114b - Beracha

  • Rav Ezra Bick

This shiur is dedicated in memory of Israel Koschitzky zt"l, whose yahrzeit falls on the 19th of Kislev.  
May the world-wide dissemination of Torah through the VBM be a fitting tribute to a man whose lifetime achievements exemplified the love of Eretz Yisrael and Torat Yisrael.

            Last week, we learned a self-enclosed passage in the gemara that defined the nature of "the two cooked foods." At the end of the shiur, I asked you to arrange the four opinions in the gemara in ascending order of "innovation." The answer I expected, based on the shiur, derived from the commentary of the Rashbam, who explained what the innovation of the second and fourth opinions was, and also wrote, for the first opinion, that it implied the more obvious validity of the third. On this basis, I ordered the different opinions as: 3,1,2,4.

(see http://www.gush.net/talmud/05answer.htm ).


            Of course, you could possibly have found a different way to order them. My question, and the answer, derived from the Rashbam. The Rashbam, by stating that the first opinion ("beets and rice") would surely agree to the third opinion (two kinds of meat), indicated that he has accepted the reasoning of "one in memory of the pesach and one in memory of the chagiga" as correct for all of the opinions. This is presumably based on the fact that no other reason is given for any of the opinions. From this the ordering of the opinions that I listed follows.


            In order to disagree with the Rashbam, one would have to suggest alternative reasons for the "two cooked foods." The fact that no such reason appears in the gemara is a strong argument against any alternative. Nonetheless, there are various other suggestions in the commentators and medieval authorities.  Since none of these are based on anything in the gemara, I shall not cite them here. If you are interested, the ones I know of are posted on the webpage -



            The webpage for this week's shiur is at:





            We shall continue in the text of the gemara. Our text is a direct continuation of the gemara that preceded last week's selection, so you should quickly review (again) the first part of the daf we are on (114b).



            A quick summary:


            The gemara advanced two positions regarding the question whether mitzvot require intention. In our case, this refers to one who eats lettuce, which is a bitter herb, in order to fulfill the obligation of karpas - has he also fulfilled the obligation of maror, for which he did not have intention? The gemara states that even if he has, he must eat lettuce a second time, since eating TWO vegetables ("two dippings") before the meal is the object of the law, in order to arouse the children to ask questions.





            We are starting from the word, "peshita" (6 lines from the bottom of the page - it is marked on the scan of the daf on the webpage).


            "Peshita" means "clearly." In context, a statement of the gemara beginning with this word means that the following fact is accepted without question and is uncontested. It serves as an introduction of a question based on the accepted peshita. In other words, statement A is given, but what about statement B, which is different in some manner from the given in the introduction.


Peshita, if there are other vegetables (i.e., not only lettuce), one recites "borei pri ha-adama" on the other vegetables and eats; afterwards one recites "al achilat maror" and eats.

Where if there is only lettuce, what is the ruling?

Rav Huna said: At the beginning, he should recite first "borei pri ha-adama" on the maror (i.e.; the lettuce) and eat; later he recites "al achilat maror" on it and eats.

Rav Chisda asked: After he has filled his belly with it, he returns and recites a blessing on it?!?

Rather, Rav Chisda said: At the beginning he should recite "borei pri ha-adama" and "al achilat maror" on it and eat; later he eats the lettuce without a blessing.


            This gemara refers to two blessings, "borei pri ha-adama" and "al achilat maror." These are two different kinds of blessings. "Borei pri ha-adama" is a "birkat ha-nehenin," a blessing before enjoyment. Before consuming any food, one must recite a blessing indicating that God created that food. "Borei pri ha-adama" is the blessing before vegetables.


"Al achilat maror" is a "birkat ha-mitzvot," a blessing before the performance of a mitzva. This has nothing to do with the fact that one is eating; a blessing is recited before positive mitzvot, such as shofar or lulav, as well as matza and maror. The blessing indicates that the mitzva is part of the sanctity of Israel, who are commanded by God.


Karpas, which is not a mitzva but only a custom, does not have a birkat ha-mitzva. So, if one has other vegetables for karpas, one makes a borei pri ha-adama before the other vegetables, and later , when it is time for the mitzva of maror, one makes an "al achilat maror." (You might ask why one does not have to repeat the borei pri ha-adama when eating the maror. If a mitzva is one of eating, then both kinds of blessings are required, as, for instance, takes place before the eating of matza, where one recites both "ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz" and "al achilat matza." The answer, apparently, is that the original borei pri ha-adama before the karpas is sufficient for both vegetables, even though a considerable amount of time has passed in between. This question is raised by Tosafot [115a, s.v. "Ve-hadar"], and depends on the question of "hefsek" - what constitutes an interruption between a blessing and the food for which it is intended. This question is also relevant to the blessing before the wine, where we drink four cups during the seder. However, this is not a question which our sugya will address).


The question in the gemara involves a case where one is using lettuce for both karpas and maror. When does one recite "al achilat maror" in such a case? Rav Huna answers that it should be recited before the maror, while Rav Chisda was of the opinion that it should be recited before the karpas, together with the borei pri ha-adama.


What is the explanation of these two opinions?


First, we shall look in Rashi.


Peshita: Peshita, if there are other vegetables - he first makes over the vegetables the blessing borei pri ha-adama, as it is forbidden to have benefit from the world without a blessing. Since he has other vegetables, this is the preferred way, that first he should recite borei pri ha-adama over the vegetables; i.e., the blessing which is appropriate to them, and this acquits the maror which comes afterwards from the blessing of borei pri ha-adama. Afterwards, he recites over the lettuce "al achilat maror."


            This Rashi (and the corresponding Rashbam, which is basically identical) is clear. It is explaining the "peshita," where the karpas is only a vegetable, and the maror is a mitzva. Rashi points out that the borei pri ha-adama over the vegetable of karpas acquits the maror as well.


            There is no Rashi or Rashbam explaining the opinion of Rav Huna. The next Rashi is addressed to the opinion of Rav Chisda:


Later he eats - without a blessing, as we require two dippings.


            The last comment requires elucidation. How does Rashi understand the "two dippings?" Specifically, when, at least according to Rav Chisda, does one fulfillthe mitzva of maror?


            Answer, please.




            It seems to me that Rashi is explaining why according to Rav Chisda the blessing "al achilat maror" is made over the first lettuce and not the second. He is saying that the only reason we eat maror the second time is in order to have "two dippings," and not in order to fulfill the mitzva of maror. The mitzva of maror was fulfilled, apparently, with the first eating of lettuce, even though that was done for the purpose of karpas. Hence, Rav Chisda places the blessing over the mitzva of maror at the earlier eating, together with the borei pri ha-adama. The second eating of lettuce is ONLY in order to incite questions, and hence engenders no blessing at all.


            From where does this opinion derive? Looking back in the first half of the gemara, which we learned two weeks ago, this corresponds to the opinion contrary to Resh Lakish, that mitzvot DO NOT require intention. Hence, one has fulfilled the mitzva of maror as soon as one eats lettuce, even if it was in the place of karpas in the seder. Why then does one eat lettuce again (this was Resh Lakish's question)? The gemara answered that it is so that there should be a "recognition" to arouse the curiosity of the children. Rashi suggests that Rav Chisda understands this to mean that the second eating is only for this purpose; hence, the birkat ha-mitzva should be recited over the first eating.


            So, it follows that Rav Chisda rules that mitzvot do not require intention.


            This would imply that Rav Huna, who places the al achilat maror before the second eating, holds that mitzvot DO require intention. Hence, the first eating of lettuce did not fulfill the mitzva of maror, so of course you do not then recite the blessing al achilat maror. The second eating is not only to arouse curiosity, but is in fact the fulfillment of the obligation to eat maror, so that is when the birkat ha-mitzva should be recited. This is not stated explicitly by Rashi, but is the obvious suggestion how to interpret Rav Huna according to the Rashi on Rav Chisda.


            Tosafot disagrees with Rashi:


(1) 114b, s.v. "Amar"

Rav Huna said etc.

Rav Huna agrees with Resh Lakish that (mitzvot) require intention, and even if he has other vegetables, he can dip lettuce twice.


(2a) 115a, s.v. "Matkif"

Rav Chisda asked etc.

It appears that Rav Chisda also agrees with Resh Lakish that (mitzvot) require intention, but nonetheless, he holds that it is not proper to recite the blessing over the second dipping, after he has already filled his belly. But if he had held that mitzvot do not require intention, he should have said explicitly that one has fulfilled (the obligation) with the first dipping, and if he recites a blessing over the second dipping, it is a beracha livatala (an unneeded blessing, the recitation of which constitutes a serious prohibition)….

(3a) According to Rav Chisda one can recite the blessing al achilat maror over the first dipping, even though the main fulfillment of the mitzva will be only with the second dipping after the matza, because the blessing at the first dipping applies to the second dipping since he ate a little at the first dipping. This is similar to the situation with the blessing of shofar, where we recite a blessing over the "blasts of sitting" (the shofar blowing immediately after the reading of the Torah, where we blow thirty blasts in a row, as opposed to the blowing during the repetition of the Shemona Esrei), and this blessing applies to the "blasts of standing" which are the main fulfillment, as they are performed within the order of the blessings (of the Shemona Esrei).


            This is a big chunk, and you should work it out piece by piece.


            The first Tosafot (citation 1) states that Rav Huna agrees with Resh Lakish. This agrees with what I claimed in Rashi.


            The second Tosafot claims that Rav Chisda ALSO agrees with Resh Lakish. This is against what I derived from Rashi.


            What is Tosafot's proof? He is basing himself on a close reading of the QUESTION that Rav Chisda posed to Rav Huna. What is his proof?


            Another question, closely related to the first. According to Tosafot, why does Rav Chisda not recite the blessing over the second dipping, since that is the time of the fulfillment of the mitzva if we agree with Resh Lakish that mitzvot require intention? (Hint: The answer is in the words, "After he has filled his belly with it, he returns and recites a blessing on it?!?")


Five minutes to answer…..




            If mitzvot do not require intention, then one has fully fulfilled the mitzva with the first eating of lettuce. In such a case, not only should the blessing obviously be recited before the first eating, but it would be FORBIDDEN to recite it before the second eating, which does not fulfill the mitzva at all (since there is no longer any obligation). A blessing without an obligation is a beracha livatala. Tosafot claims (citation 2a) that the language utilized by Rav Chisda in his question implies a much weaker objection. Apparently, Rav Chisda feels it is INAPPROPRIATE to recite a blessing over the eating of maror when one has already eaten it, even though the first time it was not to fulfill the mitzva of maror. It seems strange to hold up a piece of lettuce and bless God who has commanded us to eat it, when we have been already eating it, and our "bellies are full." Hence Tosafot concludes that the main fulfillment of the mitzva according to Rav Chisda is with the second eating (i.e., mitzvot DO require intention, like Resh Lakish), but it is better to move up the recitation of the blessing before one begins eating lettuce, so that the blessing will not be inappropriate.


            The question now is, of course, how can one recite the blessing so much earlier than the the actual performance of the mitzva? Is this not also a beracha livatala? This is what Tosafot explains in the second paragraph of the second Tosafot (citation 2b).


            The problem with a beracha livatala is that it does not relate to anything specific. Tosafot claims that the blessing before the first eating does relate to the second eating, since he eats a little at the first eating. This apparently is considered, in some way, to be a beginning of the mitzva, even though the "main fulfillment" is later. Since one has begun the mitzva, it does not bother us that the fulfillment is strung out over a long period. Tosafot compares this to the mitzva of shofar, where he claims the main fulfillment is during the Shemona Esrei, but we make the blessing before the first shofar blasts which are much earlier.


            To summarize, according to Rashi, according to Rav Chisda, the first eating of lettuce is the fulfillment of the mitzva of maror. The second is only in order to arouse the curiosity of the children. According to Tosafot, Rav Chisda agrees that the second eating of lettuce is the fulfillment of the mitzva of maror, while the first, aside from arousing the curiosity of the children, is also defined as the "beginning" of the mitzva of maror, whose "main fulfillment" will be later during the second eating.


            Obviously, this concept of "beginning" and "main fulfillment" is somewhat vague and requires elucidation. Try and define for yourselves what Tosafot means. We shall discuss this, and other questions, in next week's shiur.


            First, let us conclude this section in the gemara. (We are on 115a, fifth line, "b'Surya").


In Syria, they followed Rav Huna's opinion. Rav Sheshet the son of Rav Yehoshua followed Rav Chisda. The law follows Rav Chisda. Rav Acha the son of Rava made sure to have other vegetables in order to avoid being involved in a disputed matter.


            Generally speaking, most Talmudic sugyas do not end with an unequivocal ruling of law (psak halakha). This one does, stating that the halakha is like Rav Chisda (although Rav Acha indicated that the best thing is to avoid the whole problem by having other vegetables for karpas).


            Although the dispute between Rav Huna and Rav Chisda refers only to the relatively rare case where one is using lettuce for both karpas and maror, and the whole problem can easily be avoided, this psak halakha is very important if we can determine what Rav Chisda holds regarding the question of mitzvot requiring intention. This is a major question of halakha, and according to Tosafot, our gemara has ruled that mitzvot DO require intention. According to my reading of Rashi, this conclusion will not be true.


            To see what later commentators said about this general question, we shall have to wait for next week. Part of the question relates to another sugya which discusses the question of mitzvot requiring intention. This sugya is in Rosh HaShana 28a, and is cited by Tosafot in the continuation of the Tosafot we have been reading. You are invited to try and finish the Tosafot yourselves in preparation for next week's shiur.


The webpage for today's shiur: