The Blessing of "She-assa Nissim" and Publicizing the Miracle

  • Rav Moshe Taragin

 

The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Special Holiday Shiur

 


 

The Blessing of "She-assa Nissim" and Publicizing the Miracle

By Rav Moshe Taragin

 

The gemara (Shabbat 23a) introduces the three berakhot (blessings) recited on lighting Chanuka candles. The first berakha – "le-hadlik ner shel Chanuka" - resembles a standard birkat ha-mitzva. The final berakha – "she-hecheyanu" – is also familiar: all holidays carry this berakha. The middle berakha, however, appears far less frequently. In fact, only one, or possibly two, other mitzvot require the recitation of this berakha of "she-assa nissim."

 

One recites this berakha before reading the megilla on Purim. Apparently, this berakha reflects the added dimension common to megilla reading and Chanuka candles, namely, pirsumei nisa – publicizing the miracle. Aside from the essential mitzva of lighting, one also performs the mitzva of publicizing the miracle when he kindles the Chanuka candles. Similarly, the pirsumei nisa achieved through megilla reading also dictates the recitation of the extra berakha of she-assa nissim.

 

In fact, the only other mitzva which generates pirsumei nisa – arba kosot on Pesach night – also mandates an extra berakha. Although we do not recite the standard berakha of she-assa nissim, we do recite the berakha of asher ge'alanu (immediately prior to drinking the second cup), effectively dedicating a berakha to describing the miracle of Pesach.

 

To summarize: There exist three mitzvot (all de-rabbanan) that carry the component of pirsumei nisa. This is indicated by the presence of an additional berakha: in the case of Chanuka and Purim, the berakha of she-assah nissim, and in the case of Pesach, the berakha of asher ge'alanu.

Having attributed the berakha of she-assa nissim to pirsumei nisa, we might question the degree to which the berakha is tethered to the act of lighting. Did Chazal institute a completely separate berakha to commemorate the miracle, or did they instruct that the berakha be recited on the pirsumei nisa generated by the act of lighting? To what extent can the pirsumei nisa (and, by extension, the berakha) be severed from the act of lighting?

The gemara (Shabbat 23a) asserts that the berakhot are to be recited during the hadlaka. This is obviously the preferred option. But what happens if, post facto, the pirsumei nisa occurs separately from the lighting?

One such scenario is brought in the gemara itself (Shabbat 23a), which instructs someone who sees lit Chanuka candles to recite the berakha of she-assa nissim. Though he has not lit himself, he may still recite the berakha on the pirsumei nisa generated by witnessing the lighting of others.

The Rishonim argue as to the scope of this halakha. According to Rashi, the berakha is recited only by someone who has not lit, will not light and has no one lighting for him at home. Ideally, she-assa nissim should be tethered to the act of lighting and the fulfillment of the mitzva of hadlaka. If this is impossible, the berakha may be severed from the act of lighting.

Even if we accept the extreme position (stated by the Rashba) that anyone who sees Chanuka candles – even if he plans to personally light - must still recite she-assa nissim, we still witness the medium of a ner as the basis for pirsumei nisa and the consequent berakha. Indeed, according to most Rishonim, if a person cannot light and does not behold anyone else lighting, he recites no berakha. Though we may separate the berakha from the ACT of lighting, it cannot be detached from the medium of ner Chanuka.

A notable exception to this position is the Me'iri (in Masekhet Shabbat), who rules that if a person has no opportunity to light or witness lights, he should still recite the berakha of she-assa nissim on the festival of Chanuka itself. Though ideally pirsumei nisa is integrated with the mitzva of lighting, it may be isolated as an independent entity.

This question affects a second issue, as well. If someone lights the chanukia in shul (and recites the berakha of she-assa nissim), should he repeat the berakha at home that evening (assuming he does not recite the berakha for anyone else)? In theory, if she-assa nissim can exist as an independent berakha, then once a person recites it that evening, he may not repeat it. However, if it can only cohere with the act of hadlaka or the witnessing of hadlaka, then it must be repeated at home. Reciting it during the mitzva of public hadlaka does not excuse its recitation over private hadlaka, as the two constitute completely separate mitzvot. If the berakha exists independently of the mitzva (and instead addresses the day), then any prior recitation would obviate a second mention.

 

 


 

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