God vs The Multiverse

Click here for God vs The Multiverse: a rational argument for the Existence of One God who intelligently designed one universe.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Pleasure from this World (Part 3: Svara)

The machlokes between the Rif and the Ri revolves around the interpretation of the svara that "it is אסור to derive benefit from this world without a ברכה."

According to the Ri, the svara generates an איסור to eat without a ברכה.  Being that this איסור is Biblical (because it's generated by svara), the role of the Rabanan is merely to give form to the מתיר (the action which permits this איסור). Thus, when there's a doubt over whether one has made a proper ברכה thereby removing the איסור, it must be still viewed as a doubt regarding a Biblical prohibition.  The key idea for the Ri is that the מתיר is the very act of making a ברכה.  If you have not actually made a ברכה, the איסור is still in place.

The Rif agrees that the svara generates a איסור of Biblical status.  However, the Rif argues that the מתיר is to be a גברא (a type of person) who benefits from this world with a proper recognition of God (someone who makes a ברכה before he eats).  If a person is a גברא who has this recognition, but for some excusable reason does not say a  ברכה before a particular act of eating, then he would not be in violation of this svara.  The key idea for the Rif is that the מתיר is the גברא of ברכה.

Based upon this understanding of the svara, the Rif understands the Rabbinic institution of ברכה as giving a concrete form to creating and acting as this גברא (perhaps they observed that people were not in line with this ideal without saying a specific ברכה each time). How does one become this גברא? Through following Hilchos Brachos, as constructed by the Rabanan.  If a safek arises, then one follows the ordinary rule which applies by brachos and all derabanans, which allows him to be lenient. His omission of  ברכה  based on this rule is not viewed as a violation (even if he was truly obligated to say the ברכה), but as an expression of the commitment of the גברא to the institution of ברכה as codified by the Rabanan.

We conclude this post with a related question which must be examined carefully according to the Ri and the Rif.  An אונן, someone whose relative has died but has not yet been buried, is exempt/prohibited from doing all positive commandments, but is still warned against negative violations. For instance, he is not obligated in prayer, but he still cannot eat pig.

Does an אונן make ברכת הנהנין?  Do we view this as a positive commandment to make a ברכה before eating, which he should be exempt from? Or, should we view it as a negative commandment to eat without a  ברכה, which he should be warned against? The answer is (Yorah Deah 341:1, based on Brachos 17b) that he does not make a ברכה, but is allowed to eat anyways.  How can we understand this halacha according to the Ri and the Rif, respectively?


  1. Perhaps Onen is defined as the state of shock that one experiences after the death of a close relative. An aspect of this state would be the removal from experiencing physical pleasure. Chazal instituted certain Halachos to ensure that a person is in that state, as we see that an Onen is also forbidden from eating meat, drinking wine, and engaging in Tashmish HaMitah. Therefore, maybe you can say that any Achilah that an Onen does is one that is void of Hana'ah, rather it is merely to sustain himself, so the whole Issur of benefiting from this world without a Bracha would not be Chal on him.

    1. its an interesting approach

      however, it seems to us that a person's reaction to the death of relative is a highly subjective phenomenon. some people react like you said (they cant enjoy food). yet some react in the other way and seek food out as a source of comfort.

      it seems hard for us to say that every person who is an onen is incapable of enjoying food. It's an interesting approach if your willing to accept that.


In the words of Agur bin-Yakeh: "We welcome all comments, questions, contributions, and critiques - but if you insist on posting anonymously, PLEASE use a pseudonym rather than posting as "Anonymous," since this makes it much easier to carry on a normal discussion. Thank you!"