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'בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱלֹקֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ וגו

Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us...

The above formula is used in most brachos we make over mitzvos, examples being when we put on tzitzis and tefillin, when we take the arba minim, and when we read the Torah in shul.

But the formula is also used in mitzvos such as lighting the Chanukah menorah and reading the megillah on Purim. I understand that these events have become mitzvos through rulings of the Rabbis, who have the authority to do so, but I don't understand why we use this wording for the blessing recited before performing the mitzvah.

The word is ּוְצִוָּנו, "and commanded us". But with certain mitzvos, G-d didn't command us, the Rabbis did. (It's not like G-d told us to read the megillah on Purim at Har Sinai, that doesn't make any sense.) So why would we use this formula for mitzvos that were instituted by the Rabbis?

marked as duplicate by Double AA Dec 13 '17 at 16:30

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The Gemara (Shabbat 23a) asks the same question:

מאי מברך מברך אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו להדליק נר של חנוכה והיכן צונו רב אויא אמר מלא תסור רב נחמיה אמר שאל אביך ויגדך זקניך ויאמרו לך

What does he bless? "Who sanctified us with his commandments and commanded us to light the candle of Chanukah." Where did he command us? Rav Avya says from "Don't depart (from the word they tell you)" (Deuteronomy 17:11); Rav Nechemya says from "Ask your father and he will tell you, your sages and they will say to you" (Deuteronomy 32:7).

Apparently, the source for what we say in the blessing that God commanded us to do it is from the Torah, which says to listen to the sages, from one verse or another. The blessing itself doesn't say it was commanded at Mount Sinai, ("commanded us"), and so the language of the blessing can be understood to include this.

By the way, another interesting application of this is found in Berachot 19b: A barayta says that human dignity (כבוד הבריות) pushes off a negative commandment in the Torah. Rav bar Shava suggests that this negative commandment is, in fact, the same לא תסור mentioned in the above gemara, because (as Rav Kahana explains) the rabbis based all of their enactments on this prohibition.

  • Keep in mind that this only addresses the allowance of this phrasing in blessings. The general allowance for the rabbis to create mitzvoth emanates from Ushmartem et mishmarti. – DanF Dec 13 '17 at 16:12
  • @DanF The source I edited in right now addresses what you said, apparently saying that the allowance stems from the verse quoted here (כל מילי דרבנן אסמכינהו על לאו דלא תסור) – b a Dec 13 '17 at 16:15
  • @DanF Regarding the source of rabbinic authority, and the different potentially relevant verses, see: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/77689/8775. – mevaqesh Dec 13 '17 at 16:41

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