Arvei Pesachim #9: 103a

  • Rav Avi Baumol

Written by Rav Avi Baumol and Rav Yair Kahn






One of the components of the havdala service is the berakha made on the ner (candle) - "borei me'orei ha-esh." Our gemara records the famous machloket between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel regarding which berakha is recited first, ner or besamim. However, it does not relate to the nature of birkat ha-ner. In the previous shiur, we noted that birkat ha-ner may be an integral part of the havdala, based on the logic that since during Shabbat lighting a flame is prohibited, birkat ha-ner expresses the distinction between Shabbat and chol. However, if we consider birkat ha-ner as an independent berakha, we are faced with the challenge of defining its nature.


As we know, Chazal divided berakhot into three basic categories:

1. Birkot Ha-nehenin, which relate to berakhot which are made on one's deriving physical pleasure from an item - usually a food. This is based on the axiom "one cannot derive any pleasure from this world without blessing God for it" (Berakhot 35a).

2. Birkot Ha-mitzva, which are recited immediately prior to the performance of a mitzva. Examples are the berakha on tefillin, shofar, and reading the megilla. This berakha usually follows the form of "asher kideshanu be-mitzvotav vetzivanu ..."

3. Birkot Shevach Ve-hoda'a - reacting to actions of God in the world, either with praise or with thanks. Birkat ha-gomel, she-asa nisim la'avoteinu, and barukh dayan emet, are some examples of berakhot made at apecific occasions whether good or bad, where one is required to bless God.


What about the berakha of 'borei me'orei ha-esh' (He who created the illuminations of the fire)? At first glance, it seems that it is a birkat ha-nehenin - blessing God for the pleasure of fire. The gemara (Berakhot 53b and Pesachim 54a), discusses various laws which support this theory. One halakha states: "One cannot make a blessing on the candle until after one has pleasure from it" (Rashi's interpretation).


If birkat ha-ner is a birkat ha-nehenin, there would be no berakha in situations where one is forbidden to derive pleasure from the candles. Indeed, the mishna (Berakhot 51b) rules: "One cannot recite this berakha on candles used for avoda zara (idol worship)."


Tosafot 53b (s.v. Ein) ask regarding the law that one only makes this berakha on Motzaei Shabbat: Why not make it every time you receive pleasure from fire? From this question, it is clear that Tosafot define birkat ha-ner as a birkat ha-nehenin. Tosafot's response does not necessarily contradict this understanding. They distinguish between two types of hana'a - actual physical enjoyment which requires a berakha whenever one derives pleasure, and hana'a which is less physical and does not. The Orchot Chaim as well as the Elia Raba also maintain this position.


According to this approach, one could wonder why there was a necessity to institute this berakha specifically on Motzaei Shabbat. Did Chazal arbitrarily choose this timing, or is there a rationale for this ordinance?


The alternative to this understanding is seemingly suggested by the gemara when it states that this berakha was instituted as a reminder of creation. The gemara (54a) relates that on the sixth day of creation God was about to give man fire, but He waited until Motzaei Shabbat when Adam was given knowledge to bring forth fire on his own, by creating friction with two rocks. It stands to reason that the berakha, then, is a praise to God for enlightening man with the knowledge and ability to create fire; in other words, it is a birkat ha-shevach This idea is reflected by the Ramban, Ritva, Meiri, Rosh, and other Rishonim.


Based on this, it is clear why this berakha is recited specifically on Motzaei Shabbat, commemorating the time at the dawn of creation, when man first created fire. This, however, does not explain the only other day when we recite the berakha - Motzaei Yom Kippur. If it is a berakha commemorating the first fire, which occurred on Motzaei Shabbat, how can we explain the requirement to make this berakha on Motzaei Yom Kippur as well?


Within the notion that the berakha is praise to God we can, and should, distinguish between two types of praise (shevach). Historical shevach is a berakha praising and thanking God for something miraculous imparted to the Jewish people or mankind in the past. A clear example of this is the berakha, recited on the Chanuka lights, of "she-asa nisim la-avoteinu ba-yamim ha-hem bi-zman ha-zeh." We thank God for the miracles of past, for saving Bnei Yisrael from destruction etc. The berakha of "ha-rav et riveinu" - recited subsequent to the reading of the megilla - would also fall into this category.


There is a second category in birkot ha-shevach. It is not that this berakha praises God for past events, but rather it is a reaction to a contemporary event which causes one to bless and acknowledge Him. Nothing is more immediate than the blessing made upon hearing good tidings. We respond immediately with the berakha "ha-tov ve-hameitiv." Another example is the blessing of "she-hecheyanu" - that God, you have brought us and sustained us so that we can appreciate this event today. This blessing expresses the notion that while the holiday is a recollection of historic miracles past, those events are propelled into the present as if having occurred today.


Which type of birkat ha-shevach is the berakha on the candle? The answer might be both. On the one hand, it is recited to commemorate the first creation of light and to acknowledge that it was God who had given this power to man on that first Motzaei Shabbat. This would explain the obligation to light the candle on Motzaei Shabbat.


On the other hand, the berakha might also reflect a current appreciation of fire. Thus, we recite a berakha similar to acknowledging God upon seeing the "Great Sea," lightning, and thunder. This aspect of the berakha is not concerned with the past but with the fact that, at the moment, I am witnessing something which generates an obligation of praise. This would solve our problem - why there is an obligation to recite the berakha on Motzaei Yom Kippur. However, it remains unclear why this praise is restricted to Motzaei Yom Kippur, why not bless God every day for the miracle of fire?


We can assume that the obligation to bless God is restricted to a situation where we experience something new and unusual. If lightning struck all day, every day, it would stand to reason that the berakha of "oseh ma'aseh bereishit" would not be recited constantly. Fire would have been another occurrence which would not, on its own, result in an obligation to utter praise, since it is continuously used by man.


There are two days in the year, however, when the usage of fire is prohibited - Shabbat and Yom Kippur. On both of these occasions one cannot light a fire. This presents a break in the constancy of using fire, resulting in the requirement to make a berakha upon its return. Hence we understand the relevance of the berakha to Motzaei Yom Kippur as well as Motzaei Shabbat. Both follow the prohibition of lighting a flame, thereby creating an ideal opportunity to acknowledge God as the one who has endowed us with the ability to use fire. (Similarly, this can help answer our question on Tosafot. Although birkat ha-ner is a birkat ha-nehenin, it is only recited on Motzaei Shabbat and Motzaei Yom Kippur. After the use of flame has been temporarily denied to us, we incur the obligation of reciting the birkat ha-nehenin on this abstract hana'a, in contrast to physical hana'a which requires a berakha every time we derive pleasure.)


While Motzaei Yom Kippur contains one aspect of the berakha, representing a contemporary birkat ha-shevach, on Shabbat both aspects - the current as well as the historical - may exist. Not only do we celebrate the phenomenon of fire, butwe commemorate the day that God gave to man the wisdom to create fire on his own. This too, is worthy of a blessing.


The gemara (54a) relates that a difference exists between the havdala of Motzaei Shabbat and that of Motzaei Yom Kippur. On Motzaei Shabbat one can use either a light which remained lit the entire Shabbat (ner she-shavat) or a light which was lit after Shabbat - ha-yotzei min ha-eitzim u-min ha-avanim. On Motzaei Yom Kippur, however, one is confined to a pre-existing flame.


Based on the above, we can explain this distinction. Motzaei Yom Kippur, when we only acknowledge the phenomenon of fire, a pre-existing flame which was previously prohibited is necessary to express renewed appreciation of an existing phenomenon. On Motzaei Shabbat, we can use either a pre-existing flame or a new flame since the berakha is also commemorative of that first Motzaei Shabbat.


According to the above analysis, would a blind person be able to recite the birkat ha-ner? (See Beit Yosef siman 298 s.v. Ve-Suma).




Itsira Le-chu Le-mishti


Rashi, taking the gemara literally, explains that after announcing "hav lan u-nevarekh," one is not permitted to eat. Instead, he must first recite BIRKAT HA-MAZON, and only then begin a new meal. The Rosh, on the other hand, sides with the Rif, who rules that one may resume his meal as long as he recites an additional BERAKHA RISHONA.


Although the language of the gemara ("it is forbidden for you to eat") seems to support Rashi, the reason offered by the gemara - "de-asichu da-ataychu" (because you have lost mental concentration) - supports the opinion of the Rosh. Since "hav lan u-nevarekh" is considered a "hesech ha-da'at," a "hefsek" (interruption) is incurred, and a new berakha rishona is required. However, this is not a reason to prohibit eating once the necessary berakhot are recited.


We can explain Rashi's position, if we assume that the statement "hav lan u-nevarekh" does not only constitute a hefsek. Rather, it signals the culmination of the meal. Therefore, not only is it necessary to repeat the berakha rishona, but the berakha acharona, in this case birkat ha-mazon, is required as well. (See our discussion in shiur #4.) The ensuing gemara, which interprets the statement "hav lan u-nevarekh" as "akar da-atei mi-mishtiya," supports this understanding.


A parallel sugya appears in the sixth perek of Berakhot (42a). The gemara there discusses a number of possible indicators that one has finished eating. However, the gemara concludes by apparently accepting only the indication suggested by "mayim acharonim" (the washing of ones hands after eating). "Let hilkheta ke-chol hani shmaita ela ... teikef le-netilat yadayim berakha." (All the other possibilities are not accepted; rather... immediately after washing ones hands comes the berakha).


The Rishonim noted the tension between the two sugyot. Our gemara considers the statement "hav lan u-nevarekh" as a valid indication, while the gemara in Berakhot only recognizes "mayim acharonim."


Tosafot (Berakhot 42a s.v. Teikef) claim that the gemara in Berakhot accepts "mayim acharonim" as opposed only to the alternate possibilities suggested previously in that sugya. Therefore, "mayim acharonim does not exclude "hav lan u-nevarekh" which is recognized by our sugya, but is not mentioned in Berakhot.


According to this approach, which assimilates the two gemarot, "hav lan u-nevarekh" and "mayim acharonim" are identical. The Rif would consider either one a "hefsek," generating a need for a new berakha rishona before resuming the meal (see Tosafot ibid.). Rashi, on the other hand, would define both as a termination of the meal, demanding a proper berakha acharona before beginning a new meal.


On the other hand, we can accept the impression created by the gemara in Berakhot, that "mayim acharonim" is exclusive, if we distinguish between the two sugyot. Our sugya might be dealing with "hefsek" (the opinion of the Rif), while the sugya in Berakhot - with the culmination of the meal. Therefore, although "hav lan u-nevarekh" does constitute a "hefsek," only "mayim acharonim" signals the termination of the se'uda.


Moreover, we can argue that the reason a berakha acharona is required after "mayim acharonim," is not because it indicates the termination of the meal, but because it introduces birkat ha-mazon. The statement "teikef le-netilat yadayim berakha" suggests a relationship between "mayim acharonim" and "birkat ha-mazon." Therefore, once one washes his hands, and the wheels of birkat ha-mazon begin to turn, one is obligated to recite the berakha; and hence can no longer eat.


This understanding of the gemara in Berakhot, can also be applied to explain the aforementioned position of Rashi, that eating is prohibited following "hav lan u-nevarekh." Perhaps Rashi (who compares the two sugyot), maintains that the statement "hav lan u-nevarekh" (let us recite birkat ha-mazon) also introduces birkat ha-mazon. This subsequently generates an obligation to immediately recite the berakha, which in turn negates the possibility of continuing the meal, even with a new berakha rishona. (See Rashba Berakhot 42a s.v. Let.)



Sources for next week:

1. 103b "Ameimar ... ve-let hilchita kavatei" (104b, first line)

2. Tosafot s.v. Rav Ashi.

3. Tosafot s.v. Ba-i, Ran (21a in the pages of the Rif) s.v Bein.



1. Tosafot proves that if there is no "hefsek," there is no need to recite "borei pri ha-gafen" on a "kos shel berakha." Is it possible to argue in theory on this conclusion?

2. What is the rationale for the opinion that the phrase which precedes the "chatima" must resemble the "petikha?"

3. Why is the phrase "bein yom ha-shvi'i le-sheshet yemei ha-ma'aseh" normally inserted into the havdala? According to this reason, does this phrase belong in the havdala we recite in tefilla?










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