Monday, March 23, 2009

Question & Answer With Rafi G. - Birchas HaChama

A Simple Jew asks:

It seems like every publication coming out recently centers around Birchas HaChama. Do you think that there has been too much of an emphasis on this transitory mitzvah?

Rafi G. of Life In Israel responds:

I have been seeing so many notices of pamphlets and books being printed about Birkas Ha'Chama and shiurim given about it, that I had stopped paying attention. I said to myself then, "It is happening in another 3 months/2 months/5 weeks - what's the big deal? Why all the preparation?"

On the one hand it is wonderful to see people get so excited about a mitzva. I think the reason for the excitement is because it occurs so infrequently. There is something special about doing a mitzva, anything really but especially a mitzva, that is so infrequent that it does not give you the opportunity to do it by rote. When something is so rare, you think about it, you try to understand it, you try to enhance the experience as much as you possibly can.

On the other hand, the whole mitzva will take about 30 seconds, if stretched out as much as you possibly could, to complete. Not only that, but it is also a bracha that we say for various other natural occurrences as well, so while the event might be rare, our part in it is really "nothing special".

But the truth is that I don't think we are making any more of a big deal out of it now than we did in the past. I remember as a child, I would have been 8 years old, when it last happened, the whole school went outside to say the bracha together. All the shuls performed the mitzva together. They made a big deal out of it also.

While it might feel a bit "over the top", it is human nature to try to appreciate something that is so rare much more than something that is so common. We make the same bracha on lightning, yet I can honestly say that during our last storm, I said the bracha on lightning with not nearly the level of reverence that is leading up to the bracha for Birkas Ha'Chama.

Perhaps we should learn a lesson from Birkas Ha'Chama about how we perform most of the time "Mitzvas Anashim Melumada", and how we can perform the same exact mitzva with reverence and thorough analysis. The way we prepare for and recite the bracha on 14 Nissan this year should remind us that we say the same bracha on many other manifestations of Hashem being the Creator, and that we should treat all those other times with even half the reverence with which we are treating Birkas Ha'Chama.


At March 23, 2009 at 7:39:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just noticed in your picture that the sun was wearing a streimel!

At March 23, 2009 at 10:38:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If our emphasis on this mitzvah is disproportionant, the rectification is to increase our emphasis on the imporance of other mitzvos, not to lower our esteem of this one.

At March 23, 2009 at 10:57:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you really want to understand birchas hachama watch the dvd that oorah just mailed out - I found it so easy to understand and it was very well illustrated.

At March 23, 2009 at 1:54:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Great post. Ha'levai we should put as much reseach into all the Mitzvos we perform.

At March 23, 2009 at 4:14:00 PM EDT, Blogger yaak said...

Is it just me or is there anyone else out there that can't get enough of the stuff?
I'm turning into a Birkat Hahama addict.
It's a good thing it's over in a few weeks!!

At March 24, 2009 at 3:16:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The use of the word "mitzva" (and Rav Raffi isnt the only one using it) regarding Birkat Hachama is quite misleading.

Birkat Hachama is not a "mitzvah". Those who dont recite it for whatever reason have committed no wrong.

It is by all accounts, optional, albeit storngly recommended.

Rabbi Ari Enkin

At March 24, 2009 at 6:42:00 AM EDT, Blogger Rafi G. said...

Rabbi Enkin - good point and I stand corrected.
However, further to your next point, many mitzva's also are only strongly recommended but not obligatory... think tzitzis, yishuv haaretz, etc...

At March 25, 2009 at 11:42:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have never heard that yishuv ha'aretz was only "highly recommended". This must be some sort of galuti thing.

At March 25, 2009 at 12:00:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I have never heard that yishuv ha'aretz was only "highly recommended". This must be some sort of galuti thing."

Although living in Eretz Yisrael has tremendous value and many poskim view it as an absolute chiyuv, R'Moshe Feinstein ztl famously paskened that living in EY today is only a mitzvah kiyumis. Others argue but don't belittle view espoused by the previous posek ha-dor.

At March 31, 2009 at 1:39:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At April 7, 2009 at 2:25:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This may all be in error. According to Ancient sources and errors in linking this date to solar calender instead of lunar calender.



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