Halacha for Tuesday 25 Cheshvan 5778 November 14 2017

“When in Doubt Regarding a Blessing, Do Not Bless”

Our Sages have established a great rule for us in Masechet Berachot: “Anyone who recites an unnecessary blessing (i.e. a blessing one is not obligated to recite), transgresses the prohibition of ‘Do not bear [Hashem’s name] in vain.’”

The great Rishonim disagree regarding the explanation of this Gemara. The Tosafot (Rosh Hashanah 33a) and other Rishonim are of the opinion that the prohibition of an unnecessary blessing is only rabbinic. The fact that the Gemara states that one who recites an unnecessary blessing transgresses the prohibition of “Do not bear Hashem’s name in vain” does not mean that this is an actual prohibition; rather, it is merely a rabbinic prohibition which our Sages based on the verse, “Do not bear the name of Hashem your G-d in vain.” (The reason why this is not considered bearing Hashem’s name in vain is because in any case, reciting the text of the blessing serves to praise to Hashem; it is permissible to praise Hashem using His name, as we customarily do by reciting Hashem’s name in Shabbat songs.)

Contrary to the Poskim who maintain that this constitutes only a rabbinic prohibition, the Rambam and other Rishonim are of the opinion that reciting an unnecessary blessing is a complete Torah prohibition; as long as one mentions the name of Hashem in a blessing one is not obligated to recite, one transgresses the prohibition of “Do not bear the name of Hashem your G-d in vain.” Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch, whose rulings we have accepted, rules accordingly, that one who recites an unnecessary blessing transgresses the severe prohibition of mentioning Hashem’s name in vain.

The consensus of the Poskim is that whenever a doubt exists whether or not to recite a blessing, Halacha dictates that the blessing should not be recited. If one does recite the blessing when in doubt, one transgresses a prohibition, for by doing so, one enters the realm of possibly mentioning Hashem’s name in vain since it is possible that one has already recited the blessing on the food one wishes like to eat.

Thus, Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 209) rules: “If one is unsure if one has recited any blessing or not, one should not bless neither before nor after [eating], besides for Birkat Hamazon which is a Torah obligation.”

This means that, for instance, if one is unsure if one recited the Shehakol blessing before drinking the water before him or not, the law is that he may drink the water in front of him and one should not recite a blessing, since “When in doubt regarding a rabbinic law, we rule leniently” and the basis for reciting blessings is only rabbinic in nature (as our Sages were the ones to enact the laws of blessings, see Berachot 15a). One is therefore permitted to drink without reciting a blessing. One may not act stringently and recite a blessing, for by doing so, one is possibly entering the realm of the Torah prohibition of mentioning Hashem’s name in vain.

Nevertheless, all of the above applies only to blessings which one is obligated to recite by means of a rabbinic enactment; however, regarding the recitation of Birkat Hamazon which is a Torah obligation, if one is unsure whether or not one has recited it, one must repeat Birkat Hamazon, for the law is that “When in doubt regarding a Torah law, one must act stringently.” Since one is obligated to recite Birkat Hamazon again as a result of this doubt, the prohibition of mentioning Hashem’s name in vain does not apply.

The obligation to recite Birkat Hamazon is only considered a Torah obligation when one has eaten and is satiated as a result of the food one has eaten. However, if one is not satiated, the obligation to recite Birkat Hamazon is only on a rabbinic level. Thus, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that if one is unsure whether or not one has recited Birkat Hamazon and one is not satisfied from the food one has eaten, one should not repeat Birkat Hamazon, for “When in doubt regarding a blessing, do not bless,” as we have explained.

8 Halachot Most Popular

The Laws of the Holiday of Sukkot

As per the request of many of our members and as a public service, we shall now list a synopsis of some laws which are essential for the upcoming Sukkot holiday: The Sukkah must be made of three walls and Sechach (the roof). The walls may be made of any material which can withstand a normal wi......

Read Halacha

The Customary Order of Rosh Hashanah

It is customary to eat certain symbolic foods during the two nights of Rosh Hashanah which signify good fortune for the entire upcoming year. It is therefore customary to eat black-eyed peas, pumpkin, leek, spinach, dates, pomegranates, apples dipped in honey, and meat of a sheep’s head on the......

Read Halacha

Megillah Reading-The Proper Procedure for One Who Has Missed Hearing a Portion of the Megillah

Every member of the Jewish nation is obligated to read the Megillah on the day of Purim. One must read it during the night and once again the next day, as the verse states, “My G-d, I call out to you during the day and you do not answer; during the night I have no rest.” This verse is wr......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Hearing Parashat Zachor

On the Shabbat preceding Purim, which is this coming Shabbat, after the opening of the Ark immediately following Shacharit prayers, two Sifrei Torah are removed; in the first one, we read the weekly Parasha (which is Parashat Tetzaveh this year, 5777) and in the second one we read the portion of &ld......

Read Halacha


The Custom of the “Commemoration of the Half-Shekel”-5777

It is customary to donate money before Purim as “a commemoration of the Half-Shekel” which was donated by the entire Jewish nation when the Bet Hamikdash stood. This money is customarily collected on the eve of Purim before reading the Megillah, as our Sages tell us (Megilla 13b) that &l......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Chametz and Kitniyot (Legumes) on Pesach

The Essence of Leavening The Torah (Shemot 13) tells us regarding the holiday of Pesach: “Matzot shall be eaten for seven days; neither leaven nor sourdough shall be seen in all of your borders.” The leaven that the Torah prohibits is produced by the combination of grain-flour and water......

Read Halacha

Motza’ei Yom Kippur-Unique Laws for this Year

Adding From the Mundane Onto the Holiness One must add some of the mundane weekday onto the holiness of Yom Kippur upon its exit, i.e. one should not end this holy day immediately with nightfall; rather, one should wait another few minutes. Thus, it is prohibited to eat or perform work on Motza&rsq......

Read Halacha

Some Detailed Laws Regarding Kitniyot (Legumes) on Pesach

In the previous Halacha we have briefly discussed the primary laws of Chametz and Kitniyot (legumes) on Pesach. We have explained that according to all communities, legumes such as rice and chick peas are not actual Chametz, for only grain products can be considered Chametz. However, Ashkenazim cust......

Read Halacha