Tag Archives: Halacha

The Novelty of Birchas HaTorah

Day 20 – Berachos 21

מִנַּיִן לְבִרְכַּת הַתּוֹרָה לְפָנֶיהָ מִן הַתּוֹרָה — שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״כִּי שֵׁם ה׳ אֶקְרָא הָבוּ גֹדֶל לֵאלֹהֵינוּ״.

And from where is the mitzva by Torah law to recite the blessing over the Torah before it is read, derived? As it is stated: “When I proclaim the Lord’s name, give glory to our God” (Deuteronomy 32:3), meaning that before one proclaims the Lord’s name by reading the Torah, he must give glory to God.

The Shulchan Aruch (OC 47) teaches us that the obligation to recite Birchas HaTorah is incumbent upon women as well as men. The Beis Yosef explains that women need to learn the laws pertinent to them. 

The Gra argues strongly on this and explains that as women do not have a specific commandment to learn Torah, you cannot say the they must recite Birchas Hatorah for the laws they are obligated in.  

Additionally, the Shulchan Aruch earlier (OC 17) taught us that women do not make a bracha on a Mitzvas Aseh SheHazman Grama, a mitzvah bound by time, as women are not obligated in these mitzvos.

Learning Torah is a mitzva that is bound by time, as the Torah tells us you should learn Torah when you wake up and when you go to sleep. Why does the Shulchan Aruch rule that women need to make a Bracha on Torah and not on other time-bound mitzvos?

The Brisker Rav explained  that Torah is different than any other mitzvah. From the fact that we have a seperate pasuk to teach us that one should say Birchas HaTorah, we see that this is not merely a bracha on a mitzvah. Rather, Torah is something that requires a Bracha, part and parcel of learning Torah is making a bracha on it. Therefore a woman needs to make a bracha as well on learning Torah as the bracha is part of the Limud.  

How Do You Call Your Father?

Day 17 – Berachos 18 

תָּא שְׁמַע: דַּאֲבוּהּ דִּשְׁמוּאֵל הֲווֹ קָא מַפְקְדִי גַּבֵּיהּ זוּזֵי דְיַתְמֵי. כִּי נָח נַפְשֵׁיהּ לָא הֲוָה שְׁמוּאֵל גַּבֵּיהּ. הֲווֹ קָא קָרוּ לֵיהּ: ״בַּר אָכֵיל זוּזֵי דְיַתְמֵי״. אֲזַל אַבָּתְרֵיהּ לַחֲצַר מָוֶת. אֲמַר לְהוּ: בָּעֵינָא אַבָּא! אֲמַרוּ לֵיהּ: אַבָּא טוּבָא אִיכָּא הָכָא. אֲמַר לְהוּ: בָּעֵינָא אַבָּא בַּר אַבָּא. אֲמַרוּ לֵיהּ: אַבָּא בַּר אַבָּא נָמֵי טוּבָא אִיכָּא הָכָא. אֲמַר לְהוּ: בָּעֵינָא אַבָּא בַּר אַבָּא אֲבוּהּ דִּשְׁמוּאֵל הֵיכָא? אֲמַרוּ לֵיהּ סְלֵיק לִמְתִיבְתָּא דִּרְקִיעָא. אַדְּהָכִי חַזְיֵיהּ לְלֵוִי דְּיָתֵיב אַבָּרַאי. אֲמַר לֵיהּ: אַמַּאי יָתְבַתְּ אַבָּרַאי? מַאי טַעְמָא לָא סָלְקַתְּ? אֲמַר לֵיהּ, דְאָמְרִי לִי: כָּל כִּי הָנָךְ שְׁנֵי דְּלָא סְלֵיקְתְּ לִמְתִיבְתָּא דְּרַבִּי אַפָּס וְאַחְלֵישְׁתֵּיהּ לְדַעְתֵּיהּ, לָא מְעַיְּילִינַן לָךְ לִמְתִיבְתָּא דִרְקִיעָא 

The gemara relates that Shmuel’s father used to hold onto the money of the orphans for safekeeping. When Shmuel’s father died, Shmuel was not with him, and did not learn from him the location of the money. Since he did not return it, Shmuel was called: Son of him who consumes the money of orphans. Shmuel went after his father to the cemetery and said to the dead: I want Abba. The dead said to him: There are many Abbas here. He told them: I want Abba bar Abba. They said to him: There are also many people named Abba bar Abba here. He told them: I want Abba bar Abba, the father of Shmuel. Where is he? They replied: Ascend to the yeshiva on high.

Berachos 18

 The Gemara goes on to discuss the rest of the conversation and the context for relating this. 

We see that Shmuel went and asked for Abba and he was told that there many Abba’s there. Why didn’t he just mention his father by name? 

Rashi comments that his father’s name was actually Abba. 

The Shulchan Aruch in Yore Deah 240;2 tells us that it is forbidden to call one’s father by his first name, even after he died. The Chida (Shem HaGedolim – Abba) writes that if one’s father’s name is Abba and that is how he’s called by everyone, you cannot call your father Abba, you have to find another variation of the term father to call him.

Rav Akiva Eiger, in his glosses on the Shulchan Aruch asks that we see in our Gemara that Shmuel called his father by his first name – Abba??

The Pische Teshuva explains that when there is no other way to reference him, you may call him by his first name. 

This still does not answer the question, because we see that after they couldn’t figure out who he was referring to, he eventually said he was looking for “Abba bar Abba, the father of Shmuel”. Why didn’t he just say that to begin with, instead of saying over his father’s name? 

Perhaps saying his name indirectly is ok, but to say it directly to his father would pose an issue. 

What are your thoughts?

When Do We Learn From Eliyahu HaNavi?

Day 2 – Berachos 3

The Gemara tells a story of Rav Yosi who once went to daven in a ruin in Jerusalem as he was travelling. He met Eliyahu HaNavi who, amongst other things, told him off. From this he learned that one should not daven in a ruin, and if one is travelling and needs to daven he should say an abridged Tefila.

What is interesting here is that there is a general rule that the Torah is “לא בשמים היא”, It is not in the heavens (See Shabbos 108a in Rashi). We do not make halachos based on what we hear from heavenly voices or angels or other mystical characters such as Eliyahu Hanavi. So, why did Rav Yosi institute these Halachos after his discussion with Eliyahu?

Rav Elyashiv Zt’l explained that there is a difference as to how Eliyahu appeared; if he came and appeared as an angel, we do not learn from him. However, if he came and appeared as a human, he is like any other Talmid Chacham and we may learn from him.

The Birthday in Traditional Jewish Thought

ויהי ביום השלישי יום הלדת את פרעה ויעש משתה לכל עבדיו וישא את ראש שר המשקים ואת ראש שר האפים בתוך עבדיו

The sole reference to a celebration of one’s birthday in the Torah is found in Parshas VaYeshev1 . I would like to analyze the tradition of this celebration in Jewish thought and how it applies in both law and custom.

There are many events that we mark with special occasions: The creation of the world on Rosh Hashanah; the judgment of trees and plants on Tu B’Shvat; the dedication of the Beis HaMikdash on Chanukah, the creation of fire on Motzei Shabbos, and the anniversary of one’s birth.

We see many sources for the birthday celebration throughout Chazal.

Rav Chaim Dovid Halevy2 explains that the original Torah source for the celebration of one’s birthday is from Pharaoh, however, it originated as a custom of kings to celebrate their birthdays in public festivities3. and eventually individuals also began to have private birthday festivities in their homes4.

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