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A Case Of Mistaken Identity

I once gave a drasha somewhere and one of the people present thought that I spoke well so he approached me and made the bracha of "shechalak michachmaso liraiav" [blessed are you G-d who has doled out his wisdom to those who fear Him].

I did NOT answer amen!! It was bad enough that the man uttered a blessing in vain. I didn't want to compound the sin by saying amein in vain. [ By the way: Does one make a bracha on the fluid he is receiving through an I.V.? No! It would be a blessing in "vein". Ba dam chhhhhh]. If it had been Purim I would have understood but Purim was far behind us ......

The Shulchan Aruch unequivocally rules [224/6, based on Brachos 58a] that if one sees a Torah scholar this bracha should be recited. Many later sources rule that in our day and age the bracha should not be recited [See Tzitz Eliezer 14/37]. The reason is that we cannot be sure who fits into the category of "Torah scholar."

However in the Piskei Tshuvos [Vol. 2 Page 896] we learn that there are those who still say the bracha. One big Rabbi made the bracha on the Chazon Ish. Another Rabbi made the bacha on the Rogochover. Yet another made the bracha on the Brisker Rov, Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik.

I am not a posek but I feel more comfotable with the latter approach. I would rather not make an explicit halacha in the Shulchan Aruch obsolete. Today we have amongst us Talmidei Chachamim who know EVERYTHING! Cold. [And even when it is warm]. These same people have also mastered Kabala [which according to some is a prerequisite for making the bracha]. One such example would be Rav Shlomo Fischer Shlita. Another example: Rav Ovadiah Yoseph Shlita.

Halacha L'maasah? Ask your Rav!

I believe this rule should be extinct. Who are we to judge who is worthy of this blessing. It also causes sinas chinam.

I just want to be clear on your position. Do you not think that in the past they also encountered these issues?

The existence of the ברכה puts stock in people. As with all good things I think people just need to primarily use common sense and a measure of discretion, which people are not always wont to do. As with anything, the more ambitious the endeavor the more careful we need to be. This ברכה is important, it has a purpose; its existence bears witness to that fact. To say that we no longer have the technical criteria by which to gauge a תלמיד חכם worthy of this ברכה is a fine argument, though disputable; to say that the ברכה is inherently flawed because people are inherently flawed (since I am not you how can I judge you?) is a whole different matter.

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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