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Friday, August 05, 2011

Devarim 1:6. Fixing a Mistake in a Bracha

To say Hashem's name in vain is a sin.  Making an unneeded or incorrect bracha is also considered enunciating Hashem's name in vain.  This is reason enough for us to avoid making brachos by rote or while distracted, because you're asking for trouble- we so often wake up in middle of a bracha and realize we've made a mistake.  Here's an example:  the halacha is that if you had already davenned e.g. mincha, and started shmoneh esrei again without remembering that you had davenned already, you are making a bracha le'vatala, and you stop in middle of a bracha.  (Thank you, Tzvee, for reminding me to put the cite in.  OC 107:4.)  This happened to me more than once after saying my shiur, when my mind was not really on the davening, and I only realized it when I got to Atta chonein l'adam daas.  I think it was a kind of ironic answer to my prayer-  "You're asking for Da'as?  OK, here's some Da'as.  You already davenned mincha today, Chochom Atik."

(The Darkei Moshe in Hilchos Tzitzis discusses why the bracha we make on a talis kattan is "al mitzvas," which is a rare nusach for a bracha.  He says that many people wear a tallis kattan that is smaller than the requisite measurement, and so the bracha might be a bracha le'vatala.  To avoid this problem, he says, we use the nusach "al mitzvas," because then it can function as a general bracha of praise, a birkas shevach on the fact that Hashem gave us this mitzvah.  If we would say La'asos tzitzis, or lilvosh beged metzuyetzet, it would be an unequivocal birkas hamitzvos, and absent kiyum mitzva, it would be le'vatalah.)

But, sometimes  you can save yourself from the sin by converting what you said into something useful.  If you realized your mistake after you said  ברוך אתה ה, you can finish off your sentence with the words למדני חוקיך, because in Tehillim (119:12) there is a passuk that says  ברוך אתה ה' למדני חוקיך, so you've done a fine thing- you said a passuk in Tehillim.  This is the advice of the Mechaber in OC 206:6, where he says:
נטל בידו פרי לאוכלו ובירך עליו ונפל מידו ונאבד או נמאס צריך לחזור ולברך אף על פי שהיה מאותו מין לפניו יותר כשבירך על הראשון.  וצריך לומר ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד על שהוציא שם שמים לבטלה ואם אמר כשנפל ברוך אתה ה' ולא אמר אלהינו יסיים ויאמר למדני חוקיך שיהא נראה כקורא פסוק ואין כאן מוציא שם שמים לבטלה אבל העומד על אמת המים מברך ושותה אף על פי שהמים ששותה לא היו לפניו כשבירך מפני שלכך נתכוין תחילה.

The Noda B'Yehuda, in his Tzlach (Brachos 39a, here,) adds another save.  He says that if you began your incorrect bracha, and realized the problem after you began the word Elokeinu, but you haven't said the whole word and only said "Elokei,"  you can convert your bad bracha into the passuk in Divrei Hayamim I 29:10, where it says ויברך דויד את ה לעיני כל הקהל ויאמר דויד ברוך אתה ה אלוקי ישראל אבינו מעולם ועד עולם.  Since, however, you will have begun in middle of the passuk by saying only ברוך אתה ה אלוקי ישראל אבינו מעולם ועד-עולם, you should still says Baruch Sheim, as required by the Mechaber in OC 206:6 in cases of Shem Shamayim Levatala.

Recently, some people (e.g., חבצלת השרון מהרב מרדכי קרליבך on this week's parsha) have suggested a further save.  If a person has already said Baruch Atta Hashem Elokeinu, what can he do?  He should say our passuk, ה אלקינו דבר אלינו בחרב לאמר רב לכם שבת בהר הזה, because then, we can ignore the Baruch Atta, and the words Hashem Elokeinu will be the beginning of our passuk.
It could be that this is simply a case where nobody thought of this before.  Indeed, he says that he brought the suggestion to Harav Eliashiv and Harav Kanievsky and they approved of the idea.
On the other hand, one might argue that this suggestion is flawed, because in a bracha, the Sheim Hashem is an Object, while in our passuk, it is the Subject.  (In the sentence "Bless You, Hashem," the word "you" is the Object of the sentence.  In "Hashem told us...," the word "Hashem" is the Subject.)  Does this matter?  Sometimes words might be intended either as subject or an object, such as in the five pesukim listed in Yoma 52a ( שאת משוקדים מחר ארור וקם).   But in those cases, they are either one or the other.  There are, though, some cases where Chazal darshen that a word as inherently intended to be both object and subject, as in the hava amina in Menachos 19 in Reb Shimon (and as the Sfas Emes suggests in Yoma as well).  But here, if  you change the Sheim from object to subject,  you are attempting to change the essential meaning of the Sheim, and that cannot be done.

great unknown, in the comments, brings the Gemara in Brachos 12a, 
פשיטא היכא דקא נקיט כסא דחמרא בידיה וקסבר דשכרא הוא ופתח ומברך אדעתא דשכרא וסיים בדחמרא יצא דאי נמי אם אמר שהכל נהיה בדברו יצא דהא תנן על כולם אם אמר שהכל נהיה בדברו יצא אלא היכא דקא נקיט כסא דשכרא בידיה וקסבר דחמרא הוא פתח ובריך אדעתא דחמרא וסיים בדשכרא מאי בתר עיקר ברכה אזלינן או בתר חתימה אזלינן ת"ש שחרית פתח ביוצר אור וסיים במעריב ערבים לא יצא פתח במעריב ערבים וסיים ביוצר אור יצא ערבית פתח במעריב ערבים וסיים ביוצר אור לא יצא פתח ביוצר אור וסיים במעריב ערבים יצא כללו של דבר הכל הולך אחר החתום שאני התם דקאמר ברוך יוצר המאורות הניחא לרב דאמר כל ברכה שאין בה הזכרת השם אינה ברכה שפיר אלא לר' יוחנן דאמר כל ברכה שאין בה מלכות אינה ברכה מאי איכא למימר אלא כיון דאמר רבה בר עולא כדי להזכיר מדת יום בלילה ומדת לילה ביום כי קאמר ברכה ומלכות מעיקרא אתרוייהו קאמר ת"ש מסיפא כללו של דבר הכל הולך אחר החתום כללו של דבר לאתויי מאי לאו לאתויי הא דאמרן לא לאתויי נהמא ותמרי ה"ד אילימא דאכל נהמא וקסבר דתמרי אכל ופתח אדעתא דתמרי וסיים בדנהמא היינו בעיין לא צריכא כגון דאכל תמרי וקסבר נהמא אכל ופתח בדנהמא וסיים בדתמרי [יצא] דאפילו סיים בדנהמא נמי יצא מאי טעמא דתמרי נמי מיזן זייני:
which discusses whether a person who thinks he has a glass of wine, and says Baruch Atta Hashem, and realizes it is beer, and finishes with Shehakol, whether this person fulfills his chiyuv bracha.  The Gemara does not state a conclusion.
In OC 209, MB SK 6, he says that although by brachos that are miderabanan we rely on the kula, and you are yotzei, by brachos that are de'oraysa we are machmir and require that he repeat the bracha, because, apparently, we lean toward the opinion that the kavana while he says the Sheim Umalchus is the main part of the bracha, and kavana for one purpose cannot be recharacterized.  

So, the bottom line is, that the reason the Mechaber's idea and the Tzlach's idea work, is because the switched ending is consistent with the idea of bracha in general- lamdeini chukecha, or Dovid Hamelech's bracha of Hashem.  But here, forget about the minor change from Object to Subject.  We're trying to change it from Bracha to recitation of history.  That kind of change doesn't work even toch kdei dibbur.

Yasher koach, great unknown.  However, as great unknown points out in his comment, although the tzushtell to the Gemara is excellent, once you bring in the Mishna Berura who says you can't even repurpose a bracha de'oraysa once you've said the sheim umalchus, then we have a problem with the advice about Lamdeini Chukecha!  Because if  you can't change the kavana of the Sheim from Hagafen to Shehakol, you certainly can't change it from Shehakol to Lamdeini Chukecha..


great unknown said...

In support of your hesitance to accept this as a panacea, ayin the sugya of hischil b'... v'siyaim b'..., Berachot 12a, where once there is a specific object for the Sheimos of the bracha, it cannot be changed to a different object.

I suspect that these eitzot is in the geder of "it can't hoyt."

b said...

Great tzushtell.

Eli said...

Maybe in Brachot 12a the problem is lack of proper kavana for the correct Bracha, and not the incorrect kavana for the incorrect Bracha that has been said. That is, there is no problem in nullifying kavana from a Sheim already said and then using it for a general purpose, which does not require any kavana whatsoever (like just saying a Pasuk). Thus, Lamdeini Chukeicha should work, and also the Chavatzelet HaSharon's solution. If the above is correct, and for a Pasuk the specific kavana for the Sheim is not an issue as long as you say the Pasuk properly, changing from object to subject should not be a problem either.

Parenthetically, I'm not sure "Hashem" in "Baruch Ata Hashem" is an object at all. It could be a synonym to 'Ata' (forgot the grammatical term), as if we say: You, i.e. Hashem, are Baruch.

Efrayim said...

The advice the Shulchan Aruch gives is for a case when you weren't mechuyav in a brachah at all, even me'drabbanan. The MB is just saying that for burchas hamazon the wrong intentions when you start invalidate your kiyum. Re Eli's point about atah - there's a big machlokes about that, I thing R' Chaim Volozhiner held atah is a subject.

b said...

I'm starting with the kal and moving toward the chamur.

1. Eli, the term is appositive. Atta. Who is Att? Elokeinu. Basically the same grammatical function.

2. Efrayim, you're right. According to Reb Chaim Volozhiner, Atta is the subject that begins an independent clause. To tell the truth, once great unknown brought in the Gemara, what I had brought up became trivial.

3. Efrayim's point that the Mechaber is talking about a bracha you're not chayav to make, I don't know what you mean. We're talking about birkas hanehnin. And the MB is pointing out the difference between safel lehakel and birkas hamazon, since the Gemara remains with a baya delo ifsheta.

4. As for Eli's idea that a passuk cures shem levatala regardless of kavana, here's where I stand. I agree with Eli. Although a bracha begun with the wrong intent is levatala, a passuk is kosher no matter with what kavana it was begun with. This certainly would accord with the Aruch Hashulchan in 209.
However, that may be only where the passuk has the form of a bracha as well. But if you begin a bracha, and try to entirely change the function of the Sheim into part of a passuk, that, I think, cannot work. I do NOT mean that there's a separate din of Bracha levatala besides Sheim levatala. I'm just saying that if you began it as a bracha, you can't make it into a passuk- unless the passuk is a bracha.

tzvee said...

You say, "the halacha is that if you had already davenned e.g. mincha, and started shmoneh esrei again without remembering that you had davenned already, you are making a bracha le'vatala, and you stop in middle of a bracha." Are you certain that is the law? I always think of the saying of R. Yohanan, "For said R. Yohanan, 'But oh, that a person might [have the opportunity to] pray all day long…'" (p. 35 of my Yerushalmi Berakhot translation). That implies you can/should daven as much as possible, i.e., no limit on how many times you can say minchah.

Also are you really "fixing a mistake" or are you "cleverly avoiding a mistake"? I think the latter.

Oh, did you see my new book yet? On Amazon you can look inside it at and you can also buy it! It has a chapter on berakhot as meditations.

b said...

If you don't know who tzvee is, here's a line from his page on Amazon:
Since 2006, his popular Judaica-oriented current-events blog, Tzvee's Talmudic Blog (, has logged more than one million page views.
Let me tell you that one million page views for a blog that engages the mind is a lot.

b said...

Although I knew of your work on Bavli Chulin, I didn't know you translated the Yerushalmi. Remarkable.

As for the Halacha: in Bavli Brachos 21a Rav Yochanan is immediately followed by Shmuel who says that one who, in middle of Tefilla, remembers that he davened already, must stop even in middle of a Bracha. The Bahag, and the Mechaber after him, paskens like Reb Yochanan where the person is not sure if he davened, and like Shmuel where he knows for a fact that he davened. That is, like Shmuel, we require some "chiddush," some innovation in the voluntary Tefilla. If he's not sure if he davenned, the release from doubt qualifies as the innovation. If he's sure he davenned, then his voluntary Tefilla has to be innovative and intended, from beginning to end, as voluntary. Where you remember in middle, it's too late to re-characterize the Tefilla, so you must immediately stop.
See, e.g., Rambam 1 Tefilla 3, OC 107:1 and 4. As always, the best review of the evolution of this halacha is to be found in the Aruch Hashulchan OC 107.

tzvee said...

but does anyone say that davening minchah twice or three times is a berakhah levatallah?

b said...

Yes, Reb Tzvee, all the recorded poskim, from the early rishonim and on, agree that repeating Mincha is a bracha levatala, unless you make it a tfilat nedava, which requires that you have perfect focus on the meaning of every word and that you add something that was not in the previous Shmoneh Esrei tefillot.

tzvee said...

what do you think of this law? if you wait 24 hours and repeat minchah, that's okay, that's good. but if you wait an hour or two and repeat it, it's not good. discuss.

b said...

Tzvee (Dr. Zahavy) wrote:

what do you think of this law? if you wait 24 hours and repeat minchah, that's okay, that's good. but if you wait an hour or two and repeat it, it's not good. discuss.

b answers:

I don't think I can respond adequately, but here's my attempt.
First, what you are saying is absolutely true. If one chooses to pray all day, that is virtuous. One may say Tehillim, or say a Krovetz, or meditate upon Barchi Nafshi. Shmoneh Esrei is different: It was composed as a face to face prayer. Unique to Shmoneh Esrei, one's demeanor and state of mind must be like an עומד לפני המלך. We presume no inherent right to approach Hashem, and do so only in certain conditions: that the Avos did so and taught us to follow in their path, and in an echo of the Korbanot.

If a person insists on adding a Tefillas Nedava, he'd better be sure that he has kavana for every single word, because it would be a chutzpa to blithely walk in to the king and distractedly begin dreaming about some trivial matter. It would be not only a chutzpa, it would be an offense of lese-majesty.

Additionally, please see Mishlei 25:16-17, where it says
טז דְּבַשׁ מָצָאתָ, אֱכֹל דַּיֶּךָּ: פֶּן-תִּשְׂבָּעֶנּוּ, וַהֲקֵאתוֹ.
יז הֹקַר רַגְלְךָ, מִבֵּית רֵעֶךָ: פֶּן-יִשְׂבָּעֲךָ, וּשְׂנֵאֶךָ.

These psukim are taken to be a warning that excessive familiarity can cause damage to the relationship, passuk 16 regarding the effect on the person, and 17 from the perspective of G-d.

That's the best I can do.