. His reasoning why Shema is different appears to be that the Torah never states that Shema be recited at night, but when you go to bed, and there are those who go to bed early.

Early Meal?

At this point, let us discuss the last of our opening questions: If I make “early Shabbos,” must I be careful what time I begin eating the Shabbos meal?

The halacha prohibits beginning a meal once it is the time for reciting Shema, or even within a half hour of that time, without first reciting Shema. This means that if it is less than half an hour before the time that the day ends, one must wait until it is nightfall and recite Shema before beginning the meal.

However, there is no problem with beginning the meal more than half an hour before nightfall, continuing the meal into the night, and reciting Shema when the meal is over. Since it was permitted to start the meal, Chazal did not require interrupting the meal to say Shema.

Someone who starts Shabbos shortly after plag hamincha and begins the meal within a short time thereafter does not have any concern about this halacha, since he is beginning the meal well before half an hour before the time to recite Shema. The question concerns someone who starts Shabbos at a set time every week, and the meal sometimes starts within half an hour of the time to recite Shema. Is he permitted to begin his meal now, or must he wait until it is late enough for him to recite Shema before he begins his meal?

Indeed, the conclusion of many prominent authorities is that he should wait until he recites Shema (Magen Avraham 235:2).

However, although most rishonim do not accept Rabbeinu Tam’s approach that one can fulfill the mitzvah of reciting Shema after plag hamincha, there are those who do (Mordechai, Hagahos Maimani, Raavyah, all quoted by Terumas Hadeshen 1:1). The Beis Yosef (Orach Chayim 235, quoting Mordechai, Shabbos 224 and Ran) and others conclude that, although everyone who davens maariv before it is fully dark should recite the full Shema later and not rely on Rabbeinu Tam’s opinion, regarding the rabbinic prohibition to delay the meal until he recited Shema, one may rely on Rabbeinu Tam that he already fulfilled the mitzvah and may begin the meal already (Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 267 and Yad Efrayim).

Conclusion — Why is maariv different?

As the Gemara teaches, Yaakov Avinu introduced maariv. If so, why does the Gemara discuss whether maariv is an obligatory prayer or not? Although we consider maariv to be obligatory, it sounds like someone considered it “second rate” relative to shacharis and mincha,which were established by Avraham and Yitzchak?

The Penei Yehoshua answers that Yaakov was not planning to daven maariv; he had intended to daven mincha, but Hashem caused the sun to set suddenly, giving Yaakov no choice but to daven after nightfall. Since this davening was performed not as Yaakov’s first choice, but because he had no other option, this allows us the option to be more flexible regarding the time of this prayer – a very helpful halachic consideration when Shabbos begins late (Penei Yehoshua, Brachos 26b s.v. Mihu).

Mizmor Lesodah, Parshas Tzav and Erev Pesach

Question #1: Korban Todah or Bensching Gomeil?

“Which is the better way to thank Hashem for a personal salvation, by reciting birchas hagomeil, or by offering a korban todah?”

Question #2: The Breadwinner!

“Why is the korban todah accompanied by so many loaves of bread and so much matzoh?”

Question #3: Mizmor Lesodah and Pesach

“I recently assumed a position teaching in a small-town day school. Before Pesach, I mentioned that we do not recite Mizmor Lesodah on Erev and Chol Hamoed Pesach. One of the students afterwards told me that this is not his family minhag, but only Ashkenazi practice. Is he correct?”

Answer:

Although Chapter 100 of Tehillim is known by its opening words as Mizmor Lesodah, there actually are two different chapters of Tehillim, #100 and #107, that devote themselves to the thanksgiving acknowledgement of someone who has survived a major physical challenge. In Psalm 107, Dovid Hamelech describes four different types of treacherous predicaments — traveling through the desert, traveling overseas, illness, and imprisonment — in which a person would pray to Hashem for salvation. When the person survives the travails and thanks Hashem, this thanks is reflected in the passage , Yodu lashem chasdo venifle’osav livnei adam, “they acknowledge thanks to Hashem for His kindness and His wondrous deeds for mankind.”These words are repeated four times, once after each of the four situations is described.

The Gemara cites this Psalm as the source for many of the laws of birchas hagomeil, the brocha we recite when surviving these calamities. To quote the Gemara: Four people need to acknowledge thanks to Hashem.

Actually, someone who survived these predicaments should offer a korban todah, which is described in parshas Tzav. The birchas hagomeil is recited in place of the korban todah that we cannot bring, since, unfortunately, our Beis Hamikdash lies in ruin (Rosh, Brachos 9:3; Tur, Orach Chayim 219).

What are the unusual features of the korban todah?

The korban todah is a specialized variety of shelamim, whose name means, according to the Toras Kohanim, that it creates peace in the world, since the owner, the kohen and the mizbeiach (the altar) all share in consuming it (quoted by Rashi, Vayikra 3:1). A shelamim, which was perhaps the most common korban in the Beis Hamikdash, was offered to express the desire to draw closer to Hashem from a sense that he lacks nothing in his physical life (see Commentary of Rav Hirsch, Vayikra 3:1).

The korban todah is offered following the general procedures and rules of a shelamim; however, it has several unique features. The first is that the korban is accompanied by a huge amount of bread, called korbanos mincha (plural, menachos), a total of forty loaves. Thirty of these comprise ten loaves each of three varieties of matzoh. However, the remaining ten loaves are highly unusual: first of all they are chometz, and this is the only instance of a private korban that includes chometz. (There is only one other korban that is chometz, and that is the two loaves offered by the community on Shavuos.) As a result, the korban todah could not be offered on Erev Pesach or on Pesach itself.

The chometz loaves are unusual in another way, in that each of them is three times the volume of the matzoh loaves (see Menachos 76b). Thus, the ten chometz loaves were, together, of equal size to the thirty matzohs.

Of the four varieties of mincha that accompany the korban todah, one of each type of loaf is given to the kohen to take home and consume together with his family and friends. The other 36 loaves are given to the offerer of the korban.

There is another unusual facet of the korban todah offering. Whereas a korban shelamim may be eaten until nightfall of the next day after it is offered, the korban todah must be eaten before the morning after it was offered, a much shorter period of time. Chazal further shortened the time it may be eaten — permitting it to be eaten only until halachic midnight — to assure that no one eat the korban when it is forbidden to do so.

Thus, there are three ways in which the korban todah is treated differently from an ordinary shelamim: 1) the todah is accompanied by an absolutely huge amount of bread, made from a total of twenty isronim of flour, which is twenty times the amount of flour that requires one to separate challah; 2) half of this bread is chometz and half matzoh; and 3) the korban and its bread must be consumed within a very short period of time.

Why would the Torah “impose” these additional requirements on the offerer of the korban? Well, let us figure out what is he going to do. He has a significant amount of holy meat that must be eaten by midnight, and a huge amount of accompanying bread with the same restrictions. What will he do?

Presumably, he will invite a large crowd to join him in his feast and will thereby explain to them the reason for his repast. Thus, we increase the appreciation of others forthe salvation that Hashem has provided him, which is the cause of this thanksgiving. This now leads us directly into our discussion of the chapter of Tehillim that begins with the words Mizmor Lesodah.

Mizmor Lesodah

Whereas the above-mentioned Chapter 107 of Tehillim describes the background behind korban todah and birchas hagomeil, the 100th chapter of Tehillim, Mizmor Lesodah, is a sample praise that the saved person recites. Although only five verses long, this psalm, one of the eleven written by Moshe Rabbeinu (see Rashi ad locum), captivates the emotion of a person who has just survived a major ordeal. The first verse expresses the need for everyone on Earth to recognize Hashem, certainly something that conveys the emotions of someone very recently saved from a major tribulation. The second verse shares the same passion, since it calls upon everyone to serve Hashem in gladness and to appear before Him in jubilation. The third sentence continues this idea. In it, the thankful person calls on everyone to recognize that Hashem is the personal G-d of every individual, that we are His people and the sheep of his pasture. He then calls on all to enter into Hashem’s gates and His courts, so that we can thank and bless Him. We should note that the gates of the Beis Hamikdash were meant for all of mankind, not only the Jewish people, as mankind is specifically included in Shlomoh Hamelech’s prayer while inaugurating the Beis Hamikdash (Melachim I 8:41-43).

The closing sentence of Mizmor Lesodah is also very significant: “For Hashem is good, His kindness is forever, and our trust should be placed in Him in every future generation.” (We should note that the word olam in Tanach means “forever” and never means “world,” which is a meaning given to this word by Chazal. The most common Tanach word for “world” is teiveil; see, for example, Tehillim 19:5; 33:8; and 90:2 — all of which are recited during the Pesukei Dezimra of Shabbos and 96:10, 13; 97:4; 98:7, which are part of kabbalas Shabbos.) The celebrant calls upon those he has assembled to spread the message that Hashem is the only Source of all good, and that we should recognize this at all times, not only in the extraordinary situations where we see the manifestation of His presence!

We can now understand better why the Mizmor Lesodah chapter of Tehillim is structured as it is. It provides the beneficiary of Hashem’s miracle with a drosha to present at the seudas hodaah that he makes with all the bread and meat that he does not want to go to waste — complete with encouragement to others to internalize our thanks to Hashem.

Clearly, then, this psalm was meant to be recited by the thankful person prior to offering his korban, and this is his invitation to others to join him as he thanks Hashem. The Avudraham notes thatHashem’s name appears four times in the psalm, corresponding to the four people who need to thank Him for their salvation.

Mizmor Lesodah on Shabbos

We find a dispute among early authorities whether one should recite Mizmor Lesodah on Shabbos (Shibbolei Haleket, quoted by Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 281). Why should this be?

Since the korban todah is a voluntary offering, it cannot be offered on Shabbos. The Tur mentions that established custom is to omit Mizmor Lesodah on Shabbos and Yom Tov, out of concern that when the Beis Hamikdash is rebuilt, someone may mistakenly offer the korban todah on these days. On Shabbos, of course, it is prohibited to offer any korban other than the required daily tamid and the special Shabbos korbanos, whereas on Yom Tov one may offer only voluntary korbanos that are brought because of the Yom Tov (Beitzah 19b).

The Tur does not agree that this is a valid reason to omit reciting Mizmor Lesodah on these days, contending that we need not be concerned that people will mistakenly offer a korban todah on Shabbos or Yom Tov (Orach Chayim, Chapter 51 and Chapter 281). Others explain that we recite Mizmor Lesodah to remind us of the korban todah, and since it was not offered on these days, there is no point in reciting it (see Pri Megadim, Eishel Avraham 51:11). Perhaps this is done as an aspect of u’neshalma parim sefaseinu (Hoshea 14:3), “may our lips replace the bulls (of offerings),” which is interpreted to mean that when we have no Beis Hamikdash, we recite passages that commemorate those offerings. For this reason, the custom developed among Ashkenazim to omit Mizmor Lesodah on days that the offering could not be brought in the Beis Hamikdash.

Mizmor Lesodah on Chol Hamoed Pesach

For the same reason that Mizmor Lesodah is omitted on Shabbos, Ashkenazim omit reciting it on Chol Hamoed Pesach. Since the korban todah contained chometz, it could not be offered on Pesach; therefore Ashkenazim refrain from saying Mizmor Lesodah.

Mizmor Lesodah on Erev Pesach

Ashkenazic custom is to omit Mizmor Lesodah on Erev Yom Kippur and on Erev Pesach. The korban todah and its breads can usually be eaten until the midnight after the day it was offered. However, were one to offer a korban todah early on Erev Yom Kippur or on Erev Pesach, one would be restricted to eating its chometz for only a few hours. Since one may not offer a korban whose time limit is curtailed, one may not offer a korban todah on these days, and, following Ashkenazic practice, Mizmor Lesodah is omitted then, also. The common custom among Sefardim is to recite Mizmor Lesodah on Erev Yom Kippur, Erev Pesach and Chol Hamoed Pesach (Pri Chodosh 429:2; Kaf Hachayim 51:51-52).

With this background, I can now return to the third question raised above.

“I recently assumed a position teaching in a small town day school. Before Pesach, I mentioned that we do not recite Mizmor Lesodah on Erev and Chol Hamoed Pesach. One of the students afterwards told me that this is not his family minhag, but only Ashkenazi practice. Is he correct?”

Indeed, in this instance, the student is correct. Hopefully, the rebbe was not that badly embarrassed.

Mizmor Lesodah and our daily davening

In order to make sure that this thanks to Hashem takes place daily, the chapter of Mizmor Lesodah was introduced into our daily pesukei dezimra. We should remember that miracles happen to us daily, even when we do not realize it (quoted in name of Sefer Nehora; see also Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 281). Although Mizmor Lesodah was not part of the original structure of the daily prayers established by the Anshei Keneses Hagedolah, long before the time of the Rishonim, it was already common practice to include it as part of the daily recital of pesukei dezimra and to say it almost at the beginning. The importance of reciting this psalm should not be underestimated. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 51:9), states: One should recite Mizmor Lesodah with song, since eventually all songs will cease, except for Mizmor Lesodah. This statement of Chazal is explained by Rav Hirsch (Commentary to Psalm 100) in the following manner: One day in the future, everything on Earth will be so ideal that there will be no reason to supplicate Hashem for changes. Even then, prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving will still be appropriate.

Between Yishtabach and Borchu

Since Az Yashir, which concludes pesukei dezimra, is in parshas Beshalach, this article about the conclusion of Pesukei Dezimra is most appropriate.

Question #1: Between Yishtabach and Kaddish

Avraham asks: “In the shullen in which I used to daven, during the aseres yemei teshuvah we always recited the chapter of tehillim,Shir hama’alos mima’amakim,’right after Yishtabach. Someone recently told me that the reason why I do not see this custom practiced any more is because it is a hefsek in the davening. Is this true?”

Question #2: Between Kaddish and Borchu

Yitzchak queries: “Because of my work schedule, I must daven at a very early minyan. At times, we begin davening when it is too early to put on talis and tefillin, so we put on talis and tefillin after Yishtabach. Someone told me that when we do this, we are creating a problem with reciting Kaddish after Yishtabach. Is this true? And if it is true, what should we do?”

Question #3: Between Borchu and Yotzeir

Yaakov inquires: “If I need to use the facilities during davening, may I recite the beracha of Asher Yatzar after answering Borchu, provided I have not yet begun to say the beracha of Yotzeir Or?”

Introduction: Pesukei Dezimra, Yishtabach and Borchu

All of the above questions deal with the same general issue: What are the laws about making an interruption, a hefsek, between completing the recital of Yishtabach and prior to reciting Birchos Kerias Shema, the blessings that are recited before and after the shema, which begin with the beracha of Yotzeir Or. Let me begin by explaining the reason why we recite Yishtabach in our davening.

The Mishnah recommends contemplation as an introduction to praying (Berachos 30b). This experience is reflected when we recite or sing the Pesukei Dezimra, literally, Verses of Song¸ prior to Borchu and Birchos Kerias Shema. To show how important this aspect of serving Hashem is, we find that the great tanna, Rabbi Yosi, yearned to receive the special reward granted to those who recite the Pesukei Dezimra daily (Shabbos 118b). Reciting Pesukei Dezimra properly helps elevate one’s entire tefillah to a completely different level. This has the potential to cause our prayer to soar!

Chazal established that we say two berachos, Baruch She’amar and Yishtabach, one before and one after Pesukei Dezimra. Baruch She’amar notes that we use the songs of David to praise Hashem. Since these two berachos are part of the Pesukei Dezimra introduction to our prayer, one may not converse from when he begins Baruch She’amar until after he completes the Shemoneh Esrei (Rif, Berachos 23a). This prohibition includes not interrupting between Yishtabach and the beracha of Yotzeir Or (Rabbeinu Yonah, ad locum, quoting a midrash).

The Tur (Orach Chayim 51), after citing this ruling, quotes the Talmud Yerushalmi that one who talks between Yishtabach and Yotzeir Or commits a sin serious enough that he loses the privilege of joining the Jewish army when it goes to war. According to halachah, prior to the Jewish army going into battle, a specially appointed kohen announces those who are exempt from warfare, which includes, according to this opinion, those who are concerned that their sins may cause them to become war casualties. The Jewish army is meant to be comprised of tzaddikim gemurim, the completely righteous, so that their merits will protect them on the battlefield. Those who are less righteous have no such guarantee, and the Torah therefore exempts them from fighting. Someone whose greatest sin is that he once spoke between Yishtabach and Yotzeir Or, and for which he has not performed full teshuvah, is too sinful a person to be allowed to serve in the Jewish army, out of concern that he might become a casualty.

Interrupting between Yishtabach and Borchu

As I mentioned above, the questions introducing this article all deal with the laws of interrupting between Yishtabach and the beginning of Birchos Kerias Shema. The details of these halachos are not discussed in the Gemara, and, therefore, in order to establish what are the rules related to them, the halachic authorities needed to compare these laws to those of Birchos Kerias Shema, which are discussed in the Gemara.

In general, it is prohibited to interrupt during Birchos Kerias Shema, although the Gemara mentions a few exceptions, including, at times, responding to a person’s greetings, so as not to offend him. The Rishonim dispute whether one may respond to Borchu, Kedusha, and Amen yehei shemei rabbah (in Kaddish) during Birchos Kerias Shema — the Maharam Rotenberg prohibited it, whereas his disciple, the Rosh, permitted it (Rosh, Berachos 2:5). The Maharam Rotenberg contended that these responses are prohibited during Birchos Kerias Shema because it is inappropriate to interrupt praise of Hashem in order to recite a different praise, even something as important as responding to Kaddish or Kedusha. The Rosh permitted this interruption because he held that responding appropriately to Hashem’s praises should not be treated more strictly than responding to the greeting of a person, which is permitted under certain circumstances.

The poskim follow the opinion of the Rosh, concluding that one may answer the following responses while reciting Birchos Kerias Shema:

(1) Kaddish: One may answer “Amen, yehei shemei rabbah mevorach le’olam ule’almei almaya,” and one may also answer “Amen” to the Chazzan’s da’amiran be’alma (at the point that we end what is called chatzi-Kaddish). However, one may not respond to the other places in Kaddish (Chayei Adam 20:4).

(2) Borchu: One may answer “Boruch Hashem hamevorach la’olam va’ed.”This is true whether it is the Borchu that the chazzan recites before Birchos Kerias Shema morning and evening, or whether it is the Borchu that the person receiving an aliyah recites prior to the Torah reading of his aliyah (Magen Avraham 66:6).

(3) Kedusha: One may respond “Kodosh kodosh…”and “Boruch kevod Hashem mimkomo” in Kedusha, but one may not respond to the other parts of Kedusha we traditionally say, even the sentence beginning Yimloch (Ateres Zekeinim).

(4) Amen to berachos: One may respond “Amen” to the berachos of Ha’Keil Hakadosh and Shema Koleinu (Rema 66:3), but not to other berachos.

Thundering applause

The poskim also dispute whether one should recite the berachos on lightning or thunder while in the middle of Birchos Kerias Shema. The Magen Avraham (66:5) rules that one should, whereas the Bechor Shor (Berachos 13a) disagrees, contending that one should not interrupt one praise of Hashem with another. The Chayei Adam reaches a compromise, ruling that one should recite the beracha on lightning or thunder if he is between the berachos of Kerias Shema, but not when he is in the middle of reciting one of the berachos. The dispute between the Magen Avraham and the Bechor Shor remains unresolved (Mishnah Berurah 66:19), and, therefore, someone who hears thunder while in the middle of Birchos Kerias Shema may choose whether to recite the beracha or not.

Between Yishtabach and Borchu

Now that we understand the accepted halachah concerning interrupting Birchos Kerias Shema, we can discuss the laws that apply between Yishtabach and Borchu. We should note that the interval between the completion of Yishtabach and the beginning of Yotzeir Or can be subdivided into three points:

(A) Between Yishtabach and Kaddish.

(B) Between Kaddish and Borchu.

(C) Between Borchu and beginning the beracha of Yotzeir Or.

Although one might think that Birchos Kerias Shema do not start until one begins reciting the words of the beracha, the early authorities rule that once one has said or responded to Borchu it is considered that he is already in Birchos Kerias Shema (Sefer Haminhag, quoted by Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 57; Rema 54:3). Thus, one may not interrupt once one has recited Borchu, except for the list of four items mentioned above.

What interruptions are permitted?

Notwithstanding the fact that it is prohibited to speak between Yishtabach and Borchu, interrupting at this point is less severe than between Baruch She’amar and Yishtabach or during Birchos Kerias Shema. Therefore, under certain circumstances, some interruptions are permitted. For example, if one needs to recite a beracha, it is better to do so after completing Yishtabach before answering (or saying) Borchu than during the Pesukei Dezimra. For this reason, someone who did not have tzitzis or tefillin available before davening, and they become available during Pesukei Dezimra, should put them on immediately after Yishtabach and recite the berachos on them.

The authorities discuss several other instances of interruptions and whether they are permitted between Yishtabach and Borchu, even though none of these interruptions is permitted during Birchos Kerias Shema. All of the permitted interruptions qualify either as tzorchei mitzvah, mitzvah requirements, or community needs. To quote the Tur (Orach Chayim 54): “One may not interrupt between Yishtabach and Yotzeir if it is not for community needs or for someone who needs to be supported from charity.” Thus, the Tur rules that, even though it is prohibited to talk after Yishtabach, one is permitted to make an appeal for charity at this point. Although, as we will soon see, this position is not universally agreed upon, there were other early authorities who held this way (Rav AmramGaon, quoted by Tur; Beis Yosef quoting Kolbo #4).  The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 54:3) quotes this opinion, although he considers it to be a minority view (see also Hagahos Maimoniyos 7:70). In many places, it was customary to extend this leniency to include requesting personal assistance for other needs, as we will see shortly.

It is certainly permitted to recite the beracha upon hearing thunder between Yishtabach and Yotzeir, and most authorities permit one to recite Asher Yatzar at this point (Mishnah Berurah 51:8; however, see Chayei Adam [20:3], who prefers that one not recite Asher Yatzar until after Shemoneh Esrei).

At this point, we can answer one of the questions we raised at the beginning of this article: “If I need to use the facilities during davening, may I recite the beracha of Asher Yatzar after answering Borchu, provided I have not begun to say the beracha of Yotzeir Or?”

The answer is that one may recite Asher Yatzar before answering Borchu, but if one has already answered Borchu, he should wait until after Shemoneh Esrei before reciting it.

Before Kaddish or after?

In a situation when one may interrupt after Yishtabach, is it better to interrupt before reciting Kaddish, or after Kaddish and before Borchu? This exact question is discussed at length by the Darchei Moshe, the Rema’s commentary on the Tur (Darchei Moshe, Orach Chayim 54:1):

“The custom is to make a mishebeirach for the ill between Yishtabach and Yotzeir; and occasionally, someone cries out [at this point in the davening to call attention to the need] to bring someone to justice, and these are considered mitzvah needs. (The Rema codifies this last practice in his comments to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 54:3.) However, I do not understand why the custom is to do so before Kaddish, and then after the interruption to recite Kaddish. Since this Kaddish refers back to Pesukei Dezimra, as I will explain in Chapter 55, we should not interrupt before it. Furthermore, one following this practice no longer has a basis to recite Kaddish afterwards, since it now no longer concludes the Pesukei Dezimra.” The Rema then quotes the Kolbo (6), who says that if one did, indeed, interrupt between Yishtabach and Kaddish, then one should say Borchu without Kaddish. The Kolbo suggests another option for someone who interrupted after Yishtabach — he should recite three or more pesukim of tehillim and then say Kaddish.

On the basis of this Kolbo, the Rema, with the agreement of other talmidei chachamim, changed the practice in his city and made a mishebeirach after Kaddish. However, he subsequently retracted this decision, because he found a more authoritative source that followed the original practice of interrupting before Kaddish rather than afterwards. The Or Zarua quoted a teshuvas ha’geonim that someone who began davening without a talis should stop after Yishtabach, recite the beracha, and put on the talis. However, if the community had already begun Kaddish, he should not recite the beracha. Thus, we see that if one needs to interrupt at this point in the davening, it is better to do so before Kaddish than afterwards. The Rema continues that this position is in line with the kabbalistic works that hold that one should not interrupt between Kaddish and Borchu. (By the way, the Rema himself was heavily steeped in Kabbalah, and authored a work on the topic.)

The Rema then concludes that it is best to avoid any interruption at all, and he cites that, in Prague, they had stopped all interruptions after Yishtabach. In a place where the custom is to interrupt, the Rema concludes that the best procedure is to interrupt after Yishtabach and before Kaddish. However, the chazzan should not interrupt between Yishtabach and Kaddish (Darchei Moshe, Orach Chayim 54:1; Rema, Orach Chayim 54:3).

At this point we can now answer Yitzchak’s question that we mentioned above:

“Because of my work schedule, I must daven at a very early minyan. At times, we begin davening when it is too early to put on talis and tefillin, so we put on talis and tefillin after Yishtabach. Someone told me that when we do this, we are creating a problem with reciting Kaddish. Is this true? And if it is true, what should we do?

The Rema concludes that everyone else should put on talis and tefillin after Yishtabach but the chazzan should put on talis and tefillin before Yishtabach so as not to interrupt between Yishtabach and Kaddish.

Kaddish before Musaf

There is a very interesting side point that results from this above-quoted Rema:

In a place where the rabbi delivers a sermon prior to Musaf, the custom is to do so before Kaddish. Is there any problem with reciting Kaddish before Musaf, although there is now a huge interruption between the recital of Ashrei and the Kaddish?

Whether the chazzan may immediately recite Kaddish should depend on the above-cited dispute between rishonim. Just as the Kolbo ruled that the chazzan may not recite Kaddish once he interrupted, unless he recites a few verses prior to saying Kaddish, here too, he would be required to recite a few verses prior to reciting Kaddish. According to the Or Zarua, an interruption after the recital of the verses of Ashrei does not pose any problem with saying Kaddish afterward.

Az Yashir after Yishtabach?!

Prior to addressing the final remaining question, we need to discuss a curiosity. The last Biblical passage cited as part of Pesukei Dezimra is Az Yashir, the Shiras Hayam that the Jewish people sang as praise to Hashem, after witnessing the miracles at the crossing of the Red Sea, the Yam Suf. The Tur (51) and the Avudraham explain that this passage is included immediately before Yishtabach because it contains fifteen mentions of Hashem’s holy Name, thus corresponding to the fifteen praises of Hashem that are stated in Yishtabach.

Others cite a different, but similar, idea: We complete Pesukei Dezimra with Shiras Hayam because the four-lettered name of Hashem is mentioned eighteen times between the words Vayehi Be’ashmores (that precede Az Yashir in the Torah) until the end of the Shiras Hayam. This adds up to a total of 72 lettersof Hashem’s name and, thereby, represents a very high level of kedusha (Beis Yosef, 51, explaining Orchos Chayim; he also explains why we begin from Az Yashir and not from Vayehi Be’ashmores).

By the way, these two allusions are not conflicting, but complementary. One explains Az Yashir as the introduction to Yishtabach, and the other makes it a representative of the entire Pesukei Dezimra that serves as an introduction to the Shemoneh Esrei.

Notwithstanding the fact that it is now standard practice to include Az Yashir, the earliest versions of Pesukei Dezimra did not include any recital of Az Yashir, and others recited it after Yishtabach. For example, the Rambam’s Seder Hatefillos (located at the end of Sefer Ahavah in his Yad Hachazakah) places Az Yashir after the recital of Yishtabach.

With this introduction, we can now address the question asked above:

“In the shullen in which I used to daven, during the aseres yemei teshuvah we always recited the chapter of tehillimShir hama’alos mima’amakim’ right after Yishtabach. Someone recently told me that the reason why I do not see this custom practiced any more is because it is a hefsek in the davening. Is this true?”

Here is the background: The Magen Avraham (54:2) quotes the Arizalthat during the aseres yemei teshuvah one should add Shir hama’alos mima’amakim after Yishtabach. The Magen Avraham then asks why this is not considered a hefsek. In response to this concern, the Dagul Meirevavah notes the Rambam’s placement of Az Yashir after Yishtabach; thus, it is curious to understand what was bothering the Magen Avraham. (One could also mention the Tur and others, who noted the custom of making charity and other communal appeals after Yishtabach, as proof that reciting Shir hama’alos should not be considered an interruption.)

Presumably, the Magen Avraham feels that adding Az Yashir is not a hefsek, since this is a praise of Hashem, which is the same theme as the entire Pesukei Dezimra. We may, therefore, add other praises to Pesukei Dezimra. However, Shir hama’alos is being added as a supplication, and the Magen Avraham considers this to be an interruption. And, although the Tur and the Rema mention a custom of interrupting for communal or mitzvah needs, today the prevalent practice is to not interrupt, as the Rema himself preferred. We could then conclude that although one may add quotations and passages from Tanach that praise Hashem both to the Pesukei Dezimra and immediately afterwards, one should not add passages that are being used as supplication, and that this is the reason why some did not observe the practice of reciting Shir hama’alos mima’amakim after Yishtabach. However, those who do maintain this practice are following the custom of the Arizal, and should continue to do so.

Conclusion

The Ramban (Commentary to Shemos 13:16) explains: “All that Hashem desires from this world is that Man should thank Him for creating him, focus on His praise when he prays, and that the community pray together with concentration. Mankind should gather together and thank the Lord who created them, announcing: We are your creations!

May I Eat before I Daven?

As the Gemara teaches, the source in this week’s parsha teaches that Yaakov introduced the Maariv prayers…

Question #1: Reuven calls me: I have not been well, and I need to eat something shortly after awaking. On weekdays, I go to shul to daven when I wake up and I can wait to eat until after davening, but I do not have this option on Shabbos. What should I do?

Question #2: Ahuva asks: It is difficult for me to wait for Kiddush until my husband returns from shul. May I eat something before he arrives home?

Question #3: Someone told me that a woman may not eat in the morning before she davens, but I remember being taught in Bais Yaakov that we may eat once we say the morning berachos. Is my memory faulty?

Answer:

The Gemara (Berachos 10b) states: “What do we derive from the verse, You may not eat over blood (Vayikra 19:26)? That you may not eat (in the morning) before you have prayed for your ‘blood’… The verse states, in reference to someone who eats and drinks prior to praying: You have thrown me behind your body (Melachim 1 14:9). Do not read your body (in Hebrew gavecha), but your arrogance (gai’echa). The Holy One said: After this person has indulged in his own pride (by eating or drinking), only then does he accept upon himself the dominion of heaven!?”

The halacha that results from this Gemara is codified by all authorities. To quote the Rambam: “It is prohibited to taste anything or to perform work from halachic daybreak until one has prayed shacharis” (Hilchos Tefillah 6:4).

Would you like tea or coffee?

Although all poskim prohibit eating and drinking before morning davening, we find early authorities who permit drinking water before davening, since this is not considered an act of conceit (Rosh, quoting the Avi Ha’ezri; the Beis Yosef cites authorities who disagree, but rules like the Avi HaEzri). Most later authorities permit drinking tea or coffee, contending that this, also, is considered like drinking water, but the poskim dispute whether one may add sugar to the beverage. The Mishnah Berurah and others prohibit this, whereas the Aruch Hashulchan and other later authorities permit it. They are disputing whether adding sugar to the beverage promotes it to a forbidden beverage, or whether it is still considered water that one may imbibe before davening.

Hunger

The Rambam rules that someone who is hungry or thirsty should eat or drink before he davens, so that he can daven properly (Hilchos Tefillah 5:2).

Similarly, some authorities contend that, for medical reasons, anything may be eaten or drunk before davening. They explain that the Gemara prohibited only eating or drinking that demonstrate conceit, whereas whatever is done for medical reasons is, by definition, not considered arrogant (Beis Yosef, quoting Mahari Abohav). The Shulchan Aruch accepts this as normative halacha (Orach Chayim 89:3).

I will be hungry!

What is the halacha if someone is, as yet, not hungry, but he knows that he will be so hungry by the end of davening that it will distract him from davening properly. Is he permitted to eat before davening? This question impacts directly on Reuven’s question.

The answer to this question appears to lie in the following Talmudic discussion (Berachos 28b):

“Rav Avya was weak and, as a result, did not attend Rav Yosef’s lecture that took place before musaf. The next day, when Rav Avya arrived in the Yeshiva, Abayei saw Rav Avya and was concerned that Rav Yosef may have taken offense at Rav Avya’s absence. Therefore, Abayei asked Rav Avya why he had failed to attend the previous day’s lecture. After which the following conversation transpired:

Abayei: Why did the master (addressing Rav Avya) not attend the lecture?

Rav Avya: I was not feeling well and was unable to attend.

Abayei: Why did you not eat something first and then come?

Rav Avya: Does the master (now referring to Abayei) not hold like Rav Huna who prohibits eating before davening musaf?

Abayei: You should have davened musaf privately, eaten something and then come to shul.

We see, from Abayei’s retort, that someone who is weak should daven first and then eat, even if this means that he davens without a minyan. Based on this passage, several noted authorities rule that someone who will not be able to wait until after davening, and cannot find an early minyan with which to daven, should daven privately (beyechidus), eat and then attend shul in order to hear the Torah reading and fulfill the mitzvos of answering Kaddish and Kedusha (Ba’er Heiteiv 89:11; Biur Halacha 289; Da’as Torah 289 quoting Zechor Le’avraham; Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 2:28 at end of teshuvah). Thus, it seems that we can positively answer Reuven’s question: If he cannot wait until davening is over to eat, he should daven be’yechidus, make Kiddush and eat something, and then come to shul to answer Borchu, Kedusha, Kaddish and hear keriyas hatorah.

May a woman eat before Kiddush?

Once someone becomes obligated to recite Kiddush, he cannot eat or drink anything before reciting Kiddush. Let us now discuss Ahuva’s question: It is difficult for me to wait for Kiddush until my husband returns from shul. May I eat something before he arrives home?

Of course, Ahuva could recite Kiddush herself. To fulfill the mitzvah of Kiddush, she needs to eat something that fulfills the requirement of Kiddush bimkom seudah¸ a topic we will discuss a different time. However, Ahuva does not want to recite Kiddush, or does not want to eat something to accompany the Kiddush. Is there a halachic solution to permit her to eat or drink before Kiddush?

There are some authorities who suggest approaches to permit Ahuva to eat or drink before Kiddush. Here is one approach:

Although most authorities obligate a woman to recite the daytime Kiddush and prohibit her from eating before she recites Kiddush (Tosafos Shabbos 286:4, 289:3; Pri Megadim, Mishbetzos Zahav 289:1; Mishnah Berurah 289:6), this is not a universally held position. One early authority (Maharam Halavah, Pesachim 106, quoting Rashba) contends that women are absolved of the requirement to recite daytime Kiddush.  The reason is that the daytime Kiddush is not an extension of the mitzvah of evening Kiddush, but is to demonstrate that the meal is in honor of Shabbos, and this requirement does not devolve upon women.

Although this approach is not halachically accepted, some authorities allow a woman to rely on this opinion, under extenuating circumstances, to eat before reciting morning Kiddush (Shu”t Minchas Yitzchak 4:28:3).

When does a married woman become obligated to make Kiddush?

Rav Moshe Feinstein presents a different reason to permit a married woman to eat before Kiddush. He contends that since a married woman is required to eat the Shabbos meal with her husband, she does not become responsible to make Kiddush until it is time for the two of them to eat the Shabbos meal together, meaning after davening (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 4:101\2). In Rav Moshe’s opinion, she is not yet obligated to make Kiddush, since the time for her meal has not yet arrived.

The Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasah (Chapter 52, note 46), in the name of Rav Shelomoh Zalman Auerbach, disagrees with this opinion. Firstly, Rav Shelomoh Zalman Auerbach is unconvinced that she is halachically required to eat her meal with her husband. Furthermore, even assuming that she is, he disagrees that this permits her to eat before Kiddush.

If we do not follow the lenient approaches mentioned, when does a woman become obligated to recite Kiddush and is therefore no longer permitted to drink tea, coffee, and water? The Acharonim debate this issue, but explaining their positions requires explaining a different topic:

What must a woman pray?

All authorities require a woman to daven daily, but there is a dispute whether she is required to recite the full shemoneh esrei (I will call this the “Ramban’s opinion”), or whether she fulfills her requirement by reciting a simple prayer, such as the morning beracha that closes with the words Gomel chasadim tovim le’amo Yisrael (I will refer to this as the “Magen Avraham’s opinion”).

When may she eat?

According to the Ramban’s opinion that a woman is required to recite the full shemoneh esrei, she may not eat in the morning without first davening (see the previous discussion), whereas, according to the Magen Avraham’s opinion that she fulfills her requirement once she has recited a simple prayer or morning berachos, she may eat once she has recited these tefillos.

Some authorities rule that a woman becomes obligated to hear Kiddush as soon as she recites berachos, since she has now fulfilled her requirement to daven, and she may therefore begin eating her meals. According to this opinion, now that she has recited morning berachos, she may not eat or drink without first making Kiddush (Tosafos Shabbos 286:4, 289:3). This approach contends that, before she recites morning berachos, she may drink water, tea or coffee, but after she recites morning berachos she may not drink even these beverages without first reciting Kiddush.

There is another view, that contends that a woman can follow the same approach that men follow, and may drink water, tea or coffee, even after she recited berachos before she has davened (Pri Megadim, Eishel Avraham 289:4 as understood by Halichos Beisah page 204).

At this point we can address the third question I raised above:

“Someone told me that a woman may not eat in the morning before she davens, but I remember being taught in Bais Yaakov that we may eat, once we say the morning berachos. Is my memory faulty?”

Many authorities contend that, although a woman should daven shemoneh esrei every morning, she may rely on the opinion of the Magen Avraham in regard to eating. Therefore, she may eat after reciting morning berachos. In many institutions, this approach was preferred, since it accomplishes that the tefillah that the girls recite is a much better prayer, and they learn how to daven properly. However, this does not necessarily tell us what she should do on Shabbos morning, and I refer you back to the earlier discussion about this issue.

Conclusion

Rav Hirsch, in his commentary to the story of Kayin and Hevel in Parshas Bereishis (4:3), makes the following observation: “Two people can bring identical offerings and recite the same prayers and yet appear unequal in the eyes of G-d. This is made clear in connection with the offerings of these brothers. Scripture does not say: ‘G-d turned to the offering by Hevel, but to the offering by Kayin He did not turn.’ Rather, it says: ‘G-d turned to Hevel and his offering, but to Kayin and his offering He did not turn.’ The difference lay in the personalities of the offerers, not in their offerings. Kayin was unacceptable, hence, his offering was unacceptable. Hevel, on the other hand, was pleasing, hence, his offering was pleasing.”

The same is true regarding prayer: the Shemoneh Esrei itself, the Elokai netzor leshoni addition, and the personal supplications that different people recite may appear identical in words, but they are recited with individual emotion, devotion and commitment. Tefillah should be with total devotion in order to improve ourselves, to enable us to fulfill our role in Hashem’s world.

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