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Shabbat Parashat Pekudei 5784

Ask the Rabbi: Baruch Shem at the Wrong Time

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: Putting on tefillin, I (an Ashkenazi), after reciting “… l’haniach tefillin” and fastening the shel yad, recited “Baruch shem k’vod malchuto l’olam va’ed” (=bskmlv) instead of after putting on the shel rosh. What should I have done at that point?


Answer: The gemara (Menachot 36a) states that one makes one beracha on tefillin but makes two if he talks between putting on the shel yad and shel rosh. One approach in Rishonim, accepted by Sephardim (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 25:6) is that these numbers are total berachot for the two tefillin. One normally recites only l’haniach before fastening the shel yad. If he talks, al mitzvat tefillin is added for the shel rosh. The opinion that Ashkenazim accept (see Rama ad loc.) is that one always recites al mitzvat on the shel rosh. One who spoke also repeats l’haniach before the shel rosh.

Therefore, if saying bskmlv when you did is a full hefsek, you should have recited both berachot on the shel rosh (Shulchan Aruch ibid. 9). The Mishna Berura (ad loc. 32) adds that one should move the shel yad from its place and back and tighten the strap right before reciting l’haniach.

The Mishna Berura (25:21) cautions not to recite bskmlv before securing the shel rosh in its proper position and says that reciting it early creates a beracha l’vatala, requiring repeating the beracha. As he treats bskmlv at the wrong time as a hefsek even b’di’eved, it follows that you, as an Ashkenazi, should have made the two berachot before putting on the shel rosh.

A few things trouble me about this Mishna Berura’s contention (Rav Y.S. Klein (not famous) also raised these issues.) 1. If the early bskmlv is like talking, both berachot should be repeated, yet his language implies that only al mitzvat tefillin is repeated! If he means only one beracha, why, and what would it mean for our case? 2. The Mishna Berura’s source (Pri Megadim, EA 25:10) says that early bskmlv is a hefsek, but he does not say whether one must repeat the beracha. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 167:6) says that although one should not say anything between Hamotzi and eating the bread, if it was related to improving the meal, the beracha need not be repeated. One would think that bskmlv said a little early is related enough to not disqualify!

There are other reasons why a mistimed bskmlv might not disqualify. The reason for bskmlv after al mitzvat tefillin is the possibility that it is l’vatala (see Magen Avraham 25:10). This is based on the Yerushalmi (Berachot 6:1, accepted by Shulchan Aruch, OC 206:6) that the affront of desecrating Hashem’s Name with a beracha l’vatala is mitigated by using the beracha as a prompt for bskmlv. This makes it similar to saying baruch hu u’varuch shmo (= bhuvsh; see Shulchan Aruch, OC 124:5) after hearing His Name in a beracha. There is a machloket (see Mishna Berura 124:21) whether the beracha of one who says bhuvsh when he should not have is disqualified. Ma’aseh Rokeiach (Berachot 1:11) assumes that even if the one making the beracha inserts bhuvsh into his beracha, it is not l’vatala. It makes sense that a misplaced bskmlv would be subject to the same machloket.

There is logic that reciting something one thought was appropriate for the beracha but was mistaken (like here) is not a hefsek b’di’eved. It even seems to have a clear source – if one recites on whiskey, “… melech ha’olam borei pri hagafen shehakol n’hiya b’dvaro,” the mistaken words are not a hefsek b’di’eved (Shulchan Aruch, OC 209:2). Rav Preil (Rav of Elizabeth; Hamaor, vol. I, 12) says it is because the mistaken part was said with the intention of it being right (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata  47:(218)). Rav Kook (Orach Mishpat 127) argued, saying it is because he “erased” the mistaken words.

In summary, I am torn between “pulls” – 1. Follow the Mishna Berura’s apparent opinion to make two berachot on the shel rosh. 2. Consider the Shulchan Aruch’s ruling (to which the Rama is sensitive) that after talking, one makes one beracha plus our suggestion that bskmlv is better than talking and apply safek berachot l’hakel.

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