1) A BLESSING *AFTER* EATING AND A BLESSING *BEFORE* LEARNING
QUESTION: The Gemara teaches that there are two blessings which the Torah obligates us to recite: Birkas ha'Mazon after we eat, and Birchos ha'Torah before we learn.
Why does the Torah specifically command us to recite the blessing for food after we eat, and the blessing for learning Torah before we learn?
ANSWER: Before a person eats, he is hungry and he is aware of his dependence on Hash-m for his sustenance. After he eats, however, he feels full and satisfied, and he may forget to Whom he owes his sustenance. Therefore, the Torah commands us to thank Hash-m for our food after we have eaten.
After one learns Torah, he feels closer to Hash-m and has a greater sense of appreciation for His infinite wisdom. Before one learns, however, his motivation for learning may not be so pure, as he does not yet recognize the beauty of Torah. Therefore, the Torah requires us to recite a blessing over Torah study before we begin to learn in order to heighten our awareness of Hash-m's wisdom. (MESHECH CHOCHMAH, Parshas Ekev)
2) DERIVING "BICHOS HA'TORAH" AND "BIRKAS HA'MAZON" FROM EACH OTHER
QUESTION: The Gemara first utilizes a "Kal v'Chomer" to derive the blessing after learning Torah from the blessing after eating. The Gemara then reverses the Kal v'Chomer and derives the blessing before eating from the blessing before learning Torah! How can the Gemara suggest two opposite Kal v'Chomers? (See PNEI YEHOSHUA)
ANSWER: When it comes to eating, it is more obvious that we must recite a blessing before we eat in order to thank Hash-m, because the pleasure of eating is much greater when one is hungry. When it comes to learning Torah, on the other hand, the pleasure is much greater after we have learned and have become acquainted with the Sugya. (See previous Insight.)
Therefore, if the Torah requires us to recite a blessing after we eat, when the pleasure is not as great as it is before we eat, then all the more so we must recite a blessing after we learn, when the pleasure is much greater than before we learn. Similarly, if the Torah requires us to recite a blessing before we learn Torah when the pleasure is not as great, then certainly we must recite a blessing before we eat, when the pleasure is great. (Based on She'elos u'Teshuvos SHA'AREI TZEDEK, cited in Peninim m'Shulchan ha'Gra)
In the final analysis, the Gemara rejects both Kal v'Chomers, citing verses as proofs to the contrary. The logical basis for this conclusion is that there may be other factors (besides enjoyment) involved in the decision as to when to make a blessing. (For example, the blessing may be intended to stop a person from rebelling; see Meshech Chochmah, Parshas Ekev.)
3) RECITING A VOLUNTARY "SHEMONEH ESREH"
OPINIONS: When Rebbi Yochanan said, "If only a person could pray all day long," did he mean that a person may recite Shemoneh Esreh as many times as he wants? What did Rebbi Yochanan mean?
(a) TOSFOS (DH v'Rebbi Yochanan) explains that Rebbi Yochanan meant only that people should pray again if they are in doubt whether or not they already prayed. If they know that they said Shemoneh Esreh already, then they should not pray again.
(b) The RIF and RAMBAM (Hilchos Tefilah 10:6) understand that Rebbi Yochanan meant that a person may recite another Shemoneh Esreh whenever he wants to offer a Tefilas Nedavah, a freewill prayer. It is compared to a Korban Nedavah, a freewill sacrifice that may be offered upon the altar in the Beis ha'Mikdash. Consequently, they rule that whenever a Korban Nedavah cannot be brought, a person, too, may not offer a Tefilas Nedavah.
There are several practical ramifications of this Halachah. First, a person cannot recite a freewill Musaf Shemoneh Esreh (since a Korban Musaf may not be offered as a Nedavah). Second, a communal group may not recite a freewill Shemoneh Esreh, because a community may not bring a Korban Nedavah. (Whenever we find that a communal group brings a freewill offering, the group is considered a partnership of many individuals, and not a single communal entity bringing a Korban; see Beis Yosef OC 107). Third, one may not recite a freewill Shemoneh Esreh on Shabbos or Yom Tov, because these are days on which a Korban Nedavah cannot be brought.
The RIF adds a fourth ramification. One may recite a freewill Shemoneh Esreh only if he intended to recite it as a Nedavah from the moment that he started. If he started Shemoneh Esreh thinking that it was obligatory, and then he remembered that he had already prayed and he wants to continue his prayers as a Nedavah, he may not continue. He must stop in the middle.
(c) The RA'AVAD (Hasagos to Rambam, loc. cit.) rules that a person who wants to pray an additional freewill Shemoneh Esreh may do so only when the Shemoneh Esreh that he is repeating is a prayer of requests for mercy. Therefore, a person may recite Musaf a second time on Rosh Chodesh or on Chol ha'Mo'ed as a Nedavah. On a day when it is not appropriate to ask for Rachamim, though, such as Shabbos or Yom Tov, one may not recite a Tefilas Nedavah. According to the Ra'avad, a communal group may also recite a Shemoneh Esreh as a Nedavah. (The Ra'avad disagrees with the Rif who says that only when a Korban Nedavah may be brought, may a freewill Shemoneh Esreh be recited.)
(d) The OR ZARU'A in the Hagahos Ashiri and RAV HAI GA'ON write that a person may recite a freewill Shemoneh Esreh whenever he wants, but only on condition that he add a new request to his Shemoneh Esreh. The concept of a Nedavah, they understand, is that a person is asking for something more, and not that he is bringing a freewill offering.
HALACHAH: The SHULCHAN ARUCH (OC 107:1) rules like the Rif and the Rambam (b). However, the TUR cites the ROSH who concludes in a responsum that one may pray a second time only if he adds a new request, like the opinion of Rav Hai Ga'on (d). The Rosh also rules that one should not recite a Nedavah prayer on Shabbos or Yom Tov (he does not mention the limitations of Musaf and communal prayer), which appears to be in accordance with the Ra'avad's opinion (c) that a Nedavah prayer must be recited as a prayer for Rachamim. The Rosh, then, requires the conditions of both the Ra'avad and Rav Hai Ga'on.
The Rosh adds that a person should not recite an extra Shemoneh Esreh unless he is certain that he will be able to have proper Kavanah throughout the entire Shemoneh Esreh.
4) LISTENING TO "KEDUSHAH" WHEN ONE IS IN THE MIDDLE OF SHEMONEH ESREH
QUESTION: A person is obligated to recite Kedushah with everyone else during the Chazan's repetition of the Shemoneh Esreh. The Gemara rules that a person who is in the middle of his Shemoneh Esreh may not interrupt his Tefilah to say Kedushah with everyone else. Therefore, if he comes late to synagogue, he may not start his Shemoneh Esreh if everyone else will reach Kedushah before he finishes.
Why is he not allowed to start? He should be permitted to begin his Shemoneh Esreh and fulfill his obligation to recite Kedushah by listening to Kedushah ("Shome'a k'Oneh") when the Tzibur recites it!
(a) TOSFOS (DH Ad she'Lo) cites RASHI in Sukah (38b) who says that one could fulfill his obligation by listening to Kedushah, but preferably he should say it himself. Therefore, one should not start saying Shemoneh Esreh unless he will finish by the time the Tzibur recites Kedushah.
(b) RABEINU TAM and the RI disagree with Rashi. A person may not fulfill his obligation by listening to Kedushah while reciting Shemoneh Esreh. Were he to do so, his listening would be an interruption of his Shemoneh Esreh, equivalent to reciting Kedushah in the middle of his Shemoneh Esreh!
It seems that their argument concerns how one fulfills his obligation to recite something through listening to it recited by someone else. Does listening fulfill one's obligation because speech is not necessary, or is speech necessary, but the other person's speech exempts the listener as if he had spoken it himself?
Rashi understands "Shome'a k'Oneh" to mean that a person fulfills his obligation through listening, and speech is not necessary. Therefore, it is not considered an interruption in one's Shemoneh Esreh to pause and listen to Kedushah. On the other hand, listening is a lower form of fulfilling one's obligation than speaking.
Rabeinu Tam and the Ri understand "Shome'a k'Oneh" to mean that a person fulfills his obligation because it is as if he actually said every word. Therefore, listening is considered an interruption (as if he actually spoke), and it is no less worthy a way of fulfilling one's obligation than speaking. (EINAYIM LA'MISHPAT #4. See also TOSFOS 20b, DH ked'Ashkechan. The KEHILOS YAKOV, Berachos #13 (5750 edition), discusses this dichotomy at length in the context of other Sugyos.)