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In Melbourne Shabbat begins Fri 5 May 2017 05:10 PM and ends Sat 29 Apr 2017 06:16 PM
ד' תשרי ה' אלפים תשס"ח
This is a summary of a Shabbos Shuvah Drosho delivered by the Dayan of Yeshivah Shule, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh Telsner. The main source of this discussion can be found in Pesachim 7a and the different Rishonim on the sugya.
Rabbi Telsner expounded various aspects of brochos, focusing mainly on birchas hamitzvos, but he also touched on an aspect of birchas hanehenin (eg brochos on eating). Among many others he dealt with the brochos on the following mitzvas aseh:
There are two formulations of a brocho:
1) Where we say "Al .... " and we proceed to name the mitzvah as a noun. An example "Al Netilas Lulav".
(An interesting point is the question of why we don't say "Al Lekichas Lulav". Based on a Tosaphos in Brochos, it may be that the "L" from Al will blend with the "L" from "Lekichas" making it sound like one continuous long word, and "Al Netilas..." circumvents this problem. This is based on the reason why we say on eating bread ....Haolam Hamotzi Lechem min Haaretz, and not "... haolam motzi lechem min haaretz")2) Where we say "Le... " and describe the mitzva as a verb. An example "lehaniach tefillin".
The initial distinction between the "Al ..." formulation and the "Le ..." formulation is that "Al ..." means both present and future, whereas "Le.." is for the future.
A further distinction between these two formulations is that "Al ..." is used for a more indirect relationship between the mitzvah doer and the mitzvah, than "le...". Rabbi Telsner quoted examples of this from the Talmud. A person who is directly commanded to perform a mitzvah such as a father who is circumcising his son, should preferably say "Le...". A mohel on the other hand should say "Al Hamila", since he wasn't personally commanded to do the mitzvah on this particular child. Similarly a shochet should use "Al.." since he wasn't directly commanded to do the shechitah.
After dealing with these, Rabbi Telsner brought down the important principle that the brocho for a mitzvah must be done prior to - but as closely as possible to - the performance of the mitzvah. So for example you cannot make the brocho on donning tefillin while they are yet lying on the table in front of you. This concept is called in the Gemorro "oiver la'assiyoson".
The Dayan then brought a number of thoughtful and challenging cases of mitzvos where it becomes difficult to define or to fulfill exactly "oiver la'asiyoson". First he noted that the gemorro itself says that tevilla (immersion in a mikveh) is different from all other mitzvos. There the brocho is made after having immersed in the mikveh.
In the case of a ger converting it could not be otherwise, since before they have converted they are not commanded to perform any mitzvos whatsoever! Other similar mitzvos follow the same pattern. For example the actual netilas yadayim is done first, and the brocho is made afterward. Even in these cases we try to make sure that some of the mitzvah will continue after the brocho - eg. drying our hands is part of netilas yadayim. So the Rambam for example says that the actual tahara for a tamei person who immersed in a mikveh takes place as he emerges. Similarly with all the less straightforward examples given there are actions which occur after the brocho is made.
The thought provoking instances where that moment of "oiver la'assiyoson" is hard to define or diffiult to fulfill were:
As mentioned earlier, the exact procedure of how to properly make the brocho on lulav is the subject of much discussion in the sources. There are three solutions proposed as to how to make the brocho "oiver la'asiyoson".