1) ONE FORGOT TO RECITE A BLESSING BEFORE EATING
QUESTION: Rav Chisda was asked whether one who began to eat and did not recite a blessing should recite a blessing as soon as he realizes his omission. Rav Chisda answered, "Should one who ate garlic and whose breath has a foul smell eat more garlic in order for his breath to have a fouler smell?" Ravina said, "Therefore, even if one has finished his meal, he may go back and recite the blessing."
Rashi explains that Rav Chisda's intent is that if one commits a wrong and neglects to say a blessing before he eats, should he then commit another wrong and recite a Berachah l'Vatalah?
According to Rashi's explanation of Rav Chisda, though, why does Ravina introduce his own opinion with the word "therefore"? Ravina is saying the opposite of what Rav Chisda answers!
(a) The MAHARSHA amends the text of Rashi. According to his emendation, Rashi explains that Rav Chisda means that one should not commit a second wrongdoing by refraining from reciting a blessing before continuing to eat. Rav Chisda agrees that one must say a blessing even though he already started eating without saying a blessing. Accordingly, the PNEI YEHOSHUA says that the words in Rashi, "v'Ya'aseh Berachah l'Vatalah," belong later in Rashi's comments (at the end of DH Mahu she'Yachzor).
(b) The VILNA GA'ON (in IMREI NO'AM) suggests that according to our text of Rashi, Rashi must not have had the word "Hilkach" ("therefore") in his Gemara. Ravina is arguing with Rav Chisda. Ravina says that one may recite a blessing even if he has finished eating. (The TZELACH suggests a similar explanation.)
2) HALACHAH: COVERING ONE'S HEAD FOR BLESSINGS
OPINIONS: The Gemara mentions ten things that a Kos Shel Berachah requires. One of those ten things is "Ituf" (literally, "wrapping"). In explaining what "Ituf" is, the Gemara says that Rav Papa would wrap himself (in a Talis; Rashi), and Rav Asi would wrap a turban around his head.
According to the Rishonim (see TOSFOS DH Ein Lanu and ROSH 7:35) who say that one should be careful to practice all of the things that are discussed in the Gemara, how do we fulfill the concept of "Ituf"?
(a) RABEINU YERUCHAM, cited by the Beis Yosef (OC 183) says that one must "place a head covering on his head because it is forbidden to recite a blessing with an uncovered head."
(b) The BEIS YOSEF says that this cannot be what "Ituf" means, because the requirement to cover the head applies to all blessings, and not just to a Kos Shel Berachah. Why does the Gemara specify this requirement only for a Kos Shel Berachah?
The Beis Yosef therefore explains that "Ituf" refers to an additional covering that is placed on top of the regular head covering, which people who stand before figures of authority wear as a sign of respect. For other blessings, one is required to wear only the regular head covering (such as the Kipah that we wear today), while for Birkas ha'Mazon on a cup of wine, one should wear the more respectable head covering (such as a hat) over the regular one. The PERISHAH (OC 183:15) refers to the Beis Yosef earlier (OC 8) who writes that the reason for this head covering is that it serves as an expression of "modesty [while one stands before Hash-m], and it inspires him to humble himself, and it brings him to the fear of Hash-m." By donning a respectable head covering, one performs a concrete action that shows that he is standing before the Holy One.
HALACHAH: The MISHNAH BERURAH (OC 183:11) quotes the MAGEN AVRAHAM who says (in the name of the BACH) that a G-d-fearing person should wear a hat when he recites Birkas ha'Mazon, and that some also have the practice to wear a jacket (like Rav Papa's "Ituf").
3) "A CUP OF PUNISHMENT"
QUESTION: The Gemara says that a person should not recite Birkas ha'Zimun over a second cup of wine (that is, after having consumed one cup of wine during the meal), but rather he should recite Birkas ha'Zimun without a Kos, because if a person drinks two cups of wine the Mazikin might harm him, and one should not recite a blessing over a potential emissary of harm.
The Gemara in Pesachim (109b) says that when a person says Birkas ha'Mazon on the night of the Pesach Seder, he recites it over the third cup of wine. The Gemara there says that the recitation of Birkas ha'Mazon over the third cup of wine makes it as though he drank three cups, and thus his Birkas ha'Mazon is not recited over an even number of cups of wine (which could arouse the Mazikin). Accordingly, in our Gemara, if one drank two cups during the meal and he now wants to recite Birkas ha'Zimun over a third cup, may he do so?
(a) RABEINU YONAH answers that on Pesach night, one is obligated to drink the third cup because of the Mitzvah of Arba Kosos, the Four Cups. Even if one has no wine, he is obligated to take money from charity in order to purchase some. Here, though, the obligation to drink the third cup is not of the same severity, because if one does not have wine over which to recite Birkas ha'Mazon, he has no obligation to take money from charity in order to buy some. Since he does not have an unavoidable obligation to drink a third cup of wine, this cup does not combine with the other two to create a unit of three cups. Therefore, one who consumed two cups of wine during the meal may not recite Birkas ha'Zimun (or Birkas ha'Mazon) over a third cup.
(b) RABEINU YONAH cites another answer. When one drinks the third cup, he will not have consumed an even number. Right now, though, before he recites Birkas ha'Mazon over a third cup, he has consumed an even number of cups. He will therefore be worried about the Mazikin and he will not be able to have the proper concentration necessary to recite Birkas ha'Mazon on behalf of others, and instead he should have the others recite it on his behalf. Thus, the Gemara is not saying that he may not recite Birkas ha'Mazon at all if he drank two cups. Rather, it is saying that he may not recite it on behalf of others, because he will not concentrate properly since he drank two cups and is worried about the Mazikin (until he drinks the third).
(c) The RITVA answers that if one drinks only one cup, he should not say Birkas ha'Mazon and drink a second cup, because then he will have consumed an even number. If he drinks two cups, though, he may recite Birkas ha'Mazon over a third cup.
4) THE ORDER OF BLESSINGS IN HAVDALAH
QUESTION: According to the Mishnah, Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel argue about the order of blessings in Havdalah on Motza'ei Shabbos when one uses the same cup of wine for Havdalah that he used for Birkas ha'Mazon ("Mazon"). Both agree that the blessing on the flame ("Ner") comes first, and the blessing of Havdalah comes last. They disagree about the order of the two middle blessings, Birkas ha'Mazon and "Besamim" (the blessing on the spices).
According to the Beraisa later (52a), the argument is whether the blessing for Besamim comes before Ner (Beis Hillel) or whether Ner comes before Besamim (Beis Shamai).
The Gemara does not offer any explanation for these arguments. What is the reasoning behind each opinion?
(a) Regarding the argument in the Mishnah, the TALMIDEI RABEINU YONAH explain that everyone agrees that Ner is first because it is the first thing from which one benefits on Motza'ei Shabbos, when it is dark and one needs light. Beis Shamai maintains that the blessing for Mazon comes next because one is now finishing a meal and he has an immediate obligation to recite Birkas ha'Mazon. The Besamim are included only for the sake of the departing Neshamah Yeseirah, and since this blessing is not an essential, intrinsic part of Havdalah it can wait until after Mazon.
Beis Hillel, on the other hand, maintains that the blessing for Besamim is recited immediately after Ner because it naturally deserves to be associated with Ner, as it is one of the blessings normally said as part of the Motza'ei Shabbos Havdalah service. We delay Birkas ha'Mazon for later. They both agree that the blessing of Havdalah is last because it is best to delay the departure of Shabbos, as the Gemara later (52a) says.
(b) We may explain the argument in the Beraisa as follows. Beis Shamai maintains that the Ner comes first because it is dark and one is already deriving benefit from the flame, as stated above. Beis Hillel maintains that the blessing for Besamim is said first because of the rule, "Tadir v'she'Eino Tadir, Tadir Kodem" -- that which is more frequent takes precedence. While one may recite a blessing throughout the week if he smells Besamim and enjoys their aroma, he may recite a blessing on a flame only during Havdalah on Motza'ei Shabbos. Besamim, therefore, are considered "Tadir," more frequent, and their blessing takes precedence. (M. KORNFELD)