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Berachos 54


OPINIONS: The Mishnah cites the verse "Es la'Asos..." as another source that one may use the name of Hashem to greet his fellow man. The Mishnah then quotes Rebbi Nasan who reverses the order of the two phrases in the verse. What is Rebbi Nasan adding?


(a) RASHI and the BARTENURA seem to explain that Rebbi Nasan is merely explaining the last verse that the Mishnah cited. The verse says, "A time to act for Hashem, annul the Torah," and Rebbi Nasan explains that this means that one should "annul the Torah" *in the event* that it is "a time to act for Hashem." That is, even though it appears to be against the Torah to use the name of Hashem to greet someone, nevertheless our Sages permitted it in order to increase peace among people (as another verse states, "Bakesh Shalom v'Radfehu" -- "Seek peace and pursue it"), and therefore it is considered "acting for the sake of Hashem."

(b) The RAMBAM explains that Rebbi Nasan and the first Tana are arguing about the explanation of the verse (the Rambam's text of the Mishnah did not have the word "Mishum"). Rebbi Nasan explains that the verse is saying that when people do not keep the Torah (for example, they treat with disrespect the enactments that were just mentioned at the end of the Mishnah) -- "[when they] annul the Torah"-- then Hashem will punish them -- "a time *for Hashem to punish*." (Rebbi Nasan, according to the Rambam, interprets the word "la'Asos" not as "to act" or "to do," but "to punish.") The first Tana is saying something entirely different. When it is time for Hashem to punish people (for previous sins) -- "a time for Hashem to punish"-- the people will transgress the Torah -- "they will annul the Torah" -- *so that* the punishment that comes to them is [clearly seen by all to be] justified. Even though this seems to contradict the notion of free choice, the Rambam alludes to what he wrote in Hilchos Teshuva 5:5, that Hashem's knowledge of future sin is one of the things that is beyond our comprehension.

QUESTION: The Mishnah gives a list of different blessings that one is obligated to recite on various occasions. One of those is a blessing upon seeing a place at which miracles were wrought for the Jewish people. Concerning this blessing, the Gemara asks, "What is the source for this blessing?" The Gemara does not ask for the source of all the other blessings in the Mishnah (RASHI DH Hachi Garsinan). Why not? Furthermore, usually the Gemara asks for the source of a Halachah when that Halachah is mid'Oraisa. Here, though, we are discussing blessings that were instituted by the Rabanan, so what is the need to ask for a source?

ANSWER: We learned earlier (35a) that the obligation to recite blessings is a rabbinical obligation based on "Sevara," logic. If so, the source for reciting almost all of the blessings in our Mishnah is the logic that if one derives benefit from something in this world, he must recite a blessing. This logic, however, does not seem to apply to one blessing -- the blessing on miracles. When Hashem performs a miracle for a person, that person usually must worry that his merits in heaven have decreased (that is, instead of receiving a greater degree of eternal reward for his Mitzvah observance in the World to Come, this miracle was performed for him in this world). If so, it would not seem appropriate to recite a blessing for such a situation.

Furthermore, all the blessings in the Mishnah are recited at the moment that the event occurs. The blessing for a miracle, though, is recited long after the event has occurred, which also seems counterintuitive.

Finally, the blessing for a miracle that happened to the Jewish people is recited even by someone for whom the miracle did not occur! For these reasons, the blessing for a miracle seems to go against logic, and therefore the Gemara asks for the source for this blessing. (TZELACH; the P'NEI YEHOSHUA suggests a similar explanation.)


The Gemara relates how Hashem miraculously saved the Jews from the mountain that the giant Og wanted to toss on them. The RASHBA explains at length that it is not necessary to accept this Gemara in its literal meaning. It may be taken allegorically, as follows:
(a) "Og lifted a rock large enough to cover the entire encampment of Israel." The Gemara in Nidah 61a says that in Parshas Vayera (Bereishis 14:13) when someone comes to notify Avraham of Lot's capture, that person was Og. The Gemara explains that Moshe Rabeinu was afraid that this merit would prevent them from conquering Og and entering Israel. Og was confident for the same reason, since he had the merit of Avraham while the Jews themselves should have lost his merit since, as the Midrash tells us, they served Avodah Zarah in Egypt just like the Egyptians (and they sinned in the desert with the Golden Calf). Og felt that merit of Avraham was on his side.

The Gemara (Rosh ha'Shanah 11a, Sanhedrin 81a) tells us that the forefathers are compared to mountains. Og lifted up the merit of Avraham onto his own shoulders, and tried to reverse its effects, using it to destroy the Jewish People instead of protecting them.

(b) "Locusts ('Kamtzi,' according to the Aruch) infested the mountain. They ate through the mountain until it crashed down onto his head. He couldn't remove it because his teeth extended and anchored it in place" Locusts are a metaphor for the people of Israel. The verse compares Israel to an ox that completely devours all the grass around it (Bamidbar 22:4) because the power of the Bnai Yisrael is in their *mouth* (Rashi, ibid.). For the same reason, they may be compared to locusts, who wreak havoc on growing produce. The Jews overcame Og and the merit of the forefathers defended their descendants, the Jewish People.

(c) "Moshe Rabeinu, who was ten Amos tall, took an ax ten Amos long, jumped ten Amos and struck Og in the ankle, which knocked him down and killed him." Moshe Rabeinu was not able to conquer the merits of Og without first invoking the merits of all of the nation of Israel and their forefathers.

"Moshe was ten amos tall" -- this refers to Moshe Rabeinu's own merits that were needed. "He took an ax ten Amos long" -- he used the combined merits of the Jewish People, who were together with him like a tool which one carries in his hand. "He jumped up ten Amos" -- he jumped up to the previous generations to invoke the merits of the forefathers. This combined effort managed to strike down Og.

The Rashba does not explain why the number "ten" is used, other than suggesting that 10 Amos was Moshe's height (as in Shabbos 92a). Perhaps Moshe's ten Amos represent the merit of the ten Makos that he brought upon Egyptians, the ten Amos of the ax represent the merit of the Ten Commandments that the Jews accepted, and the ten Amos that he jumped represent the ten tests that Avraham endured out of his love for Hashem.

(d) What remains to be explained is how one may recite a blessing on a rock that never existed (according to the Rashba's allegorical explanation)? The Rashba answers that the blessing is recited on a rock or group of rocks (catapult rocks) that Og had prepared as artillery to throw upon the Jews. These tremendous rocks demonstrate the miraculous salvation of the Jews from Og's scheming. The suggestion that Og lifted an entire 3x3 Parsa mountain above his head single-handedly, however, was only allegorical. This, explains the Rashba, is why the Gemara says that the blessing is recited on the "rock" that Og wanted to throw, while the story describes the "mountain" with which he wanted to destroy the Jews.

QUESTION: The Gemara relates that after Rav Yehudah had recovered from a life-threatening illness, the Rabanan said to him, "Blessed is Hashem Who gave you back to us!" to which Rav Yehudah responded, "You have exempted me from my obligation to recite a blessing of thanksgiving." The Gemara asks how he is exempt if he did not say anything, and answers that he said "Amen" after their blessing.

What is the Gemara's question? We know that a person fulfills his obligation to recite a blessing through hearing someone else say the blessing ("Shomei'a k'Onah"), even if he does not respond "Amen!" (See Insight 21:3.)


(a) One does not have to respond "Amen" to someone else's blessing to fulfill his own obligation when the person reciting the blessing is also *obligated* to recite it. If he is not obligated to recite the blessing, however, (such as is the case in our Gemara), one who *is* obligated must respond "Amen" in order to fulfill his obligation. (TUR OC 219, cited in the MA'ADANEI YOM TOV and DIVREI CHAMUDOS)

(b) The RITVA explains that Rav Yehudah had to answer Amen since the Rabanan did not *have in mind* to exempt him from his obligation with their exclamation.

The logic behind these two suggestions is perhaps one and the same. When one fulfills his obligation through "Shomei'a k'Onah," the one who listens fulfills his obligation through the *other person's* utterance. Therefore, when the other person fulfills no obligation, then the person listening cannot fulfill his obligation either, since he did not say the blessing himself. Similarly, the Mevarech must have in mind to exempt the listener from his Berachah, and he must use the exact wording that the listener will use. When one answers "Amen" after hearing a blessing, it is as if he himself said the words of the blessing that came out of the other person's mouth.

(c) REBBI AKIVA EIGER suggests that Rav Yehudah had to say "Amen" since the Rabanan expressed the Berachah in a manner that would not have been enough for him had he not altered their wording -- that is, they thanked Hashem in the third person (that "you" survived, referring to Rav Yehudah), while he had to thank Hashem in the first person (that "I" survived).

(d) The RE'AH says that Rav Yehudah would also have fulfilled his obligation through "Shomei'a k'Onah" if he had not answered "Amen." (The Re'ah did not have the question, "But [Rav Yehudah] did not say anything," in his Gemara. This was also the text of the RIF.)

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