Saturday, June 18, 2005

Not Answering 'Amen' to the Second Bracha of Shema: Explaining the Mishna Berura

Adderabbi has an excellent post ( Mistaken Minhag - Not Answering 'Amen' to the Second Bracha of Shema: The Unabridged Version") tracing this halacha from the sources. He concludes

the Mishna Berurah INVENTS a doubt about what to do in that scenario, INVENTS a machloket between Ramah and Rambam, and then reads it back into the Shulkhan Arukh!

I would like to explain the basis for the psak of the Mishna Berura and show that it was not a mistake and that it has a solid basis. To really understand this post you should read Adderabbi's post first.

The Tur in Siman 59 brings down a Rosh. The Rosh says that his practice was to say the words of bircas krias shema with the chazan, but that it’s proper for one to finish up the bracha before the sha”tz so that he can answer ‘amen’, because it’s inappropriate to do so if he finishes along with the sha”tz (because then it would be like answering ‘amen’ to his own bracha). The Rosh furthermore doesn’t differentiate between the brachot of ‘yotzer’ and ‘ha-bocher’. The same practice should apply for both, namely finish before the chazzan and answer amen.

The Beis Yosef there is bothered by the following question. He asks how can the Rosh have answered amen to הבוחר it should be a הפסק? Remember, the Rosh was saying amen to the chazan's bracha because he finished before the chazan. Already we see that the Beis Yosef entertained the possibility that even answering amen to the chazan is a הפסק and therefore he is bothered by the question. He quotes the Rambam, Rabbeinu Yonah, and the Ramban who all say that you are not allowed to be מפסיק between הבוחר and shema.

The Beis Yosef gives 2 answers:
1. There is a fundamental dispute what is the nature of the beracha of הבוחר. The Rambam, Ramban, and Rabbeinu Yonah all hold that it is connected to shema (most probably a bircas hamitzva, the Ramban at the beginning of Berachos says this explicitly) and therefore there is a probnlem of הפסק, while the Rosh holds that it is not connected to shema and therefore there is no problem of הפסק
2. We differentiate between answering amen to your own beracha vs answering amen to the chazan's beracha. The Rambam etc. only prohibited answering amen to your own beracha, answering amen to the chazzan's beracha is not considered a הפסק.

We see explicitly that according to the first answer of the Beis Yosef answering amen to the chazan by הבוחר is a problem of הפסק according to the Rambam etc. The Biur Halacha paskens like this answer in the Beis Yosef and therefore recommends to finish with the chazzan and not answer amen.

However, there is a problem. The Beis Yosef himself seems to go with the second answer at the end when he quotes the Ramah that if you finish before the chazan you do answer amen. He says explicitly that you do answer amen to the chazzan.

If we stopped here the Mishna Berura would be in trouble. However, when we look in Shulchan Aruch we get a different picture. The Beis Yosef (there on the Tur) paskened explicitly that you say the 2 berachos of shema with the chazzan and you don't answer amen (to your own beracha) to either one of them. In Shulchan Aruch (49,4) he states
The Brachot of ‘Yotzer’ and ‘Arvit’ (i.e., the first bracha of Shema), one
should say quietly along with the Sha”tz, and he should not answer ‘amen’ at
the conclusion of “ha-bocher…” because it’s a ‘hefsek’.

If we look carefully we see that he left out the halacha of not answering amen to the first beracha of shema. He starts out talking about the first beracha (that it should be said with the chazzan) and then says you don't answer amen to the second beracha. What about the first beracha? Why didn't he say that you don't answer amen?

This seem to be the basis for the Mishna Berura. The Mishna Berura understood that if the Shulchan Aruch was just taking about the din of not answering your own beracha (as Adderabbi posits), then why single out הבוחר, the same halacha applies to the first beracha as well (which he did say on the Tur). Therefore it must be that the shulchan aruch is telling us a halacha that only applies to הבוחר, namely the din of הפסק (the din of not answering your own beracha is well known and paskened in hilchos berachos so he didn't mention it here). Once we come on to הפסק, then we are back to his first answer in the Beis Yosef where he explicitly said that the problem of הפסק applies even to the beracha of the Chazzan. Therefore the Mishna Berura paskens that according to the shulchan aruch you shouldn't answer amen to הבוחר because of הפסק.

The Gra (as Adderabbi pointed out) clearly disagrees withe the Mishna Berura because he explains the reason for the shulchan aruch as having to do with answering amen to your own beracha.

To summarize, the Mishna Berura is going with the Beis Yosef's first answer in the Tur, that there is a problem of הפסק even by the chazzan, he feels compelled to say this based on the fact that the Shulchan Aruch left out the din of not answering amen by the first beracha.

You can certainly argue on this analysis of the Mishna Berura but it clearly has a basis and is not a mistake.


ADDeRabbi said...

Well said. There are a few points that I think you failed to address or that are still problematic:
1)MB understands that SA's psak was a 'motzi midei safek' position - i.e., say the bracha w/ the sha"tz so that you don't get into the machloket Rambam/Rosh. That's clearly not the position of the SA, because he's actually paraphrasing the responsum of the Rosh when he says to follow the sha"tz.
2) Rambam writes this Halacha in Hilchot BRACHOT (1:17), not Hilchot TEFILLAH where you would expect the laws of Hefsek.
3) Kessef Mishna understands the Rambam according tot he second interpretation in Beit Yosef
4) It's unclear if in the FIRST interpretation of Beit Yosef, he thinks that the Machloket is whether or not saying Amen to the sha"tz's Ha-bocher is a hefsek, or if one's own Ha-Bocher is a hefsek. Since he cites the Ramah at the beginning as being on Rambam's team, and at the end as saying that one WOULD say 'amen' to the Sha"tz's bracha, I'm inclined to understand that the Beit Yosef, even in the first interpretation, thinks that all agree that you would answer 'amen' to the Sha"tz's bracha.
4) Even if the MB is right about the SA - which we agree is not a foregone conclusion, the Rema is unequivocal. It's beyond me why MB would advocate a position that runs counter to the pashut pshat of ALL Rishonim, the explicit formulation of several, and the mainstream of Ashkenazic psak.

Perhaps he felt that avoidance of a situation that may have some miniscule chance of being a machloket should still be obviated. I've written before (in a post entitled 'on chumra') why I'm uncomfortable with that approach to psak.

Shavu'a Tov.

Anonymous said...

Great exchange guys. A few points to adderabbi:

1) On the contrary, by paraphrazing the Rosh, he is showing how you can be fulfilling the Rosh while still being concerned about the Rambam. If the Rosh held that you still had to answer amen when you finish with the shat'z, doing that wouldn't help you fulfill both opinions at once.

2) The reason for the this opinion (according to Shulchan Aruch Harav) is that it is forbidden to make a hefsek here just like it is forbidden to make a hefsek between every mitzvah or benifit and the brocha you make before it. So it would follow that the din precisely belongs in "Hilchot BRACHOT"

3) Where do you see that the kesef mishna says that?

4) Then what is the point of the first answer? If it requires the chidush of the second answer, how is it different?

5) I don't understand why it would be poshut pshat that your amen is different that saying amen to someone else's brocha. It strikes me as quite the chiddush.

bluke said...

1. I am not sure that is what the Mishna Berura was saying in the shulchan aruch, he was saying that l'halacha.
2. Hefsek applies between a bracha and a mitzva if it is a bircas hamitzva and therefore hilchos berachos is the right place.
3. The Kesef Mishna has 1 line there I am not sure how you see that. In any case, the Beis Yosef clearly understood in the Rambam in the first answer that there is a problem of hefsek.
4. I don't see how you can say it is unclear. The Rosh said explicitly that he finished before the chazan so that he could answer amen. On that, the Beis Yosef asked how could he do that it is a hefsek. It is 100% clear that he is asking on the Rosh's practice of answering amen to the chazzan and even so he was bothered by a question of hefsek. I don't see any room to think that he agreed you would answer amen to the chazzan. The proof is the second answer where he does differentiate between the answering to your own bearacha and the chazzan's, clearly implying that in the first answer there is no difference, both are problematic.
5. Here I agree with you the MB's pesak for ashkenazim is very difficult because here it is not a case of be machmir and yotze all the opinions. Here if you do like the MB you lose out on the amen and therefore why shouldn't we pasken like the Rama?

I remember that R' Willig made exactly this point. He said that he is noheg like the Rama because if he does like the MB he loses out on the amen, so why should he go against the Rama and lose the amen?

Anonymous said...

I apologize for writing without looking up the sources. Apparently according to the Rama amen is not a hefsek (this is also true regarding Gaal Yisrael) where almost all yeshivasha minyanim go against all shitot and say the Gaal Yisrael silently depriving the listener of even hearing the bracha – and certainly of saying amen as per the Rama).
I recently discussed this issue with Rav Mailnowitz and he said that in Israel where the Beit Yosef and talmidie Hagra are predominant all people should say Amen, and the Mishna Burah should be ignored.

Rabbi Ari Kahn

ADDeRabbi said...

Whew! This is getting exhausting! I've got to address 5 points from 'nobody' and another 5 from bluke. Here goes:
1)My point about the Rosh was that he advocates saying BOTH brachot, in their ENTIRETY along w/ the Sha"tz. SA is clearly not advocating saying everything along w/ the Sha"tz in order to be motzi mi-yedei safek, rather, like the Rosh, that it's the proper way to daven.
2)Haven't seen the Alter Rebbe on this. Makes sense though; could be expected in either Brachot or Tefillah. It still is specifically within the context of 'amen' to one's own bracha.
3)KM reads Rambam 1:17 and 1:18 in light of 1:16, where he gives his overview to Rambam's position in the sugya. Ayen Sham.
4)The chiddush of the second answer would be that the Beit Yosef understands the Rosh as advocating an 'amen' even for one's own 'ha-bocher' (like saying 'kel melech ne'eman wo/ a minyan).
5)Though it does strike most as being a big chiddush, I'd venture that that's because most haven't learned the sugya in Brachot 45b 'aliba de-hilcheta'. Especially Ashkenazim, who follow the position quoted in Tosafot that 'boneh yerushalayim' is the only instance where one would say 'amen' to his own bracha, the entire concept of answering to one's own bracha seems kind of foreign. The Rishonim do, however, differentiate, and, as I've mentioned, Rosh, Ritva, and Ramah do so explicitly.

1)could be. I got the impression from the Biur Halacha that he's explaining the opinion of the SA.
2)point taken that it belongs in Hilchot Brachot. Still waiting for someone to explain why this is considered a 'birkat ha-mitzvot' when Rambam doesn't say so, and doesn't even come close. If it's 'birkat ha-torah', then why wouldn't we say 'amen' at ma'ariv, when there's no reason for 'birkat ha-torah'.
3) See KM on previous halakha.
4)& 5) Having gone back over it, you're right. In the first answer, HoJo doesn't differentiate between one's own bracha and the bracha of another, and any 'amen' would constitute a 'hefsek'. Nevertheless, it can be demonstrated conclusively that his second answer is the better answer. The SA can be read either way, it seems, though after a second reading, the GR"A way also be lining up the Ramah and Rosh against Rambam, with SA and Rema taking sides. I'm thus advocating for the second answer in the HoJo, which eliminates this machloket, as opposed to the first answer, which maintains it. The question against the MB is thus minimized, but the question remains - why does he buck Ashkenazi psak? Especially if a very strong case (to my mind, a conclusive case) can be made that there's no machloket here?

R' Khan -
R' Yonah even says that one should say 'amen' to his OWN bracha of 'ga'al yisra'el' (it's explicit in TRY to Brachot)! It would be odd if he says that but says no to answering 'amen' to the sha"tz's 'ha-bocher' because of hefsek, as the first answer in HoJo seems to imply.
However, our custom find expression in the Ritva, who advocates saying 'amen' to 'ha-bocher' but not 'bein ge'ulah le-tefillah' - it's 'al atar' of the Gemara in Brachot.
Given that it's an EXPLICIT machlokes Rishonim (unlike 'amen' to the sha"tz's 'ha-bocher', which probably isn't a machlokes rishonim), I can better understand the impulse toward caution. Nevertheless, if mainstream ashkenazik psak is to say 'amen' (can you provide ma'areh mekomos for the Rama and Gra on the issue of 'Ga'al Yisra'el'?), it is strange that we go against it.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is getting wide ranging. I'll try to keep it to a couple of points.

"Still waiting for someone to explain why this is considered a 'birkat ha-mitzvot' when Rambam doesn't say so, and doesn't even come close."

The point isn't that it is a 'birkat ha-mitzvot' and not something else, but rather that it is a brocha said before something. 'birkat ha-nehnin' would have the same din. According to the Rambam, the takana is to say two brochos before kerias shema. So these are brochos before something, and therefore you don't say amen.

The Rambam says the reason that you don't answer amen is that it is a hefsek (למען לא יפסיק). To say that the kesef mishna understands the rambam to differentiate between amen to your own brocha and amen to someone else's is something I certainly don't see, so could you explain how you see that?

ADDeRabbi said...

Acc. to KM (to Brachot 1:16), the Rambam has 2 guidelines for when one should say 'amen' to his own bracha:
1) it is a string of 2 or more brachot back-to-back
2) the brachot are 'acharonot' - i.e., they complete a topic or a thought, they are the end of something.
KM then goes on to explain that the examples listed in 1:17 are excluded because of the latter reason, and the examples listed in 1:18 are excluded because of the former reason.
Thus, he explains that the exclusion of 'ha-bocher' is because it is designed to lead directly into the Shema, and is therefore not the completion of a unit. It has nothing to do with 'hefsek' in the sense that we're used to.

There's another interesting point in the KM - it appears that he had a girsa of 'ga'al yisra'el amen' in Tefilla 9:1. He's bothered by this because the Rambam says in Brachot 1:16 that one doesn't say 'amen' to his own bracha after 'ga'al yisra'el at shacharit because it's part of a unit of only one bracha, as opposed to ma'ariv, where he reccomends saying it (note: his objection is NOT because it would be a 'hefsek', rather, because it's only one bracha!). So what's this 'amen' doing in Tefillah 9:1?
KM gives 2 answers:
1) It means the 'amen' that one responds to the sha"tz if he finished before
2) The word 'amen' there is a scribal error.

The question is, would our question be a 'nafka mina' between his two answers? If he says it's a scribal error, does that mean that he thinks that one wouldn't say 'amen' to 'ga'al yisra'el', or is he simply offering what he believes to be the most likely answer (an in context - which discusses one who is reading along with the sha"tz, it certainly appears to b the case), but doesn't address the scenario where one finished 'ga'al yisra'el' before the sha"tz. tzarich iyun.

bluke said...

One point about saying amen to gaal yisrael, R' Sholmo Zalman in Halichos Shlomo was very against the minhag of saying gaal yisrael silently, he held that the chazzan should say it out loud and everyone should answer amen. Even so the yeshivish minyanim do like the Mishna Berura.

The fact is that if you look in any siddur or contemporary halacha sefer they all say like the Mishna Berura. For better or worse the MB has been accepted as the Poske Acharon for our generation and people are very reluctant to disagree with the MB even when there is just cause. I fear that the next generation which grew up exclusively on the Mishna Berura will be even worse and we will lose the correct derech in psak.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, yeshivish minyanim do not do like the Mishna Brurah, who advises to finish gaal yisrael before or with the SHATZ, today in the yeshivish minyanim they say Gaal Yisrael silently which is against the mechaber Ramah, Mishna Brurah and Rav Henkin - who made a big deal about this. Actually, I can not find a makor for the current practice. (Professor Sperber discusses this as well, as does Wienstock in the siddur of the Mekubalim)
(see Mishna Brurah 66:33,34,35)

Rabbi Ari Kahn

bluke said...

You are right, the yeshivish minyanim do like the MB by Shema.

Anonymous said...

When I lived up in Stamford, CT - I used to sometimes daven Maariv at the Yeshiva there Bais Binyomin (which is a Lakewood-type mesivta and beis medrish) and I was suprised that many of the bochurim there actually said amen to the brocha before shma. I never asked about it when I was there - but now I am curious - I have to find out!


bluke said...

The source for saying gaal yisrael seems to be a Chasam Sofer (R' Sternbuch qwuotes it in Teshuvos Vhanhagos).