Eikev 5777

RABBI MESHULUM YEHUDA KLUGMANN

ואכלת ושבעת וברכת את ה’ אלוקיך (דברים ח:י)

You will eat and be sated, and bless G-d (Devarim 8:10)

We are commanded to bless G-d after we have eaten our fill. One can assume that we are simply expressing our appreciation over the satisfying meal we had just enjoyed. When we look into the words, however, we discover a much more encompassing blessing. We begin with praise and gratitude not merely for the meal we just had consumed, but also for the fact that G-d nourishes all of Creation. We then continue with words of thanks for all He has done for us as a nation: He took us out of Egypt, gave us the land of Israel, Torah, Mitzvos, and Bris Milah. We continue with an appeal for us, Jerusalem, and the rebuilt Beis HaMikdash.
The meal is what necessitates a blessing. Why does it not suffice to give thanks for that alone?
One can also wonder about the choice of the word “וברכת”. The word וברכת implies that you will bless on your own. The word “ותברך”, “and you should bless”, would seem to be more suitable! (See Ramban ibid.).
The Torah spells out the obligation to give thanks after we have been sated. The question arises: must we express our gratitude before we begin eating? Rav Yishmael (Brachos 48b) deduces with a קל וחומר that if one must bless G-d when he is satiated, then he most certainly must do so when he desires to partake of G-d’s food.
In a similar vein, Rav Yochanan then explains that one must make a Bracha when he finishes learning Torah. If one is required to bless G-d for food, for nourishment of a fleeting life, he must also do so for His Torah, the provisions for eternity.
The Meshech Chochma points out that the Gemara (Brachos 21a) seems to conclude that we don’t make these deductions. One is only biblically obligated to Bentch after his meal. Where is the flaw in the קל וחומר?
The Meshech Chochma explains that if the requirement of Birchas HaMazon was simply a requirement to give thanks for what we have received, the קל וחומר would be valid. It would seem, then, that there is more to this commandment than meets the eye.
Examination of the subsequent Pesukim sheds light on the matter. The Torah (Devarim 8:12-17) warns of forgetting G-d and not keeping his commandments, “lest you eat and be satiated, build nice houses, and amass great wealth. You will become haughty and forget G-d who has taken you out of Egypt, who gave you the manna in the desert and water from a rock. You will say it was your ingenuity which procured for you all that you have.” Rashi (ibid) explains that by nature, one will rebel only when he is satisfied.
In order to save us from this calamity, the Torah gives Bnei Yisrael a lifeline in the form of Birchas HaMazon. We recite Birchas HaMazon to remind us that the contentment we feel is not our own doing. We affirm our appreciation for all the good G-d has done and continues to do for us all. We reiterate this acknowledgement by appealing for Israel, Jerusalem, and the Beis HaMikdash.
The objective of Birchas HaMazon is to be conscious of the fact that everything that exists is from G-d. When one internalizes this truth, he will automatically break out in songs of gratitude. For this reason, the Torah uses the word “וברכת”, “and you will bless.”
Therefore, there is now no longer a קל וחומר dictating a requirement to bless before the meal. When one is hungry, he is aware of the source of his food. Only after he is satiated is there room for concern. Consequently, he may not be required to bless before his meal, even though he must do so afterwards. (There is a well-known anecdote of a fellow who desperately needed a parking spot. In his desperation he made many promises to G-d, if only he would find a spot. Just then, a car vacates the spot directly in front of him. “Forget it, G-d,” he mutters. “I’ve already found a spot .”)
Similarly, one might not be obligated to make a blessing when he concludes his Torah study. When studied properly, the Torah has the power to protect. We must, however, make a Bracha when we begin, to ensure that it is studied with the proper frame of mind.


RABBI SHMUEL ROTENBERG

Rabbi Akiva Eiger questions whether a person may transgress a Rabbinic prohibition in order to fulfill the Mitzvah of Tefilla BeTzibbur. The example he gives is whether or not one may ride on a boat or swim on Shabbos in order to join a Minyan. Although Tefilla BeTzibbur is only a Rabbinic Mitzvah, and it would seem illogical to permit a Rabbinic prohibition in order to perform a Rabbinic Mitzvah, Rabbi Akiva Eiger reasons nonetheless that Tefilla BeTzibbur is very important. The Halacha says that a person must travel up to eighteen minutes out of his way in order to fulfill Tefilla BeTzibbur.
At first glance, one would find a proof to this from the Gemara (Brachos 47b and Gittin 48a), where Rav Eliezer freed his Canaanite slave in order to have a tenth person for a Minyan. Freeing a Canaanite slave is prohibited on a Torah level, for there is a Torah Mitzvah to keep one’s Canaanite slave as a slave forever. Thus, if one is permitted to free a slave for Tefilla BeTzibbur, one may certainly transgress a Rabbinic prohibition for Tefilla BeTzibbur.
Rabbi Akiva Eiger answers that freeing the slave is no proof to this question. When Rav Eliezer freed his slave to form the Minyan, this was permitted, for the slave was specifically needed to be the tenth person to create the formation of the Tzibbur. The original case in question was merely whether a person may ride a boat or swim to join an existing Tzibbur. Similarly, if a Tzibbur needed a shofar on Rosh Hashana and needed to ride a boat to obtain the shofar, there would be no proof from the freeing of the slave. The slave was needed for the formation of the Tzibbur, but there is no specific Mitzvah of having a Tzibbur for Tekias Shofar.
Although when one would have to travel more than eighteen minutes out of his way in order to reach a Minyan he is exempt from doing so, there is still the question of his status if he actually chooses to travel.
One possibility is that since he was initially exempt from Tefilla BeTzibbur, there is no way to actually bring the obligation upon himself. One who actually reaches a Minyan under these circumstances would be similar to a woman who performs the Mitzvah of Lulav or any other time-bound Mitzvah from which she is exempt. The result is an optional Mitzvah as opposed to an obligatory Mitzvah.
Another possibility has to do with potential. If the person were actually close enough to a Minyan, he would be obligated. This possibility of obligation creates a potential that if he indeed was able to bring the obligation upon himself, then it would be on a level of pure obligation.
Therefore, according to the reasoning that the person is now obligated in the Mitzvah, it would be prohibited for him to walk away from the Mitzvah. According to the first approach, that reasons that the person can never bring about an obligation, he would be permitted to forgo the Mitzvah.