Learn Along With the Yeshiva -– Berachot Chapter 1

Lesson #7 – Questions and Comments
Rabbi Mordechai Silverstein
The Conservative Yeshiva


View the English text for Berachot 12a-12b

View the Hebrew text for Berachot 12a-12b

Guide Questions and Issues

Part 1

This first one is a tough one but hang in there and don’t be afraid to ask if you have questions. Since it is difficult, I have refrained from normal style of leading by questions in favor of guidance for each step.

1. In this section, we return to the discussion of the Mishnah from which we took a bit of a vacation last week. We saved the discussion of this part of the Mishnah until now. While the Talmud quotes the portion of the Mishnah which deals with the length of the particular blessings, the subject of our discussion here is the later part of the Mishnah: “[The place where the sages ordained to end the blessing] with a closing [blessing], one is not permitted to not to close [with said blessing] and a place where they ordained not to close [with a closing blessing] one is not permitted to close.”

In order to understand this section of Talmud, a siddur that contains the traditional morning (shaharit) prayers and the traditional evening (maariv) prayers will be required.

In the morning prayers, immediately after Barchu, the blessing opens with a blessing: Blessed …Lord our God, King of the Universe, who forms light and created darkness, makes peace and creates all. This blessing is known as the “peticha” or opening of the first blessing. Its “hatima” or closing is “Blessed are You, who forms the radiant lights.”

In the evening prayers, the first blessing also opens with a peticha: Bless are You… who by His word brings on the evening and closes with a hatima: Blessed are You… who brings on evening.

I urge you to take a closer look at both of the morning and the evening blessing to gain some familiarity with them but for now we have enough information to get started.

2. The opening shealah requires a whole set of information on a different set of blessings so that, in the end, we can make a comparison between them and our blessings when faced by an unusual situation.

So now we are going to learn a little about the blessings recited over different beverages.

The blessing over wine is: bore peri hagafen –- who created the fruit of the vine.

Then blessing over all other beverages including beer is – shahalov niheye bidvaro –by whose word all things came to be”.

The situation we are faced with is one starts out reciting the wrong bracha but then corrects oneself at the end. Does one in such a situation fulfill one’s obligation to say a bracha or not?

As the shealah notes, staring over beer and ending over wine does not present a problem but the other way around might create a difficulty. And in this situation, we ask which part of the blessing counts – the initial form and intent or how one ends the blessing.

(In the next step, we will relate back to the blessings in the prayer services in order to answer this question.)

3. Here, in order to answer the question raised in step 2, we refer back to the blessings that are in our domain, namely, the prayers surrounding the Shma and, in particular, the first blessing(s) after Barchu which deal with creation. The baraita in step 3 deals with an analogous situation to the situation in the previous step.

What happens if you start out in the morning with the peticha for the morning prayer and end with the hatima of the evening prayer – the answer – one has not fulfilled one’s obligation; but if you started (in the morning) with the peticha for evening and ended with the hatima for morning then you have fulfilled your obligation. The same goes for the evening.

The bottom line in this baraita – it is the hatima that counts! And if we use this baraita to answer our question, then welearn from it that it is the ending or hatima in the brachot over drink whichcounts.

4. The Talmud rejects this analogy by asserting that there is a distinction (a hiluk) in the case of the prayers we recite after Barchu which make them different from the blessings over drink.

What is that distinction? – The blessings in the prayer service have a hatima – a blessing (baruch ata) at the end of the paragraph as well as at the beginning while the blessings over drink only have a single blessing at the beginning.

5. The explanation that we have given for the baraita in step 4 makes sense according to the opinion of the one of the Amoraim given here in step 5, but not according to the other. Rav validates blessings which mention God’s name. According to his opinion the hatimot in the blessings after Barchu are valid blessings. Rabbi Yochanan, on the other hand, only validates blessings that mention both God and His kingship. According to this opinion, the hatimot are invalid! BIG PROBLEM!!!!

6. The logic of the baraita can be explained another way and when we do so, it will no longer be a relevant model to answer the question we have about the mix up over saying blessings over wine and beer.

The content of the blessings after the Barchu, both during the morning prayers and the evening prayers, both mention day and night. In addition, the peticha in both of them mention both God and His kingship. The bottom line is that this source is no longer relevant in our quest to solve the problem of the mixed up blessing over wine/beer.

7. Time to turn to another possible teshuva. In this very same baraita which we just rejected, there is a statement at the end which might be instructive in our case: “Everything goes according to the hatima – the end. This would seem to answer our query regarding the mixed up wine/beer blessing.

8. The Talmud rejects this by asserting that this statement comes to resolve a similar situation where a person thought he ate bread but had really eaten dates instead. He starts is blessing after eating as if he had eaten dates, realizes in the middle that had really eaten bread and finishes the blessing after as birkat hamazon – grace after meals.

9. The Talmud does a double take and says that the situation in step 8 is analogous to our situation.

10. The Talmud rejects this analogy because technically if one at one’s fill of dates one could say birkat hamazon over that eating and it would not be wrong unlike our case with beer and wine.

Part 2

1. This section opens with two meimrot in the name of the same sage. In the first meimra, it teaches the obligatory nature of the prayers that follow the Shma both evening and morning, bringing a textual proof for this obligation. These sections opening on the theme of the truth and significance of the Torah and mitzvoth and then move onto the theme of redemption, culmination in the blessing “Gaal Yisrael – blessedis the One who redeemed Yisrael.”

Open up a siddur and check out these two paragraphs and then look up the Biblical verse and explain why this verse justifies the recitation of these passages.

2. In this second meimra, welearn the manner of bowing in prayer.

3. This meimra attempts togive textual credence to the practice mandated by Rav. Explain how this verse justifies the practice.

4. This kushya simply quotes averse from the prophet Malachi. How is this verse a challenge to the practice andproof in steps 2 and 3?

5. How does this step fend offthis challenge?

6. Samuel relates the teaching of Rav to his son.

7. In this step, we get are port on the bowing practices of Rav Sheshet.

Part 3

1. This meimra deals with anumber of the changes made in the daily Amida (standing prayer) for the period between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur.
One of these changes is in the blessing of the kiddusha where the ending changes from “holy God – הא-ל הקדוש ” to “holy King – המלך הקדוש ” since God’s kingship is a central theme of those days.

This theme is continued in the 11th blessing which deals with the theme of justice. Normally the hatima there is “Blessed are You, King who loves righteousness and justice – מלך אוהב צדקה ומשפט ”. Between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, it changes to “the King of justice – המלך המשפט ”.

2. In this step, we see a conflicting point of view with a perfectly good textual justification.

3.-5. As you can see from this step, this question was not answered definitively until late in the Talmudic period. In the middle of that period, there were sages who sided with Rav while others sided with Rabbi Elazar.

6. Ultimately the halacha was decided like Rabbah (like Rav) and that is what we do today.

Go to Next Class – Berachot 12b-13b