Wednesday, June 02, 2010

when a zemer fulfills a mitzvah d'oraysa

Warning: this post may cause you to skip a popular shabbos zemer -- don't say I didn't warn you.

This week I want to mention another chiddush of the GR"A that I don't fully understand. If you pay attention to the words, Tzur Mishelo is basically a song of thanks to Hashem for the food eaten at seudas shabbos. The stanzas "Hazan...," "Al kein Nodeh...," "Rachem...," "Yibaneh haMikdash..." parallel the brachos of birchas hamazon and echo the same themes. Therefore, as reported by R' Chaim Volozhiner, the GR"A avoided singing Tzur Mishelo lest it count as a fulfillment of his chiyuv d'oraysa of birchas hamazon.

I'm missing something here -- so what if it may count as a fulfillment of the chiyuv d'oraysa of bentching? Since one would not be yotzei on a derabbanan level by reciting Tzur Mishelo because it lacks the formula of shem and malchus, there should not be a problem of bracha l'vatalah in reciting the full bentching (and according to the Pri Megadim that we discussed here I would even venture to say there is not even a d'oraysa kiyum in singing Tzur Mishelo). Perhaps the concern is that if the zemer counts as bentching it means the meal has ended, which may not be convenient. But this too is a problem easily eliminated. One obvious solution is to sing the zemer at the close of the meal. Another solution: the Steipler (Orchos Rabeinu vol 1.) is reported to have made sure to eat a k'zayis of bread after singing Tzur Mishelo (so that his real bentching would be on a proper shiur achila) and also had in mind specifically that it is not a hefsek.

But there is a more basic problem I have with the whole chiddush. Mitzvos tzerichos kavanah, especially when speaking of a d'oraysa. I am willing to bet that a large number of people who sing Tzur Mishelo have no idea that it echoes birchas hamazon and have no intent for it to count as a kiyum mitzvah. The GR"A obviously did, but knowing what the words mean is not the same as having kavanah l'shem mitzvah. Just to be safe, you can even have negative kavanah while you sing, i.e. have in mind specifically to not be yotzei by singing. This seems to be even simpler than the Steipler's solution, which makes me wonder why the Steipler did what he did.

Any ideas?


  1. Anonymous10:57 AM

    I heard the GRA holds that Kriat Shma before Psukei D'Zimra shouldn't be said because even if you don't have intention to be Yostzei Mitzvas Krias Shma, you're still Yotzei.

  2. The Gr'a's problem is that you will miss the nusach habracha that Chazal were mesakein when you are being yotzei midoraysa.

    Same thing with Krias Shma, you will be missing birchos krias shma on the deoraysadikeh kiyum; which is why he only said the words "shma yisrael" and not the end of the passuk, in Le'olam".

    I wonder if Reb Akiva Eiger avoided saying good shabbos to people (see RAE in OC 271) for the same reason.

  3. >>>even if you don't have intention... you're still Yotzei.

    IIRC the GR"A holds by netilas lulav that the bets option is to pick up lulav and esrog with kavanah not to be yotzei and then to change your mind. Why not here?

    >>>you will miss the nusach habracha that Chazal were mesakein when you are being yotzei midoraysa.

    V'hi gufa what bothers me -- so what? Just gain the kiyum derabbanan of brachos later when you actually bentch.

  4. Apparently the Gaon held that the brachos are not just a din in brachos. Chazal made up the brachos because it's better to do the mitzva after saying these brachos. We're not saying the brachos to satisfy the Rabbanan; we're saying them because they harmonize or amplify whatever it is that the mitzva does.

  5. Anonymous3:27 PM

    You could even say beforehand that you won't be yotze through this zemer.

    This zemer existed for hundreds of years before the time of the GR"A ZY"A. What was the rationale of the great rabbonim who sang it and then bentched afterwards?

  6. Not a fair question where we (or I) can't even understand what the GR"A means here.

    In general, I think the answer to these type questions is "makom hinichu l'hisgader bo." For every chiddush din you can ask what did the previous generations think. My son recently asked me about a Brisker chumra that is based on a kashe on a Rama -- so how did the Rama deal with the kashe? I told him that if I knew a good answer I wouldn't be so convinced that the brisker chiddush is correct. It's nice if you can come up with a nice hesber for both sides of an issue, but l'ma'aseh I don't think it's so bad to say that sometimes the big guns come up with a new insight that no one ever thought of -- that's what makes them the big guns.

  7. Anonymous2:18 AM

    Which Brisker Chumrah Not wearing Tztzis on Shabbos(DONT GET ME STATRTED){but it is this weeks Parsha}

  8. No, it was mitzvos al tnai. You reminded me of it by mentioning the issue of saying shema in korbanos. Rama/RAK"E says to say it with a tnai that you don't want to be yotzei if you will get to shema with brachos within the zman. Problem is how tnai can work for a kiyum mitzvah.

  9. There's also the issue of birkas hamitzvos possibly being de'oraysa, except for mitzvos that are only dibbur, like Shma and Bentching.

  10. I finally got all of this straight, and I posted it at