The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit
Yeshivat Har Etzion
152 - 154
Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon
MUST ONE STAND DURING THE
RECITAL OF BIRKOT HA-TORAH?
The Avudraham (in his siddur, weekday Shacharit) writes that there are
six mitzvot which must be performed while standing, and their initials spell
"alotz shalem": [the cutting of the] omer, [kiddush] levana, tzitzit, shofar,
lulav, and mila.
However, there exists another opinion (Avudraham; Eshkol at the beginning
of siman 23; and the Ittur) stating that for any mitzva which does not involve
hana'a - enjoyment or benefit - to its performer, one recites its berakha
standing. It remains to be seen,
though, whether birkot ha-Torah are birkot ha-mitzva or birkot ha-nehenin. (One could possibly distinguish between
the two berakhot. See Rav
Soloveitchik's "Shiurim Le-zekher Abba Mari.")
Practically speaking, it is preferable to stand, although those who sit
do have upon whom to rely (see Yechaveh Da'at vol. V, siman 4, who rules that it
is permissible to say birkot ha-Torah while sitting).
The gemara in Berakhot 11b cites the formula "la'asok be-divrei Torah" -
to be involved - as do the Rosh, the Tur, and others. However, the Talmidei Rabbeinu Yona have
simply "al divrei Torah," and this is accepted by the Shulchan Arukh, se'if
The Bach and the Taz prefer "la'asok," in accordance with the dictum of
Chazal, "'If you walk in My laws' (Vayikra 26:3) - this means that you should
toil in Torah."
The Peri Chadash asks regarding this berakha, what must an am ha-aretz
(ignoramus, non-scholar) do? A
logical answer is that the mitzva of toiling in Torah is subjective - each
according to his abilities and strengths - and this is incumbent even upon an am
See the ruling of the Mishna Berura in 47:8 (Sephardim hold the custom of
Tosafot, the Rosh, and the Tur all believe that "la'asok" and
"ve-ha'arev" are one berakha, while the Rambam and the Rashba say that they are
The Rema rules that it is best to say "ve-ha'arev" with a "vav," and the
Mishna Berura (47:12) explains that by this means one succeeds in taking into
account as well the opinion that it is one berakha .
It is important to refrain from answering "amen" (between "la'asok" and
"ve-ha'arev") when fulfilling one's obligation through hearing the berakha from
another (e.g., if one stayed awake all day and night), since according to the
opinion that it is one berakha, this would be a hefsek. Omitting the "amen" is not a problem
even if they are two separate berakhot, because be-di'avad one is considered to
have fulfilled this requirement by simply listening - "shomei'a
LEARNING AFTER BIRKOT
HA-TORAH (SE'IF 9):
The gemara in Berakhot discusses the case of one who said "Ahava rabba"
before he said birkot ha-Torah:
"Said R. Yehuda in the name
of Shmuel: One who got up early to learn before reciting Keriyat Shema must say
[birkot ha-Torah]; after reciting Keriyat Shema he need
not say the berakhot, since he already exempted himself with 'Ahava
This indicates clearly that after "Ahava rabba" one is exempt from birkot
Tosafot (s.v. She-kevar) cite a Yerushalmi which elaborates upon the view
quoted above: "This is so if he learned on the spot." And Tosafot explain that it means if he
learned immediately. They then
raise the following question:
"And it was asked to Ha-rav
Rabbeinu Yitzchak, 'The likes of us, who do not learn immediately following
Shacharit, for we are busy and go without learning until the middle of the day
or later - why do we not say birkot ha-Torah again when we begin to
Tosafot offer two
"And R. Yitzchak responded:
Because we do not accept
that Yerushalmi as halakha, since our gemara [the Bavli] does not say
And furthermore, even
according to the Yerushalmi, it is specifically with 'Ahava rabba,' which was
not formulated primarily for birkat ha-Torah but rather for Keriyat Shema, that
one is not exempted from the obligation of birkot ha-Torah if he does not learn
immediately afterward. But the
berakhot of 'asher bachar banu' and 'la-asok be-divrei Torah,' whose primary
function is for birkot ha-Torah, provide an exemption for the entire
Tosafot conclude by pointing out that there is no halakhic need for our
minhag of reciting verses after birkot ha-Torah:
"Those from France are
accustomed to say verses and birkat kohanim and 'These are the things with no
prescribed amount' - which is a mishna - and 'These are the things of which one
eats the fruit' - which is a beraita, all because of the Yerushalmi which
requires learning on the spot; but it is not necessary, as I have already
The poskim debate the meaning of this Tosafot:
The Beit Yosef understands that in order to fulfill the obligation by
saying "Ahavat olam" [this is the nusach Sephard counterpart to "Ahava rabba" in
nusach Ashkenaz], one must learn immediately afterwards (i.e., after Shemoneh
Esrei), thus demonstrating that for him it is birkat ha-Torah. But the birkot ha-Torah which were
specifically formulated for this purpose do not need this (though it is
preferable). See his comments on
The majority of Acharonim, however, interpret Tosafot differently. The Bach writes, in fact, that the Beit
Yosef misunderstood the Tosafot.
He, together with the Maharshal, the Darkei Moshe, the Elia Rabba, and
the Gra, explain that one must learn after birkot ha-Torah as well as after
"Ahavat olam." The difference is
that after birkot ha-Torah, any type of learning will suffice (hence the custom
of saying the sections relating to the daily offerings, etc.) since it is
self-evident that these berakhot relate to the learning of Torah. However, after "Ahavat olam," which is
not necessarily a berakha about the learning of Torah, the recital of a passage
which can be seen as something other than learning (e.g., Keriyat Shema) is not
sufficient; true, substantive learning is required in
order to make clear that at this time "Ahavat olam" is serving a second function
- that of birkat ha-Torah.
We can clarify this latter opinion by examining the two separate purposes
of learning Torah after "Ahavat olam":
1) To fulfill the obligation
posed by the berakha, just as any other mitzva must be fulfilled immediately
following its berakha (and just as any food must be partaken of immediately
following its berakha, etc.).
2) To transform "Ahavat
olam," which is essentially one of the berakhot of Keriyat Shema (albeit with
fundamental elements of acceptance and learning of Torah), into a birkat
The recital of Keriyat Shema which always follows "Ahavat olam" serves
function (1) but not (2), since it does not share the usual characteristics of
If one has said the standard birkot ha-Torah, then goal (2) is not
necessary, since the wording of the berakhot indicates their nature. Goal (1), though, is still needed, as
with any mitzva. For this, the
saying of korbanot and the like is sufficient, even though it is not, strictly
speaking, the usual type of Torah study.
According to this opinion (of the majority of Acharonim), if one did not
learn immediately following birkot ha-Torah but had an interruption in between,
he must repeat the berakhot.
See M.B. 47:19. Determine
which is his true opinion. What
solution does he nevertheless propose in order to suit all
FULFILLING THE OBLIGATION
WITH "AHAVAT OLAM" (SE'IFIM 7,8):
As we have seen in the previous source, it is possible to fulfill this
obligation with the berakha of "Ahavat olam" (or "Ahava rabba" according to
Nusach Ashkenaz) with the condition that one learn immediately afterwards. It is true that according to the first
solution offered in Tosafot we do not rule like this Yerushalmi, but in fact the
poskim do accept it.
Does Keriyat Shema count as Torah study for this purpose? See the Shulchan Arukh in se'if 8, and
in contrast the opinion of the Gra, the Elia Rabba, and others which is cited in
Can one le-chat'khila choose to fulfill the obligation with "Ahavat olam"
instead of birkot ha-Torah? The
gemara and the Tosafot make it clear that "Ahavat olam" is effective for this
purpose. The Rashba citing the
Ra'avad, and the Tosafot R. Yehuda Ha-chasid, however, understand that it is
effective only for learning which is accomplished immediately after Shemoneh
Esrei - not for the rest of the day.
The Mishna Berura writes in several places that in practice, in cases of
doubt, the ideal thing to do is to have in mind to fulfill the obligation with
"Ahavat olam," and to learn immediately afterwards.
ONE WHO ARRIVES LATE; ONE
Ideally, one should say birkot ha-Torah before "Ahavat olam" (M.B.
52:2). Regarding one who remembers
in the middle of pesukei de-zimra that he has omitted birkot ha-Torah, the
Mishna Berura seems to say (51:10) that he should say all the berakhot and even
birkat kohanim, since there are those who say that no verses may be recited
before birkot ha-Torah. In
contrast, in Yabia Omer (vol. IV, 7:10) it is written that he should say only
"asher bachar" with the remaining one (or two) to be said between Yishtabach and
If one remembered after having begun the berakhot of Keriyat Shema, the
Peri Megadim (siman 52) instructs him to specifically intend in "Ahavat olam"
not to fulfill his obligation of birkot ha-Torah; this way he can say birkot
ha-Torah after Shemoneh Esrei (this is effective even according to the opinion
that mitzvot do not require kavana).
In Yabia Omer, however, it is written that he should say them between
"Yotzer ohr" and "Ahavat olam" (see Yalkut Yosef p. 58). And the Mishna Berura, whose opinion
becomes clear in the Biur Halakha (siman 52 s.v. U-mikol makom, near the end)
rules that he should have the intention to fulfill the mitzva with "Ahavat olam"
and learn after Shemoneh Esrei.
If he only remembered after having begun "Ahavat olam," he should do as
the Biur Halakha ruled in the case above.
THE COMMUNAL BIRKOT
We will mention here only a few points.
An individual recites no berakha after his learning. The Shibbolei Ha-leket and the Beit
Yosef explain that this is because there is no time when the obligation to learn
Torah ceases. However, one who is
called to the Torah during the community's public Torah reading does recite a
berakha afterward, for the greater glory of Torah (see Tosafot, Rosh Ha-shana
33a s.v. Ve-hu).
One who is called to the Torah before having recited birkot ha-Torah
should go ahead, and later say the other two berakhot.
BEING AWAKE ALL NIGHT (SE'IF
We have already discussed this in depth in siman 4 regarding birkot
ha-Torah and all the other morning berakhot - see the Shulchan Arukh in se'if
12, and the Mishna Berura there who cites R. Akiva Eiger. See also what we wrote in siman
ARISING BEFORE DAWN (SE'IF
See the Shulchan Arukh and the Mishna Berura, who say that one can say
birkot ha-Torah starting from chatzot (halakhic midnight), even if he plans to
go to sleep afterward.
shiur was translated by Pnina Baumgarten.)