BERACHOS 24 - Two weeks of study material have been dedicated by Mrs. Estanne Abraham Fawer to honor the Yahrzeit of her father, Rav Mordechai ben Eliezer Zvi (Rabbi Morton Weiner) Z'L, who passed away on 18 Teves 5760. May the merit of supporting and advancing Dafyomi study -- which was so important to him -- during the weeks of his Yahrzeit serve as an Iluy for his Neshamah.
1) STANDING TO RECITE A BLESSING
QUESTION: The Gemara says that a woman who is undressed is permitted to separate Chalah and recite the blessing while she is sitting, since her private parts are covered. The MAGEN AVRAHAM (OC 8:2) wonders how she can recite the blessing while sitting down. The Halachah is that blessings preceding the performance of Mitzvos must be recited while standing (at least l'Chatchilah)!
(a) The MAGEN AVRAHAM answers that one does not have to stand to recite the blessing over separating Chalah. Separating Chalah is only a necessary step to permit people to eat the bread; one is not required to bake bread in order to separate Chalah. Therefore, the blessing over separating Chalah is not like Birkas ha'Mitzvos, but like a blessing recited over food, for which one does not have to stand.
(b) The YESHU'OS YAKOV (YD 328) explains that, indeed, l'Chatchilah one should stand for the blessing. However, if one is unable to stand (such as in the case of an undressed woman), we do not say that she cannot recite the blessing and therefore she may not separate Chalah. Rather, we permit the blessing to be recited while seated.
(c) The MALBIM (in ARTZOS HA'CHAYIM #8) explains that when one performs a Mitzvah mid'Oraisa, one must stand for the blessing, just as one must stand for the performance of the Mitzvah. When performing a Mitzvah mid'Rabanan, one does not need to stand for the performance of the Mitzvah, and therefore one is not required to stand for its blessing either. Since the Mitzvah of Chalah is mid'Rabanan nowadays, one does not need to stand for the Mitzvah of separating Chalah or for its blessing. (See EINAYIM LA'MISHPAT.)
2) THE THIGH OF A WOMAN IS CONSIDERED "ERVAH"
QUESTION: The Gemara says that the thigh of a woman is considered nakedness ("Shok b'Ishah Ervah"). RASHI (DH Shok) says that this refers to an "Eshes Ish," a woman married to someone else (as opposed to one's own wife).
The Gemara earlier says that one is not allowed to gaze at even the small finger of a woman married to another person, for even that is considered Ervah! Why, then, does Rashi explain that the statement, "the thigh of a woman is considered Ervah," prohibits looking at the thigh of a woman other than one's wife? It is prohibited to look at even the smallest finger of another woman!
(a) The BACH (OC 75) explains that a woman's thigh tends to be sweaty and therefore more repulsive than any other part of her body. We might have thought that it is not prohibited to look at it, in contrast to a woman's clean, attractive finger. Therefore, the Gemara teaches that even a woman's thigh is considered Ervah.
(b) The TZELACH says exactly the opposite. Rashi means to teach us that there is a greater prohibition to gaze at a woman's thigh than to gaze at her finger. Another woman's thigh is forbidden to look at even if one does not intend to get pleasure from gazing at it. The other parts of a woman that are more often exposed, such as her fingers, are forbidden to gaze at only when one intends to get pleasure.
According to the above answers, what is Rashi's source to assert that the "thigh" mentioned in the Gemara is referring to that of another woman, and not simply to that of one's own wife when one is reciting Keri'as Shema (as the Gemara concludes with regard to an exposed Tefach of a woman's body)?
(c) The VILNA GAON asserts that there is a printing error in the words of Rashi. Rashi's words "b'Eshes Ish" belong later on the page, and they are referring to the Gemara's statement that "the hair of a woman is Ervah." (Since hair is not part of the flesh of the body, the prohibition against gazing at a woman would not have applied to it had it not been independently classified as Ervah.)
3) FEELING ONE'S GARMENT DURING SHEMONEH ESREH
OPINIONS: The Gemara relates that Rebbi would "feel his garment" while saying Shemoneh Esreh, but he would not "wrap himself" with his garment. What does "feel his garment" mean?
(a) RASHI (DH u'Memashmesh) says that he would remove bugs that were stinging him.
(b) TOSFOS (DH u'Memashmesh) cites RABEINU CHANANEL who explains that the phrase "feel his garment" is connected to the end of Rebbi's statement; Rebbi would reposition his Talis if it was about to fall off, but he would not put it back on if it fell off.
Why does Rabeinu Chananel reject Rashi's explanation? It seems that Rabeinu Chananel maintains that one may not do an act during Shemoneh Esreh which is not needed for Tefilah. Fixing one's Talis is necessary for Tefilah because one is supposed to wear a Talis while praying, but removing bugs is not necessary for Tefilah and therefore may not be done.
Support for Rabeinu Chananel's position may be drawn from the Mishnah later (30b) that says that even if a snake is wrapped around one's ankle, he may not interrupt his Tefilah to remove the snake. If one may not remove a snake, then certainly one may not interrupt his Tefilah to remove a little bug. Rashi would respond that removing the snake involves a much larger interruption of one's Tefilah. He cannot merely brush it off, but he must take it away or kill it. An insect that is biting needs merely to be brushed off. (In addition, a snake does not usually bite unprovoked (see 33a). Here, though, the bug is actually stinging him, and therefore there is more reason to permit him to interrupt his Tefilah to remove it.)
(c) The RITVA and ME'IRI explain that one is permitted to rub his clothing over the place on his body which the bug is irritating, even if that place is one of Ervah which may not be touched while praying.
4) HALACHAH: FLATULENCE DURING SHEMONEH ESREH
The Gemara teaches that if one feels the urge to pass gas during his Shemoneh Esreh, he should walk back four Amos, pass gas, wait until the odor dissipates, return to his place, recite a special prayer, and then commence from where he left off.
The SHULCHAN ARUCH (OC 103:2) records this as the Halachah. However, the REMA cites the TERUMAS HA'DESHEN (#16) who rules that this Halachah applies only when one is praying by himself in his home. When he is praying with others in a synagogue, it would cause him great embarrassment to have to walk back four Amos during his Shemoneh Esreh. Therefore, when praying with others, one may remain standing in his place while he passes gas until the odor dissipates, and he does not recite the special prayer.
The MISHNAH BERURAH (103:9) adds that when one is praying in a synagogue with others, even though he does not walk back or recite the prayer he should think the prayer in his heart.
5) PAUSING LONG ENOUGH TO FINISH THE ENTIRE PRAYER
QUESTION: Rebbi Yochanan told Rebbi Avahu that if he paused long enough to finish the entire Shema, he must begin again from the beginning of the Shema.
Rebbi Yochanan himself in Rosh Hashanah (34b) states that on Rosh Hashanah, if a person waited between each individual blast of the Shofar long enough to finish all of the required blasts, he continues from where he left off. He does not go back to the beginning. Why, then, regarding the Shema does Rebbi Yochanan say that one must go back to the beginning?
(a) REBBI YEHUDAH HA'CHASID explains that Rebbi Yochanan was responding to Rebbi Avahu according to Rebbi Avahu's own opinion. Rebbi Avahu maintains that one must go back to the beginning if he paused long enough to finish the entire Shema, and the same applies to the Shofar blasts. Rebbi Yochanan himself, though, maintains that one does not have to go back to the beginning of the Shema. (Tosfos 22b, DH Ela, also cites the answer of Rebbi Yehudah ha'Chasid.)
(b) RAV SHIMSHON MI'KUTZI, quoted by Tosfos (22b, DH Ela) and by the ROSH (3:23), says that Rebbi Yochanan normally maintains that one does not have to repeat the entire set of Shofar blasts or the entire Shema, even if he pauses in the middle for a long span of time. In the case in our Gemara, though, Rebbi Avahu was not fit to say the Shema (because he was in an unclean place). When a person is not fit to perform a particular act, it is considered worse than a willful pause and is a stronger interruption in one's prayer or action. Therefore, if he waited long enough to finish the entire Shema, he must start again from the beginning.