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Shabbat Parashat Shemini| 5771

Ein Ayah: The Need for a Beracha on Good Smells

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 6:39)

Gemara: Rav Zutra bar Tuvia said in the name of Rav: From where do you know that one makes blessings on good smells? It is from the pasuk, “All of the soul shall praise Hashem, may Hashem be praised” (Tehillim 150:6). What is it that the soul has benefit from and the body does not? It is from a good smell.


Ein Ayah: The reason the gemara has to find a source for the beracha on smell is that there is logic to say that the reason for berachot is to prevent one who is involved in animalistic enjoyment from sinking into animalistic lowliness. In that regard, the function of the beracha would be to remind him to attach to the physical benefit a spiritual benefit of recognizing Hashem’s role in creating with kindness all of mankind’s enjoyments.

If it were the case that the beracha was to prevent negative influences, then it would be necessary only for lower-level enjoyments such as eating and drinking. In contrast, delicate enjoyments such as smell, which by nature elevate the spirit and its strengths, would not require a beracha. That is why the gemara refers to smell as something from which the soul benefits and the body does not. In other words, it does not bring one to animalistic behavior. Yet the pasuk that refers to benefit of the soul says that this experience should also be the impetus to praise Hashem. The reason is that the purpose of a beracha is not merely to protect from negative but for the positive of elevating one to recognize his Maker. When one makes a beracha on a good smell, where there is no fear of the negative, he strengthens the realization that the beracha exists so that we should gain the positive.


The Loss of a Tzaddik

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 6:43)


Gemara: When Rav died, his disciples escorted him to burial. When they came back, they said: “Let us go and eat bread by the Dank River.” When they were about to eat, they wondered whether each one should make his own beracha because they were sitting but not reclining, or whether the fact that they discussed eating together is equivalent to reclining and one could exempt the others from making the berachot. They did not know the answer. Rav Ada bar Ahava got up and moved the rip in the garment (from the mourning for Rav) to the back and made another rip, saying: “Rav has died, and we don’t even know the laws of berachot on food.” Finally, a sage came, contrasted a mishna and a baraita, and concluded that discussing eating together is equivalent to reclining.


Ein Ayah: The loss to the world upon the death of a tzaddik is two-fold, like his importance to the world during his life. One element is the lofty segula (roughly, the special spiritual conduciveness). Namely, when a holy person is in the world, it certainly brings on shleimut to those who are both near to and far from the tzaddik. The second element is from the more direct benefit that people extracted from his Torah knowledge and his righteousness.

The first element is broader and deeper and is thus the focus of one’s thoughts during the ripping of the clothes. However, when the halachic issue arose and they did not have a solution, Rav’s disciples felt more strongly their personal loss of a teacher to whom to turn, and Rav Ada decided to do something in recognition of this feeling. They turned the clothes around to indicate that this second element now eclipsed, in their cognizant thought, the first, general element.

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