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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pleasure from this World (Part 1: The Facts)

Everyone knows the principle of safek derabanan lekula (when a doubt arises in a Rabbinic commandment or prohibition, one has a right to be lenient). A derivative principle is safek brachos lehakel, one can be lenient regarding a doubt arising about a ברכה, as ברכות are generally an institution of Rabbinic origin. 

Not so simple. Tosafos (לא לאתויי נהמא) in Brachos 12a takes up a case where there is a doubt whether a person is obligated to say another ברכה on a particular cup of beer or not.  Being that the Gemara is inconclusive, Tosafos discusses the resolution:
ופירש רב אלפס השתא דלא אפשיטא בעיין אזלינן לקולא ואפילו פתח בחמרא וסיים בשכרא יצא. ור"י הי' אומר לחומרא דצריך לברך פעם אחרת
The Rif holds that he can be lenient (and drink the cup without saying another ברכה), in line with the general principle of safek brachos lehakel.  For some reason, the Ri maintains that he must make a new ברכה. Why? R' Akiva Eiger (in gilion ha'shas) explains that we do not say safek brachos lehakel by ברכת הנהנין, a ברכה said before eating, because there is a prohibition to eat (have pleasure from this world) without a ברכה (Brachos 35a). Rather, the principle that we are lenient by ברכות, applies only to ברכות that are said before performing mitzvos, where one can fulfill his mitzvah even without a ברכה.

This explanation is difficult to understand. Why should it matter whether the ברכה is based upon a positive commandment or a negative prohibition? It is still a derabanan institution and should follow the principle of safek derabanan lekula, which applies by rabbinic prohibitions as well!

More generally, how can we understand the disagreement between the Rif and the Ri?


  1. I'm not sure I understand RAE for a different reason. The gemara spells out the two tzads why we would either be machmir or not: do we go after the ikar bracha, that is, is the essential part of the bracha the beginning until "haolem" if it is we would have to repeat the blessing, because his mind was on gefen which is not motzi beer or after the the chasima in which case we don't.
    The machlokes would then be a shaila in what is the svara to say for each tzad; what is the reason we would say the begining is the ikar or the end is the iykar.

    1. The question in the gemara revolves around this conceptual question. However, the gemara does not conclude which tzad is correct. This leaves us with a safek what to do. We resolve a safek using general principles regarding sfekos. Herein lies the machlokes and RAE's explanation.

      Although the chakira in the gemara is interesting, that is not the subject of this post and requires a separate analysis.

    2. I understand what your'e saying, but still isn't the Gemara's question essentially a question of safek brachos. The gemara is sayting: we have two opposing reasons why we would or wouldn't say the bracha over again, that is to either go lahakel or lchumra, which is in essence a shaila of safek. Methodologically, I'm don't fully understand why you would take your approach. I get that it is a safek and the shaila should revolve around RAEs hesber, but then question should be on the gemara as to why it doesn't bring up RAE's explanation, but rather goes in a different direction. Thanks.

    3. The gemara's question is not a universal question of how to handle a safek about a birkas hanehenim, but is a particular question about whether a bracha is defined by its ikkar or by its chasima. Learning the sugya would entail defining that particular question further. It would not involve safek brachos at all. Given that the gemara doesnt resolve that particular theoretical question, the rishonim, as poskim, are faced with a safek and therefore must employ the universal principle of safek brachos lehakel to come to a decision. The Macholokes Rif/Ri and the explanation of RAE revolve around the scope of this universal principle. This is what we are discussing.

      For further analysis of the sugya itself, listen to my shiurim from 2008-2009 on this gemara (archived shiurim).

  2. Maybe the idea is that it's true that we apply the rule of safek derabanan lekulah even by issurei derabanan ( in which case R' Akiva Eiger (and the Ri) are difficult to understand), but maybe the idea is that here the issur isn't really introduced by the rabanana. As the gemara says, eating without a bracha is like meilah or gezeilah. However, you explain those ideas, clearly the gemara holds there's just an a priori svara for the need to make a bracha in order to permit food to yourself; the rabanan didn't introduce a new issur, but simply they were mechayev you in a certain tzurah of bracha. This definitely needs to be fleshed out, but it seems like a good approach because R. Akiva Eiger is saying that it's davka by birkas hanehenin, not all brachos. To be clear, what im saying is that this is a unique situation where the rabanan create the bracha but its to respond to a situation of isur that arises before the rabanan come to the scene. So they are formulating the tzurah of the bracha and the details, but the idea of the existence of food being assur without some recognition of God exists prior to the rabanan. The rabanan here are not instituting the isur, just formulating a halachic response to it. Seems like you have say something along these lines because obviously R' Akiva Eiger cannot be saying that it's simply the fact that there's an isur here that we suspend safek derabanan lekulah because we apply it also by isurei derabanan! So it would seem to be local to brachos, and actually even more local to bircas hanehenin.

    Still thinking about how you would define the machlokes.


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