1) WHEN IS A "BERACHAH ACHARONAH" REQUIRED "MID'ORAISA"
QUESTION: Raban Gamliel explains that the verse, "You will eat, be satisfied, and you shall bless Hash-m your G-d" (Devarim 8:10), refers to all seven species of Eretz Yisrael mentioned in a previous verse (Devarim 8:8). Therefore, according to Raban Gamliel, one must recite Birkas ha'Mazon after eating any of the seven species. The Rabanan argue and say that since verse 9 interrupts between the list of the seven species (verse 8) and the verse that says, "And you shall bless" (verse 10), it must be that the blessing in verse 10 refers only to bread and not to the seven species.
How can this Gemara be reconciled with the opinion of the Rishonim that the Berachah Acharonah of Berachah me'Ein Shalosh for the seven species is mid'Oraisa (see Insights to Berachos 35:2)? If verse 9 interrupts between the source for reciting a Berachah Acharonah and the seven species, there remains no source that the Berachah me'Ein Shalosh of the seven species is mid'Oraisa! (TALMIDEI RABEINU YONAH)
ANSWER: The RITVA and the RASHBA answer that since the seven species are mentioned in the same Parshah as the source for reciting a Berachah Acharonah, it must be that the interruption is only a partial limitation. The interruption does limit Birkas ha'Mazon to bread, but it does not limit another type of Berachah Acharonah from all of the seven species. Therefore, reciting a Berachah Acharonah (Berachah me'Ein Shalosh) on the seven species indeed can be mid'Oraisa.
2) THE BLESSING OF "BERACHAH ME'EIN SHALOSH"
QUESTION: The Gemara discusses the blessing of Berachah me'Ein Shalosh, or "Al ha'Michyah." We would expect Al ha'Michyah to express only ideas that are expressed in Birkas ha'Mazon itself, since it is an abbreviated version of Birkas ha'Mazon. However, there are some phrases in Al ha'Michyah that are not found in the "parent" blessings of Birkas ha'Mazon.
(a) In Birkas ha'Mazon we pray for the restoration of "Yerushalayim and Tzion." In Al ha'Michyah we pray for the restoration of "Yerushalayim and Tzion" and then we add a prayer for the restoration of "Your altar and Your sanctuary." (This is the text of the Gemara and most Rishonim; the Rambam (Hilchos Berachos 3:14) does not mention it.)
(b) Another addition to Al ha'Michyah that is not found in Birkas ha'Mazon is the prayer that Hash-m once again "bring us up [to Yerushalayim] and cause us to rejoice in its rebuilding...."
What is the nature of these two additions, and why were they included in the shorter Al ha'Michyah, yet omitted from the longer, more inclusive Birkas ha'Mazon?
ANSWER: The BRISKER RAV is quoted as answering as follows. First, it should be noted that there actually is one other addition in the Al ha'Michyah blessing that is not found in Birkas ha'Mazon. In Al ha'Michyah, we specify that Hash-m gave us Eretz Yisrael "so that we may eat of its fruits and be satiated by its bounty," and we ask Him to return Eretz Yisrael to our hands for the same purpose. Why do we stress our appreciation for the fruits of Eretz Yisrael in this particular blessing?
The answer to this question is obvious. Birkas ha'Mazon is recited after a meal consisting of any kind of food (provided that it was eaten with bread). The blessing of Al ha'Michyah, on the other hand, is recited only after partaking of one of the seven species of fruit of Eretz Yisrael. It is appropriate that we offer praise to Hash-m that relates specifically to that which we have just enjoyed (Berachos 40a). Therefore, after eating the fruits of Eretz Yisrael, we thank Hash-m for giving us the land with its unique fruits and satiating bounty.
This idea provides an answer to our questions regarding the additions in the Al ha'Michyah blessing. Why do we add a special prayer for the restoration of the Mizbe'ach? Perhaps it is because there is another benefit, in addition to the enjoyment we derive, that we have from the fruits of Eretz Yisrael. That other benefit is the Mitzvah of Bikurim, which are brought only from the seven species (Bikurim 3:6). The Mitzvah of Bikurim entails placing the fruit-basket at the base of the Mizbe'ach. Therefore, after partaking of these species, we ask Hash-m to return us to His land so that we can eat again of its special fruits and to rebuild His Mizbe'ach so that we can bring those fruits as Bikurim!
A similar approach explains the other addition found in Al ha'Michyah. After eating any of the seven species, we ask Hash-m to "bring us to Yerushalayim" so that we will be able to fulfill the Mitzvah of Bikurim, which must be brought to Yerushalayim and eaten there. (-As heard from Rav Nasan Lesinger of Yerushalayim, in the name of the Brisker Rav. A similar thought can be found in the Brisker Hagadah, p. 272.)
3) OUR TEXT OF "AL HA'MICHYAH": "V'NOCHAL MI'PIRYAH"
QUESTION: The Gemara discusses the blessing of Al ha'Michyah. Our text of the Al ha'Michyah differs in a number of significant ways from the text that Rav Dimi taught to Abaye in the Gemara. The text in the Gemara does not include the words, "v'Nochal mi'Piryah v'Nisba mi'Tuvah" -- "so that we may eat of its fruits and be satiated by its bounty." The TUR (OC 208) quotes the Gemara and says that these additional words appear in the text of the BEHAG. The Tur, however, prefers not to include them in the blessing. He reasons that it is not appropriate to ask to be in Eretz Yisrael in order to eat its fruits.
The Tur's words are based on the Gemara in Sotah (14b) which asks why Moshe Rabeinu yearned so deeply to go into Eretz Yisrael. The Gemara says that he certainly did not want to enter Eretz Yisrael merely to partake of its tasty fruits. This implies that we should not desire to be in Eretz Yisrael merely to eat its fruits.
Why, then, do we include this phrase in our text of Al ha'Michyah?
ANSWER: The BACH (OC 208) explains that the fruits of Eretz Yisrael have a unique property: holiness. Since the Shechinah is most concentrated in Eretz Yisrael, its holiness is absorbed even into the fruits that grow there. When we eat the fruits of the land, we absorb the Kedushah of the land and thereby purify and sanctify our bodies. Accordingly, it is not objectionable to want to be in Eretz Yisrael in order to eat its fruits.
Why, then, does the Gemara in Sotah say that Moshe Rabeinu certainly did not desire to enter Eretz Yisrael merely to eat its fruits?
We may answer that since the fruits of Eretz Yisrael are suffused with the holiness of the Shechinah, when one eats those fruits he strengthens his faith in Hash-m and his awe of Him. (This may be alluded to by the Gemara in Shabbos (31a) that says that Seder Zera'im corresponds to Emunah in Hash-m.) The Gemara earlier in Berachos (33b) says that Moshe Rabeinu considered the fear of Hash-m to be an easy character trait to acquire, because for him it indeed was. Therefore, the Gemara in Sotah asks why Moshe Rabeinu wanted to go into Eretz Yisrael, since Moshe Rabeinu certainly did not need to eat the fruits in order to acquire a greater degree of fear of Hash-m! For us, though, it is appropriate to pray to be in Eretz Yisrael so that we may eat its fruits and absorb the spiritual qualities with which they will imbue us.
4) OUR TEXT OF "AL HA'MICHYAH": "V'AL HA'KALKALAH"
OPINIONS: The Gemara discusses the blessing of Al ha'Michyah. In the text of the Berachah me'Ein Shalosh in the Gemara, the end of the blessing does not mention the words, "v'Al ha'Kalkalah." Accordingly, almost none of the Rishonim include these words in their text of the blessing. The BEIS YOSEF cites the Rishonim who omit this phrase from the blessing of Al ha'Michyah. The TUR (OC 208), however, disagrees with those Rishonim and adds "v'Al ha'Kalkalah" to the end of the blessing.
What is the Halachah?
(a) The MAGEN AVRAHAM cites the opinion of the Tur who says that one should end the blessing with the words, "v'Al ha'Kalkalah." However, the later Poskim point out that the only one who mentions "v'Al ha'Kalkalah" is the Tur, and thus this is a minority opinion. Therefore, we should not say "v'Al ha'Kalkalah" (see MISHNAH BERURAH 208:50, and SHA'AR HA'TZIYON 208:52).
(b) However, in prayerbooks with Nusach Ari (used by Chasidim), the words "v'Al ha'Kalkalah" are included. The Sefardic (Edot ha'Mizrach) prayerbooks include the words "Al ha'Kalkalah" right before the end of the blessing, but not actually at the end itself. Each person should follow the practice of his own family. If one is unsure, he may follow the most widely accepted practice and omit these words from the blessing.
(In Europe, it was common practice to avoid the question by adding at the end of the blessing, "v'Al ha'Kalkalah -- it is a doubt [whether we should say it]." In this way, "v'Al ha'Kalkalah" was mentioned in case it should be mentioned, but was not really mentioned in case it should not be mentioned.)
5) RECITING A BLESSING AFTER PERFORMING A MITZVAH
OPINIONS: The Gemara relates that in Ma'arava (Eretz Yisrael), the Jews would recite a blessing after performing a Mitzvah, such as upon removing their Tefilin at the end of the day. After which Mitzvos did the Jews recite a blessing?
(a) RABEINU TAM (cited by TOSFOS to Nidah 51b, and here, DH veli'Venei) explains that in Ma'arava they recited a blessing only when they removed their Tefilin before nightfall, since the verse "v'Shamarta Es ha'Chukah" forbids wearing Tefilin at night. They did not recite a blessing after they completed any other Mitzvah or after removing their Tefilin in the morning, since the Torah does not call such acts "Chukah."
If they did not recite a blessing after any other Mitzvah, then why does the Gemara conclude that the ruling of the Mishnah (that a Berachah Rishonah is sometimes recited without a Berachah Acharonah) is said regarding fragrances? The Gemara could have answered simply that the Mishnah is referring to all Mitzvos aside from Tefilin! Rabeinu Tam answers that the Gemara indeed could have explained that the Mishnah is referring to all other Mitzvos.
(b) The RASHBA and RITVA in Nidah reject Rabeinu Tam's ruling. They explain that in Ma'arava, they recited blessings after all Mitzvos that have clearly defined ending points (either because the Mitzvah has been completed, such as Lulav or Shofar, or because the obligation ceases to apply, such as Tefilin or Tzitzis at night).
The ROKE'ACH explains that they recited the blessing of "Lishmor Chukav" after they completed any Mitzvah, based on the verse, "u'Shemartem Es Chukosai" (Vayikra 18:5).
(c) The Ritva in Nidah also explains that in Ma'arava a blessing was recited after every Mitzvah, but only after they removed their Tefilin did they recite the blessing of "Lishmor Chukav," based on the verse "v'Shamarta Es ha'*Chukah*." After they completed other Mitzvos they recited "Lishmor Mitzvosav."
HALACHAH: The TUR (OC 29) quotes RAV HAI GA'ON who rules that a person may recite a blessing when he removes his Tefilin at the end of the day. The TUR disagrees and asserts that since there is no obligation to recite such a blessing, it is a Berachah l'Vatalah.