04. Birkhot Ha-shaĥar for One Who Does Not Derive Pleasure

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There is a dispute among prominent Rishonim about whether one may recite one of the Birkhot Ha-shaĥar from which she does not derive direct personal pleasure. For instance, may a blind person recite Poke’aĥ Ivrim?

According to Rambam (MT, Laws of Prayer 7:9), only one who derives pleasure from something may recite a berakha on it. Therefore, one who slept in her clothes does not recite Malbish Arumim, as she does not get dressed in the morning. A cripple does not recite Ha-mekhin Mitzadei Gaver. A paralytic does not recite Matir Asurim or Zokef Kefufim. Some people of Yemenite descent follow Rambam’s opinion. SA 46:8 considers this opinion and rules that these berakhot are recited without God’s name.

In contrast, according to the Ge’onim including Rav Natronai Gaon and Rav Amram Gaon, one must recite all Birkhot Ha-shaĥar in order, whether or not one enjoys the object of the berakha, 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. Thus, a paralytic blesses God for all the other people who can help her. A blind person recites Poke’aĥ ivrim for the fact that others are able to see, show her the way, and tend to her needs. This is how Rema rules (46:8).

Likewise, the opinion of Arizal is that every Jew must recite all of the Birkhot Ha-shaĥar to thank God for all the general good that He showers on the world. Sephardic practice generally follows Arizal on matters of prayer, and therefore Sephardim also recite all Birkhot Ha-shaĥar in order. 1

  1. The berakha of She-asah li Kol Tzorki was instituted with regard to footwear. According to the custom of Ashkenazim and some Sephardim, we recite this blessing on Yom Kippur and Tisha Be-Av, days on which wearing shoes is forbidden, to give thanks for the general pleasure of shoes and for the ability to wear non-leather shoes on those days. Still, the custom of most Sephardim is not to recite She-asah li Kol Tzorki on Tisha Be-Av and Yom Kippur (Peninei Halakha: Prayer, ch. 9 n. 1).
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