God vs The Multiverse

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pleasure from this World (Part 6: Additional Points)

After we finished this piece, Gaby Novick showed us the unique, difficult position of the Behag, quoted by the Orchos Chayim, Hilchos Evel Siman 11 which explains the gemara in Brachos 17b that an אונן does not make a ברכה.
ואינו מברך פי' שאינו צריך לברך ברכת המוציא ולי נראה שמברך מפני שאסור לו לאכל בלא ברכה כך כתב הבעל הלכות ז"ל  
The Behag explains that this gemara means that the אונן is not required to make a  ברכה.  However, the Behag continues, "it seems to me that he should make a ברכה because it is forbidden to eat without a  ברכה" This position seems astounding, as he is openly contradicting the gemara which he is seeking to explain. Rishonim simply cannot do this!


In order to explain the Behag, we'll pursue a further question which was raised by Gaby. The gemara in Brachos 35a tried to derive the obligation from a verse. After being unsuccessful in this, the gemara concluded that it is based upon a svara that it is forbidden to eat without a ברכה.  It seems from this gemara that it would have been better to learn from a verse, and that svara is a lesser option. However, this seems to contradict the ordinary statement of the gemara  of "Why do I need a verse? It is a svara!" which implies the a svara is at least equivalent to a verse.


To answer this problem and that of the Behag, we suggest the following. There are two aspects to the institution of ברכת הנהנין on food.  Firstly, it is a מתיר of the איסור (svara) of eating without recognizing God. However, that is not all.  ברכת הנהנין, as with all ברכות, is a positive institution which functions to remind a person of God throughout his life. The Rambam in Hilchos Brachos 1:2-3 states
ב  ומדברי סופרים, חייב אדם לברך על כל מאכל תחילה, ואחר כך ייהנה ממנו.  וכן אם הריח ריח טוב, יברך ואחר כך ייהנה בו... וכל הנהנה מן העולם בלא ברכה, מעל.  וכן מדברי סופרים, חייב אדם לברך אחר כל שיאכל, וכל שישתה--והוא שישתה רביעית, והוא שיאכל כזית

ג  וכשם שמברכין על ההניה--כך מברכין על כל מצוה ומצוה, ואחר כך יעשה אותה.  וברכות רבות תיקנו חכמים דרך שבח והודיה, ודרך בקשה, כדי לזכור את הבורא תמיד, אף על פי שלא נהנה ולא עשה מצוה
Besides for merely avoiding an איסור, a person who makes a ברכה is involved in the positive fulfillment of  constantly remembering the Creator (כדי לזכור את הבורא תמיד).  The gemara in 35a wanted to know where the source for this positive aspect of ברכת הנהנין came from. If it had found a verse, then this aspect would have been from the Torah.  However, the gemara ultimately does not find a source and therefore must conclude that the positive aspect of ברכה is merely from the Rabbanan. However, there is an aspect of ברכה that is not only from the Rabbanan, and that is its role as a מתיר for the Torah prohibition (from svara) of benefiting from this world without a ברכה.


We can now explain the Behag. The gemara on 17b has a list of positive commandments which an אונן is exempt from.  ברכת הנהנין is included in this list, in the statement of ואינו מברך. But with regards to the prohibition generated by the svara, the Behag holds like possibiltiy (a) from post 4. There is an absolute prohibition to eat all food, and ברכה is the מתיר. Thus, he is still bound by the primary prohibition from svara of eating without a ברכה. Thus, he must make a ברכה simply to avoid this prohibition, even though he is exempt from the positive aspect of ברכה.


One may ask the following. If the bottom line is that the אונן must make a  ברכה anyway, why say ואינו מברך?  Who cares if his ברכה is coming from the positive or negative side? Either way he makes the  ברכה!  We answer that there is a nafka minah, that an אונן cannot make a ברכה for somebody else. Since he is really exempt from the positive institution of ברכה and his ברכה is merely functioning to remove the prohibition of eating without a  ברכה, the nature of his ברכה is qualitatively different and cannot function to exempt another person's ordinary obligation of ברכה. This halacha is derived from the gemara's statement ואינו מברך, and would not have been possible to know if the gemara had left out this phrase.    

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