Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hilchot Berachot

For the past three summers I have given shiurim at Midreshet Rachel v'Chaya on the subject of Berachot.

During the rest of the year I teach Hilchot Shabbat (which is fairly straight forward) and Hilchot Kashrut (which is much more difficult). But always the most difficult subject is Berachot.

There are many reasons why it is the most difficult subject -

* Everyone has to say brachot - even children, so sometimes people never progress past a children's understanding of the laws

* Modern food is not as simple as food in the time of the Talmud or Shulchan Aruch. It is not always easy to know what the main ingredients are - let alone which is the main and which is secondary

* Eating habits have changed. People don't base their meals around bread necessarily nowadays (and certainly don't eat everything with bread)

* Unlike some other areas of halacha, you can't assume that someone religious knows the laws of brachot, so you can't just copy what everyone else does

* Some laws depend on kavana. Two people could eat the same food at the same time yet make different brachot

* Many foods have no clear psak halacha as to what bracha to say (e.g. rice, rice cakes, certain breakfast cereals etc.)

* In addition one must have kavana when saying brachot - often we forget to have kavana while reciting brachot!

So, even though brachot is perhaps one of the most important areas of halacha, it is not usually learned in depth and has been relegated to rote.

And I have to teach all of this to the beginner level in 9 or 10 classes! An impossible task!

Here are my source sheets. Some people have found them very helpful. Don't use them for p'sak halacha - always ask your local Orthodox Rabbi (or e-mail me if you can't find an LOR). And please tell me of any mistakes you find (there are probably many).

OK, here are the sheets:

Hilchot Berachot

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