Shabbat Parashat Shoftim | 5768
A Beracha on the Mitzva to Write a Sefer Torah
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This question, which we have not found discussed directly by the Rishonim, has several suggested answers in the writings of the Acharonim.
Before addressing possible answers, let us mention a fundamental debate by the Rishonim, which impacts on them. The Rambam (Sefer Torah 7:1) rules that each individual is obligated to write or have a sefer Torah written for him, even if he has a sefer Torah that he inherited. However, the Rosh (Sefer Torah 1 - as most understand him) posits that the nature of the mitzva is not to have a formal Torah scroll written but to have texts available from which Torah will be learned. In our early history, the sefer Torah was the primary text for Torah study. Nowadays, the main mitzva is to have on hand as many of the myriad texts as one is likely to study Torah from.
The Rashba (I, 18) says that berachot were not instituted for mitzvot that are not independent but are steps to another mitzva. The Divrei Menachem (as cited by the Sdei Chemed, vol. VI, p. 313) says that since the main idea of the mitzva to write a sefer Torah is to learn Torah, a beracha was not instituted. Similarly, the Mahari Bei Rav (62) suggests that it is like several mitzvot where we make a beracha only before the mitzva’s final stage. Just as we do not make a beracha on building a sukka or making tefillin (Rambam, Berachot 11:8) we do not make a beracha on writing a sefer Torah, which is completed when one learns from it. The Mahari Bei Rav also suggests that an existing beracha actually covers the writing of a sefer Torah. Since according to many one makes a birkat hatorah not only before saying words of Torah but even before writing them (Shulchan Aruch, OC 47:3), an individual beracha for writing a sefer Torah didn’t have to be instituted.The Chatam Sofer (OC 52) claims that the former explanation (and probably the latter, which he does not mention) applies only if one assumes like the Rosh, which he views as a minority opinion, that the mitzva to write a sefer Torah is inexorably linked to Torah study.
The Chatam Sofer (ibid.) discusses two technical possibilities of why the Rabbis would not have instituted a beracha. One is that since it is a mitzva that takes a long time to complete, there is a concern that it will be disbanded before completion, thus causing a beracha l’vatala. The Ateret Paz (I, II, YD, 12:(1)) cites the Yefei Lev who says that this is the reason that the kohen gadol did not make a beracha on the series of activities he performed in the Beit Hamikdash on Yom Kippur. The Chatam Sofer is not satisfied with this answer, suggesting that one could write almost the whole sefer Torah and then make a beracha before finishing up the last words. He assumes that although berachot are usually supposed to be made before one starts the mitzva, where following that principle would prevent making a beracha, we would make it closer to the end. He extends this not obvious assumption to the beracha on building a fence, saying that it would be made when the fence was about to become sufficiently safe.
The Chatam Sofer prefers another technical answer of depressing implications. He says that since, already at the time of Chazal, there were certain questions about spelling words in the Torah, there is a lack of confidence that we are fulfilling the mitzva (which requires a kosher sefer Torah) and, therefore, a beracha is inappropriate. The Ateret Paz (ibid.) discusses at length whether when we write a sefer Torah according to the conclusions that have been reached about spelling, we have to be concerned that we are not fulfilling the mitzva (like the Chatam Sofer) or not. He also cites an opinion that there is concern that an individual scroll diverges from the accepted text.
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