Monday, May 07, 2007

shome'a k'oneh on half a bracha

The gemara (Brachos 20b) questions whether women are obligated in birkas hamazon min hatorah or only m’derabbanan. The Rishonim offer a number of reasons to explain why there should not be a Biblical obligation – women did not receive a portion in Eretz Yisrael which we give thanks for in bentching; women are not obligated to learn Torah which is mentioned in bentching; women do not have a bris milah, which we also thank Hashem for in bentching. The nafka minah whether the obligation is Biblical of Rabbinic is whether a woman could be motzi a man in bentching (side question: we might have expected a nafka minah to also be whether a woman who has a safeik whether or not she bentched has to repeat birkas hamazon, but this nafka minah is interestingly not offered by the gemara.) The Hagahos Ashri”i in Megillah rules that women are obligated in bentching min hatorah, but cannot be motzi men. Isn't this psak self-contrdictory – according to the gemara, if women are obligated in birkas hamzon min hatorah, they can be motzi men!? R’ Akiva Eiger explains that the gemara’s safeik was whether the exclusion from reciting the lines referring to bris, torah, or the Land of Israel exempt women from all of bentching, but there is no question that they cannot recite these particular lines. If a woman wishes to be motzi a man, he can listen to her bentching and fulfill his obligation through shome’a k’oneh, but would be forced to recite those few phrases himself. It was with respect to these particular phrases that the Hagahos Ashr’i wrote that a woman cannot be motzi a man.

R’ Akiva Eiger’s answer assumes that it is possible to mix shome’a k’oneh with dibbur in a single bracha. Returning to the question of whether shome’a k’oneh is to be taken literally as implying listening is speech or whether it is a seperate mechanism to fulfill mitzvvos, it seems to me that R’ Akiva Eiger is easier to understand if we take shome’a k’oneh as a form of speech, and therefore it can be combined with real dibbur. If it is a separate mechanism, how can a single bracha be fulfilled using two different means?


  1. Just as an aside, I have a Siddur called "Tefillat Bnei Tsion" in which the words in Birkat Hamazon about Berit v'Torah are in brackets with instructions for only men to recite them.

  2. Bill Selliger10:07 AM

    R' T.P. Frank (Mikra'ei Kodesh) discusses a similar issue with regard to kiddush on Y"T night for women who have already said "Shehechiyanu". One could argue that the man's recitation of the bracha during kiddush would constitute a hefsek for the woman that has already been yotzei her Shehechiyanu. As such, her husband might not be able to be motzei her with kiddush.

    I asked a similar question to a rebbi of mine with regard to Al Hamichya: If my friend is making an "Al hamichya v'al hapeiros", and I only need to make an "Al hamichya", can he be motzei me?

  3. Isn't this point a mefurash gemara on Sukkah 38b? Hu omer "Baruch ha-ba" vehem omrim "be-shem Hashem" -- mikan le-shomea ke-oneh. The shaliach tzibur says the first half of the pasuk the kahal the second half -- seems to be mixing dibur and oneh. It doesn't address your question of the mechanism per se but it seems that this mixture is not Rabi Eiger's chiddush but really from the gemara

  4. >>>Isn't this point a mefurash gemara on Sukkah 38b?

    Good point - I was wondering about this as well, but I think the answer is that by hallel, who says the units are pesukim and not words or phrases? The rishonim say you can do the first bracha of birchas hamzon through shome'a k'oneh and the second through dibbur - each is a discrete unit. But what is 1/2 a bracha? It would be analogous to saying 1/2 a word in hallel and listening to the other half.

    Bill - did not think of your hefsek case, but how can you invoke shome'a k'oneh against the wife's will if she does not want it to be a hefsek? Will come back to this point bl"n...

    RJM - I though this was the Rama's view (thought I may be mis-remembering)?

  5. Interesting. Intuitively, you would think pesukim would be it but I have no proof to that assertion. I was thinking -- you also find this as halacha pesuka in the area of kriyas ha-megilah -- that the tzibur is yotzei with shomea ke-oneh for the megilah but if you miss a word or a pasuk that you can read it yourself.

    Not sure though that I buy your chiluk -- Hallel is one long bracha, the megillah is one long mitzvah -- both those mitzvos and bentching can be broken down further - to words and to smaller pieces. But I dont think you can infer from the gemara in sukkah that words or phrases are the units of hallel or the megilah --- just that shomea keoneh applies to words. Perhaps there are no sub-units to hallel or megilah that are halachically significant in this respect like there are with bircas ha-mazon -- but in both cases you can use shomeah ke-oneh for words.

    In fact by the megilah we find that though you can fill in a word, you can't fill in an entire inyan -- perhaps each inyan is a unit and the halach is that davka less than an inyan you can use the combination of shomeah keoneh and dibbur. I know it is not muchrach but I am not sure the kasha the other way is either.

  6. next post will hopefully clarify some more

  7. Anon1 - the Steipler (brachos #11) raises the same points you do, but he has a different mehalaich than RYBS (posted after this)

  8. Baruch shekivanti. Looking forward to reading the next post.