Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Okay, Sometimes It Takes A While To Come Up With The Follow Up Question...

Around Channukah 2007, I asked my Rav how we can make the bracha of "asher kidishanu... l'hadlik ner channukah" when, in fact, God never gave us such a commandment.*

His answer (which I belive is the classic one) is that we're commanded to listen to the words of the sages, so, in effect, it's as if God Himself did command us.

Okay, that's fine.

I finally thought of the follow up question (yeah, I know it's a year and a half -- I never claimed to be the sharpest knife in the drawer):

So, why then don't we recite the bracha of "asher kidishanu... lishmoa divrei chachamim" (to listen to the words of the sages) or some variant thereof. If that's the actual God-given commandment that we're following, then why not that bracha?

Anyone have any ideas?

The Wolf

*Of course, the same goes for the bracha before Hallel and the other mitzvos d'rabbanan.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think that your Rav's opinion is a great example of what has gone wrong with Judaism. God has been hijacked by the rabbis who have created a tyranny.

BrooklynWolf said...

Anon,

Thanks for commenting.

You're entitled to your opinion (even if I don't agree), but I really wanted to keep this on track with a genuine discussion of the question I posed, not any side issues that may arise out of it.

The Wolf

ZachM said...

i think, wolf, that question would be the same as why we don't recite a shehakol on all foods--i mean, everything comes from the word of God. This is just a more specific commandment--we are fulfilling the words of God to follow the sages by fulfilling this specific commandment.

E-Man said...

I believe that it could be that when a person performs a mitzvah they are supposed to make a bracha over that mitzva. It is called over laasiasun, you are supposed to make the bracha right before you do the mitzvah. This is like lulav and all other commandments that we perform.

The Rabbis instituted the mitzvah of chanuka candle lighting so that we should have a mitzvah dirabanan. I think it is one of 7 mitzvah assaaehs dirabanan. Anyway, the point is that because of the pasuk that states lo sasir, basically follow the rabbis, we are told to follow what they say. Therefore, when they tell us to perform a mitzvah that gives thanks to G-D for performing miracles for us, we are performing this commandment because of G-D and not just the Rabbis.

So in fact the reason we perform this commandment is not just the Rabbis, but G-D. However, the Rabbis are needed in order to institute these brachas because G-D gave them the special responsibility to lead the nation. Therefore, the act that they tell us to do is important in and of iteself, not just that we are listening to the Rabbis.

That is just my idea. I know there are other answers that are written in the shulchan orach and the commentaries there. However, I just wanted to give my own point of view.

G*3 said...

The prob;em with the answer that your rav gave is that it turns every d'rabbanan into a d'oraisa. We assume that d'rabanans are less stringent than a d'oraisa, and so making gedarim makes sense - it prevents people from violating a d'oraisa (which is a big deal), even if it creates a lot of d'rabanans that people may violate (which isn't quite as bad). The probrlm is that if every d'rabanan is really a mitzvah d'oreisa, all that is accomplished by creating gedarim is making more things into avairos. The more things that one is / is not supposed to do, the greater the likelihood that one will transgress. The entire exercise is counterproductive.

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

Ask yourself why we don't make a bracha before doing chessed or giving tzedakka? Those are clearly mitzvos de'oraisah!
The answer is (I believe from the Rashba) that we only make brachos when there are clear cut obligations to do specific actions. You don't have to do chessed in any specific form or time.
Similarly, listening to chachamim could entail doing virtually anything, anytime. There are no specific actions prescribed in this mitzvah.
So there is no bracha before doing it.

Chaim B. said...

Interesting question. One possibility is that brachos are said on the ma'aseh mitzvah, not the kiyum mitzvah. In your case the mitzvah being fulfilled is listening to the Chachamim, but that is accomplished through the specific act of lighting. Another example: the reason we count sefirah these days is simply as a zecher lamikdash, a way to remember the mitzvah d'oraysa performed in the mikdash. So why is the bracha not "asher kidishanu... la'asos zecher lamikdash?" Here too, the kiyum is making a remembrance, but the bracha is recited over the specific act of counting being done.

Chaim B. said...

>>>The prob;em with the answer that your rav gave is that it turns every d'rabbanan into a d'oraisa.

That would be like saying since the Constitution enpowers Congress to create laws, therefore a breach of any law Congress creates is a breach of the Constitution. That's not how it works. Violating a din derabbanan is not the same as undermining Rabbinic authority.

Proud MO said...

Freelance, I like that answer. I never thought of that before!

Anonymous said...

Crying wolf,

Questions like this only prove that your an apikorus. We do things because hashem or chazal tell us to - and thats it. You worry about silly questions like why this brachah or why that one -- who cares? Chazal told us to say it and we do -- END OF STORY.

Proud MO said...

Anon - wrong! Judaism prides itself on being the religion that encourages questions, not one of the many that forbids them!

Jewish Atheist said...

It's simple. Your follow-up question reveals that your rabbi's "reason" is an after-the-fact rationalization, and not the actual reason. (The actual reason is that the words are borrowed from the shabbat candle blessing.)


Proud MO:

Anon - wrong! Judaism prides itself on being the religion that encourages questions, not one of the many that forbids them!Really? Judaism encourages one to ask about the documentary hypothesis? Judaism encourages us to ask if there really is a God? Well maybe technically, but it only allows one answer to each question. No religion which has a concept of kefirah can fairly be described as "encouraging questions."

Baruch said...

Really? Judaism encourages one to ask about the documentary hypothesis? Judaism encourages us to ask if there really is a God? Well maybe technically, but it only allows one answer to each question. No religion which has a concept of kefirah can fairly be described as "encouraging questions.":As a believing Jew, this is a question which I've often wondered about. Does somebody have a substantial response to JA's assertion? You could say "well, you should explore Judaism more and once you do it right you'll come to the understanding that Judaism is obviously the correct religion and the competition is obviously wrong" but in my experience people who say that sort of thing are usually just zetetic theologians (i.e. theologians who use so-called "common sense" combined with a Confirmation Bias to reach a preconceived conclusion motivated by Biblical preconceptions using as much mental gymnastics as necessary).

BrooklynWolf said...

(The actual reason is that the words are borrowed from the shabbat candle blessing.)
Actually, JA, the bracha for Shabbos candles is in the same category as for the lighting of the menorah, reciting hallel, etc. They're all mitzvos d'rabannan.

The Wolf

Z said...

Btw, your question is the gemara's question in shabbos 23A and your rav's answer is basically the gemara's answer.

It says something like this:
What blessing do we say?

"Who has sanctified us with his commandments and commanded us to light the lamps of chanuka"

And where were we commanded?

R. Avia says from "Lo Sosur" (do not stray from the words they tell you)

R. Nechemia says from "Shal Avicha..." (ask your father and he will tell you..)

Garnel Ironheart said...

The problem is that the gemara's answer begs Wolf's question. however, after some researching I found this in the Chasam Sofer ad loc. (translation mine)
It must be specified over what they are arguing (in the gemara two different verses are used as the source for following rabbinic mitzvos as if they were d'oraisa). The Ramban in his commens to the Sefer Shorashim Shorash A wrote on what the Rambam wrote that with all rabinic mitzvos like Chanukah and megilla, with all of them those who do not peform them violate a negative and positive precept, both "lo tasur" and "al pi hadavar asher yagidu lach". The Ramban differs with a mitzvah that is specifically rooted in the Torah and that the Sages added a "fence" onto like bird meat and milk, with that they used "lo tasur" as a support. But regarding Chanukah and megilla they used "ask thine father"...
And in my humble opinion, the Ramban held that for a mitzvah that has no root in the Torah, the rabbis did not use "lo tasur" as a support. In any cae, megillah and Chanukah and the recitaion of Hallel all have roots in the holiness of the Torah, like the Sages said in the first chapter of Megillah (14a) and the second chapter of Arachin (10a) that if from slavery to freedom one says "shirah", from death to life how much more so, therefore we are obliged from the Torah to make some kind of remembrance for every such miracle from the kal v'chomer of the Exodus from Egypt. But the Torah gave the Sages the authority to determine whether to light candles or to send gifts and the like."

It would seem from this therefore that the reason for the wording of the blessing is because the Torah requires us to make a remembrance on each of these special occasions and this is a mitzvah d'oraisa, only its form was left to be specified by the Sages. Hence we say "l'hadlik ner shel chanukah" because that's how the Sages chose to remember Chanukah but we say "asher kidshanu b'mitzvosav" because there's a mitzvah to do something to remember Chanukah,

>As for JA's wonderful comeback:
> Judaism encourages one to ask about the documentary hypothesis?
Judaism encourages us to ask if there really is a God? Well maybe technically, but it only allows one answer to each question.

In this regard, skepticism is no different. I could prove the truth of Torah to you until I was blue in the face. You would reject it all because you've already decided on your answer. Your skepticism is no less a religion than mine.

The real answer is to note the improper wording of your questions:

> Judaism encourages one to ask about the documentary hypothesis?

Yes, and it has answers to all the challenges the DH people throw at it. You may not agree with them but I don't agree with your answers. Who says you're right?

> Judaism encourages us to ask if there really is a God?

Encourages? It demands it! How can I pray honestly and with conviction if I haven't convinced myself to the best of my understanding that He's right there in front of me listening? It's a low level of faith where people simply assume He's there and never challenge that assumption.

> Well maybe technically, but it only allows one answer to each question.

In real debates, there is always only one answer to each question. Either God is there or He isn't, chalilah. If He is, you are wrong. If He isn't, I am. We cannot both be right (although in some cases we can both be wrong, funny how that is). In your skepticism, there is also only one answer. The difference is I can understand how you've come to your conclusion, even though I feel it's the wrong one. Can you say the same about mine?

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

I think all Proud M.O. meant to say was that Judaism encourages critical thinking. Critical questions enhance understanding of the idea being presented and Judaism is certainly in favor of gaining deeper understanding.

J.A erroneously equated that with free-thinking and open-ended skepticism. Such skepticism does not enhance a better understanding of anything. It just says: "maybe not?"

(The question "why do I think something is true?" is also valid critical question which enhances understanding, but lacking an answer is not fatal. It's just a lack of understanding. But it's nowhere near as bad as assuming its probably false like skeptics do.)

See here for a post on the difference:
http://fkmaniac.blogspot.com/2009/03/critical-gemaras-i-between-critical.html

(P.S. I think "anonymous" was a trolling provocateur impersonating a fundie and we all should have ignored him.)

Baruch said...

>How can I pray honestly and with conviction if I haven't convinced myself to the best of my understanding that He's right there in front of me listening? It's a low level of faith where people simply assume He's there and never challenge that assumption.

WADR, people don't "challenge that assumption." Who attempts from as neutral a standpoint as possible to confront biblical scholarship, scientific issues, historical problems, and modern philosophical challenges to Judaism? I mean, I have had quite a few peers who are completely satisfied with the way Rambam uses the cosmological argument for the existence of a God. Did they look into how philosophy has developed since medieval Arabic Aristotelianism? Of course not. They are completely satisfied that Judaism is the correct monotheistic religion from the Torah saying no adding or subtracting. Have they looked at the challenges to traditional Rabbinic Judaism and how we've supposedly "subtracted" by taking away the sacrifices? Have they looked at how other religions teisch up that pasek? No. And most importantly, people aren't really encouraged to do that sort of thing. They're encouraged to convince themselves by going to Aish HaTorah or a shiur by a sophisticated (or in some cases, seemingly sophisticated) Orthodox rabbi. They aren't encouraged to look around with as open mind as possible.

Baruch said...

ps Garnel, I think you're confusing "skepticism" with "atheism." Skepticism is simply the opposite of dogmatism.