In this lesson, we will discuss a general question which has a number of applications: How often does one have to “refresh” his Birchos HaTorah (i.e. make them again)? Is it every time he sits down to learn? Is it once a day? Twice a day (i.e. morning and night?) Does the concept of ‘hesech hada-as’ (lit. interruption of thought) come into play with Birchos HaTorah as it does with other mitzvah-brachos? For example, we know that if I sit down in my Sukkah to eat a meal, I make the bracha ‘Baruch…leisheiv ba’sukkah’ (Blessed…to dwell in the Sukkah.) Let’s suppose that after the meal, I go out to shul to daven or learn, and then I return, hungry for a snack. The halacha requires me now to make a new bracha of ‘leisheiv’, because my previous bracha has expired, due to the interruption of my performance of the mitzvah. Does that same rule apply to the mitzvah of learning Torah – i.e. if I interrupted my learning, is that considered to be a ‘hesech hada-as’ from the mitzvah, thus requiring me to make new brachos when I resume?
We will now learn that in some ways Torah learning is the same, and in some ways it is different from other mitzvos. The principle is as follows: With most mitzvos, when there is a significant interruption, one’s mind is diverted completely from it. Torah learning is unique in two ways: 1) there is no set time for, nor limit to, the learning of Torah – any time is Torah time! Consequently, even when one needs to stop learning and attend to a different task – large or small – he is always thinking about going back to learning when he is able. 2) Torah learning is never theoretical – it is instructions for living. It teaches us how to think and act in whatever we do – at play, at work, and even in the bathroom! As long as we are awake and thinking, even our interruptions from formal learning are not interruptions from Torah altogether; therefore, there really is no ‘hasech hada-as’ to warrant another bracha! The only things that could warrant a new bracha is sleep or, possibly, the advent of a new day,
Let us sum this up practically with a chart:
Type of interruption Is a new bracha made? Question: The person who woke up in the middle of the night, may/should he make the other Birchos Hashachar (morning brachos) at that time? Final question: Are women obligated in Birchos HaTorah? Why or why not?
Work or other ‘mundane’ activities No
Catnap, not in bed, during the day or night No
Sleeping in bed, during the day One is not obligated, but one may (Ed: I don’t)
Sleeping in bed during the night (even partial) Yes
Staying up all night Hear the brachos in the morning from one who slept at night Sleeping during the day, then staying up all night Yes
Suppose someone arises from his sleep in the middle of the night and wishes to learn for awhile, and then go back to sleep until morning. Two questions arise (n.p.i.): 1) Should he make Birchos HaTorah now before learning? 2) When he wakes up the second time, should he make them again? Regarding the first question, the halacha states that he should make them now (because sleep in bed, even for part of the night, constitutes an interruption, as we learned in the previous lesson.) Regarding the second question, it is interesting that he is not required to make the brachos again, because the Sages intended for us to make the brachos only once a day. Presumably, the intention of the person, when making the brachos upon his first rising, is that they should cover the entire following day and night. Thus, although he did actually sleep again in bed during the night, he is not obligated to make a new bracha when he awakes the second time. (Note: Nevertheless, he may make the brachos again, just as we learned regarding one who sleeps in bed during the day – see chart above.)
Answer: Obligated he isn’t until morning davening time arrives (i.e. except if he wants to learn, as we just discussed.) However, he is allowed to, even in the dead of night. If he plans to stay awake until the morning, he may recite all of the brachos now. If he plans to sleep again before morning, he should preferably hold off on making the brachos ‘Elokai, neshama…’ (p. 18) and ‘…haMa-avir sheina…’ (p. 20) now, but rather wait for those until he wakes up for the day. The others he may make, and he will not have to (nor should he) repeat them when he wakes up later. (Note: The paragraphs pertaining to all ‘korbanos’ – sacrifices – should not be recited before ‘alos hashachar’ – dawn, as should not the remainder of shacharis.)
Answer: For sure they should say them. The question is why? One reason is that they are obligated to learn Torah. Although their mitzvah of Torah study is different - in quantity and quality - from that of men, they are obligated nonetheless. Secondly, even if we would argue that their mitzvah does not obligate then in the brachos, it is no different from the brachos that they make when they perform any of the positive time-bound mitzvos that they fulfill “voluntarily”.
(Ed: This second reason is in keeping with the Ashkenazic tradition that women may make any of the mitzvah brachos when they perform the mitzvos from which they are exempt.)
Question: The person who woke up in the middle of the night, may/should he make the other Birchos Hashachar (morning brachos) at that time?
Final question: Are women obligated in Birchos HaTorah? Why or why not?