05 – Birkot HaTorah for the Whole Day

Birkot HaTorah are recited in the morning in conjunction with the recital of Birkot HaShachar, and they encompass all learning performed throughout that day. Even if a person goes to eat and to work afterwards, he does not need to recite Birkot HaTorah upon returning to learn.

In that respect Birkot HaTorah differ from other Birkot HaMitzvot (berachot recited upon the performance of a mitzvah). Concerning all other mitzvot, every time a person performs the mitzvah anew, he must recite another berachah because the mitzvot are only designated for a specific time of the day, or for a particular act. For example, the mitzvah of sukkah requires that a person eat and sleep in the sukkah, while at all other times he is permitted to go wherever he desires. Similarly, the mitzvah of tallit can be fulfilled after one minute of the day. Therefore, every time one wraps himself anew in his tallit, or goes into the sukkah to eat another meal, he must repeat the particular berachah intended for that mitzvah.

However, the mitzvah of learning Torah is a general mitzvah that encompasses all of a person’s days and hours, as it is written (Joshua 1:8), “You shall meditate thereon day and night.” Even if a person learned in the morning, the commandment to learn still applies at night and at every available hour (Tosafot, Berachot 11b, s.v. “Shekvar”). Further, even when a person is not learning Torah, the Torah guides his life within the confines of halachah, middot (proper character traits), and faith. Even when a person is relieving himself or bathing, times at which it is prohibited to think Torah thoughts, there are halachot guiding him in these instances also, thus illustrating that no one can ever detach himself from Torah (see Agur, section 1, brought by the Beit Yosef 47:11). Therefore, Birkot HaTorah recited in the morning cover all of one’s learning throughout that day, and any work or business conducted in the interim is not considered to be an interruption (Shulchan Aruch 47:10).[6]


[6]. The Rishonim disagree concerning the question of whether it is an obligation to learn a few verses of Torah immediately upon reciting Birkot HaTorah. According to Ri, one of the Ba’alei HaTosafot (Berachot 11b, “Shekvar”), Birkot HaTorah differ from the other Birkot HaMitzvot in that they are not directed only towards the present learning, rather they are designated for Torah learning throughout the entire day. Therefore, there is no obligation to learn specifically after the berachah, rather the obligation is to learn something during the day. That is how the Beit Yosef interprets the opinions of the Rosh and the Tur as well. However, the Rambam maintains that the law concerning Birkot HaTorah is like all Birkot HaMitzvot, in which it is necessary to adjoin the berachah to the mitzvah and therefore one must learn immediately following its recital. If he does not learn immediately, the berachah becomes nullified. This case is similar to a person who wants to eat cake and recites, “Borei minei mezonot”, yet does not eat right away, and instead goes to do other things. When he finally wants to eat from the cake, he will need to go back and repeat the Mezonot blessing. Even though it seems from the Shulchan Aruch that the ruling is according to Ri, nonetheless, in the opinion of many Acharonim we follow the Rambam (Mishnah Berurah 47:19), for the Rama in Darkei Moshe explains the opinions of the Rosh and the Tur like the Rambam. Nowadays, the prevalent minhag among all Jews is to recite the three verses of Birkat Kohanim after Birkot HaTorah and that is considered learning after the berachah. After that, many add other rabbinic words such as “Eilu devarim…”, for they contain words of Mishnah and Beraita, (which are considered words of Gemara), and in that way every Jew merits learning Scripture, Mishnah, and Gemara daily.

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Translated By:
Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

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Editor: Nechama Unterman