10 – Birkot HaTorah – The Blessings on the Torah

01 – The Value of Birkot HaTorah

After the Land of Israel was destroyed, and the nation of Israel was exiled, a major question arose, reflected in the words of the prophet (Jeremiah 9:11): “Why has the land been destroyed?” Certainly, everyone knew that we were exiled from our land as a result of our sins, but the question was: what was the fundamental sin behind the spiritual collapse that led to the destruction? The Chachamim, the prophets, and the ministering angels were asked this question and did not know how to answer, until HaKadosh Baruch Hu Himself explained, “Hashem says: ‘Because they abandoned My Torah which I had given them’” (ibid., 9:12). Chazal interpret this to mean that they did not recite the blessing on the Torah before engaging in its study (Nedarim 81a). That is to say, although they actually learned Torah, they did not relate to it as Divine instruction. Because of this, they were considered to have forsaken the Torah of Hashem. For anyone who learns Torah as if it is just one of the wisdoms of the world is not considered one who learns Torah at all. However, when we recite Birkot HaTorah properly, indeed we approach Torah out of faith and attachment to the One who granted it to us.

The Chachamim further inquire (Nedarim 81a): why is it that not all the sons of talmidei chachamim (Torah scholars) continue in their fathers’ paths and become talmidei chachamim themselves? For without a doubt the fathers wanted their children to follow in their footsteps and become engrossed in Torah all their lives, and strove to educate them in that direction. If so, why did they not all succeed ? Moreover, in those days, it was widely accepted that every son continue in his father’s profession: sons of carpenters became carpenters, sons of farmers became farmers, and so on. Consequently, the Gemara’s question is all the more perplexing – why don’t a relatively large percentage of sons of talmidei chachamim become talmidei chachamim themselves? There are a number of explanations brought in the Talmud, the last one being Ravina’s, which states that it is because they do not recite Birkot HaTorah before learning. In other words, many times, sons of talmidei chachamim learn Torah only because they see their fathers learning; as sons like to mimic their fathers, they too, strive to learn Torah. However, Torah can only be acquired by learning for the sake of Heaven (l’shem Shamayim), out of a personal desire to attach oneself  to the One who grants us the Torah, and therefore, those sons who learn out of compulsion, routine, or merely mimicking their fathers, do not see blessing in their learning.

02 – The Content of the Torah Blessings and the Ruling Regarding Ahavat Olam

Birkot HaTorah are comprised of three parts. In the first part, we bless Hashem who sanctified us with His mitzvot and commanded us to occupy ourselves with the study of Torah. In the second, we request that the Torah, which Hashem taught His nation Israel, be pleasant to us, that we merit learning it with desire, and that we and our offspring have the privilege of understanding the depth of its content.[1]

In the third part, we bless and thank Hashem for choosing us from among all the nations and giving us His Torah. The Chachamim say (Berachot 11b) that this is the prime berachah of Birkot HaTorah, since it mentions the unique virtue of the nation of Israel, that Hashem “chose us from among all the nations” and, because of this Divine selection, consequently “gave us His Torah.” This is the nature of Israel’s soul, that it is attached and devoted to Hashem and His Torah, and therefore only the nation of Israel can receive the Torah and with it illuminate the world. Among the nations of the world, there may be righteous and devout gentiles, but this is a personal piety of individual people who lack the ability to repair the entire world. As seen from our long history, only the nation of Israel can serve Hashem within a national framework and strive to uplift and rectify the world in the path of truth and kindness.

Based on this, it is clear why the Ahavat Olam berachah (“Ahavah Rabbah,” according to Nusach Ashkenaz), which we say before the recital of Shema, can replace Birkot HaTorah. The main part of this prayer refers to Hashem’s love for Israel and its conclusion is, “Who chooses His people Israel with love.” Additionally, the subject of Torah is mentioned at length, for Israel and the Torah are inseparable.

In practice, one who is not certain as to whether he recited Birkot HaTorah can have kavanah to fulfill his obligation of Birkot HaTorah when reciting Ahavat Olam. Likewise, one who forgets to recite Birkot HaTorah before praying and arrives at Ahavat Olam should have in mind to fulfill his obligation of Birkot HaTorah when saying it, and after the prayer service remember to learn words of Torah as one does after Birkot HaTorah (Shulchan Aruch 47:7).[2]

[1]. The Rishonim and Acharonim disagree regarding how many berachot are included in Birkot HaTorah. According to Rabbeinu Tam, Rosh, and others, there are two berachot, and the second part is a continuation of the first. Therefore, one must begin “V’Ha’arev” with a connecting vav (vav hachibur) and Amen is not recited upon the conclusion of the first part. According to the Rambam and others, there are three berachot; hence the word “Ha’arev” is recited (without a vav) and Amen is to be answered after the first part. The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 47:6, writes that it is preferable to start “V’Ha’arev” with a vav in order to fulfill the obligation according to all opinions. The Mishnah Berurah 47:12 writes that it is the opinion of most Acharonim not to answer Amen at the end of the first part. Therefore, it is best to say it quietly in order to avoid uncertainty. Nonetheless, the Ben Ish Chai and Kaf HaChaim 47:10 and 47:13 write that one should answer Amen after it, even though we say “V’Ha’arev” with a vav, for that is what Rav Chaim Vital testified in the name of the Ari.
[2]. The source for this is in Berachot 11b where it mentions that the berachah is called “Ahavah Rabbah” according to Nusach Ashkenaz and “Ahavat Olam” according to Nusach Sephard (following the opinion of rabbanan there). Concerning one who forgets to recite Birkot HaTorah and arrives at Ahavat Olam, the Mishnah Berurah 52:9 writes that he should have in mind to fulfill his obligation when reciting Ahavat Olam. Additionally, see Bei’ur Halachah s.v. “Poteret,” where it seems from Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah that one must have kavanah explicitly in this berachah in order to fulfill his obligation. However, according to the Rosh, even without kavanah, one fulfills his obligation b’dieved by saying it, and that is what is inferred from the Acharonim. They further debate whether one must learn Torah immediately afterwards. The Yerushalmi writes that one is required to learn and that is the opinion of the majority of Rishonim. However, some say (Tosafot Berachot 11a) that the Bavli disagrees, and therefore, according to them it is unnecessary to learn immediately after its recital. Further, they are uncertain as to whether Shema can be considered learning. In order to avoid uncertainty, one must learn something immediately after praying. (According to most poskim, the recital of Shema is not considered learning; see Mishnah Berurah 17 and Bei’ur Halachah in the name of Rabbi Akiva Eiger.) However, even if a person did not learn, he fulfilled his obligation b’dieved (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 6; Kaf HaChaim 17). Additionally, we do learn at the end of the prayer service, for the recital of U’va L’Tzion was instituted so that every Jew would learn verses from the books of the prophets (Nevi’im) every day, and for that purpose the words were translated, as explained further in this book 23:2. Similarly, we say Pitum HaKetoret and Tanna D’vei Eliyahu for the sake of learning Chazal’s words, as is clarified further in this book 23:5.

03 – Is the Recital of Birkot HaTorah a Biblical Commandment?

“Rav Yehudah says in the name of Rav, where do we learn that [the obligation to] recite a blessing prior [to learning Torah] is biblical? As it is written (Deuteronomy 32:3), ‘When I proclaim Hashem’s Name, ascribe greatness to our God’” (Berachot 21a). The interpretation of this verse is that the entire Torah is comprised of the names of HaKadosh Baruch Hu (Zohar, part 2, 87:1; Tikunei Zohar, Tikun 10) for He is completely concealed from us, and through the Torah HaKadosh Baruch Hu is revealed to the world. Hence, we learn that the Torah is the names of HaKadosh Baruch Hu and through it He is manifest. That is the meaning of the verse, “Ki Shem Hashem ekra,” “When I proclaim Hashem’s Name” – before learning Torah, “Havu godel l’Elokeinu,” “Ascribe Greatness to our God” – recite a blessing for the Giver of the Torah.

In practice, the Rishonim are divided concerning the question of whether these words should be taken literally, making the recital of Birkot HaTorah before learning a biblical commandment. According to the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 209:3), reciting Birkot HaTorah is a rabbinic enactment and what Chazal extrapolated from the verse is none other than an asmachta (a reference). Based on this, in a case of doubt, one must be lenient and refrain from reciting the blessings, and that is the custom of the Sephardim (Kaf HaChaim 47:2). According to the majority of Rishonim, among them the Ramban and the Rashba, the source for the mitzvah to recite Birkot HaTorah is biblical. Therefore, when a person is uncertain as to whether or not he recited Birkot HaTorah, he must be stringent and recite them, in keeping with the rule, sefeika d’oraita l’chumra (we are stringent concerning matters of biblical uncertainty), and that is the minhag of the Ashkenazim (Mishnah Berurah 47:1).[3]

However, all opinions agree that if there is a person present who did not yet recite Birkot HaTorah, it is preferable to fulfill one’s obligation by hearing him recite them and in that way avoid uncertainty. When there is no such option, if one is about to pray and recite Ahavat Olam (or Ahavah Rabbah), he should have kavanah to fulfill his obligation of Birkot HaTorah in his recital of that berachah. Nevertheless, if the time to pray has not yet arrived, and there is no one whom he can hear recite the berachot, according to those who maintain that the obligation to recite Birkot HaTorah is biblical, he must be stringent and recite them out of uncertainty. It is sufficient to recite only the third berachah, “Asher bachar banu” (“Who chose us,”) for it is the most important from among Birkot HaTorah.

[3]. According to the Rambam, Birkat HaMazon is the only blessing that is a biblical commandment, and that is what the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 209:3, writes. However, most Rishonim and Acharonim maintain that Birkot HaTorah are also a biblical obligation. Similarly, the Sha’agat Aryeh 24 proves this from the fact that the Gemara wants to learn a principle of kal vachomer from Birkot HaTorah and apply it to the berachah before eating and a kal vachomer principle cannot be learned from a rabbinic ruling. Nevertheless, concerning a case of uncertainty, although there are those who rule to recite all the berachot, he writes that one must recite only the “Asher bachar banuberachah as it is written in the Mishnah Berurah 47:1. See Yalkut Yosef 47:2 for an expanded list of sources. Additionally see Aruch HaShulchan 47:2 who explains that even according to the Rambam, Birkot HaTorah is biblical, yet it is included in the mitzvah of learning Torah and therefore is not listed as its own commandment.

04 – Before What Type of Learning Must the Berachot Be Recited?

One must recite Birkot HaTorah before learning any part of the Torah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 47:2). In other words, even one who only intends to learn Midrash or halachah on a particular day must recite Birkot HaTorah at the onset of that day. The reason for this is that the entire Torah – whether it is Torah Shebichtav (the Written Torah) or Torah Sheb’al Peh (the Oral Torah), the halachic segments or the philosophical – was all given from Hashem to Moshe on Mount Sinai (Yerushalmi, Pe’ah, chapter 2, halachah 4) and when studying them, one must recite, “Who chose us from among all His nations and gave us His Torah.”

There is dissension among the poskim regarding whether or not Birkot HaTorah must also be recited before thinking Torah thoughts. For example, a person who arises in the morning with the desire to ponder a few ideas of Torah, according to most poskim does not need to recite the berachot. Still, there are those who disagree. In order to avoid uncertainty, one who wakes up and wishes to reflect upon words of Torah should first recite Birkot HaTorah and immediately afterwards say a few verses. However, someone who temporarily wakes from his sleep in the middle of the night, and wants to contemplate Torah ideas until he falls back to sleep, need not recite Birkot HaTorah.[4]

Those who listen to Jewish music when they wake up in the morning or in the middle of the night do not need to recite Birkot HaTorah since they do not have the intention to learn.

One may recite Birkot HaTorah and Birkot HaShachar while standing, sitting, lying down, and walking. Nevertheless, there are those who are strict to say Birkot HaTorah while standing, or walking, but not while sitting or lying down.[5]

[4]According to the Shulchan Aruch 47:4, it is only necessary to recite a blessing if the learning is actually said out loud, since that is the essence of Torah learning, as it is written (Joshua 1:8), “This book of the Torah shall not depart from your mouth. You shall meditate thereon day and night.” Although in-depth study of certain matters is possible and perhaps even preferable to do via one’s thoughts, still, at all other times it is necessary to learn by saying the words out loud (Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Hilchot Talmud Torah 2:12). In that way, the learning one accomplishes becomes clearer and the abstract ideas he learned via thought are understood better. Further, someone who learns out loud remembers his learning better (see Eiruvin 54a). However, the Vilna Gaon (Gra) maintains that even though the essence of one’s learning should be done out loud, nonetheless, even thinking the words and ideas of the Torah is part of the mitzvah, as it says (Joshua 1:8), “You shall meditate thereon day and night,” and “meditating” is thinking. Therefore, it is necessary to recite Birkot HaTorah prior to mental learning as well. Kaf HaChaim 6 mentions opinions that someone who is reading a book usually will also read with his mouth. Nevertheless, although it is good to take into consideration the opinion of the Gra, one must say a few verses aloud after Birkot HaTorah in order to adjoin the blessing to the learning. For that reason, it is customary to recite the verses of Birkat Kohanim after Birkot HaTorah (Mishnah Berurah 47:5). One who wakes from his sleep and wants to continue lying in his bed can rub his hands on his blanket, recite Birkot HaTorah, say a few verses, and ponder Torah thoughts, as explained in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 4:23 and Mishnah Berurah paragraphs 59 and 61. If he wakes up in the middle of his sleep, I wrote that he may think thoughts of Torah without reciting the berachot, taking into consideration the opinion of the Shulchan Aruch and our custom to bless once a day  following Rabbeinu Tam, as explained further in this chapter in halachot 6 and 7.
Further, the Shulchan Aruch 47:3 clarifies that one who writes words of Torah is considered to be learning and must recite a blessing prior to doing so. However, there are those who disagree, among them the Taz. In practice, the Acharonim agree that one who wants to write words of Torah must bless and afterwards recite a few verses, thereby fulfilling his obligation according to all opinions (Mishnah Berurah 47:4; Kaf HaChaim 5).
[5]. The Rishonim write that Birkot HaMitzvot must be recited while standing. Therefore, the berachah recited on wrapping oneself in tzitzit, for example, is recited while standing, as well as the berachah before blowing the shofar or shaking the lulav (Beit Yosef, Orach Chaim, beginning of section 8). Based on this, it would seem to be necessary to recite Birkot HaTorah while standing as well, for these blessings are also included in Birkot HaMitzvot. However, it is the opinion of the Pnei Yehoshua (Megillah 21a), that the obligation to stand pertains to mitzvot which are performed while standing, such as harvesting the sheaves of grain (for Korban HaOmer) and blowing the shofar, but regarding mitzvot that can be performed either while standing or sitting, such as Torah learning, one may recite the blessing while sitting. That is what is written in Yechaveh Da’at 5:4. Yaskil Avdi 8:3 adds that according to sod (mysticism), it is correct to recite Birkot HaTorah while standing. All this is lechatchilah; however, obviously one who recites the blessing while sitting fulfills his obligation. Even blowing the shofar and counting the Omer may, in extenuating circumstances, be performed while sitting, as clarified in Mishnah Berurah 8:2. In practice, many Ashkenazim follow the custom to recite Birkot HaTorah and Birkot HaShachar while standing or walking, but not while sitting.

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.

06 – Is Sleep Considered an Interruption Regarding Birkot HaTorah?

The poskim are divided as to whether sleep is considered a break after which it is necessary to repeat the recital of Birkot HaTorah.

According to most Rishonim, among them the Rosh, a person’s regular sleep in his bed is considered an interruption regarding Birkot HaTorah. The whole time a person is awake, the Torah continuously escorts and guides him. However, when a person sleeps, he ceases to think and his consciousness fades. Therefore, sleep is deemed an interruption regarding the mitzvah to learn Torah. Based on this, it is necessary in principle to recite Birkot HaTorah even after a nap during the day. Nonetheless, it has been customary to consider daytime sleep, even if it lasts a long time, to be temporary sleep, which does not constitute an interruption; hence, Birkot HaTorah recited in the morning are also effective after a daytime nap. However, regular sleep at night is an interruption and one must recite Birkot HaTorah after it. Therefore, one who needs to arise in the middle of the night for guard duty, and intends to return to sleep afterwards, recites Birkot HaTorah twice, once when he wakes up for guard duty, and a second time when he wakes up in the morning. That is the practice of Ashkenazim and many Sephardim (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 47:11; Mishnah Berurah 29).

There are those who say that sleep is not considered to be an interruption concerning Birkot HaTorah and that the law of Birkot HaTorah is similar to the law of Birkot HaShachar, which are recited once a day. Therefore, one who wakes up in the middle of the night for guard duty recites Birkot HaTorah after the first waking and does not recite them after the second time he wakes up (Kaf HaChaim 47:29; concerning the laws of Birkot HaShachar see earlier in this book 9:5).[7]

[7]The Beit Yosef 47:11 and 13 explains that according to the majority of poskim, any regular sleep is considered to be an interruption. Yet, he cites Rabbeinu Tam, Ram, and Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah, who maintain that Birkot HaTorah last until the Shacharit prayer of the next day. Even if he slept a regular sleep, it is not an interruption. In practice, the Beit Yosef concludes that only regarding regular sleep during the day do we take into consideration the opinions which maintain that it is not an interruption. That is what is written in Shulchan Aruch 47:13. However, regular sleep at night is considered to be an interruption and it is necessary to recite the blessings after it. This is what the Pri Chadash 47:13 and many other Acharonim write, as well as the Mishnah Berurah 47:29, based on the absolute majority of the poskim. That is also what is written in Yabia Omer 8:5. Some Acharonim suggest compromises, such as reciting all Birkot HaTorah the first time and one berachah the second time (Shut Maharsham 3:337). However, according to the majority of poskim, one must recite all Birkot HaTorah after every regular sleep at night. What is the definition of regular sleep? The Rosh writes that sleep is considered regular when one goes to sleep on his bed. Bei’ur Halachah, section 4:16 writes that the middle opinion regarding sixty breaths taken while sleeping is approximately half an hour. See the note in Yabia Omer there.Moreover, the Mishnah Berurah 47:25 writes that one who recites Birkot HaTorah after a regular sleep during the day does not lose out, because that is the opinion of the absolute majority of the poskim. (Additionally, according to most poskim, the obligation to recite Birkot HaTorah is biblical, and sefeika d’oraita l’chumra, when there is doubt concerning a biblical commandment, we are stringent.) Even so, the accepted minhag is not to recite the berachot. The Kaf HaChaim 25 writes in the name of the Ben Ish Chai, Vayeshev 12, that in order to avoid uncertainty it is best to recite the berachot in his thoughts. He further advises that while saying Birkot HaTorah in the morning one should have kavanah explicitly that they continue to last after sleep, for perhaps such kavanah will be effective. The Mishnah Berurah 13 suggests having kavanah to fulfill the obligation of Birkot HaTorah in the recital of Ahavat Olam in Ma’ariv, and after the berachah to say a verse for the sake of learning, for we learned in halachah 2 that Ahavat Olam is considered to be like Birkot HaTorah.

The opinion of the Ben Ish Chai, Vayeshev 13, also cited by the Kaf HaChaim 47:29, is that, according to Kabbalah, the law of Birkot HaTorah is similar to the law of Birkot HaShachar, that they are not recited twice in a 24-hour period. Their opinion is based on Rabbeinu Tam. However, according to Rabbeinu Tam, Birkot HaTorah are recited in the morning adjacent to Shacharit, and according to the Ben Ish Chai, if one slept twice at night, he recites the blessings after the first sleep and not after the second (and he should have kavanah in Ahavat Olam to fulfill the obligation of Birkot HaTorah). According to this, there is a certain distinction between Birkot HaShachar and Birkot HaTorah. Birkot HaTorah has two intentions: one, as part of Birkot HaShachar whose time starts after chatzot, and the second, as berachot before learning Torah. Therefore, one who wakes up close to chatzot should wait and recite Birkot HaTorah with Birkot HaShachar after chatzot. Yet, if he wakes up long before chatzot, he may recite them before chatzot alone. There were devout people who were accustomed even in such a case to wait and recite the blessings after chatzot.

07 – One Who Was Awake All Night

According to the Rosh and most of the Rishonim, one who was awake all night, as on Shavuot night, may not recite Birkot HaTorah before Shacharit, because as long as he did not interrupt by sleeping, the previous day’s Birkot HaTorah still apply. That is how many eminent Acharonim rule (Pri Chadash, Gra, Chayei Adam). According to Rabbeinu Tam, however, he must recite Birkot HaTorah before Shacharit. Since Birkot HaTorah are intended to last for a 24-hour period, even if he did not sleep at all during that whole day, when the time arrives to recite Shacharit the next day, he must recite Birkot HaTorah again. That is what is said in the name of the Arizal, and that is the minhag of the Sephardim (Birkei Yosef 46:12; Ben Ish Chai, Berachah 3; Kaf HaChaim 47:26).

In order to avoid uncertainty, it is preferable that someone who did not sleep at night hear someone else recite Birkot HaTorah, thereby fulfilling his obligation according to all opinions.

If he cannot find someone who needs to recite Birkot HaTorah, according to the minhag of the Sephardim and some of the Ashkenazim, he should recite Birkot HaTorah himself. According to the minhag of the majority of Ashkenazim, he should have kavanah to fulfill the obligation of Birkot HaTorah in Ahavah Rabbah before Shema (Mishnah Berurah 47:28), for we have already learned (in halachah 2) that this berachah is considered like Birkot HaTorah. After praying he must learn a verse of scripture or a Mishnah in order to adjoin his learning to the berachah.[8]

Regarding that same person who stayed awake all night, if he slept a regular sleep during the day prior to that, according to all opinions he must recite Birkot HaTorah before reciting Shacharit.[9] (See earlier in this book 9:6 for a summary of the laws concerning one who was awake all night.)

[8]This is the Sephardic minhag, based on Rabbeinu Tam. One who was awake all night must be careful not to recite Birkot HaTorah before amud hashachar. Shut HaElef Lecha Shlomo 33 writes that if he recited them before amud hashachar his berachah is in vain and it must be repeated after amud hashachar. That is also what is written in Kaf Hachaim 47:29. The Tzlach in Berachot 11b is uncertain of this, and therefore the Yalkut Yosef 47:9 writes that if he recites the berachah before amud hashachar, he should have kavanah to fulfill his obligation in Ahavat Olam. (According to the Ben Ish Chai, those who are awake all night should recite Birkot HaShachar immediately after chatzot and only delay the recital of Birkot HaTorah until after amud hashachar.)Concerning the Ashkenazic custom, the Mishnah Berurah writes that if one is not in the vicinity of someone whom he can hear recite Birkot HaTorah, he can have kavanah to fulfill his obligation in Ahavah Rabbah. That is based on the Chayei Adam in the name of Pri Chadash and the Gra. It is also the prevalent minhag. However, according to the Magen Avraham, Derech HaChaim, Eliyah Rabbah, and Shulchan Aruch HaRav 7, he should recite the blessings himself. That is what is written in Olat Ra’ayah p. 59, as well. The reason for this is because the obligation to recite the berachot is biblical and sefeika d’oriata l’chumra, (when there is doubt concerning biblical obligations, we are stringent). Obviously, one who wishes to rely on them is permitted to do so.

[9]. So writes Mishnah Berurah 47:28, according to Rabbi Akiva Eiger, that in this case, all poskim agree that one must recite Birkot HaTorah. According to the Rosh, this is because after a regular sleep during the day he is obligated to recite the berachot, and according to Rabbeinu Tam, because the new day has arrived.

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