Splitting a Berakha

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QUESTION

Rhode Island

A couple would like two different people to be involved in saying the Hebrew words of the final Sheva Berakhot, for family / political / musical reasons. Is it permissible that one begins the berakha and one ends, OR (more likely I imagine) that both say it together?

ANSWER

This is addressed by a teshuva of Rebbe Akiva Eiger. In שו”ת רבי עקיבא איגר מהדורא קמא ס’ ז’ he deals with the question of how a woman who does not understand Hebrew (which was common) can fulfill the mitzvah of Kiddush through שומע כעונה given that—the assumption is—שומע כעונה requires one to understand what s/he is hearing. He cites the Magen Avraham 193 who says that for that reason she needs to say it along with the מקדש word for word. But—he asks—this contradicts another ruling (271:2) that she is yotzeit through listening (and if that is so, how can she say it along—it’s a berakha levatalah?!). His answer is that she listens to the opening and closing of the berakha—which she understands, so it counts as שומע כעונה, and the middle part she says herself—so although she doesn’t understand it—it still counts, since she herself said it

אולם עודני נבוך, דלכאורה כיון דמברכת לעצמה לא שייך לומר דיוצאת ג”כ בשמיעה, דאם באת לומר דיוצאת בשמיעה דשומע כעונה א”כ ברכת’ שבפיה לבטלה, ובההיא דסי’ קצ”ג באמת י”ל *דאומרת עם המקדש נוסח אמצעית הברכה אבל הפתיחה והחתימה יוצאת בשמיעתה* דהמעט הזה מבינת בלה”ק,

He is thus taking for granted that a berakha can work if half is said and half is heard (it should be noted that in this case, the man starting the berakha is saying the whole berakha—the woman is adding the middle for herself, and for her the two combine—more on this below).

Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach (Minchat Shlomo 1:20) deduces from this that someone who has a doubt whether he needs to make a berakha, can hear the opening of a berakha that someone else is making (for some other purpose), even a different berakha, and then add the appropriate ending for himself!

ואם כנים אנו בזה נלענ”ד דלפי”ז במי שמסופק אם בירך ברכת המוציא או לא שיכול לשמוע מאחר שמברך על היין או מברך להתעטף בציצית, והיינו שיכוין לשמוע ממנו רק את הפתיחה בלבד ואילו המוציא לחם מן הארץ יאמר השומע בעצמו ויצא מקצתו בדיבור ומקצתו בשמיעה

However, he concludes that it is possible that Rebbe Akiva Eiger would not go this far. In his case, one person said the פתיחה and the חתימה—both of which wereברוך אתה ה’…— (אשר קדשנו במצוותיו ורצה בנו… ברוך אתה ה’ מקדש השבת), and the other person just added the middle section. It might not work if they actually divided one berakha between them

אלא שמעולם לא שמענו חדוש גדול זה, אך אפשר דהרע”א ז”ל נתכוין רק להתיבות שבאמצע הקידוש אבל לא בעיקר הברכה וצ”ע

He further qualifies this based on a question that Hazon Ish asks on Rebbe Akiva Eiger from Shulchan Arukh OC 194:3 that 3 people can divide the ברכת המזון with each person making one of the berakhot (and the others fulfilling that berakha through שומע כעונה), but *two people cannot divide one berakha*.

To answer this, Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach says that *one person needs to be making the full berakha*—then we are starting with a real berakha, and then another person can add a different section (maybe even a different ending) for him/herself. So—in the Kiddush example, the man was saying the whole Kiddush, and the woman was adding the middle for herself (since שומע כעונה would not have worked). Similarly—person A can make a berakha of שהכל on water, and another person can listen to the beginning and then after מלך העולם can add בורא מיני מזונות and eat some cake (assuming this works for the end of the berakha itself, and not just middle text)! What won’t work is if the מקדש just says the opening and the closing, and someone else says the middle.

*SO*—the rule is—if Person A is *saying the whole berakha*, the Person B can be יוצא a section of it through שומע כעונה and then add his/her part, and combine the two. This will definitely work if it is in the middle section of a long berakha with an opening and closing, and somewhat questionable if it is adding the actual end of the berakha itself.

Applying that to our case—luckily, the last berakha of the sheva berakhot has an opening and closing berakha! So—Person A should say the entire berakha—and can vary which part he says loudly and which part in an undertone. Let him say the opening ברוך אתה השם א’ מלך העולם אשר בחר and then the end ברוך אתה השם משמח חתן עם הכלה. Person B can do all or any parts of the middle section (without saying the opening or closing words). This way:

1. Person B is not saying a berakha levatalah—just some words from the middle of the berakha

2. Person A is saying the full berakhah and it counts for שבע ברכות.

3. The tzibur hears a full and legitimate berakhah—the beginning and end from Person A, and the middle from Person B (and also A, if desired). This combination works based on Rebbe Akiva Eiger, with Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach’s qualifications—Person A is saying a full berakhah, and Person B is only adding the middle section.

4. If it is required for the tzibur to hear the sheva berakhot for it to count—they did! If it is not required, then Person A said the berakha, regardless.

[— Further discussion of tzibbur’s need to hear and its implications here. Feel free to skip to the conclusion in #8.

5a. A person could argue that if the tzibur is required to hear, then Person A’s berakha is not legitimate on its own terms (and thus could not be used to create the hybrid berakha), since it is not fully audible by the tzibur. I think that this is not a concern. For those who assume that the tzibur needs to hear the berakha, this is presumably based on a position that it is the tzibbur’s berakha, and they have to be making it through שומע כעונה. If so, then it is also the berakha that Person A has to make, and his berakha is thus required as well, and legitimate even if the tzibur doesn’t hear it.

5b. One could dispute this and claim that it has to be heard by the tzibur in order to count as a berakha said “in the tzibur“—במקהלות ברכו א’, השם ממקור ישראל—so if they are not hearing, it is not במקהלות. This is, of course, debatable, but even if it were true, it seems to me that a berakha itself is on its own terms כשר, but one might not be יוצא if it wasn’t said במקהלות—and in this case, the hybrid berakha was said במקהלות. In other words:

(a) Person A said a ברכה that was a good ברכה and not לבטלה—it was the full נוסח and said in the setting of נישואין

(b) Normally, since part of it would not be heard, one would not be יוצא because it is not במקהלות, so the berakha, although valid in itself, did not “work” and would thus become a ברכה לבטלה

(c) Here, however, a hybrid berakha, based on this, was heard במקהלות, so that should be sufficient to say that the berakha “worked” and it does not become a berakha levatalah.

6. It is not obvious that this answer in 5b is correct (although it does make sense to me). Nevertheless, it is also may well be the case that even if the berakha needs to be heard בציבור, this is because it is the ציבור’s חיוב, and thus there would be no problem here, as stated in 5a.

7. *ALSO* – the general practice is to be lenient re the need to be heard by the tzibur. I have been at a number of weddings were an elderly gentleman is honored with a berakha, and says it inaudibly, and no one asks him (or someone else) to repeat it. In addition—the idea that the tzibur must hear is not widely stated. It can be found in the book שובע שמחות on p.78, but he supports this based on the ruling of זימון that all who are part of the zimmun must hear it from the מזמן. Of course, that is a very weak basis, since there the whole point is that everyone is coming together as one unit to be part of the zimmun, and it is the mezamen that brings them all together. In addition, he states that a microphone/loudspeaker doesn’t count as hearing, and of course—that is how everyone hears the sheva berakhot. So if you don’t like the microphone, you have to admit that the tzibur doesn’t really need to hear.

— end this discussion]

8. *THUS* – given the circumstances, I think one can comfortable rely on Rebbe Akiva Eiger and Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach, and have Person A make the whole berakha, parts in an undertone, but (minimally) the beginning and end out loud for the tzibur, and Person B doing all or part of the middle section.

And just to be clear—you can’t have them both saying the full berakha—one of them would be לבטלה.

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