This week’s shiur will not focus on the parsha but rather on an important date that occurs this week. I invite the readers of the weekly email shiur to join myself and my family in marking the third anniversary of our own private miracle.
On the third of Adar 5772, upon returning from an outing on the Hermon, my wife and five of our children were in a very severe car accident. The car went off the road, flipped over several times, one child was thrown from the car and one was trapped under it. The final result was one broken arm, some scratches and stitches. Passers-by, police and insurance adjusters who saw the car the next day, refused to believe that there were survivors.
As a family we celebrate Adar 3 as a holiday.
As part of our family celebrations I would like to investigate one aspect of the Halacha in such cases.
The last perek of Brachot teaches us which brachot need to be said upon seeing various significant sights. The first example is that upon seeing a location that a miracle was performed for Am Yisrael one should say (in bracha form) “blessed … who performed miracles for us in this place”. The Gemara adds that if it is the site of a personal, as opposed to a communal miracle, one must also bless, however the formula of the bracha is adjusted accordingly.
In other words, when we encounter the location where such significant things have taken place it triggers in us the memories and the need to thank God for all he has provided. This is similar to what we find on our national holidays of such a nature, Chanukah and Purim, where we have almost the exact same bracha, except for an obvious difference. On Chanukah and Purim the bracha that we say ends in “bzman hazeh”, in this time, as opposed to this bracha which is about “bamakom hazeh”, in this place. In either case the halacha recognizes that it is the coming face to face with something so powerful that jogs the memory and sends us back to the event that results in the bracha.
On a family level this is exactly what happens as we pass kilometre 189 on highway 6, the site of the accident.
It turns out that the Shulchan Aruch writes that the bracha should be said by the one who was in the miracle and any descendants of theirs (maybe only children and grandchildren, but according to some all descendants forever), however when it comes to the other family members like spouse or parent they would not make the bracha.
I would like to investigate the next section of the Shulchan Aruch this year:
(OC 218/06) “One must bless for the miracle of one’s Rav as one must bless for the miracle of one’s father. (The Rema adds) the same applies if one sees a person that the miracle happened to, he should bless as if he has seen the location of the miracle.”
The Rema opens up a new avenue for the brachot. The same joy and appreciation that we experience upon seeing the location can be applied to seeing the actual person themselves. The Mishne Brura severely limits this idea. He writes that the possibility of making such a bracha is only if the person involved was in the previous list, the list of those who are obligated to bless upon seeing the site of the miracle. In other words, according to the Mishne Brura, this only applies to a parent or a Rav. In these cases one would have made the bracha on seeing the spot it happened so they can likewise do so upon seeing them personally.
It seems to be that this limitation is not so clear. The source for the Rema is the Abudraham which is based upon the understanding of the Gemara in Brachot. The entire concept of this bracha is found in Parshat Yitro where we read that Yitro came to meet Moshe and the rest of Am Yisrael. Upon hearing all of the details of everything that they had been through, Yitro blesses God. Yitro’s reaction serves as an example to us all as how to show our appreciation for God’s miracles.
The Abudraham, amongst others, notes that Yitro did not actually see the places that these events took place, rather he was simply moved by the face to face meeting with those who had been fortunate enough to experience the miracles. The Abudraham (as well as the Shita Mekubetzet and the Kaftor Vaferech and others) concludes that it is clear that one should bless God even if all they see is the subjects of the miracle even without actually seeing the location.
(The Mishne Brurah, in a long footnote in the Shaar tzion is reluctant to apply this part of the psak as he is not convinced that the reading of the Abudraham is the only reading of the text. In any case he adopts the ruling but limiting it to the short list of people mentioned above.)
The simple reading of the Abudraham includes anyone who was the subject of the miracle as was the case of Yitro.
I think that this question is based on a fundamental issue of why the bracha is said. On the one hand, the reading of the Mishne Brura seems to indicate that essentially the bracha should be said by the individual themselves. It is only by extension that the children and/or students are obligated to bless, as they can be seen as benefiting directly from the subject having been saved. This attitude explains the possibility brought up that maybe only children born after the miracle should make the bracha. Those who were alive earlier did not directly benefit from the event while those born subsequently obviously did.
On the other hand the simple reading of the Abudraham seems to point in a different direction. The bracha is not being said as an extension of the beneficiary at all, they are simply the trigger leading one to make the bracha. In that case it would not be relevant at all what the relationship between them is, or for that matter even if there is no connection at all.
This seems to be the basis of the next section of the Shulchan Aruch where he states that one would also make a bracha on an individual who is well known amongst all of Am Yisrael or the circumstances involved were a particular Kiddush Hashem. Here, as well, saying the bracha does not require any particular relationship with the beneficiary, rather it is an expression of recognition of God’s miracles despite not being directly involved.
(The Mishne Brura has a long discussion about this as well, but we will leave this for a future Adar 3.)
May God grant us all the ability to recognize His vast kindness in the big things in our lives and may we be smart enough to feel His presence on a daily level so that we do not need Him to remind us of it by performing miracles for us.
Finally, may He help me to be worthy of the great gift that He has given me.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,