Halacha Date: 18 Iyar 5779 May 23 2019
Answer: There are certain blessings which require one to be standing while reciting them. There is a unique reason for why one must stand while reciting each of these blessings. For instance, regarding the blessing on counting the Omer, the Torah states, “From when the sickle begins [to make contact] with the stalks (English for “Ba’Kamma”),” and our Sages expounded this to mean, “Be’Koma,” i.e. while standing.
The Opinion of the Gaon- One Must Stand During Any Blessing Which Involves No Enjoyment
It is written in the Responsa of the Geonim (Sha’arei Teshuva, Chapter 79 and as quoted by the Sefer Ha’Eshkol, Chapter 23): “The Gaon writes in one of his responses that all blessings must be recited while standing. This refers to blessings on Mitzvot which do not entail enjoyment; however, for blessings on things which involve enjoyment, on need not stand.” This means that there are two kinds of blessings: Blessings which do not involve any enjoyment, such as the blessings on Tzitzit, Lulav, and Birkot Ha’Torah, and there are blessings which our Sages enacted to recite on things from which one does derive enjoyment, such as Kiddush, “Leeshev Ba’Sukkah,” and the like. The Gaon writes that any blessing which does not involve any enjoyment should be recited while standing. Based on this, one should certainly recite the Birkot HaTorah while standing. The same response states that this is actually stated explicitly in the Talmud Yerushalmi.
The Opinion of Rabbeinu David Abudirhem-“Alatz Shalem”
Nevertheless, the Responsa of the Geonim continues that some say there the obligation to stand applies to only six blessings; each one possessing a distinct reason why one must stand for that specific blessing.
Rabbeinu David Abudirhem composed an acronym for one to remember which blessings to recite while standing which is, “Alatz Shalem.” This is an acronym for “Omer” (counting the Omer), “Levana” (Blessing on the New Moon), “Tzitzit,” “Shofar,” “Lulav,” and “Milah” (Berit Milah). (The truth of the matter is that we customarily stand while reciting other blessings as well, but these are the primary ones.)
The Opinion of the Penei Yehoshua
It seems that according to the opinion of the Talmud Yerushalmi and the Gaon, one should recite the Birkot Ha’Torah while standing. However, the Penei Yehoshua (in his commentary on Tractate Megillah 21a) writes that only regarding Mitzvot whose performance is also done while standing should their blessings be recited while standing as well. For instance, regarding the Lulav which is taken while standing, one should recite the blessing on it while standing as well. However, regarding the reading of Megillat Esther which need not be done while standing, one need not recite the blessing on it while standing either. Other great Acharonim rule likewise.
The Bottom Line
Therefore, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes (Responsa Yechave Da’at Volume 5, Chapter 4) since there is no obligation to stand while learning Torah, the Birkot Ha’Torah need not be recited while standing either. Similarly, the Birkot Ha’Shachar need not be recited while standing since only when the performance of a Mitzvah is done while standing must its blessing also be recited while standing (and the Birkot Ha’Shachar were not enacted for Mitzvah performance at all).
Indeed, the Rama (Rabbeinu Menachem Azarya) of Pano writes in one of his responses that the Birkot Ha’Torah may indeed be recited while seated, as the Torah writes regarding Torah learning, “When you shall sit in your house.” The Peri Megadim adds that our Sages did not require one to recite Keri’at Shema and its blessings while standing because one is able to concentrate better while sitting. This would surely apply to Birkot Ha’Torah as well, which according to some is a Torah obligation and must surely be recited with great concentration. Thus, they may be recited while seated.
Summary: The Birkot Ha’Shachar and Birkot Ha’Torah need not be recited while standing; rather, one may recite them while seated.