I've heard many times that the obligation of saying birchas hatorah is most likely from the Torah (as opposed to mi-dirabanan). How could we not know? If it's from the Torah, then it's from the Torah!

3 Answers 3


Not necessarily. There are indeed various halachos where there is a dispute whether they are Biblical or Rabbinic obligations. One example that I can think of, offhand, is tevilas kelim (immersing dishes), about which Pri Chadash (Yoreh De'ah 120:1) cites variant opinions as to its source.

How did such a dispute develop? Same as any other machlokes. Details of halachah have been forgotten at various times in history (as far back as after Moshe's passing - Temurah 15b ff), and in trying to reconstruct them, different Rabbis will have different opinions. (There is a great book, The Dynamics of Dispute: The Making of Machlokess in Talmudic Times, by Zvi Lampel (Judaica Press, 1991), that discusses this topic from many different angles.)


The Gemarah in Brachos 21a and again in Brachos 48b brings a Posuk as its source and many Rishonim learn it as an actual Torah source but Ramban (Nachmanides) maintains (Hasagos Ramban LeSefer HaMitzvos, Shikchas HaEsin 15) that from the fact that Rambam (Maimonides) left it out from his count of the mitzvos means that Rambam must hold that the verses quoted are just asmachtos (instances of attributions of a rabbinic law to a Torah text), and really it is just like all other Birchos Hamitzvos (blessings made before fulfilling certain commandments). Aruch HaShulchan (OC 47-2) argues with Ramban and maintains that Rambam did hold it was a Torah-based commandment, however it is included in the mitzvah of Talmud Torah, learning Torah. If Ramban is correct regarding Rambam's position, Rambam is a daas yahid (lone opinion) on this issue. It seems that the exact tradition whether it was midioraisa (a Torah based obligation) or not was not explicitly taught and the Rishonim on each side have their reasoning as to why they hold what they do. There are many instances of lost Mesorah which results in a later argument.

  • Where is the Gemara in Sotah? Where is the Rambam?
    – mevaqesh
    May 1, 2015 at 3:31
  • mevaqesh, I apologize but as I am in law school I do not have the time to regularly follow up on mi.yodeya. It is a Gemara in Berachos. I am editing my answer with the links momentarily.
    – Yahu
    May 13, 2015 at 19:24
  • 1
    I think the Rambam would prob. be in ch. 7 Hil. Tefillah (IIRC) the Megillas Ester (like Ramban's understanding of Rambam) writes that it is an asmakhta b'alma, and therefore derabbanan. I think the Gemara might be Berachos 21 but that just popped into my head. The Frankel Sefer Hamitzvos cites others (I think) who write that it is asmakhta.
    – mevaqesh
    May 14, 2015 at 0:06
  • @mevaqesh Frankel brings down Rishonim who hold like Rambam?
    – Yahu
    May 14, 2015 at 2:46
  • I saw it a while ago and didnt look the sources up. It was in the "mitzvos sheshachach harav" #16
    – mevaqesh
    May 15, 2015 at 22:02

The Talmud identifies the verse in the Torah that is the source for this:

Berachot 21a

אמר רב יהודה מנין לברכת המזון לאחריה מן התורה שנאמר ואכלת ושבעת וברכת מנין לברכת התורה לפניה מן התורה שנאמר כי שם ה' אקרא הבו גדל לאלהינו

Rab Judah said: Where do we find that the grace after meals is ordained in the Torah? Because it says: And thou shalt eat and be satisfied and bless.3 Where do we find that a blessing before studying the Torah is ordained in the Torah? Because it says: When I proclaim the name of the Lord, ascribe ye greatness to our God. (Soncino translation)

The issue at hand is not whether the Torah actually contains such a verse; rather the issue is whether the Talmudic statement is taken to mean that it is literally a biblical commandment, or merely biblical support for a rabbinic commandment. And even if we resolve that issue, another issue would be whether we rule in accordance with this Talmudic statement. R. Ezekiel Landau in his commentary to this Talmudic passage goes through both of these issues, and tries to show how one could come to the conclusion that it is only a rabbinic commandment, despite the verse in the Torah.

הרמב"ן בהשגותיו על הרמב"ם במנין המצות בסוף מצות עשה חשיב מצות ששכח הרמב"ם ושם מצוה ט"ו חישב ברכת התורה לפניה שהוא מצות עשה והביא ראיה מסוגיא זו והמגלת אסתר כתב שדעת הרמב"ם שהדרשה כאן היא אסמכתא ע"ש ואני אומר שאף שעל מה שאמר מנין לברכת התורה לפניה מן התורה יש לפרש דלאו דוקא קאמר דמצינו כיוצא בזה בבבא בתרא דף קמ"ז ע"א אמר רב מנין למתנת שכיב מרע מן התורה וכו' וע"ש בתוס' בד"ה מנין וכו' מ"מ כאן בשמעתין אי אפשר לומר כן דאם עיקר מימרא זו היא אסמכתא גם כל הני ק"ו דיליף ר' יוחנן הכל אסמכתא נינהו ואיך מותיב מדתנן על המזון מברך לאחריו ואינו מברך לפניו ונשאר בתיובתא אלא ודאי שכל הך סוגיא מן התורה ממש הוא ואף דאיתותב ר' יוחנן בהני ק"ו דיליף זה מזה אבל עיקר מימרא דרב יהודה דקאמר ברכת התורה שהוא מן התורה לא איתותב והדרא קושיא לדוכתא על הרמב"ם

ונראה שהרמב"ם לשיטתו שפסק בהך דלעיל בפלוגתא דרבינא ורב חסדא אם הרהור כדיבור דמי כרבינא והיינו דרבינא הוא בתרא והוא חתם הש"ס עם רב אשי ולרבינא ממילא נדחה הך דרב יהודה שאמר שברכת התורה הוא מן התורה דהרי במשנתינו שנינו בעל קרי וכו' וסתם בעל קרי מקרה לילה הוא וא"כ עדיין לא בירך ברכת התורה וכשהוא מהרהר ק"ש בלבו כיון שהרהור כדיבור דמי א"כ הרי הוא קורא בתורה דאטו ק"ש לאו תורה היא וא"כ צריך לברך ברכת התורה או לפטור באהבה רבה ואי ס"ד דברכת התורה לפניה היא מן התורה א"כ למה אינו מברך לפניה אלא ודאי דברכת התורה היא מדרבנן

Nachmanides, in his glosses on Maimomonides regarding the counting of the commandments, at the end of the positive commandments he considers the commandments that Maimonides forgot. And there in commandment # 15 he considers the before-blessing on Torah as a positive commandment, and he brings a proof from this discussion. The Megilllat Esther writes that the opinion of Maimonides is that the derivation here is [merely] a support, see there. And I say that even though we could explain the statement "whence do we know that the before-blessing on Torah is from the Torah?" as being imprecise, for we find similarly in Bava Batra 147a "Rav said 'whence do we know that the gift of a dying man [is valid] from the Torah?' etc.", and see there in Tosafot s.v. Minayin etc., nevertheless, here in our discussion it is impossible to say this, because if this main statement is [only] a support then all the kal vachomers that R. Yochanan derives would also be all [just] supports. How, then, could [the Talmud] refute him from the Mishnah which says that [one who had experienced a seminal emission] makes the after-blessing on food but not the before-blessing, and the refutation stands? [I.e. if the refutation is that the things that the Mishnah allows to be said are things that are biblically ordained, how would it be a refutation to R. Yochanan if R. Yochanan never really meant that the blessings were biblically ordained?] Rather, it is certain that this whole discussion is referring to [the blessings being] literally from the Torah [ie. biblically ordained], and even though R. Yochanan was refuted in the kal vachomers that he derived from each other, the main statement of R. Yehuda that the blessing on Torah is from the Torah was not refuted. Thus, the question on Maimonides returns to its place.

And it would appear that Maimonides follows what he ruled in the earlier dispute between Ravina and R. Chisda about whether thought counts as speech [where he ruled] in accordance with Ravina, and that is because Ravina is later, and he was the sealer of the Talmud with R. Ashi. And according to Ravina, R. Yehuda's statement that the blessing for Torah is from the Torah is rejected automatically, for in our Mishnah it is taught "someone who experienced a seminal emission, etc.", and an unqualified "someone who had a seminal emission" is someone who had a nocturnal emission, which means that he would have not yet said the blessing for Torah. So when he thinks Kerias Shema in his mind, since thought counts as speech he would be reading Torah — for is Keriat Shema not Torah? — and he would therefore have to say the blessing for Torah or exempt himself with Ahavah Rabba. So if you think that the before-blessing for Torah is from the Torah then why doesn't he make a blessing before Torah? Rather, it is certain that the blessing for Torah is only rabbinic.

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