June 19, 2020

Brachot 54

Today’s daf (Brachot 54a) opens with the full text of the final chapter of Mishna Brachot which both begins and ends with a fascinating teaching.

The Mishna begins by stating that someone who sees a place where miracles were performed for the Jewish people should recite the bracha ending with the words, “Who performed miracles for our ancestors at this place”, and in response to the question posed by the Gemara of ‘from where do we know this?’ – which either means from where do we know that a bracha should be recited in response to miracles performed for the Jewish people, or more broadly, from where do we know that a bracha should be recited in response to miracles in general – the Gemara answers that it is learnt from Yitro who proclaimed: “Blessed be the Lord who rescued you from the power of Egypt!” (Shemot 18:10).

Contrasting this is the end of the Mishna which informs us of an enactment made by the Sages that one may invoke the name of God when greeting another person. As the Mishna explains this is learnt from Boaz who said to those working in his field: “The Lord be with you” (Ruth 2:4), to which they replied, “The Lord bless you” (ibid.).

According to our Sages, it seems fairly obvious that a bracha should be offered in response to a national miracle. In fact, the Gemara elsewhere (see Sanhedrin 94a) records the opinion of Rabbi Pappeyas who criticised Moshe & the rest of the Jewish people for their failure to preempt Yitro’s bracha.

However, it seems clear that the idea of invoking God’s name when greeting other people is a ‘chiddush’ – a bold and original suggestion – which is why the Mishna cites a variety of biblical verses to support this proposition. Still, as R’ Kehati explains, this was enacted by our Sages ‘to accustom the populace to be conscious of God in their conversations’.

Overall, what I believe we learn from this Mishna is that while it is crucial that we acknowledge God in the ‘big’ events of Jewish history such as the miracles performed for the Jewish people as they left Egypt, it is no less crucial that we acknowledge God in the ‘small’ talk of our lives, including when we speak with our employees, our neighbours, our family and our friends, and just as the former acknowledges God as redeemer, the latter – by treating every person we meet with dignity and investing sanctity in every conversation that we have – helps us move one step closer towards redemption.


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