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Beit Midrash Series Ein Ayah

The Element of Hashem’s Name Needed for a Bracha

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Gemara: Rav said: Any beracha that does not include mention of the name of Hashem is not a beracha. Rabbi Yochanan said: Any beracha that does not include mention of Hashem’s malchut (kingship) is not a beracha. Abayei said: Rav’s approach makes sense based on the following baraita: The pasuk says [regarding the bringing of bikurim (first fruit)]: "I did not transgress Your mitzvot, and I did not forget" (Devarim 26:13). We interpret it as follows: I did not transgress by not blessing You, and I did not forget to mention Your name upon it. The gemara notes that it does not mention Hashem’s kingdom.

Ein Ayah: The hinge upon which the matter of berachot swings is the shleimut (completeness) that they help one acquire regarding true theological understanding, as the Rambam mentions (Berachot 1:3-4). This knowledge causes one to act in a manner of straightness, specifically by doing that which is good and straight in Hashem’s eyes.
The most basic of all pure elements of knowledge is to know about Hashem, which is represented by the mention of Hashem’s name in our berachot. However, the knowledge that causes one to act in a totally proper manner is the knowledge of Hashem’s dominion in the world, which obligates people to follow in the strength of the laws of the King.
The Amoraim argue as to what the main focus of a beracha should be on. Rav says that it is the basic theological truth that is the main thing at the heart of the beracha, and that suffices, in the final analysis, to cause one to act properly. Rabbi Yochanan feels that it is impossible [ed. note- perhaps it should say "possible"] for one to know about Hashem yet leave the path of proper actions. In general it is a matter of debate whether it is enough for one to know the truth in order for him to act in a totally moral manner. That is why Rabbi Yochanan requires one to mention in a direct manner that which causes him to act as he should, which is knowledge of Hashem’s malchut. Thereby he realizes that Hashem is particular about how he acts and will use His power to punish those who do not stray from the straight path.
It is logical to say that there is a difference in this regard between a birkat hamitzva (a blessing before fulfilling a mitzva) and a birkat hanehenin (a blessing before benefiting from the world, most classically before eating). A birkat hamitzva is done at the time that one is involved in an action of straightness that shows the person’s acceptance of Hashem’s dominion. Then it is enough to just mention Hashem’s great name and indicate that he is doing the action for the sake of Hashem. Regarding birkat hanehenin there is more of an intrinsic reason to mention both His name and His malchut. On the other hand, there is a halachic concept that we want berachot to be as uniform as possible, as we find halachically that when a certain beracha needs to be made after a mitzva in certain cases, we do it afterward for all cases of that beracha (for example, the beracha on washing hands and immersing). For this reason, Abayei felt only that Rav’s opinion had a preference (as opposed to a proof) because his source for not needing malchut was regarding a birkat hamitzva, where malchut is of less importance, as it is clear from the context that he is aware about malchut. Therefore that source is only an indication, not a proof, that berachot, as a rule, do not require malchut.
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