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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pleasure from this World (Part 2: Approach)

In this post we explain the position of the Ri, as elucidated by R' Akiva Eiger. We begin by examining the gemara in Brachos 35a.
אלא סברא הוא אסור לו לאדם שיהנה מן העולם הזה בלא ברכה
The basis of ברכת הנהנין is rooted in logical reasoning (a svara) that it is prohibited to benefit from this world without a ברכה.

It seems clear that pure logical reasoning has a status like something De'oraysa (from the Torah).  In a sense, svaros are conceptually prior to the Torah (the Rabanan do not make them up).  In fact, the gemara often says "Why do I need a Passuk? It is a svara!" (See Bava Kamma 46b, for an example).  This is because the halachic system of 613 mitzvos is a synthesis between Divine decrees (g'zairus hakasuv) and compelling, legal and philosophical truths.  Therefore, a svara is accorded the same level of stringency that any other De'oraysa would have.

If so, what do we mean when we say that the Rabanan set up ברכת הנהנין?  It means that they took this Torah prohibition based in svara, and gave its מתיר (that which permits the food) a specific, definite form. Before they came along, the Torah prohibition could have been avoided by any recognition of God as the source of this food (a philosophical ברכה), irrespective of the particular form. The Rabanan, however, gave this מתיר a very specific form.  One can no longer give his own praise, but must follow the rigors of the laws of  ברכות.

Now we can understand R' Akiva Eiger's explanation of the Ri. Although the particular commandment of ברכת הנהנין is derabanan, it is merely the form of  removing the Torah prohibition generated by the svara. Thus, if a doubt arises as to whether one has fulfilled their obligation of ברכה, it must be treated as a safek de'oraysa, and he must therefore make a new bracha.

Based upon this explanation, how can we explain the position of the Rif?  How does he argue on this point?  How can we define the machlokes between the Ri and the Rif?


  1. It seems like you could explain the machlokes between the Ri and Rif very locally. Although the Rif agrees that the inyan of bracha is a svara which preceeds the derabanon tzuras habracha, the halachik character of the brachos is nevertheless derabanon. To insist as the Ri does, on incorperating the deorisa-esq character of bracha into your consideration of safeik is a philosophical imposition. Halacha, according to the Rif, does not consider the character of the inyan when determining the deoriysa v derabanon nature of something. Rather, the halachik structure itself is machriya whether you are looking at a deoriysa or a derabanon.

    1. isnt the issur generated by the svara a halachic structure?


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