Siman 47:5-14 Birkot HaTorah

  • Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mishna Berura
Yeshivat Har Etzion

SHIUR #24:Siman 47:5-14

Pages 152 - 154


by Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon








            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).


"LA-ASOK" (SE'IF 5):


            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 5.


            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 ha-aretz.


            See the ruling of the Mishna Berura in 47:8 (Sephardim hold the custom of saying "al").




            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 two.


            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 ke-oneh."




            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 rabba.'"


            This indicates clearly that after "Ahava rabba" one is exempt from birkot ha-Torah. 


            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 learn?'"


Tosafot offer two answers:


"And R. Yitzchak responded: Because we do not accept             that Yerushalmi as halakha, since our gemara [the Bavli] does not say this ...

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 day."


            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 written."


            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 se'if 9.


            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 ha-Torah.


            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 Torah study.


            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 views?




            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 M.B. 47:17.


            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.




            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 "Yotzer ohr."


            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.




            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.




            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 46.




            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.



(This shiur was translated by Pnina Baumgarten.)