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Friday, September 25, 2015

Parashat Ha'Azinu 5776


Saying “ברוך הוא וברוך שמו” (“Blessed is [will be] He, and blessed is [will be] His Name”) is common after saying God’s Name during a blessing. The thinking on this topic is actually quite muddled though. Some see it as glorifying God’s name and others as an unwanted interruption in at least some, if not all, blessings. Its origins our in this week’s parasha.

Within the poetry of this week’s parasha is a verse where Moses asks us to ascribe greatness to God when he calls out God’s name. This verse appears in the gabbai’s introduction to Torah reading. It is also the basis for many of our calls and responses, as we shall see.
דברים פרשת האזינו פרק לב
Deuteronomy, Chapter 32
(3) When I call out the name of Hashem, ascribe greatness to our God.
(ג) כִּי שֵׁם יְקֹוָק אֶקְרָא הָבוּ גֹדֶל לֵאלֹהֵינוּ:

Additionally, Proverbs tells us that the memory of a righteous one is for a blessing. This could be taken to mean that we should bless a righteous person when someone recalls her. How much more so should we do this when someone recalls God!
משלי פרק י
Proverbs, Chapter 10
(7) The memory of a righteous one is for a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot.
(ז) זֵכֶר צַדִּיק לִבְרָכָה וְשֵׁם רְשָׁעִים יִרְקָב:

In the Talmud we see an explanation of the verses as I have presented so far. Additionally, Chananiyah sees the “righteous” in the Proverbs verse as the Righteous, ie God himself. This verse is further support for blessing God when he is recalled.
תלמוד בבלי מסכת יומא דף לז עמוד א
Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Yoma 37a
It was taught: Rebbi says, “‘When I call out the name of Hashem, ascribe greatness to our God.’ Moshe said to Israel, ‘A the time that I recount the name of the holy One, blessed be He, you ascribe greatness.’”
תניא, רבי אומר: כי שם ה' אקרא הבו גדל לאלהינו. אמר להם משה לישראל: בשעה שאני מזכיר שמו של הקדוש ברוך הוא אתם הבו גדל.
Chananiyah the son of the brother of Rebbi Yehoshua says, “‘The memory of a righteous one is for a blessing.’ Said the prophet to Israel, ‘At the time that I recall the Righteous of the Worlds, you should give a blessing.’”
חנניה בן אחי רבי יהושע אומר: זכר צדיק לברכה, אמר להם נביא לישראל: בשעה שאני מזכיר צדיק עולמים - אתם תנו ברכה.

On the verse in our parasha, the Sifrei derives four common responses in prayer. The first is for blessing God after a meal during the invitation to bless. Our verse, which commands a response in plural, understand that one person invites and at least two answer; therefore, it takes three people to allow for an invitation to bless.
Further, it derives saying, “Amen,” after blessings and also “Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom forever [ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד]. This phrase, also a response to the Sh’ma, was said after every blessing in the Temple in lieu of “Amen”.

Finally, it derives the call and response in the middle of Kaddish from this verse. This response is slightly different than it is today.
ספרי דברים פרשת האזינו פיסקא שו
Sifrei D’varim, Parashat Ha’Azinu, Piska 306
And from where is it derived that we only invite to bless [together after a meal] with three? As it says, “When I call out the name of Hashem, ascribe greatness to our God.”
ומנין שאין מזמנים אלא בשלשה שנאמר כי שם ה' אקרא הבו גדל לאלהינו.
And from where is it derived that we answer, “Amen,” after one who blesses? As it says, “Ascribe greatness to our God.”
ומנין שעונים אמן אחר המברך שנאמר הבו גדל לאלהינו.
And from where is it derived that we say, “Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom forever?” As it says, “When I call out the name of Hashem.”
ומנין שאומרים ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד שנאמר כי שם ה' אקרא
And from where is it derived that those who say, “May the great Name be blessed,” that we answer after them, “Forever and ever?” As it says, “Ascribe greatness to our God.”
ומנין לאומרים יהא שמו הגדול מבורך שעונים אחריהם לעולם ולעולמי עולמים שנאמר הבו גדל לאלהינו.

The Rosh recounts the teaching of his contemporary, Abba Mari. Picking up on the idea of responding to certain phrases, he adds a few familiar to many of use. The first is “Blessed is He and blessed is His Name [ברוך הוא וברוך שמו] said on any blessing that one hears, in all cases. The Rosh seems to put no limits on this.
שו"ת הרא"ש כלל ד סימן יט
Responsa of the ROSH, K’lal 4, Siman 19
Asher ben Yechiel, 13th and 14th Centuries Germany and Spain
And I heard from Abba Mari, of blessed memory, that he would say on every blessing that he heard in all cases, “Blessed is He and blessed is His Name.”
ושמעתי מאבא מארי ז"ל, שהיה אומר על כל ברכה וברכה שהיה שומע בכל מקום: ברוך הוא וברוך שמו.
And this is what Moses our teacher, on him be peace, said, “When I call out the name of Hashem, ascribe greatness to our God.”
וזה הוא שאמר משה רבינו עליו השלום: כי שם ה' אקרא הבו גודל לאלהינו.
And further, even when he recounted a righteous person [lit. one of flesh and blood], one needs to bless him, as it says, “The memory of a righteous one for a blessing.”
ועוד, אפילו כשמזכיר לצדיק בשר ודם צריך לברכו, שנאמר: זכר צדיק לברכה.
And I also heard that everyone says, “May He be exalted, may He be praised,” when the prayer leader says bar’khu. Therefore the prayer leader lengthens it.
וגם שמעתי כל העולם שאומרים: יתעלה וישתבח, כשאומר החזן ברכו, ולכן מאריך בו החזן.
And a paradigm for the matter: Modim, that the prayer leader lengthens it so the congregation can say Modim of our Rabbis.
וסימן לדבר: מודים, שמאריך בו החזן כדי שיאמרו הקהל מודים דרבנן.

The Sefer Charedim seems to take matters even further. He does not limit this response to blessings but to any recounting of God’s Name.
ספר חרדים מצוות עשה מדברי קבלה ומדברי סופרים פרק ד
Sefer Charedim, Positive Commandments from the Received Tradition and the Words of the Scribes, Chapter 4
Elazar ben Azkari, 16th Century Israel
(17) And further, in the midrash, “At the time that I recall the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, you shall ascribe greatness to our God.”
(יז) ועוד במדרש בשעה שאני מזכיר שם של הקב"ה אתם הבו גודל לאלהינו
From here [we derive] that we answer, “Blessed is He and blessed is His Name,” on the recounting of the Name.
מכאן שעונין ב"ה וברוך שמו על הזכרת השם:


The Shulchan Arukh codifies the Rosh’s version. He too is expansive saying that this applies in all cases of blessings.
שולחן ערוך אורח חיים הלכות תפלה סימן קכד
Shulchan Arukh, Orech Chayyim, Laws of Prayer, Siman 124
Yosef Karo, 15th and 16th Centuries Turkey and Israel
On every blessing that a person hears in cases, he says, “Blessed is He and blessed is His Name.”
על כל ברכה שאדם שומע בכל מקום, אומר: ברוך הוא וברוך שמו.

However, the commentaries on the Shulchan Arukh being to limit it. The Magen Avraham tells us that obviously this does not apply if someone is themselves praying a piece where interruptions are forbidden.
מגן אברהם סימן קכד
Magen Avraham, Siman 124
Avraham Gombiner, 17th Century Poland
On every blessing - And it is obvious that if one is engaged in a place where one is not permitted to interrupt, it is forbidden to say it.
על כל ברכה - ופשוט דאם עסוק במקום שאינו רשאי להפסיק אסור לאומרו עמ"ש סי' נ"ו:

The student of the Vilna Gaon claims that Vilna Gaon severly limited this response while listening to the repetition of the Amidah. He gives a very practical explanation: there is not enough time between God’s name and the next word to insert this response and it mars people actually hearing the nineteen blessings. From the language used, though, it seems like it is sometimes a permissible response, we should just not worry if we do not have time to say it. In that case, it is better to avoid it.
מעשה רב הלכות פסוקי דזמרה וקריאת שמע ותפלה
Ma’aseh Rav, Laws of P’sukei D’zimra, K’riat Sh’ma, and T’fillah
Yissakhar Dov Ber (on the customs of Elijah Kramer of Vilna), 19th Century Vilna
One should hear the prayer of eighteen [blessings] from the mouth of the prayer leader and from the prayer book. And one should answer, “Amen” after every blessing, but not be strict about, “Blessed is He and blessed is His Name,” for the prayer leader does not wait until it is finished from the mouth of the nation and the review of the tefillah [amidah] is lost.  
לשמוע תפלת י"ח מפי הש"ץ ומתוך הסדור. ולענות אמן אחר כל ברכה ולא להקפיד על ב"ה וברו"ש כי הש"ץ אינו ממתין עד שתכלה מפי העם ומפסיד חזרת התפלה

However, the Vilna Gaon’s student in his notes to his work adds that the Vilna Gaon had many other reasons for prohibiting this response.
מעשה רב הערות פעולת שכיר שם
Ma’aseh Rav, Notes of the P’eulat Sakhir, on the above
Yissakhar Dov Ber, 19th Century Vilna
We heard from him, of blessed memory, other reasons for the matter.
שמענו לו ז"ל עוד טעמים בדבר

The Arukh HaShulchan (following many others), rules that we may also not respond, “Blessed is He, etc.” for any blessing that one hears in order to fulfil an obligation (like listening to kiddush). Apparently some people think, as could easily be understood from sources we have seen, that every blessing requires such a response. The Arukh HaShulchan says this actually voids ones fulfilling an obligation through hearing a blessing. He further asks why this response is ever need since one blessing God is already blessing God! Why do we need the listener to do so as well. He seems to imply that our response is more applicable to invoking God’s name not in a blessing, along the thinking of the Sefer Charedim.
ערוך השולחן אורח חיים סימן קכד
Arukh HaShulchan, Orech Chayyim, Siman 124
Yechiel Mekhiel Epstein, 19th Century Lithuania and Belarus
And it is obvious that this is about a normal blessing where the one answering does not fulfill anything by it. But when one needs to fulfill by it, like the blessings for kiddush, havdalah, blowing of the shofar, and the reading of megilah, it is forbidden to say, for it is an interruption.
ופשוט הוא דזהו בסתם ברכות שאין העונה צריך לצאת בה אבל כשצריך לצאת בה כמו ברכות של קידוש והבדלה ושל תקיעת שופר ושל מקרא מגילה אסור לענות דהוי הפסק
And for this reason, there are many of the great ones who are not comfortable with this because of the many who do not know this and figure that it is an obligation on every blessing to answer, “Blessed is He and blessed is His Name.” And they do not fulfill their blessings of obligation because they answer also on these.
ומטעם זה יש הרבה מן הגדולים שאין דעתם נוחה מזה מפני ההמון שאינם יודעים זה וסוברים שחיוב הוא על כל ברכה לענות ב"ה וב"ש ואינם יוצאים בברכות חובה מפני שעונים גם באלו
And the root of the reason I do not understand. For what is the connection that one needs to bless Him, for the one blessing himself is blessing Him when he says, “Blessed are You, Hashem”? Further, if this is so, in every prayer when they say the name of Hashem we should say, “blessed is He and blessed is His Name.” And this needs investigation.
ובעיקר הטעם לא אבין דמה שייך שצריך לברכו הלא המברך בעצמו מברכו שאומר ברוך אתה ה' ועוד דא"כ בכל התפלה כשמזכירים שם ה' נאמר ב"ה וב"ש וצ"ע:

The Or L’Tziyon takes a more middle position. While listening to a blessing where one fulfils an obligation one should not respond, “Blessed is He, etc.” but if one did nothing is lost.
שו"ת אור לציון חלק ב פרק מז - הלכות שבת
Responsa of the Or L’Tziyon, Part 2, Chapter 47 - Laws of Shabbat
Ben Tzion Abba Shaul, 20th Century Israel
Even though ideally one should not answer, “Blessed is He and blessed is His Name,” when we hear kiddush and intend to fulfill an obligation through it, nonetheless one who mistakenly answers fulfills, after the fact, the obligation of kiddush.
אף שלכתחילה אין לענות ברוך הוא וברוך שמו כששומעים קידוש ומכוונים לצאת בו ידי חובה, מכל מקום מי שטעה וענה יצא בדיעבד ידי חובת קידוש.

The Mayim Chayyim explains that the thinking on this actually runs the spectrum. There is even an opinion (though I could not find it directly we have seen it hinted at) that one is required to answer, “Blessed is He, etc.” and all blessings. This is even when fulfilling an obligation.
שו"ת מים חיים חלק א סימן ו
Responsa of the Mayim Chayyim, Part 1, Siman 6
Chayyim David, 20th Century Israel
If one should answer, “Blessed is He, and blessed is His Name,” for a blessing in which one fulfills their obligation
אם לענות ברוך הוא וברוך שמו בברכה שיוצא בה ידי חובתו
This question is old and judged at great length among many decisors, and the opinions are split from one end to the other.
שאלה זאת עתיקה ונידונה באורך רב בדברי פוסקים רבים, והדעות חלוקות מקצה עד קצה.
There are those who ruled that it is forbidden to answer, for it is an interruption. For when one hears a blessing and fulfils his obligation through it, he is like one who spoke the blessing himself word by word. And would it ever occur to one who blesses for himself to add, “Blessed is He and blessed is His Name,” after recounting the Name? Is it not clear that this is an interruption? And this is the rule for one who hears [a blessing].
יש שפסקו שאסור לענות, כי הוא הפסק, שכיון שהוא שומע הברכה ויוצא בה ידי חובתו, הרי זה כאילו הוא מוציא הברכה מפיו מלה במלה, והאם יעלה על הדעת שמי שמברך בעצמו יוסיף "ברוך הוא וברוך שמו" אחרי הזכרת השם, הלא ברור שזה הפסק, והוא הדין בשומע.
And there is also in this [an issue] of deviating from the canon that the Sages established for a blessing.
וכן יש בזה גם משום משנה ממטבע שטבעו חכמים בברכה.
And there are those who ruled that if one answered, “Blessed is He and blessed is His Name,” have not fulfilled their obligation and need to go back and bless themselves.
ויש שפסקו שאם ענה ב"ה וב"ש לא יצא ידי חובתו וצריך לחזור לברך בעצמו.
And there are those who ruled that ideally one should not answer, “Blessed is He and blessed is His Name,” but after the fact is one answered one has [still] fulfilled his obligation.
ויש שפסקו שלכתחלה אין לענות ב"ה וב"ש, אלא שבדיעבד אם ענה יצא ידי חובתו.
And opposite them is one who rules that it is an obligation to answer, “Blessed is He and blessed is His Name.” And everyone should strongly tell the members of their household that one fulfils their obligation when they answer, “Blessed is He and blessed is His Name.”
ולעומתם יש מי שפסק שחובה לענות ב"ה וב"ש, וצריך להזהיר כל אדם את בני ביתו שיוצאים ידי חובה שיענו ב"ה וב"ה וכו'.

Finally, the Torah Temimah pushes back the other way. While he does not get into details, he definitely finds at least some of the preventing of the response, “Blessed is He, etc.” to be ineffable.
תורה תמימה הערות דברים פרק לב
Torah Temimah, Notes on Deuteronomy, Chapter 32
Barukh Epstein, 19th and 20th Centuries Lithuania and America
I do not know the many and whole ones drew support to prevent this response [“Blessed is He, etc.”]. And even though I heard reasons for this, they are not acceptable to me.
ולא ידעתי על מה סמכו רבים ושלמים למנוע מעניה זו, ואף כי שמעתי טעמים על זה אבל אינם מתקבלים לי.

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