All blessings begin with "Blessed [are You, God...]" and conclude with "Blessed [are You, God...]," with the exception of the blessing after the recitation of the Shema, blessings that come in succession to each other, the blessings over fruit and the like, the blessings over the fulfillment of the mitzvot, and the blessings that we have mentioned which are expressions of praise and thanks. The [latter blessings] include some that begin with "Blessed [are You, God...]" and do not conclude with "Blessed [are You, God...]" and others that conclude with "Blessed [are You, God...]" but do not begin with "Blessed [are You, God...]."
[There are certain exceptions to these rules,] for example, a small number of blessings over the mitzvot, such as the blessing recited [when reading from] a Torah scroll and [some of the blessings recited as an expression of praise and thanks;] for example, the blessing recited when one sees Jewish graves. The rest of the blessings over mitzvot begin with "Blessed [are You, God...]" and do not conclude [with "Blessed are You, God...].
כל הברכות כולן פותח בהם בברוך וחותם בהם בברוך חוץ מברכה אחרונה של קריאת שמע וברכה הסמוכה לחבירתה וברכת הפירות והדומה לה וברכת עשיית המצות ומאלו הברכות שאמרנו שהן דרך שבח והודיה יש מהן פותח בברוך ואינו חותם בברוך ויש מהן שהוא חותם בברוך ואינו פתוח בברוך אלא מעט מברכת המצות כגון ברכת ספר תורה ורואה קברי ישראל מאלו שהן דרך שבח והודייה אבל שאר ברכות המצות כולן פותח בהן בברוך ואינו חותם:
There are positive commandments that a person is obligated to make an effort to pursue [their fulfillment] until he performs them - for example, tefillin,sukkah, lulav, andshofar. These are referred to as obligations, since a person is obligated to fulfill them.
There are other mitzvot that are not obligations, but resemble voluntary activities - for example, [the mitzvot of] mezuzah and constructing a guardrail. A person is not obligated to dwell in a house that requires a mezuzah [just in order] to fulfill this mitzvah. Instead, if he desires, he can dwell in a tent or a ship for his entire life. Similarly, he does not have to build a house [just] in order to build a guardrail.
A blessing should be recited before fulfilling all positive commandments that are between man and God, whether they are mitzvot that are obligatory or are not obligatory.
יש מצות עשה שאדם חייב להשתדל ולרדוף עד שיעשה אותה כגון תפילין וסוכה ולולב ושופר ואלו הן הנקראין חובה לפי שאדם חייב על כל פנים לעשות ויש מצוה שאינה חובה אלא דומין לרשות כגון מזוזה ומעקה שאין אדם חייב לשכון בבית החייב מזוזה כדי שיעשה מזוזה אלא אם רצה לשכון כל ימיו באהל או בספינה ישב וכן אינו חייב לבנות בית כדי לעשות מעקה וכל מצות עשה שבין אדם למקום בין מצוה שאינה חובה בין מצוה שהיא חובה מברך עליה קודם לעשייתה:
Similarly, with regard to all the Rabbinic mitzvot - both the mitzvot that the Rabbis established as obligations - e.g., reading the megillah, lighting Shabbat candles, and lighting Chanukah candles - and the mitzvot that are not obligations - e.g., an eruv or washing hands - one should recite a blessing before performing them, [praising God] "who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us….”
Where has He commanded us [to fulfill these commandments]? In the Torah, which states [Deuteronomy 17:11]: "Act [according to the judgment] they relate to you." [Based on this Biblical verse, the blessing recited before fulfilling a Rabbinical commandment] can be interpreted as follows: Who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to listen to these [sages] who have commanded us to light Chanukah candles or read the megillah. The same applies regarding all Rabbinic commandments.
וכן כל המצות שהן מדברי סופרים בין מצוה שהיא חובה מדבריהם כגון מקרא מגילה והדלקת נר בשבת והדלקת נר חנוכה בין מצות שאינן חובה כגון עירוב ונטילת ידים מברך על הכל קודם לעשייתן אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו לעשות והיכן צונו בתורה שכתוב בה אשר יאמרו לך תעשה נמצא ענין הדברים והצען כך הוא אשר קדשנו במצותיו שציוה בהן לשמוע מאלו שצונו להדליק נר של חנוכה או לקרות את המגילה וכן שאר כל המצות שמדברי סופרים:
Why do we not recite a blessing before washing our hands after [eating]? Because the Sages obligated us [to do] this only because of danger. Blessings are not recited over an [obligation that was instituted] because of danger.
To what can this be compared? To someone who strains drinking water at night because of the danger of leeches. [Surely,] he does not recite a blessing, [praising God,] "who commanded us to strain water." The same applies in all similar situations.
ולמה אין מברכין על נטילת ידים באחרונה מפני שלא חייבו בדבר זה אלא מפני הסכנה ודברים שהם משום סכנה אין מברכין עליהם הא למה זה דומה למי שסינן את המים ואח"כ שתה בלילה מפני סכנת עלוקה שאינו מברך וצונו לסנן את המים וכן כל כיוצא בזה:
[The following rules apply when] a person performs a mitzvah, but does not recite a blessing: If the fulfillment of the mitzvah still continues, he may recite the blessing even though he already performed it. If the mitzvah is a deed that is completed, he should not recite a blessing.
What is implied? When a person wrapped himself in tzitzit, donned tefillin, or sat in a sukkah without reciting a blessing at the outset, after wrapping himself [in tzitzit] he should recite the blessing "... who commanded us to wrap ourselves in tzitzit"; after donning [tefillin], he should recite the blessing "... who commanded us to put on tefillin"; after sitting [in the sukkah], he should recite the blessing "... who commanded us to sit in the sukkah." The same applies in all similar situations.
העושה מצוה ולא בירך אם מצוה שעדיין עשייתה קיימת מברך אחר עשייה ואם דבר שעבר הוא אינו מברך כיצד הרי שנתעטף בציצית או שלבש תפילין או שישב בסוכה ולא בירך תחלה חוזר ומברך אחר שנתעטף אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו להתעטף בציצית וכן מברך אחר שלבש להניח תפילין ואחר שישב לישב בסוכה וכן כל כיוצא באלו:
In contrast, if a person slaughtered [an animal] without reciting a blessing, he should not recite the blessing "... who sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us concerning slaughter," after the slaughter [is completed]. Similarly, if he covered [a fowl's] blood, separated terumah or the tithes, or immersed himself without reciting a blessing beforehand, he should not recite a blessing afterwards. The same applies in all similar situations.
אבל אם שחט בלא ברכה אינו חוזר אחר שחיטה ומברך אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על השחיטה וכן אם כסה הדם בלא ברכה או הפריש תרומה ומעשרות או שטבל ולא בירך אינו חוזר ומברך אחר עשייה וכן כל כיוצא בזה:
There is no mitzvah for which the blessing should be recited after its fulfillment, with the exception of the immersion of a convert. [In this instance, the exception was made] because he could not say, "who sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us." Until [the convert] immersed himself, he was neither sanctified nor commanded. Therefore, he recites the blessing over the immersion [only] after immersing himself. [This is allowed] since at the outset, he was unfit and unable to recite the blessing.
אין לך מצוה שמברכין אחר עשייתה אלא טבילת הגר בלבד שאינו יכול לומר אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו שעדיין לא נתקדש ולא נצטוה עד שיטבול לפיכך אחר שיטבול מברך על הטבילה מפני שהיה דחוי מעיקרו ולא היה ראוי לברך:
Whenever the performance of a mitzvah constitutes the completion of one's obligation, he should recite the blessing before performing it. When, however, there is another commandment that follows the performance of a particular mitzvah, the blessing should not be recited until the other mitzvah is performed.
What is implied? When a person makes a sukkah, a lulav, a shofar, tzitzit, tefillin, or a mezuzah, he should not recite a blessing at the time he made [them]: [praising God for] "sanctifying us with Your commandments and commanding us to make a sukkah" or "a lulav," or "to write tefillin," because there is another commandment that follows this action.
When is the blessing recited? When one sits in the sukkah, shakes the lulav, hears the sounding of the shofar, wraps oneself in tzitzit, dons tefillin, or affixes the mezuzah. In contrast, when one constructs a guardrail, before constructing it one should recite the blessing "...who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to construct a guardrail." The same applies in all similar situations.
כל מצוה שעשייתה היא גמר חיובה מברך בשעת עשייה וכל מצוה שיש אחר עשייתה צווי אחר אינו מברך אלא בשעה שעושה הצווי האחרון כיצד העושה סוכה או לולב או שופר או ציצית או תפילין או מזוזה אינו מברך בשעת עשייה אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו לעשות סוכה או לולב או לכתוב תפילין מפני שיש אחר עשייתו צווי אחר ואימתי מברך בשעה שישב בסוכה או כשינענע הלולב או כשישמע קול השופר או כשיתעטף בציצית ובשעת לבישת תפילין ובשעת קביעת מזוזה אבל אם עשה מעקה מברך בשעת עשייה אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו לעשות מעקה וכן כל כיוצא בזה:
The blessing shehecheyanu is recited:
[before] fulfilling every mitzvah that we are obligated to fulfill only at a specific time - e.g., shofar, sukkah, lulav, reading the Megillah, and [lighting] Chanukah candles,
[before fulfilling] every mitzvah that involves the acquisition of property - e.g., tzitzit, tefillin, and a guardrail - and
[before fulfilling] every mitzvah that we are obligated to fulfill infrequently - for this resembles a mitzvah we are obligated to fulfill only at a specific time - e.g., circumcising one's son and redeeming him.
If one did not recite the blessing shehecheyanu when making a sukkah or a lulav, one should recite this blessing when fulfilling the mitzvah. The same applies in other similar situations.
כל מצוה שהיא מזמן לזמן כגון שופר וסוכה ולולב ומקרא מגילה ונר חנוכה וכן כל מצוה ומצוה שהיא קניין לו כגון ציצית ותפילין ומזוזה ומעקה וכן מצוה שאינה תדירה ואינה מצוייה בכל עת שהרי היא דומה למצוה שהיא מזמן לזמן כגון מילת בנו ופדיון הבן מברך עליה בשעת עשייתה שהחיינו ואם לא בירך על סוכה ולולב וכיוצא בהם שהחיינו בשעת עשייה מברך עליהן שהחיינו בשעה שיצא ידי חובתו בהן וכן כל כיוצא בהן:
Whether a person performs a mitzvah for himself or for a colleague, before performing the mitzvah, he should recite the blessing "... who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us...." He should, however, recite the blessingshehecheyanu only on mitzvot that he is performing for himself.
If a person is [intending to] fulfill several mitzvot, he should not recite the blessing "... who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to fulfill the mitzvot ---." Instead, he should recite a blessing over each mitzvah individually.
אחד העושה מצוה לעצמו ואחד העושה אותה לאחרים מברך קודם עשייתה אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו לעשות אבל אינו מברך שהחיינו אלא על מצוה שעושה אותה לעצמו היו לפניו מצות הרבה אינו מברך אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על המצות אלא מברך על כל אחת ואחת בפני עצמה:
Whoever performs a mitzvah for his own sake, whether it is an obligation incumbent upon him or not, should recite a blessing, [praising God "who sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us] to perform ----." In contrast, if he performs a mitzvah on behalf of another person, the form of the blessing is ["who sanctified us... and commanded us] concerning the performance of ----."
כל העושה מצוה בין שהיתה חובה עליו בין שאינה חובה עליו אם עשה אותה לעצמו מברך לעשות עשה אותה לאחרים מברך על העשייה:
What is implied? Before donning tefillin, one recites the blessing "... to put on tefillin"; before wrapping oneself in tzitzit, one recites the blessing "... to wrap..."; before sitting in the sukkah, one recites the blessing "...to sit in the sukkah." Similarly, one recites the blessings "... to kindle the Sabbath light," and "... to complete the Hallel."
Similarly, if one affixes a mezuzah on one's own house, one should recite the blessing "... to affix a mezuzah"; if one erects a guardrail on one's roof, one should recite the blessing "... to erect a guardrail." Should one separate terumah for oneself, one should recite the blessing "... to separate [terumah]." Should one circumcise one's own son, one should recite the blessing "... to circumcise [one's] son." Should one slaughter one's Paschal sacrifice or festive sacrifice, one recites the blessing "... to slaughter...."
כיצד לבש תפילין מברך להניח תפילין נתעטף בציצית מברך להתעטף ישב בסוכה מברך לישב בסוכה וכן הוא מברך להדליק נר של שבת ולגמור את הלל וכן אם קבע מזוזה לביתו מברך לקבוע מזוזה עשה מעקה לגגו מברך אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו לעשות מעקה הפריש תרומה לעצמו מברך להפריש מל את בנו מברך למול את הבן שחט פסחו וחגיגתו מברך לשחוט:
If, however, one affixes a mezuzah for others, one should recite the blessing "... concerning the affixing of a mezuzah." Should one construct a guardrail for others, one should recite the blessing "... concerning the building of a guardrail." Should one separate terumah for others, one should recite the blessing "... concerning the separation of terumah. Should one circumcise a colleague's son, one should recite the blessing "... concerning the circumcision." The same applies in all similar situations.
אבל אם קבע מזוזה לאחרים מברך על קביעת מזוזה עשה להם מעקה מברך על עשיית מעקה הפריש להם תרומה מברך על הפרשת תרומה מל את בן חבירו מברך על המילה וכן כל כיוצא באלו:
[The following rules apply] when a person performs a mitzvah on his own behalf and on behalf of others simultaneously. If the mitzvah is not obligatory in nature, he should use the form "... concerning..." for the blessing. Therefore, one recites the blessing "... concerning the mitzvah of eruv."
If the mitzvah is obligatory and he had the intent of fulfilling his own obligation and that of the others, he should use the form "... to..." for the blessing. Therefore, one recites the blessing "... to hear the sound of the shofar."
עשה המצוה לו ולאחרים כאחד אם היתה מצוה שאינה חובה מברך על העשייה לפיכך הוא מברך על מצות עירוב היתה חובה ונתכוון להוציא עצמו מידי חובה ולהוציא אחרים מברך לעשות לפיכך הוא מברך לשמוע קול שופר:
When one takes the lulav, one should recite the blessing "... concerning the taking of the lulav." [This form is used] because a person fulfills his obligation when he picks [the lulav] up. If one recites the blessing before taking the lulav, one should recite the blessing "... to take the lulav," as one recites the blessing "... to sit in the sukkah." From this, one derives the principle that a person who recites a blessing after performing [a mitzvah] blesses "... concerning..." [the mitzvah's] performance.
With regard to the washing of hands and ritual slaughter, since they are of a voluntary nature, even if a person slaughters on his own behalf, he should recite the blessings "... concerning slaughter," "... concerning the covering of the blood," and "... concerning the washing of hands."
Similarly, one recites the blessing "... concerning the destruction of chametz," whether one searches for leaven on one's own behalf or on behalf of others. [This form is used] because once a person resolves in his heart to nullify his ownership [over chametz], the mitzvah of destroying it is fulfilled even before one searches, as will be explained in its place.
נטל את הלולב מברך על נטילת לולב שכיון שהגביהו יצא ידי חובתו אבל אם בירך קודם שיטול מברך ליטול לולב כמו לישב בסוכה מכאן אתה למד שהמברך אחר שעשה מברך על העשייה אבל נטילת ידים ושחיטה הואיל ובדברי הרשות הן אפילו שחט לעצמו מברך על השחיטה ועל כסוי הדם ועל נטילת ידים וכך הוא מברך על ביעור חמץ בין שבדק לעצמו בין שבדק לאחרים שמשעה שגמר בלבו לבטל נעשית מצות הביעור קודם שיבדוק כמו שיתבאר במקומו:
[A blessing is not recited over] all practices that are customs. [This applies] even to a custom established by the prophets - for example, taking the willow branches on the seventh day of Sukkot. Needless to say, a blessing is not recited over customs established by the Sages - e.g., reading Hallel on Rosh Chodesh and on the intermediate days of Pesach.
Similarly whenever there is a question whether a practice requires a blessing or not, it should be performed without reciting a blessing.
A person should always take care not to recite blessings that are not necessary, and should recite many blessings that are required. Thus, David declared [Psalms 145:2]: "I will bless you each day."
כל דבר שהוא מנהג אע"פ שמנהג נביאים הוא כגון נטילת ערבה בשביעי של חג ואין צריך לומר מנהג חכמים כגון קריאת הלל בראשי חדשים ובחולו של מועד של פסח אין מברכין עליו וכן כל דבר שיסתפק לך אם טעון ברכה אם לאו עושין אותו בלא ברכה ולעולם יזהר אדם בברכה שאינה צריכה וירבה בברכות הצריכות וכן דוד אמר בכל יום אברכך:
All blessings begin with "Blessed [are You, God...]" - "our Lord and King of the universe..."
and conclude with "Blessed [are You, God...]" with the exception of the blessing after the recitation of the Shema - Although the Shema interposes between this blessing and the blessings that precede it, they are still considered as blessings that come in succession to each other. This same rule applies to other blessings, e.g., the blessings Yishtabach and Baruch she'amar and the blessings before and after Hallel.
blessings that come in succession to each other - In this instance, the phrase "Blessed..." which begins the first blessing in the succession, applies to the blessings that follow as well.
the blessings over fruit - See Chapters 8 and 9.
and the like - See Hilchot Tefilah, Chapter 7. The blessings mentioned there are equivalent to the blessings recited over fruit.
the blessings over the fulfillment of the mitzvot - These blessings are discussed in this chapter.
and the blessings that we have mentioned which are expressions of praise and thanks. - The blessings mentioned in the previous chapter.
The [latter blessings] include some that begin with "Blessed [are You, God...]" and do not conclude with "Blessed [are You, God...]" - Indeed, most of the blessings mentioned in the previous chapter are structured in this manner.
and others that conclude with "Blessed [are You, God...]" but do not begin with "Blessed [are You, God...]." - e.g., the blessing on rain mentioned in Halachah 5.
[There are certain exceptions - The bracketed additions are based on the commentary of the Kessef Mishneh.
to these rules,] - i.e., blessings from these categories that both begin and concluded with "Blessed are You...."
for example, a small number of blessings over the mitzvot, such as the blessing recited [when reading from] a Torah scroll - See Hilchot Tefillah 12:5. Other examples are the blessings over the haftarah and the blessing over consecrating a wife.
and [some of the blessings recited as an expression of praise and thanks;] for example, the blessing recited when one sees Jewish graves. - See Chapter 10, Halachah 10. Other examples are Kiddush, Havdalah, and the blessing sanctifying the new moon.
The rest of the blessings over mitzvot begin with "Blessed [are You, God...]" and do not conclude [with "Blessed are You, God...]."
1. Tefillin represent a mitzvah that we are required to fulfill each day, while sukkah, lulav, and shofar are fulfilled only on the holidays with which they are associated. By mentioning both these types of obligations, the Rambam expresses his point more clearly. It is, nevertheless, worthy of question why the Rambam lists the mitzvot of sukkah, lulav, and shofar in this order. In Hilchot Shofar V'Sukkah V'Lulav, he discusses them in a different order.
2. See Hilchot mezuzah 6:1. The Rambam lists ten qualifications a house must have to require a mezuzah. A person may choose to live in a house that does not fulfill all these requirements.
3. The Jerusalem Talmud (Berachot 6:1) derives the obligation to recite a blessing before fulfilling mitzvot as follows: Exodus 24:12 establishes an equation between Torah study and the mitzvot. Therefore, since blessings are recited before Torah study (see Hilchot Tefillah 7:10), a blessing should also be recited before fulfilling a mitzvah. It must, however, be emphasized that this is an asmachtah and the obligation to recite these blessings originates in Rabbinic law and not in the Torah itself.
4. According to the Rambam, there is one exception to this principle: the ritual immersion of a convert, as explained in Halachah 7. Although other authorities maintain that the blessing before washing hands should be recited after washing and not beforehand, as mentioned in Chapter 6, Halachah 2, the Rambam does not agree, and requires that this blessing also be recited before fulfilling the mitzvah.
5. The Rambam's statements imply that a blessing should not be recited before fulfilling any of the mitzvot between man and man. The Rabbis have given several explanations why blessings are not recited before fulfilling such commandments:
a) A blessing is recited only when a person can fulfill a mitzvah on his own, without requiring the assistance of another person. Many of the mitzvot between man and man require a recipient - e.g., charity cannot be given without a poor man being willing to receive it, a lost object cannot be returned unless its owner accepts it (Rashba, Vol. I, Responsum 18).
b) Many of the mitzvot between man and man (e.g., visiting the sick, comforting mourners, giving charity) were instituted because of undesirable circumstances. Hence, it is not appropriate that a blessing be recited in connection with them (Rav David Avudraham).
[Although as stated in the previous chapter, a person is obligated to recite a blessing when undesirable events occur to him, it is not appropriate to do so when such events happen to a colleague. Should a person do so, he would appear to be rejoicing in his colleague's misfortune.]
c) The gentiles are also obligated to give charity and establish a stable society. Hence, they fulfill many of the positive commandments. Thus, the blessing recited before fulfilling a mitzvah, praising God for sanctifying - i.e., differentiating - "us with Your commandments" is inappropriate (Torah Temimah).
6. I.e., mitzvot that we are required to fulfill at a specific time.
7. I.e., mitzvot that have a voluntary dimension; thus, if one desires to carry within a carmelit on the Sabbath, one must establish an eruv; if one desires to eat bread, one must wash one's hands.
8. There are several types of eruvim, as the Rambam explains in Hilchot Eruvin. All are included in the same blessing.
9. There is a slight difficulty with the Rambam's statements. Although washing hands before eating has a voluntary aspect, as explained above, we are required to wash before prayer each morning. (See Chapter 6, Halachah 2.)
10. The Rambam's question is: Since these commandments were instituted by the Sages, how can we say that God commanded us to fulfill them?
11. The Rambam's statements are based on Shabbat 23a, except that he quotes a different portion of the proof-text mentioned by the Talmud in order to emphasize the positive nature of the Biblical commandment (Kessef Mishneh). Compare also to Chapter 6, Halachah 2, where he quotes another portion of the verse.
(Note the Ramban's objection to the Rambam's definition of Rabbinic commandments and the Kiryat Sefer's resolution of the difficulty in the fifth chapter of his introduction to the Mishneh Torah.)
12. See Chapter 6, Halachot 2-3, which explain that the obligation to wash after eating was instituted lest a person use Sodomite salt and, after eating, inadvertently pass his hands over his eyes and blind himself. Note also the objection of the Ra'avad to the Rambam's statements in Halachah 2 of that chapter.
13. There is a slight difficulty with the Rambam's statements. In Halachot 9 and 12, the Rambam states that a blessing is recited when one fulfills the mitzvah of constructing a guardrail. On the surface, the purpose of that mitzvah is to prevent danger. This question can, however, be resolved on the basis of Hilchot Tefillah 9:7, which states:
One who says... "May He who showed mercy on a bird's nest... show mercy on us"... should be silenced, because these mitzvot are God's decrees and are not [expressions of] mercy.
Although the obvious reason for the mitzvah of chasing away the mother bird is to show mercy (and the Rambam himself gives such an explanation in the Guide to the Perplexed, Vol. III, Chapter 38), that mitzvah - and every mitzvah - is ultimately a Divine decree that surpasses human intellect. Any rationale we provide is limited and cannot define the mitzvah in a complete manner.
The same applies in the present instance. Although the obvious reason for constructing a guardrail is to prevent a dangerous situation from arising, this nevertheless represents only man's conception of the mitzvah. God's purpose is beyond our comprehension. Therefore, a Rabbinic ordinance like washing after the meal can be considered as having been established because of danger, and, for that reason, a blessing is not recited in connection with its performance. In contrast, with regard to a commandment from the Torah itself, there is no way that we can define the ultimate purpose for its performance and consider it as having been granted us only to avoid danger (Kinat Eliyahu). [See also Likkutei Sichot, Vol. IX. Note also that although the Rambam and the She'iltot of Rav Achai Gaon mention reciting a blessing over the construction of a guardrail, the Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat, Chapter 427) does not mention this blessing.]
14. To explain this concept, using one of the examples cited by the Rambam: When one puts on tefillin, one's fulfillment of the mitzvah continues throughout the entire time one is wearing them. Therefore, although one should recite the blessing before putting them on, if one did not, it is still proper to do so afterwards, because one is still fulfilling the mitzvah.
15. The Rambam gives examples of this concept in the following halachah.
16. Since the mitzvah is already completed, there is no further cause to recite the blessing. On the contrary, according to the Rambam, doing so would be a recitation of the blessing in vain. (See Hilchot Ishut 3:23.)
17. See note 17 in the commentary on the following halachah.
18. As he mentions in the previous halachah, the Rambam maintains that this exception applies only regarding the immersion of a convert. Other individuals - e.g., a woman immersing herself to emerge from the niddah state or, in the times of the Temple, a person immersing himself to emerge from other states of impurity - should recite a blessing before immersing. (As the Rambam states in Hilchot Tefillah 4:4, there is no difficulty in a person who is ritually impure reciting prayers.)
Tosafot, Berachot 51a, differ, maintaining that since an exception is made regarding the immersion of a convert, the Sages did not differentiate and required that the blessings for all immersions be recited afterwards. The Rambam's opinion is quoted by the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 200:1), while the Ramah follows Tosafot's view. (See also the commentary on Chapter 6, Halachah 2, which discusses whether the blessing for washing hands should be recited before washing or afterwards.)
19. Therefore, in this instance, at the outset, the Sages instituted the obligation to recite a blessing after immersion.
20. The Rambam's phraseology is somewhat problematic, for it implies that there is a separate mitzvah in making a sukkah or a lulav. His intent, however, is clear. When a mitzvah has two phases - the preparations for performing it and its actual performance - the blessing is recited only before the latter.
21. The commentaries have questioned the Rambam's intention in using the phrase "making a lulav." What has to be made? According to the Rambam (Hilchot Lulav 7:6), we are not required to bind the three species of the lulav together. This question can be resolved, however, because according to Rabbinical decree, it is desirable that the species be bound together (Rav Kapach).
22. Note the Chatam Sofer (Orach Chayim, Responsum 52), who states that whenever the fulfillment of a mitzvah takes a long time, one should recite the blessing before one completes the last phase. Thus, with regard to the construction of a guardrail, one should recite the blessing before constructing the last portion of the divider. (See also Halachah 4, note 13.)
23. In one of his responsa, the Rambam explains that just as we recite the blessing shehecheyanu over the acquisition of new clothing (Chapter 10, Halachah 1), we recite this blessing over the acquisition of new mitzvot.
24. According to Ashkenazic custom, the blessing shehecheyanu is not recited over circumcision. See Hilchot Milah 3:3 and commentary.
25. The Rambam's phraseology appears to indicate that it is proper to recite the blessing shehecheyanu when making the sukkah. The common practice, however, in both the Sephardic and Ashkenazic communities, is to recite the blessing when fulfilling the mitzvah. One should, however, also have in mind the construction of the sukkah.
26. For example, he affixes a mezuzah for a colleague.
27. One may, however, recite shehecheyanu for another individual with the intent that the other person answer Amen, and thus fulfill his requirement for reciting the blessing even when one has already recited the blessing oneself. (See Kessef Mishneh.)
28. See Sukkah 46a.
29. For example, mitzvot such as tefillin, shofar, or sukkah.
30. For example, mitzvot such as mezuzah or constructing a guardrail. The fulfillment of these mitzvot is not an absolute obligation, since, as the Rambam stated previously, one may dwell in a house that does not require a mezuzah or a guardrail. Nevertheless, once one builds such a house, there is an obligatory aspect to their performance. Hence, it is appropriate to say, "who has... commanded us to affix a mezuzah," and the like. Note the contrast to the "voluntary" mitzvot mentioned in Halachah 15.
31. Since the person is not performing the mitzvah on his own behalf, it is not appropriate that he praise God for commanding us to perform a specific activity. Therefore, he should use the form "... concerning the mitzvah of...."
The general principles stated by the Rambam in this halachah (and illustrated in the four succeeding halachot) are as a whole reflected in the text of the blessings we recite. Nevertheless, with regard to this last point, most other authorities prefer that there be a uniform text for all blessings, whether we perform them on our own behalf or on behalf of others.
Also, there are certain particular blessings that some commentaries have cited as exceptions to these rules. There are, however, other commentaries who have explained these. For example, before eating matzah (and similarly, with regard to other mitzvot that involve partaking of certain foods), we recite the blessing "... concerning the eating of matzah," and not "...to eat matzah." This is because the activity of eating itself is not what God has commanded - indeed, man performs this function on his own accord - what is holy is the object that the person eats. By placing the emphasis on "the eating of" a particular food, we focus our attention on the food and not its actual consumption (Or Sameach).
What is implied? Before donning tefillin - a mitzvah that we are obligated to fulfill each day
one recites the blessing "... to put on tefillin" - This is the blessing recited over the arm tefillin, and over both the arm and head tefillin when one does not speak between putting them on. Should one speak, one should recite the blessing "... concerning the mitzvah of tefillin" before putting the head tefillin on (Hilchot Tefillin 4:6).
The latter statement is problematic for the Rambam: Since the blessing is recited before putting on the head tefillin, it should use the form "... and commanded us to..." rather than "... and commanded us concerning the mitzvah of...."
before wrapping oneself in tzitzit - A mitzvah that, as mentioned in the previous halachah, has a non-obligatory nature. The Torah does not obligate us to wear tzitzit each day. (See Hilchot Tzitzit 3:11.) Nevertheless, a person who wears a garment requiring tzitzit is obligated to fulfill the mitzvah each day.
one recites the blessing "... to wrap..." - This blessing is recited before putting on the tallit gadol. As mentioned in the commentary on Hilchot Tzitzit, the Rambam does not mention the custom of wearing a tallit katan at all. It is our custom to recite the blessing "... concerning the mitzvah of tzitzit" for such a garment. It is possible to explain that the form "... concerning..." is used because, generally, we have touched unclean portions of our body before putting on the tallit katan. Hence, the blessing cannot be recited before donning the garment. Accordingly, the form "...concerning the mitzvah..." is more appropriate, as stated in Halachah 15.
before sitting in the sukkah - a mitzvah that is obligatory in nature, but which can be performed only during a certain time of the year.
one recites the blessing "...to sit in the sukkah." - It is our custom to recite this blessing even if one began sitting in the sukkah without reciting the blessing, and recited the blessing afterwards. From Halachah 15, however, it does not appear that the Rambam would accept this practice.
Similarly, one recites the blessings - The Rambam mentions Shabbat candles and Hallel specifically because these are Rabbinic mitzvot.
"... to kindle the Sabbath light," and "... to complete the Hallel." - This is the Sephardic custom. Today, in Ashkenazic communities, the text of the blessing is "... to read the Hallel."
Similarly, if one affixes a mezuzah on one's own house - The Rambam mentions the mitzvot of mezuzah and a guardrail for two reasons: First, as explained in the commentary on the previous halachah, there is a non-obligatory aspect to these mitzvot. Second, as explained in the following halachah, there is a difference whether one performs these mitzvot by oneself or whether one performs them on behalf of another person.
one should recite the blessing "... to affix a mezuzah"; if one erects a guardrail on one's roof, one should recite the blessing "...to erect a guardrail." - See Halachah 4, Note 13.
Should one separate terumah for oneself, one should recite the blessing "... to separate [terumah]." - The Yemenite manuscripts of the Mishneh Torah also mention the separation of tithes in this context.
Should one circumcise one's own son, one should recite the blessing "... to circumcise [one's] son." - Although the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 265:2) mentions the Rambam's opinion, the Ramah states that it is customary to recite the blessing "... concerning the circumcision," at all times.
Should one slaughter one's Paschal sacrifice or festive sacrifice, one recites the blessing "... to slaughter...." - The Rambam mentions these mitzvot to contrast them with the following halachah, which describes their performance on behalf of another person. It would appear that the Rambam is making the point that one should use the form "... to..." when performing the mitzvah oneself even when, in general, it is more likely that the mitzvah be performed by an agent (Kin’at Eliyahu).
32. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 289:1) and other authorities mention the recitation of only the blessing "to affix a mezuzah."
33. Even if he would perform such a mitzvah only on his own behalf, he would use this form, as explained in the following halachah.
34. See Halachah 3.
35. In this instance as well, were he to perform the mitzvah only for himself, he would use this form.
36. As mentioned in Halachot 5 and 6, once a mitzvah has been fulfilled, it is no longer proper to recite a blessing. The mitzvah of lulav, however, represents an exception to the rules stated there. Unlike tefillin or sukkah, the mitzvah of lulav does not continue for the entire time one holds it. Instead, as the Rambam states, as soon as one picks it up, one fulfills the obligation as required by the Scriptural Law (mid'oraita). Nevertheless, it is still permissible to recite a blessing, because the Sages ordained that the mitzvah be fulfilled by carrying out the nanu'im (shakings) of the lulav in the Hallel prayers.
Since this dimension of the mitzvah remains, one may still recite a blessing. Nevertheless, since mid'oraita one has fulfilled one's obligation, it is not proper to use the form "... to...," which implies an activity to be fulfilled in the future (Tosafot, Pesachim 7b).
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 651:5) relates that the blessing "... concerning the mitzvah of lulav" should be recited even when one recites the blessing before picking up the lulav.
38. This refers to an instance when the fulfillment of a mitzvah continues beyond the first moment, and one did not recite the blessing at the outset, as explained in Halachah 4. According to the Rambam, one should change the form of the blessings in such an instance. The Ra'avad objects to the Rambam's decision, explaining that we should not change the form of the blessings. It is the Ra'avad's view that is accepted in practice at present.
39. There is a distinction between these mitzvot and those mitzvot mentioned in Halachot 11 and 12 that were described as not being obligatory in nature. One is not obligated to live in a house that requires a mezuzah. Nevertheless, should one dwell in such a house, one is obligated to fulfill the mitzvah. In contrast, there is never any obligation to carry out the activities which require one to fulfill the mitzvot described in this halachah.
40. See also Halachah 3.
41. The Rambam states in Hilchot Chametz UMatzah 2:1-2:
It is a positive mitzvah from the Torah to destroy chametz.... What is the destruction to which the Torah refers? To nullify chametz within one's heart and to consider it as dust, and to resolve within one's heart that he possesses no chametz at all.
Nevertheless, since the Sages required one to search for chametz throughout one's house (see Hilchot Chametz UMatzah 2:3), the mitzvah is not completely fulfilled until the search is completed. Therefore, a blessing may be recited.
43. Hilchot Lulav 7:20-22 relates that while the Temple was standing, willow branches were placed near the altar on each of the seven days of the Sukkot festival, with the exception of the Sabbath. At present, to commemorate that practice, it is customary to take willow branches on the seventh day of the holiday and hit them five times against the ground.
44. In contrast to the recitation of Hallel on the festivals, which the Rambam (Hilchot Chanukah 3:6) considers a mitzvah instituted by the Sages, the recitation of Hallel on Rosh Chodesh was not uniformly accepted among the Jewish community in Talmudic times. Thus, Ta'anit 28b relates that the great Sage Rav was not accustomed to reciting Hallel on Rosh Chodesh. Rather, it is a custom that was practiced in Babylon for years, and ultimately became universally accepted. Therefore, certain portions are not recited and a blessing is not recited.
The Ra'avad and Tosafot, Ta'anit (ibid.) differ and maintain that, in contrast to taking the willow, which is not an involved practice, the recitation of Hallel is worthy of a blessing. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 422:2) quotes the Rambam's opinion and states that it is the accepted practice in Eretz Yisrael. In contrast, the Ramah follows the other view.
45. Since there was no special sacrifice ordained for each of the latter days of Pesach individually, but rather the same sacrifices were offered throughout the festival, the full Hallel is not recited. The same laws that govern the recitation of Hallel on Rosh Chodesh apply.
46. The Kessef Mishneh and other commentaries give several examples of such practices:
a) Separating tithes from produce that is classified as d'mai (produce sold by an unlearned person). The Sages required this separation as a safeguard, because they were unsure whether the unlearned person had separated the tithes or not. Although the tithes should be separated because of this doubt, since it is possible that they had been separated previously, a blessing should not be recited.
b) Covering the blood of a kvi. The Sages were unsure whether such an animal should be classified as a behemah, whose blood should not be covered, or as a chayah, whose blood must be covered. Because of the doubt, we cover the animal's blood. We do not, however, recite a blessing (see Hilchot Shechitah 14:4).
c) Dwelling in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeret. Although it is customary to dwell in the sukkah on this day in the diaspora, in deference to the possibility that Sukkot actually began on the second day, a blessing is not recited. (See Hilchot Sukkah 6:13.)
47. The blessing is not recited lest the deed one performs not be necessary, and thus the blessing one recites would be considered as taking God's name in vain.
Note the question of the Kessef Mishneh concerning the Rambam's decision (Hilchot Kri'at Shema13 2:13) that a person who is unsure whether he recited the Shema should recite its blessings as well.
48. Sukkah 46a quotes a similar verse and comments, "Each day, respond to Him in a manner that reflects His blessings."
The Rambam appears to be implying that a person should be continuously aware of the kindness God is granting him and respond by blessing Him.
Moznaim is the publisher of the Nehardaa Shas, a new, state-of-the-art edition of the Talmud and all major commentaries in 20 volumes. Click here to purchase or email the publisher at firstname.lastname@example.org