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The Gerald & Karin Feldhamer OU Kosher Halacha Yomis This Column is dedicated in memory of: Rav Chaim Yisroel ben Reb Dov HaLevi Belsky, zt’l Senior OU Kosher Halachic Consultant from 1987-2016
I just finished reciting birchos ha’shachar (the blessings recited upon waking in the morning), but I do not remember if I recited birchas ha’Torah. What should I do?
In a previous halacha, we noted the ruling of the Mishnah Berurah (47:1) that birchas ha’Torah is a Biblical obligation, and in cases of doubt one must recite the bracha. However, this is only an option of last resort. Since many Rishonim maintain that birchas ha’Torah is only rabbinic and may not be recited in cases of doubt, if possible, one should find someone who has not yet recited the bracha, and fulfill the obligation by listening to the second person’s recitation.
If one realized their predicament before having recited the bracha of Ahavah Rabba (the blessing recited before Shema), one should have in mind when reciting this bracha that they are fulfilling the mitzvah of birchas ha’Torah. In case of need, this bracha can substitute for birchas ha’Torah, since it also mentions Torah study. Immediately after Shmoneh Esrei, one must study some portion of Torah, so that there will not be a disruption between the bracha and the study of Torah. Rav Schachter said that on a day when Tachanun is said, one should not interrupt between Shmoneh Esrei and Tachanun. One should wait to study Torah until after Tachanun. The Mishnah Berurah cites the Pri Megadim that in this case, even if one did not study immediately after Shmoneh Esrei, one may also be lenient not to repeat birchas ha’Torah, since immediately after the bracha one recited “Shema.” Although Shulchan Aruch writes that it is questionable whether “Shema” can be counted as Torah study, in this case there is a double doubt, since it is also possible that a bracha was said. Because of the double doubt, one does not repeat birchas ha’Torah. In truth, there are very few cases when one would ever be required to repeat birchas ha’Torah
What is the reason we recite birchas ha’Torah?
There is a disagreement among Rishonim as to whether birchas ha’Torah is a Torah obligation or a Rabbinic obligation. Sefer Pnei Moshe 1:1 (Benvenisti) writes that the Ramban, Rashba and Sefer Hachinuch maintain that there is a Biblical obligation to recite birchas ha’Torah daily. This is derived from the verse (Devarim 32:3) “When I call out the name of Hashem, ascribe greatness to our God.” This is understood to mean that before I read the Torah, I must recite a blessing. The Rif, Rambam and Rosh are of the opinion that birchas ha’Torah was instituted by the rabbis. Either way, the Gemara (Bava Metzia 85b) ascribes extreme importance to this bracha. There it relates that the Bais Hamikdash was destroyed because people did not recite birchas ha’Torah, which reflected a lack of appreciation for the value of Torah (Rashi).
The above disagreement among Rishonim leads to the following practical difference. When there is an uncertainty as to whether one recited birchas ha’Torah, must one repeat the bracha? If birchas ha’Torah is a Torah obligation then one must repeat the blessing. The Mishnah Berurah (47:1) rules in accordance with the Shaagas Aryeh that one must indeed be concerned that birchas ha’Torah is a Biblical obligation; however in a case of doubt one only recites the bracha of “asher bachar banu,” since one blessing is enough to discharge the Torah obligation.