03 – Birkot HaShachar for One Who Does Not Derive Pleasure

There is a dispute among prominent Rishonim regarding the question of whether a person may recite one of the Birkot HaShachar from which he does not derive direct personal pleasure. For instance, may a blind person recite the berachah, Poke’ach ivrim?

According to the Rambam (Tefillah 7:9), only a person who derives pleasure from something may recite a blessing on it. Therefore, a person who slept at night wearing clothing, since he does not get dressed in the morning, does not recite Malbish arumim. A handicapped person who cannot walk does not recite Hamechin mitzadei gaver. A paralyzed person, who cannot move his limbs, does not recite Matir assurim and Zokef kefufim. Some people of Yemenite descent follow the Rambam’s opinion today. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 46:8) takes this opinion into consideration and rules that one does not mention Hashem’s Name when reciting blessings from which he does not derive pleasure.

By contrast, the Kolbo (section 1) writes in the names of Rav Natrunai Gaon, Rav Amram Gaon, and the remaining Geonim, that the minhag is to recite all Birkot HaShachar in order, whether or not one derives pleasure from them, because they were instituted based on the general pleasures of the world. Furthermore, the fact that others derive pleasure from something can be indirectly useful for someone who does not directly derive pleasure from it. Therefore, even a paralyzed person who cannot straighten himself, blesses Hashem for all the other people who can straighten themselves and help him. A blind person also recites Poke’ach ivrim for the fact that others are able to see and can therefore show him the way and tend to all his needs. This is how the Rama rules.

Likewise, the opinion of the Ari HaKadosh is that every Jew must recite all of the Birkot HaShachar in their order to thank Hashem for all the general good that He showers on the world. In many minhagim regarding prayer, the Sephardim have the custom to follow the Ari, and therefore they recite all Birkot HaShachar in order.[1]

[1]. There is a dispute among the poskim regarding whether the berachah She’asah li kol tzorki, normally said on footwear, is recited on Yom Kippur and Tishah B’Av, days on which it is prohibited to wear shoes. According to the Rosh, Ran, and the Tur, it is recited. That is also what the Mishnah Berurah writes in 554:31, based on the Levush, Eliyah Rabbah, and Pri Megadim. That is how the Ashkenazim and a few Sephardim practice; see Yalkut Yosef, part 1, p. 51. However, according to the Ari, even though a mourner does recite She’asah li kol tzorki, it is not recited on those days, as is written by the Chida, Ben Ish Chai, and Kaf HaChaim 46:17. Rav Pe’alim 2:8 writes that according to this minhag, even at the end of the fast it is not recited. (However, in Ma’asei Rav 9 it is written that the Gra was accustomed to reciting it at the conclusion of the fast).

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The Laws of Shabbat (1+2) - Yocheved Cohen
The Laws of Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Women’s Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Pesach - Joshua Wertheimer
The Laws of Zemanim - Moshe Lichtman

Editor: Nechama Unterman