Wednesday, August 05, 2009

birchas haTorah after an interruption in learning

Why is it that if one recites a bracha on eating in the sukkah and then leaves the sukkah after finishing the meal, a new bracha is required at the next meal when one re-enters the sukkah; however, if one recites birchas haTorah on learning and then goes about doing other things, a new birchas haTorah is not required when one resumes learning?

Tosfos (Brachos 11b) answers that exiting the sukkah brings the performance of mitzvas sukkah to a close for that time period. However, the mitzvah of talmud Torah is an ongoing obligation which has no end. R' Soloveitchik compared it to a mother's relationship to her child: even when the mother is not actively engaged in taking care of the child, the child is still in the back of the mother's mind and a subject of her concern. There is no hesech hada'as from talmud Torah even if one closes the gemara to engage in other business.

I recently discovered (thanks to learning Halichos Beisa with my daughter) that the Tzlach writes that Tosfos' sevara is well and good for men who have an ongoing obligation of talmud Torah. However, women have no such obligation. Though they still are entitled to recite birchas haTorah (for various reasons discussed by achronim, e.g. they read and recite pesukim as part of tefilah), there is no mitzvah for them to remain engaged in thinking about Torah day and night. Therefore, the Tzlach posits that if a woman stops learning and then resumes study at a later point in the day, she would be obligated to recite a new birchas haTorah.
(I don't think this is the common practice, but you can ask your posek what he thinks.)


  1. The Tzlach is assuming that Toasfos's explanation is a function of the chiyuv of Talmud Torah.

    I would argue that Tosafos is simply saying that everyday activities aren't a hefsek in the process of learning. And women, as well as men, can be seen as being within the process of learning.

  2. Tosfos makes explicit reference to the chiyuv to be "hagisa bo yomam v'layla". Without that, how do you explain why "everyday activities aren't a hefsek in the process of learning"?

  3. Anonymous5:25 PM

    wow this makes a lot of sense. the tzlach is found on this tosfos in brachos? thanks for this, this is a very interesting post.

  4. great unknown8:44 PM

    It seems that "she would be entitled to recite a new birchas haTorah," as opposed to "obligated to ..."

  5. Yes, the Tzlach is on this Tosfos.

    Is it really entitled and not obligated? You got me thinking. That should depend on the nature of the bracha, no? If, as Briskers learn, the bracha is on the cheftza shel torah and not the chovas hagavra of learning, then why is it not an obligation even for women? (And now that I'm thinking, why should the din of hefsek depend at all on having an ongoing obligation/chovas hagavra of T.T. when the mechayeiv of the bracha is the cheftza?)

  6. great unknown10:03 PM

    The cheftza of eisek hatorah. Which does not apply to women. Ubifrat when the ikar of limud hatorah is lelamed, according to "the Briskers".

    A possible pshat in tosafos is that every other activity of the day is a hechsher of talmud torah, and therefore not a hefsek. This is analogous to ha'osek b'hechsher mitzvah patur min hamitzvah.

    If this is so, I should be making dozens more brachot every day.

  7. Look at Reb Meir Simcha on 1 TT 2, which, I believe, says not like the Tzlach.

    Only problem is that I don't think Reb Meir Simcha agrees with Tosfos either, and the Tzlach is just saying what would come out according to Tosfos.

    But that RMS is really worth seeing no matter what. And Yasher koach for the Tzlach-- even the Encyclopedia Talmudis doesn't bring it down.