Saying Baruch Shem Kevod after the Tefillin-Shel-Rosh

By , September 15, 2009 9:03 am

There is a machloket between Sefardim and Ashkenazim on how many berachot to say when putting on tefillin:

…ויניח של יד תחלה ויברך להניח תפילין ואחר כך יניח של ראש ולא יברך כי אם ברכה אחת לשתיהם. הגה: ויש אומרים לברך על של ראש על מצות תפילין אפילו לא הפסיק בינתיים (וכן פשט המנהג בבני אשכנז שמברכין שתי ברכות .וטוב לומר תמיד אחר הברכה השניה ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד) (שולחן ערוך אורח חיים כה:ה)

Sefardim just say the beracha of lehaniach tefillin before putting on the shel yad and do not say a beracha on the shel rosh at all. Ashkenazim say lehaniach on the shel yad and al mitzvat tefillin on the shel rosh[1].

After this the minhag (as quoted by the Rema) is to say “Baruch Shem Kevod Malchuto L’olam va’ed“. The reason for this is because it is a sefek beracha levatala, and therefore we say Barcuh Shem to “cover ourselves” in case it really is an unnecessary beracha.

The Aruch haShulchan (OC 25:10-13) raises the question: how can this be the proper action? If we are really so unsure about whether or not the second beracha should be said, then we should treat it like any other safek beracha and just not say it. And if we are sure that the halacha is to say two berachot, then why say barush shem?

To answer this question the AhS suggests that the halacha for Ashkenazim is definitely to say two, and the Rema was the one who was not so sure, but since the minhag was already established he could not abolish it, and therefore suggested instead to say baruch shem. Perhaps also in answer to the same question, the Mishna Berurah says that the second beracha is not a safek beracha - rather, it is a chashash safek beracha (so perhaps saying baruch shem would just be a chumra or hidur).

Despite his initial justification of the Rema’s p’sak, the AhS goes on to reject the explanation that saying baruch shem is connected to a safek beracha. If it were a safek beracha, that would imply that both berachot are coming for the same putpose. However, the AhS claims that this cannot be the case – we do not have two berachot come for the same purpose (and we see with hafrashat terumot that one beracha can be used to cover a number of related actions that are happening consecutively).

If the second beracha is not coming because of the mitzva of tefillin, then what is it coming for? To answer this, and justify the saying of baruch shem, the AhS comes up with a very novel idea (25:13):

ולכן נראה לי דברכת “על מצות תפילין” היא ברכת הודאה כמו שכתבתי מקודם, בהיות מצוה זו הקשר הגדול שמקשר את ישראל לאביהם שבשמים. לזה אנו מברכים ברכת הודאה, להודות להשם יתברך על הטוב הזה. ובהיות שעיקר הקשר הוא בפסוק “שמע ישראל”, ולכן אנו אומרים “ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד” כמו שיעקב אבינו ענה כן בעת שהשבטים אמרו “שמע ישראל”, כדאיתא בפסחים (נו א).

וראיה לזה מלשון “תפילין” עצמה, שכתב הטור לשון “פלילה”, שהן אות ועדות לכל רואינו שהשכינה שורה עלינו… עד כאן לשונו. וזהו פירושו: דעל מצות תפילין, כלומר על מה שהשם יתברך התחבר אלינו – אנו נותנים לו יתברך שבח והודיה על זה.

The second beracha is not a birkat hamitzva. Rather it is a birkat hoda’a, giving thanks to Hashem for the gift that he has given us of the mitzva of tefillin, which is the big connection that ties Jews with their father in shamayim. And since the best example of how we express this connection is the Shema, we therefore say baruch shem kevod after saying the second beracha. After thanking Hashem for this great connection with him, we emulate Yaakov Avinu, who when he heard his sons say the Shema, his response to the expression of this connection was to say baruch shem. Based on this explanation, baruch shem is no longer a questionable way to avoid committing a sin by saying an unnecessary beracha – instead it is a natural reaction to expressing the closeness of our relationship with God.

[1]: The opinion for one beracha is based on a Gemara in Menachot (36a), and is supported by Rashim the Rif and the Rambam. The opinion that there is one beracha for the shel yad and one for the shel rosh is based on a Gemara in Berachot (60b) and is supported by Yerushalmi, Midrash Tanchuma, Rabbeinu Tam, the Rosh and the Tur.

The Halachot of Dogs

By , May 15, 2008 7:14 pm

Like most places in Israel, there are lots of dogs where I live. Some are wild (there is supposed to be a guy whose job it is to catch them and bring them to the pound) and some are “domesticated”, living in people’s houses. There seem to be lots of families with dogs here, and while the dogs are sometimes cute, they are often very annoying (or scary or even dangerous).

Evil DogsSo this past Shabbat, someone gave a halacha shiur after shul was over on whether or not it is halachically permissible or advisable to own a dog. As this is an area of halacha that I have never seen discussed (the closest that I have gotten is whether or not it is ok to walk a dog on Shabbat), and since nothing would please me more than if all of the dog owners out there who respect their neighbors and halacha would would do their own halachic investigation into the issue, I thought that I would give a synopsis here (for learning only, see a posek if you have questions, etc, etc):

  1. ואנשי קדש תהיון לי ובשר נבלה וטרפה לא תאכלו – לכלב תשלכון אותו
    And you should be a holy people unto me, and do not eat meat that is neveila or treifa – you should instead throw it out to the dog (Shemot 23:30). Here the Torah says that since we are a holy people, we should not eat neveila or treifa meat. And where should this meat go? To the dogs. Thus, regardless of whether or not it is permissible to own a dog, you see here that the Torah identifies dogs as the opposite of something Holy, and something that should be far removed from a Jewish home.
  2. אמר רבי שמעון בן לקיש: כל המגדל כלב רע בתוך ביתו – מונע חסד מתוך ביתו
    Anyone who raises an evil dog in their house withholds chessed from their house… (Shabbat 63a).Also more on the hashkafic realm, but definitely not a good thing
  3. ר נתן אומר: מנין שלא יגדל אדם כלב רע בתוך ביתו, ולא יעמוד סולם רעוע בתוך ביתו? שנאמר (דברים כב) ולא תשים דמים בביתך
    From where do we know that that one should not raise an evil dog or erect a shaky ladder inside their house? As it says: and do not put blood on your house (Baba Kama 15a,b). Here the Torah connects that act of raising an evil dog to a biblical negative commandment.
  4. אסור לגדל כלב רע, אלא אם כן הוא אסור בשלשלאות של ברזל וקשור בהם, ובעיר הסמוכה לספר מותר לגדלו, וקושרו ביום ומתירו בלילה. הגה: ויש אומרים דהשתא שאנו שרוין בין העכום ואומות בכל ענין שרי, ופוק חזי מאי עמא דבר, מיהו נראה אם הוא כלב רע שיש לחוש שיזיק בני אדם דאסור לגדלו, אלא אם כן קשור בשלשלאות של ברזל – שלחן ערוך חשן משפט מט:ג
    Shuchan Aruch: It is forbidden to raise an evil dog, unless it is chained to iron chains, and in a city close to the wilderness (where it might be needed for protection) you can raise (an evil dog), and tie it during the day and let it lose at night (when it could serve as a watch dog). Rama: And there are those who say that now that we are among the non-Jews it is always permissible (since the need for a dog for protection might be there even in a city) - according to the custom of the people around you. Even in this case, if the dog was one that might harm people, it needs to be tied up.There is a clear halacha here not to own an evil dog. If it is necessary for protection you can have it, but it must be tied up during the day. (Also see Rambam, Talmud Torah, 6:7)
  5. So the obvious question is: what makes a dog evil? One might suppose that this would be a dog that bites. However, it seems to be the conclusion of poskim (based on the Maharshal, Yam Shel Shelomo) that a dog is evil even if it barks when someone whom it does not recognize approaches. See the gemara, Bava Kama 83a, where a dog that is seemingly harmless (no teeth or nails) frightens a woman with its barking and caused her to have a miscarriage. Thus, even barking is a potential damage, and a dog that could do this is considered evil (with all of the halachic repercussions as described above).
  6. One other modern teshuva was cited, where another hashkafic rhetorical question was asked: who is it that calls a dog man’s best friend? Is this a Jewish value?

I will leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions about whether it is halachically permissible to own a dog that barks and whether owning a dog “for companionship” is consistent with Torah values.

Update: For more information and sources on this topic, check out Halachic Perpectives on Pets by Rabbi Howard Jachter which appeared in the Journal of Halacha & Contemporary Society – No. XXIII, Spring, 1992, Pesach 575, especially the first section on The Propriety of Owning Pets.

(Originally posted on Aliyah Blog)

Why is the story of Kalev, Otniel and Achsa in Hevron Repeated?

By , November 20, 2007 7:05 pm

In Yehoshua 15 (15-19), the following is recorded:

טו ויעל משם, אל-ישבי דבר; ושם-דבר לפנים, קרית-ספר. טז ויאמר כלב, אשר-יכה את-קרית-ספר ולכדה–ונתתי לו את-עכסה בתי, לאשה. יז וילכדה עתניאל בן-קנז, אחי כלב; ויתן-לו את-עכסה בתו, לאשה. יח ויהי בבואה, ותסיתהו לשאול מאת-אביה שדה, ותצנח, מעל החמור; ויאמר-לה כלב, מה-לך. יט ותאמר תנה-לי ברכה, כי ארץ הנגב נתתני, ונתתה לי, גלת מים; ויתן-לה, את גלת עליות, ואת, גלת תחתיות.

Compare this to Shoftim 1 (11-15):

יא וילך משם, אל-יושבי דביר; ושם-דביר לפנים, קרית-ספר. יב ויאמר כלב, אשר-יכה את-קרית-ספר ולכדה–ונתתי לו את-עכסה בתי, לאשה. יג וילכדה עתניאל בן-קנז, אחי כלב הקטן ממנו; ויתן-לו את-עכסה בתו, לאשה. יד ויהי בבואה, ותסיתהו לשאל מאת-אביה השדה, ותצנח, מעל החמור; ויאמר-לה כלב, מה-לך. טו ותאמר לו הבה-לי ברכה, כי ארץ הנגב נתתני, ונתתה לי, גלת מים; ויתן-לה כלב, את גלת עלית, ואת, גלת תחתית.

As you can see (English translations are available through the links above), except for some very minor differences, these narratives are identical. Why is it that this passage is repeated in Shoftim? What is added?

The commentary of the Malbim gives a very interesting answer to this question. The story is repeated to tell about actual events (the first telling, in Yehoshua) and to give allegorical meaning to what is going on (the second telling, in Shoftim). This interpretation is based on the gemara in Temura (16a).  What is the allegorical meaning?

The city of Devir (11) is also called Kiryat S’neh (Yehoshua 15:49).  From this (the fact that Devir had these different names) we learn that this city was set aside as a “capital for the book” (translation of Kiryat Sefer) – that students gathered there to learn and teach from the Sefer Torah, and there was a big academy there. It was also called Kirya S’neh in connection to the verse in Devarim (33:16), which alludes to the s’neh (burning bush) where God first revealed himself to Moshe, which took place on Har Sinai, where the Torah would eventually be given. Otniel was the Rosh Yeshiva – the main teacher. As the gemara in Temura explains, 1700 of Moshe’s teachings were forgotten after he died, and Otniel was the one who was able to return them from his learning. This learning took place in his yeshiva in Devir/Kiryat Sefer/Kiryat S’neh.

When Calev challenges someone to “smite Kiray Sefer” (12) he is really asking who is able to win the battle of Torah – who is able to emerge victorious in his arguments and opinions regarding interpretations of the Torah and come to a conclusion about the halacha. In the end, Otniel is the one who was able to do this (as related in Temurah). Thus, he is the one who was able to “conquer” Kiryat Sefer – both in the real battle against the Canaanites (as related in Yehoshua) as well as in the allegorical battle (as related in Shoftom).

So Calev gives his daughter Achsa to Otniel, and she tells her father that he has given her the land of the Negev (כי ארץ הנגב נתתני) and because of this, she needs more land. The word Negev literally means dry. In Yehoshua, Achsa told her father that she was given dry, parched land, and she therefore needed something more fertile that could produce more. In Shoftim (the allegorical interpretation), she is saying that he husband has turned into an ארץ הנגב – into a “dry land” – i.e.: he is so absorbed in his Torah study that he is not tending to the physical needs of our house (he is earning a living just like a dry land), and therefore she needed some more land that would be able to provide for them (in place of what her husband would have earned).

In response to her request, Calev gives Achsa  גלת עלית and גלת תחתית (the high springs and the low springs). Literally, this was land with springs that could be used to irrigate her dry land and make it more able to produce. Allegorically, Calev was telling his daughter that she already had a man who was able to bring the “water of life” (ie: Torah) from the high places (divine wisdom) and the low places (terrestrial wisdom) and that she therefore had no need for anything else, for many people would gather around her husband (see the next verse – 1:16 and the commentaries on it) and their needs would thus be taken care of.

Transforming Unbridled Desire

By , May 9, 2007 7:15 pm

I read a passage tonight in Horeb by Rav Hirsch that I feel compelled to share with whomever is reading this. The topic is how we should guard ourselves and overcome unbridled desire (ta’avah) and turn this base character trait into an instrument for happiness and growing close with God.

Value your life not according to possessions and enjoyments, but according to good deeds; and again value your actions only according to their relation to the means which you possess and acquire. It is not how much or how little you have that makes you great or small, but how much or how little you are with what you have, how much or how little you utilize what has been lent to you for action in the service of God – that is it which makes you great or small.

And if with your life you have fulfilled three-quarters of your duties while another with his plenty has done only one-quarter of his, even if this one-quarter were incomparably more than the three-quarters you have done, you are still greater than he. For your whole life is only a task, and your possessions and enjoyments means for performing this task; the provision of the means belongs to God alone, while the performance of the task according to the scope of your means constitutes your only greatness.

Certainly it is part of this task, where you have the power and where religion allows, to pursue those good things and these means of enjoyment, not, however, as an object in themselves but as a means of fulfilling the duties imposed by God. Only so will self-sufficiency and contentment, and with them happiness and virtue, be your lot; you will remain serene and good in every position in life, whatever be the extent of your possessions and enjoyments.

(Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Horeb, Chapter 13, translated by Dayan Dr. Isidore Grunfeld, Page 46)

As always, Rav Hirsch highlights his ideas with beautiful, elegant language (expertly translated by Dayan Grunfeld). The idea is one which seems obvious, and therefore is one which is very easy to overlook and forget in day to day life.

(Originally posted on Aliyah Blog)

Destroy the Horses and the Chariots

By , February 16, 2007 7:07 pm

יעש להם יהושע, כאשר אמר-לו יהוה: את-סוסיהם עקר, ואת-מרכבתיהם שרף באש

And Joshua did unto them as the Lord commanded him; he hamstrung their horses, and burnt their chariots with fire. (Yehoshua 11:9)

Why did God command Yehoshua to injure and burn the horses and chariots of the defeated Canaanite nations after this battle, when such a command had not been given in previous battles? What is the reason for the command?

Radak explains that this command had not been given in a previous battle because this was the first battle since crossing the Jordan in which horses and chariots had played any meaningful role. In previous battles, Bnei Yisrael were attacking cities, or defending the Giv’onim against the five neighboring Canaanite kings. This is the first battle that featured large opposing forces in which horses and chariots took part, thus it is the first time that such a command could be applicable.

And what is the reason for the command? To teach the Jews a lesson: the other nations made war on you using their modern instruments of warfare – horses and chariots. They trusted in these weapons that they would emerge victorious. However, they did this ignorant of the fact that horses an chariots were not the keys to winning the battle against the Jews. God is the source of victory or loss. The Jews were able to defeat their enemies without aid from horses and chariots because God was on their side. They were the commanded to destroy these weapons to send home the message (lest they come to think like their enemies in the future) that horses and chariots (or F-16s and artillery) cannot win the battle when God is not with you. And when God is with you, they are unnecessary.

Did the Sun Really Stand Still?

By , February 11, 2007 7:08 pm

אז ידבר יהושע ליהוה, ביום תת יהוה את האמרי לפני בני ישראל; ויאמר לעיני ישראל, שמש בגבעון דום, וירח בעמק אילון. וידם השמש וירח עמד, עד יקם גוי איביו – הלא היא כתובה על-ספר הישר; ויעמד השמש בחצי השמים, ולא-אץ לבוא כיום תמים. ולא היה כיום ההוא, לפניו ואחריו, לשמע יהוה, בקול איש: כי יהוה, נלחם לישראל

Then Joshua spoke to the Lord on the day when the Lord delivered the Amorites before the children of Israel; and he said before Israel: ‘Sun, stand still upon Giv’on, and Moon – in the valley of Ayalon.’ And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the nation had avenged themselves of their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Yashar? And the sun stayed in the midst of heaven, and did not to go down for a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man, for the Lord fought for Israel. (Yehoshua 10:12-14)

According to the simple meaning of these verses, as Bnei Yisrael was chasing after the give Canaanite nations that attacked the Giv’onim, Yehoshua called upon the sun and moon to “wait” and temporarily, time stood still. He did this so that the Jews would be able to complete the battle and completely vanquish their fleeing adversaries, something they might not have been able to do had the sun gone down (Metzudat David). This interpretation of the pesukim is accepted by Rashi, Radak and the Malbim, and is supported by the Gemara in Avodah Zara (25a, also in Pirkei d’Rebbi Eliezer 52) which states that the sun stayed in its place for 26 straight hours.

There is one commentator though who disagrees with the notion that the sun actually stood still. The Ralbag in his commentary on this verse expresses his opinion that this could not possibly have happened as described above. His reasoning is that if the sun were to have ceased in its (perceived) movement, this would have been a miracle of a higher degree than that occurred for Moshe. Moshe’s miracles changed the way that natural processes worked. This miracle completely removed one of the natural processes (the sun) from fulfilling its role (rising, setting, etc). If this were to have happened, it would be a contradiction of the verse that says that “no prophet will arise in Israel like Moshe” (Devarim 34:10-12). (It would also not make sense to say that Moshe had performed miracles of this magnitude and they were just not recorded in the Torah – since the Torah mentions these miracles in order to cause people to believe in and fear God). The Ralbag goes on to give proofs from the language used that the expression “there was no day like that before it or after…” was not referring to changes in nature, but rather referred to the battle itself, and the magnitude of the great victory that Bnei Yisrael experienced.

The position of the Ralbag (whose views on other philosophical matters were also not widely accepted) is not accepted by other commentators. (In fact, other commentators like the Malbim and Radak both take a very opposite approach from the Ralbag, saying that the miracle that happened here was in direct fulfillment of promises of wondrous miracles that were made to Moshe in Shemot 34:10: “Behold, I will make a brit, before all of your nation I will perform marvels…”). However, the main theme of his commentary here – that a miracle stated in the text may not have happened exactly as stated – is worth noting (see the commentary of Radak on Yehoshua 4:11 for an example of a different commentator disagreeing with the views of others who believed that certain miracles happened in specific ways).

The Power of an Oath – Yehoshua and the Givonim

By , February 8, 2007 7:10 pm

In the 9th Chapter of Sefer Yehoshua, the Givonim come an offer to become servants of the Jewish people in exchange for peace. They do so under the guise of travellers who have come from an ארץ רחוקה מאוד – a “very far off land” (9) and as evidence for their long journey, they show their stale bread and dried out wine sacks (12-13). The leaders of the Jewish people immediately accept.

The RaDaK (Rav David Kimchi) explains in his commentary to verse 7 how it was even possible for peace to be made between the Jews and a Canaanite nation: If the Jews had known the true origin of these people, they would have been forbidden to make a covenant with them (because of the biblical commandment against this). Even though Bnei Yisrael would have accepted peace with any of the Canaanite nations, if it had been offered, this would have been under the condition that they destroy all of their idolatry and observe the seven Noahide laws, in addition to paying taxes and accepting some form of servitude under the Jewish nation.

Only after a few days do they find out that these people had been lying about their place of origin, and in fact lived just a few miles away. Upon becoming aware of this, the Tanach states:

יח ולא הכום, בני ישראל, כי-נשבעו להם נשיאי העדה, ביהוה אלהי ישראל; וילנו כל-העדה, על-הנשיאים. יט ויאמרו כל-הנשיאים, אל-כל-העדה, אנחנו נשבענו להם, ביהוה אלהי ישראל; ועתה, לא נוכל לנגע בהם.

“And Bnei Yisrael did not attack them because the leaders of the congregation swore to them before God, the Lod of Israel, and the people complained against the leaders. And all of the leaders said to the entire congregation: “we swore to them on God, the Lord of Israel, and no we cannot touch them!” (9:18-19).

As explained earlier, peace with any of the Canaanite nations was possible, assuming the proper conditions. Why then do the leaders cite their oath as the only thing holding them back from destroying the Givonim?

The Radak goes on to explain: Because the Givonim tricked the Jews and made a covenant with them under false pretenses, and because of this they deserved to be killed, were it not for the chillul Hashem that would be by this, because many had heard the oath that was made by the leaders of the people to the Givonim, and they had not heard anything false nor had any conditions been stated when the oath was made public. (Because of this, the Givonim were given more menial jobs than they would have had otherwise). Chazal learn (Gittin 46a) from this incident that a vow or oath made in public cannot be annulled. Others argue and say that a public oath or vow can be annulled, and in this case it was not done so in order to perform a Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God’s name), to show the world how seriously Jews take their oaths made to God.

Parents as Creators

By , February 8, 2007 10:17 am

כבד את-אביך, ואת-אמך–למען, יארכון ימיך, על האדמה, אשר-יהוה אלהיך נתן לך

Honor your father and your mother, in order to lengthen your days on this Land that the Lord your God has given to you (Shemot 20:11)

In this, the fifth of the “Ten Commandments”, we are commanded to honor our parents. Why is this commandment located precisely at this point?

Ramban explains: Up to this point, we had been commanded on things that are בין אדם למקום – relating solely to God (Belief in God, no idols, do not swear falsely, remember the Shabbat). After this, the commandments are all relating to issues that are solely בין אדם לחבירו – between man and his fellow (No murder, adultery, theft, false witnes or coveting). The commandment to honor one’s parents is an appropriate segue between these two sections of commandments because one’s relationship with one’s parents has both of these aspects within it.

One the one hand, parents are called a “partner with God” in creating their children. Ramban understands Devarim 5:15 (the second time that the Commandments are given, in which the words כבד את-אביך ואת-אמך, כאשר צוך יהוה אלהיך
are added to this commandment) to mean that just as God has commanded you to observe his honor, so to your are commanded honor the onw who “joined me in your being formed”. On the other hand, this mitzvah is towards another person, and is carried out in this world. So it embodies both aspects: towards God and towards man, and is thus appropriately placed in between the first set of commandments and the last.

10 Amot Tall

By , February 5, 2007 11:43 pm

Rav Ally wrote about the Netziv‘s explanation for why Moshe had to sit down in order that Aharon and Chur hold his arms (since we would have thought that Moshe would have remained standing). The answer given is that since according to Chazal, Moshe was 10 amot tall, he had to sit down in order for Aharon and Chur (who were presumably of a more regular height) to be able to reach up high enough to support his arms.

I decided to take a closer look into the exact measurements involved in this scenario. Continue reading '10 Amot Tall'»

Sitting out the Battle

By , July 23, 2006 9:17 am

Rav Gil from Hirhurim gives some aliyah mussar based on current events and a verse in Parashat Matot.

He cites the verse:

ויאמר משה לבני גד ולבני ראובן: האחיכם יבאו למלחמה, ואתם תשבו פה

And Moshe said to the sons of Gad and the sons of Reuven: Will your brothers go to war and you will sit here?

Bamidbar 32:6

In context, Reuven and Gad were presuming to remain on the Eastern side of the Jordan River, sitting out the battles for the conquest of the Land of Israel. Rav Gil related this primarily to Yeshiva exemptions from the army in Israel, and secondarily to people who live in chutz l’aretz. I would reverse the order though – the passuk here is talking of people volunteering to remain outside of the land of Israel instead of joining the rest of the Jews in Israel in the Land of Israel during their wars. The direct parallel today seems to be Jews remaining in Chutz L’aretz.

The comparison to exemptions from Yeshiva may be valid, but you definitely have to read into the passuk a little bit more to get it.

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