Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik
by R. Aharon Ziegler
One cannot observe Mitzvot conditionally. One cannot say for example, “I will put on Tefillin tomorrow if You [HaShem] do this or this for me”. However, by Tzeddaka it is permissible. “Ha’omer selah Zu li’Tzedaka bishvil she’yich’yeh b’ni” , If someone say I am donating a sela [coin] for tzeddaka on condition that my son be healed, the Gemara Rosh haShana states, (4a) that this is permissible. We learn this from Ya’akov Avinu who expressed himself in that manner “If G-d will be with me, will guard me, …will give me bread to eat…and I return in peace to my father’s house…then whatever You give to me, I will repeatedly give a tithe to You” [Bereishit 28:20-22].
So it is very appropriate to find, when a man who receives an honor, such as an Aliyah to the Torah that the Gabbai in making him a Mi Shebeirach will say, “May HaShem bless the Oleh [the man who had the Aliyah] his wife and family because the Oleh will contribute to tzeddaka” In many congregations, however, not wanting the Oleh LaTorah to make a neder [pledge] and then not fulfill it, the gabbai making the Mi Shebeirach will say, “May He [HaShem] bless the Oleh, his wife and family and heal so and so, because she-kol ha-kahal mitpal’lim ba’avuro, the entire congregation prays for him [her].
According to Rav Soloveitchik, that is very inappropriate nusach and not permissible. The Oleh pledging a contribution of tzeddaka is an appropriate gesture, but the fact that the congregation is praying does NOT give us the right to demand a return favor from G-d. Rav Hershel Schacter brings a story in Nefesh HaRav to confirm that this was indeed the Rav’s view.
The Rav was once at a yeshiva minyan that he was not used to going. The gabbai was so happy to see him that he gave him an Aliyah, and made him a Mi Shebeirach, even though it was a weekday morning. But the gabbai did not use the formula for the Rav to make a pledge (probably not wanting to require that). The Rav insisted that the formula be used, so the Rav had to make a pledge to this yeshiva. Then the gabbai wanted to bless the Rav’s wife, and again he used the wrong nusach, so again the Rav corrected him and made another pledge. The Rav told him not to make another Mi Shebeirach, but in his excitement, he did so, and again the Rav had to impose the proper nusach and then once again made a third pledge to the same yeshiva.