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Comments on How much of an interruption is permitted between a mitzvah blessing and the mitzvah?

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How much of an interruption is permitted between a mitzvah blessing and the mitzvah?

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I was taught that we shouldn't make an interruption between saying a mitzvah b'racha and taking the action. I don't have a source for this other than that it makes sense; you don't want to risk making a blessing in vain if you interrupt with something else and never get back to it, and you should be maintaining the intention throughout, without distractions. I have two related questions: delays and interruptions.

First, is any interruption a problem or is there some minimum in terms of either time or what it is? If the person called to the torah makes the blessing and the reader announces a verse number before reading, is that a problematic interruption? If a person makes the opening haftarah blessing and then says a couple sentences about the reading to provide context before starting, is that a problem? How much interruption is too much?

Second, if there is no actual intervening activity (like introducing the portion), is there a length of delay that causes a problem? The reader can take a breath, the person making motzi can cut or tear the bread after finishing the blessing (on the way to eating), and in a group havdalah you might have to wait for the spice box to be passed to you. So the answer isn't "zero delay", but (if I learned correctly), an excessive delay is not ok. Is this a matter of judgement ("excessive" is based on the current context), or -- like the matzah at the Pesach seder that we have to eat within a specified number of minutes -- is there a halachic time limit?

For either, does it matter if the interruption was not reasonably foreseeable or something you could have planned for?

(I'm asking this question as a teacher, to help me judge when I need to be urging more of a sense of urgency, not as someone looking for excuses to delay.)

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1 comment thread

Bracha not usually required (4 comments)
Bracha not usually required
manassehkatz‭ wrote almost 3 years ago

Keep in mind that the Bracha is not usually required. AIUI, the only two Torah Mitzvos (as opposed to Rabbinic) where the Bracha is required are Birkas Hamazon (Grace after meals) and Birchas Hatorah (the blessings said both as part of morning blessings and before/after reading an Aliyah/Torah reading). In the case of Birkas Hamazon, the Bracha is the Mitzvah. In the case of Birchas Hatorah, the Bracha is a Torah requirement, though there are failsafes - e.g., the Bracha before Shema is generally considered a substitute when necessary. In all other cases, the Bracha is an "extra' - e.g., if you don't make a Bracha before blowing Shofar or before eating Matzah, the Mitzvah still counts. So while in many cases there are reasons to repeat a Bracha based on time elapsed/interruptions, if not repeated the Mitzvah still counts - i.e., you would not repeat the Bracha + Mitzvah based on "Did the Mitzvah but the Bracha was no good".

Monica Cellio‭ wrote almost 3 years ago

Thanks manassehkatz‭; I did not know that. So the b'racha might not be required for the mitzvah to count, but don't we still have to worry about a blessing made in vain? If you say the b'racha and don't do the mitzvah, either "at all" or "in time", haven't you made a b'racha levatalah?

manassehkatz‭ wrote almost 3 years ago

Bracha Levatalah is a real issue, and so the question is quite relevant (and which is why I am only commenting, as I don't have the actual answer). So planning properly in terms of minimizing time/interruptions between Bracha and Mitzvah is quite important. But in the end, if there is a delay/interruption (however that is Halachically defined) that invalidates the Bracha for that Mitzvah but you did the Mitzvah anyway (presumably because you didn't realize the delay/interruption was a problem, but could also be for example if one person is making the Bracha and someone else is doing the action - which can definitely be the case with Shofar when the Baal Tokeah has already fulfilled the Mitzvah and is now blowing for someone else and the other person makes the Bracha) then the Mitzvah counts.

manassehkatz‭ wrote almost 3 years ago · edited almost 3 years ago

Still just comments, but a little more info: Just started studying Mishneh Torah Hilchos Brachos. In introductory, mostly general, rules, mentions that a relevant interruption is not a Hefsek - classic example is "pass the salt" between Hamotzi and eating bread (Mishneh Torah actually has this example, but I have heard it elsewhere as well). Arguably "page numbers" would fall into that category. I think generally accepted is that additional discussion not required - e.g., a Dvar Torah about the Torah or Haftorah - would be considered a Hefsek citation needed. That being said, I am pretty sure that historically Akdamus was recited after the Kohen said Birchos Hatorah but that now (at least in all Shuls I know of) it is recited after the Kohen is called up but before he says Birchos Hatorah.