Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Regarding Haftarah on Simchat Torah and the daily obligation to recite 100 blessings

Regarding Haftarah on Simchat Torah and the daily obligation to recite 100 blessings
Chaim Sunitsky

It is well known that Simchat Torah is not mentioned anywhere in the two Talmuds or Midrashim[1]. In fact we have no proof that in the times of Talmud they used to finish the Torah cycle reading on Simchat Torah. The prevalent minhag in the land of Israel was to read the Torah not in one year but approximately in three[2]. In fact it seems that every synagogue read at its own speed[3] without any established cycle, so speaking of the specific “day” when they would finish the reading is meaningless[4].

However in Babylon where they read Torah in one year, it is important to establish when did they finish? One would assume that reading in one year meant finishing on Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah[5] or Shabbat before Yom Kippur (since the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur while technically being already in the next year are also related to the previous year[6].) Indeed R. Rueben Margolis[7] claims that the original custom was to finish reading the Torah cycle on Shabbat before Yom Kippur[8]. One of his proofs is the statement in the Talmud[9] that R. Bibi bar Abaye wanted to finish reading all parshiyot on the eve of Yom Kippur, and when he was told this day should be reserved for eating, he decided to read earlier. Had they finished the cycle after Yom Kippur, why didn’t R. Bibi bar Abaye instead postpone it for later[10]? This idea also explains the tradition that there are altogether 53 parshiyot in the Torah[11], and therefore Nitzavim and Veyelech[12] should be counted as one. According to this all 53 parshiyot were always read on Shabbat and there never was a special parsha that is read only on Yom Tov[13].

Even though the Talmud (Megilah 31a) mentions that on Simchat Torah, “Vezot Habracha” is read, there is absolutely no proof that they read the entire parsha till the end of Torah. What is more likely is that this parsha was chosen for this particular day of Yom Tov, just as all other parshiyot chosen for various holidays in the same sugia. Maybe the reason is that they wanted to finish Sukkot with the general blessing of all the Jewish tribes[14].

This also explains the Haftorah for this day. According to the Talmud (ibid) it is from the prayer of Shlomo (Melachim 1:8:22) right before the Haftorah of the previous day (1:8:54). The prayers and blessings of Shlomo fit perfectly with the prayers and blessings of Moshe[15]. However our custom is to say the Haftorah from the beginning of Yehoshua. Indeed the Tosafot (Megilah 31a) ask why our custom this contradicts the Talmud[16]? However according to the assumption that only during Gaonic times did we start reading the entire last parsha of the Torah on the second day of Shmini Atzeret[17], it makes sense that this caused the change in Haftorah, as the beginning of Sefer Yehoshua is a natural continuation of the Torah and it starts with the death of Moshe.

The second topic of this post is regarding the obligation[18] to make 100 blessings every day. This is codified as halacha in the Shulchan Aruch[19]. However the common practice seems to be not to count[20] the number of blessings and make sure to say 100 every day. Indeed on the holiest day of our year – Yom Kippur[21] it’s virtually impossible to make so many blessings. Indeed the Brisker Rav – R. Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik is quoted as counting the blessings he made every day except on Yom Kippur since making 100 blessings on Yom Kippur is impossible anyway, he did not even try to make as many as he could[22].

Another problem is that most women who don’t pray 3 times a day almost never pronounce 100 blessings per day. This led some poskim to write that women are not obligated in this mitzvah[23].
All of this led some Rishonim to look for alternative ways one can be considered to have made 100 blessings. One of approaches it to count some of the blessings one hears as if he made them[24]. Another approach is to count the prayer “Ein Kelokenu” as a number of blessings[25]. This approach obviously seems somewhat farfetched[26].

In this short article we will try to see if the is a different reason why the practice of 100 blessings was not originally followed by the majority of Jews. It is known that not all halachik obligations are treated equally[27]. There are various reasons for this[28] but at least one has to do with traditionally following what our ancestors did. If the Jews originally resided in areas where the majority of grain was “yashan[29]” and later moved to northern countries where the crop is planted after Passover and all the grain of that crop is “chadash”, they continued ignoring the prohibition against it[30]. Similarly the Brisker Rav said the reason very few people ever ask a rabbi questions regarding trumot and maaserot is because they never saw their parents who lived outside the Land of Israel do so[31].
At times however it seems that the Jewish people originally followed an alternative opinion in halacha and later when the Shulchan Aruch paskened according to a different opinion the old custom did not change[32]. In my humble opinion it seems the custom of making 100 blessings a day was also originally not obligatory[33], and even when the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch effectively made it so, the people continued not to “count their blessings”.

The wording of the Talmud (Menachot 43b) is as follows:

תניא היה רבי מאיר אומר חייב אדם לברך מאה ברכות בכל יום שנאמר ועתה ישראל מה ה' אלקיך שואל מעמך רב חייא בריה דרב אויא בשבתא וביומי טבי טרח וממלי להו באיספרמקי ומגדי
It was taught[34]: R. Meir used to say, a man is bound to say one hundred blessings daily, as it is written, “And now, Israel, what doth the L-rd thy G-d require of thee[35]”? On Sabbaths and on Festivals R. Hiyya the son of R. Awia endeavored to make up this number by the use of spices and delicacies.
The obvious question is why does the Talmud mention only R. Hiyya ben Awia as making a special endeavor to compensate the missing blessings[36]? What did everyone else do? It would seem logical that if there was a legal obligation for everyone to make 100 blessings, the Talmud should have asked: and how do we make up for missing blessings on Shabbat and Yom Tov[37]? It would seem that R. Meir does not actually require to count the blessings one makes during the day and make sure there are 100, and only one sage went out of his way to always make 100 blessings. We similarly find other laws of the Talmud that are stated as actual prohibitions but are possibly only stringencies. These examples may include the prohibition of entering a business partnership with an idolater or the prohibition of lending money without witnesses[38]. Similarly the Rashba[39] considers the prohibition against drinking bear with idolaters to be just “the custom of holy ones (minhag kedoshim)”.

Even more compelling is the version of the statement of R. Meir in Tosefta and Yerushalmi (end of Berachot) implies that one would just normally end up[40] making 100 blessings on regular weekdays:

תני בשם רבי מאיר אין לך אחד מישראל שאינו עושה מאה מצות בכל יום. קורא את שמע ומברך לפניה ולאחריה ואוכל את פתו ומברך לפניה ולאחריה ומתפלל שלשה פעמים של שמונה עשרה וחוזר ועושה שאר מצות ומברך עליהן
We learned in the name of R. Meir that every Jew does [at least] 100 mitzvot [by making 100 blessings] every [week]day. He reads Shma with blessings before and after[41], eats bread with blessings before and after[42], and prays 3 times 18 blessings[43] and does other mitzvot[44] and makes blessings on them.
I found the same proofs in the Metivta edition of the Talmud in the name of R. Yerucham Fishel Perlow[45]. He also brings that R. Meir’s statement in our Talmud Bavli is according to some versions:  מאה ברכות חייב אדם לברך בכל יום[46] and he suggests it can be translated as “100 obligatory blessings does one make per [week]day” rather than “100 blessings is one obligated to make per day”. He also brings some Gaonim and Rishonim who understood that the mitzvah of making 100 blessings a day is not a full obligation[47].

In conclusion I’d like to mentions that obvious: this article was only meant to explain why many are not as careful about the law of making 100 blessings per day as they are regarding other laws contained in the Shulchan Aruch right next to this law (i.e. the laws of morning blessings). This short essay is definitely not meant as a halachic guide. We certainly should try to fulfil the letter of the law by either listening carefully on Shabbat and Yom Tov to the blessings on the Torah and Haftorah as well as the repetition of Shmone Esre[48], or eat a few snacks which contain foods that require different blessings[49].



[1] It is however mentioned in the Zohar 3:256b.
[2] Megilah 29. It was already linked to their general dividing many of the sentences into much smaller verses (Kidushin 30a).We may actually have this preserved in Devarim Rabbah where each new chapter starts with: Halacha, Adam MeYisrael and we have 21 such beginnings instead of 10 or 11 for parshiyot of Sefer Devarim. 
[3] See Hiluke Minhagim between Eretz Yisrael and Babel.
[4] Although they would presumably make the “siyum” and celebrate when they did indeed finish the Torah (see Kohelet Rabbah 1:1).
[5] See Levush, 669 who gives a somewhat strange explanation that the reason we don’t finish the cycle of Torah reading by Rosh Hashanah is to “deceive the Satan”.
[6] GR”A to Sifra Detzniuta, see also a similar idea in TB Rosh Hashanah 8b.
[7] Shaare Zohar, Megilah 30b, Nitzutze Zohar 1:104b, 3rd note.
[8] He seems to claim this for Eretz Yisrael but it seems more reasonable to say this is true regarding Babel.
[9] Berachot 8b.
[10] Indeed for us the halacha is that someone who didn’t read the parsha on time, should finish it before Simchat Torah.
[11] See for example Tikune Zohar, 13th Tikun, GR”A there.
[12] Indeed at the end of these two parshiyot we have one Masoretic note that counts all their verses together – 70, rather than 30 verses for Nitzavim and 40 for Vayelech as is usual for other parshiyot that are sometimes joined. Regarding their splitting see also Tosafot, Megilah, 31b and Magen Avraham, 228.
[13] According to this on certain years, when there was no Shabbat between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, two other parshas were joined.
[14] See Sefer Hamanhig, Sukka.
[15] See also Rashi, Megilah 31a that Shlomo sent away the people on the eight day and this is why the Haftorah for Shmini Atzeret was taken from this chapter.
[16] See also Rosh and Tur that claim our custom is based on Yerushlami, but this is found not in our Yerushalmi.
[17] Note that one can’t bring any proof for this from the fact that the Talmud (Megilah 30a) does not mention that on Simchat Torah 3 Sifrey Torah are taken out as it mentions regarding Hanukkah that falls on Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh, and regarding Rosh Chodesh Adar that falls on Shabbat. Aside from being an argument from silence, the custom to read a passage regarding the mussaf sacrifice from Parshat Pinchas is not of Talmudic, but of Gaonic origin (see Bet Yosef, 488). So we would at most expect there to be two Torah Scrolls on the second day of Shmini Atzeret, but if our argument is correct, they read only from one scroll.
[18] Talmud, Menachot 43b. There are some sources that seem to attribute this law to King David (Bemidbar Rabbah 18:21).
[19] Orach Chaim 46:4.
[20] On a typical weekday one pronounces 100 brachot anyway due to large number of blessings in 3 Shmone Esre prayers (3*19=-57). However on Shabbat and Yom Tov the 4 Amidahs with 7 blessings each make only 28 blessings, and the only way to make 100 blessings is by eating fruits and snacks and smelling fragrances throughout the day.
[21] Even though we pray five Amidahs on Yom Kipur, each has only 7 blessings and since there are no meals throughout the day we can only compensate the missing brachot by smelling various fragrances and making blessings on them.
[22] See Tshuvot Vehanhagot 4:153.  Others say one should still try to maximize the number of blessings even if you can’t reach 100 (R. Haim Kanevsky quoted in Dirshu edition on Mishna Berura, 46).
[23] Shevet Halevi 5:23, Tshuvot Vehanhagot 2:129. However R. Ovadia Yosef (Halichot Olam, Vayeshev) obligates women in making 100 blessings.
[24] See Orach Chaim 284:3.
[25] See Machzor Vitri,1; Sidur Rashi,1; Rokach; Kol Bo, 37.
[26] See Sefer Hamanhig, Dinei Tefillah (page 31) ולפי דעתי אין שורש וענף לזה המנהג.
[27] The GR”A explains that the statement in the Talmud (Shabbat 155b): “there is no one poorer than a dog or richer than a pig” hints to two prohibitions: eating pork and speaking lashon hara (evil speech). While every Jew is careful about the former (this mitzvah is “rich”), very few people fully keep the latter (and this mitzvah is “poor”).
[28] Some mitzvot are just very difficult to keep, like the obligation for every man to write his own Sefer Torah.
[29] The five main grains that took root after Passover are forbidden to be eaten until the day after next Pesach and are called “chadash” – new [crop]. The grain from the old, permitted crop is called “yashan” – old. Some poskim hold that the prohibition does not apply outside the land of Israel, but the GR”A thought these laws are applicable everywhere.
[30] See the GR”A Yore Deah 293:2 אלא שנמשך ההיתר שהיו זורעין קורם הפסח.
[31] Similarly the Chofetz Chaim says the reason most people ignore the prohibition against evil speech is also because their parents did not stop them from speaking Lashon Hara from childhood (Haga in the end of his 9th chapter of Chofetz Chaim).
[32] I brought an example of this in an article about mezuza, where it seems there used to be an opinion followed that a house with more than one entrance only requires one mezuza.
[33] It is interesting that according to the Manhig (quoted above) ונראין הדברי' שאחר שיסדן משה רבינו ע"ה שכחום וחזר דוד ויסדם לפי שהיו מתי' ק' בכל יום Moshe first instituted this law and it was later “forgotten” and reinstituted by David. I am not sure how it’s possible that this law would ever be “forgotten”.
[34] I am quoting Soncino’s translation.
[35] There are a few different interpretations regarding how this verse hints to 100 blessings, see Rashi and Tosafot.
[36] See Hida, Machazik Beracha to Orach Chaim 290.
[37] See similar logic in Tosafot Baba Metzia 23b that we don’t pasken like Rav that meat that was not watched becomes forbidden since the Gemora asks: “how does Rav ever eat meat” and does not ask: “how do we eat meat”. See also Rosh, Pesachim 2:26 that only one sage was careful to start the “Shmira” of matza so early, and therefore the halacha for us does not follow him (Yabia Omer 8:22:24).
[38] See for example Ritva, Megillah 28a, see also Ran on the Rif, end of first perek of Avoda Zara.
[39] See Bet Yosef, Yore Deah 114 in the name of Torat Habayit.
[40] It’s also possible R. Meir’s statement is in realm of agada rather than halacha.
[41] That’s 7 blessings.
[42] If he eats 2 meals a day and makes Birkat Hamazon with a cup of wine, he will make 2+4+2 blessings during each meal, i.e. 16 blessings a day.
[43] 57 blessings.
[44] The blessings on tefillin and tzitzit make 2 or 3 blessings, blessing on the washing hands and two or three blessing on the Torah add another 5-7 blessings. Altogether we get 7+16+57+5/7=85/87 blessings. If we add all the morning blessings we will get more than 100.
[45] Commentary to R. Saadia’s Sefer Hamitzvot (Aseh 2).
[46] This is the Girsa of Tur and some other Rishonim.
[47] See R. Perlow on Sefer Hamitzvot quoted above.
[48] At any rate one should listen carefully and if there is a small minyan, when people don’t pay attention to the blessings on the Torah or to the repetition of Shmone Esre, they cause a “bracha levatala”.
[49] For example an apple, some watermelon, a piece of chocolate and some cake will add 4 blessings before and 2 after.

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