What Were The Rishonim Thinking?

Rabbi Eli Monsour asks an important question. From DailyHalacha.com:

Many Rishonim (Medieval sages) raised the question of why the Rabbis did not ordain the recitation of a Beracha over the Mitzva of Bikur Cholim (visiting the sick), as they did for other Mitzvot. …

The Rashba (Rabbi Shlomo Ben Aderet, Spain, 1235-1310) answers this question by establishing a basic principle regarding the Berachot recited over Mitzvot. He claims that the Rabbis did not ordain the recitation of a Beracha over a Mitzva whose performance depends upon two different people. Tzedaka, for example, requires the participation of both the donor and recipient. If a person would recite a Beracha before giving charity, then if the poor person refuses the donation the Beracha would become a “Beracha Le’vatala” (a “wasted” Beracha, which is forbidden to recite). Similarly, if a person recites a Beracha before entering the patient’s room to pay a visit, and the patient asks him to leave, his Beracha would be “Le’vatala.” The Rabbis therefore chose not to ordain the recitation of a Beracha over these and other Mitzvot that depend upon the consent of a second party.

The Or Zarua (Rabbi Yitzchak of Vienna, 1180-1250) suggests a different reason why no Beracha is recited over the Mitzva of visiting the sick, claiming that no Beracha is recited over a Mitzva that can be performed at any time.…

Others suggested that the Rabbis did not ordain the recitation of a Beracha over Mitzvot that are intuitively logical, which even the gentiles acknowledge.… [E]ven the gentiles – who were not “sanctified with His commandments” – acknowledge and perform this Mitzva.…

I find these answers weak, and was happy to see that Rabbi Monsour suggests what I also belive to be the correct – and the obvious – answer:

We may suggest an additional reason, namely, that it would be inappropriate to recite a Beracha over a Mitzva that presents itself as a result of the pain and suffering of another person. As a person enters the room to visit his ailing friend, he should not joyfully express his gratitude to God for enabling him to perform this Mitzva, which came about because of another person’s pain.

This seems so obvious, I wonder why Rishonim did not mention it. Readers? Any thoughts on this?



Filed under Divre Torah, History

13 responses to “What Were The Rishonim Thinking?

  1. I suggest that while Bikur Cholim and Tzedakah have an unfortunate recipient, that’s not the case with the mitzvah marital relations — which also lacks a beracha. Most of the views quoted from the Rishonim for bikur Cholim would apply to sex as well.

  2. The Sages would not institute a bracha that could so easily lead to spilled seed. Remember, ideally the man is supposed to be at the point of extreme excitement before engaging in relations.

    Then there’s the erva issue. How would a bracha work? Would the couple need to be fully clothed to say it? In different rooms?

    Then there’s the whole issue of kavana. :–))

  3. Neo-Conservaguy

    No brakha for marital relations? Ha – I know know many husbands that offer a lusty “thank God!” when their wife is interested. So there.

  4. Franji

    A nice drash, thanks!

    PS: Otherwise, the name of the Rabbi, is Rabbi Mansour not Monsour.

  5. Anonymous

    How about Mitzvot between man and man charity, visiting sick,burying dead, feeding the poor) should be done with alacrity, and not be delayed even for a Bracha.
    My 2 cents.

  6. noclue

    Yes. Kshem shemevarchim al hatov cach verchim al harah. Just as on blesses on the good so does he on the bad. Therefore, we have a bracha of Dayan Haemes.

  7. Franji

    la kashia: keshem shemevarchin …. al haraa,
    applies to ones own trouble, not to suffering of others!
    see: “maassei yadai toviim bayam, veatem omrim shira?”

  8. Franji

    Barukh dayan haemet, is not a full blessing, and is merely a statement, accepting the QB’Hu’s judgement as just, no matter what.

  9. Steven

    Do the Rabbis have anything else in their empty minds except sitting around and asking insane and inane questions about making a blessing to see the sick?

    Shouldn’t one go and visit the sick because it is the RIGHT thing to do? How many Rabbinic influenced Jews blather blessings because they think that they will get a “credit” next to their name in the Shamayim? God doesn’t need a blessing for people to visit the sick. It is the sick that need a blessing from God.

  10. My2cents

    “that it would be inappropriate to recite a Beracha over a Mitzva that presents itself as a result of the pain and suffering of another person. ”
    But a beracha is said at a Brit Mila.

  11. noclue

    There is a difference between shira and a bracha. In addition, Klall Yisroel said shira at the yam, even if the malachim were not allowed to.

    I believe the priciple of Kshem is more than acceptance. I am not sure if dayan emes is ever said with shem and malchus, and if not, why not. It may be that we are not able to have proper kavanah. The question is worth looking into.

    To Steven, I am sure that the Rishonim did visit sick people themselves. This should not prevent them from posing a legitimate question.

  12. Anonymous

    …because it was Minhag Yeshu.

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