By: Rabbi Ari Enkin
As God’s name is considered sacred, mentioning His name without a justified need is deemed to be sacrilegious and must be avoided whenever possible. This is reminiscent of the third of the Ten Commandments which tells us never to take God’s name in vain. It is, of course, permitted to address God and use His name in any prayers, even private prayers which are beyond the established liturgy.
Nevertheless, no one is perfect and inevitably one will on occasion recite a blessing that was either in vain or otherwise unnecessary. For example, if one had a cup full of soda but mistakenly thought it was grape juice and recited the blessing “borai pri hagafen”, the blessing is considered to be one which was recited in vain. If one realizes his mistake immediately one is permitted to simply recite the proper ending of the blessing, “shehakol neheyeh bidvaro”, and then drink. If, however, one did not realize one’s mistake until some time had passed, a new blessing must be recited as the original one was in vain, and ultimately, useless.
Another cited case of a blessing in vain is when one makes a blessing over a fruit, but then before one has a chance to eat the fruit it falls on the floor and is ruined. There too, the blessing one had recited over the fruit is unfortunately now deemed a beracha levatala, a blessing recited in vain, though it was done completely unintentionally.
In the cases above, as in the case of any blessing that was accidentally recited in vain, one must recite “baruch shem kevod malchuto l’olam va’ed” as soon as one realizes in order to remedy one’s error. According to some authorities, these words, which mean “blessed is the name of His glorious kingdom forever and ever”, serve as a means of rectifying having taken God’s name in vain. As one will note from its unique wording, the “baruch shem…” makes amends for a blessing recited in vain owing to its exceptional and elaborate way of praising of God. Other authorities contend that “baruch shem…” does not serve in a capacity of making amends, but rather, that it actually retroactively cancels out any ‘damage’ that may have been caused by a blessing recited in vain.
One should have both interpretations in mind when one recites “baruch shem k’vod malchuto…” for a blessing recited in vain.
…..more on this topic next week!