Mistake in Beracha on Delayed Laying of Tefillin – part II

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by R. Daniel Mann

Question: I was at home with a weak stomach and decided it would be halachically prudent to put on my tefillin for a shortened period (from after Yishtabach through Shemoneh Esrei). After I fastened the tefillin shel yad, I realized that the beracha I had recited was not the one for tefillin but that I had instinctively said Yotzer Ohr. I continued davening with just the shel yad until the next semi-break, Yotzer Hame’orot, at which point I put on the shel rosh. Was that correct?  

Answer: (Last time we saw that in the midst of Birkat Yotzer Ohr, there were two reasonable ways to time putting on the shel rosh and making the berachot.)

Had you switched the beracha to L’hani’ach Tefillin within toch k’dei dibur (app. two seconds), you probably could have combined the beracha opening with the intended, preferable wording and ignored Yotzer Ohr (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 209:2). Having not done so, were you truly in the midst of the beracha of Yotzer Ohr and were correct in continuing with it or was the unintended beracha of Yotzer Ohr worthless? 

It might seem to depend on the question (see Berachot 13a; Megilla 17a) of mitzvot tzrichot kavana (are mitzvot valid b’di’eved if the right action was done without intention to fulfill the mitzva?). While the ruling is not fully clear, especially concerning a Rabbinic mitzva, including almost all berachot, the main current is that one does not fulfill the mitzva (Shulchan Aruch, OC 60:4 and Mishna Berura 60:10). Also, it is possible that a beracha made with a different beracha in mind is worse (see Tosafot, Berachot 12a). Furthermore, arguably a “slip of the tongue” (you apparently went from Yishtabach to Yotzer Ohr on “auto pilot”) might be considered mitasek, which is worse than lack of intent (see Rosh Hashana 32b). On the other hand, this case might be better than classic mitasek, as you intended to praise Hashem with a beracha, albeit a different one.

Whether your Yotzer Ohr was valid might depend on how one learns a Magen Avraham (209:5). Writing about one who recites Malbish Arumim with Poke’ach Ivrim in mind and then immediately inserts Pokeiach Ivrim, the Magen Avraham is unsure which beracha he fulfills. If he had intended for Malbish Arumim and then tried to “erase” it in favor of Pokeiach Ivrim, he fulfilled Malbish Arumim. The Panim Meirot (I:58) changes the text in the Magen Avraham because one can correct a mistaken recitation immediately (Shulchan Aruch, OC 209:2 about one who recited Borei Pri Hagafen on water), and the Magen Avraham says that one who mistakenly recited, at Havdala, Borei Me’orei Ha’eish before Borei Minei Besamim can correct to Borei Minei Besamim. The Dagul Meirevava keeps our text and distinguishes as follows. In the case of water and of besamim, the object he held during the beracha proved he made a mistake, which enables him to switch to the correct beracha. In contrast, regarding Pokeiach Ivrim/Malbish Arumim, there is no physical indication the beracha was mistaken and therefore, it is unclear if he can change it. The Yad Ephrayim (ad loc.) makes a different distinction. Because Borei Pri Hagefen on water is nonsensical, moving on from Borei Pri Hagefen is natural, whereas regarding Malbish Arumim and Pokeiach Ivrim, which are both appropriate berachot, it might not be possible to switch, as the originally recitation takes effect. Our case contains a split between the distinctions. On the one hand, Yotzer Ohr and L’hani’ach Tefillin were both appropriate at that point, but being about to fasten the tefillin made it clear you did not intend then for Yotzer Ohr

The above, though, is moot. Since Yotzer Ohr is a long beracha, even if lack of intention invalidates its beginning, the continuation of the beracha validated it. If you would have stopped for L’hani’ach Tefillin, you would have given up on the beracha you began, making it l’vatala, so it was good you continued. It might have been better to repeat “yotzer ohr…” (without “Baruch ata…), with kavana, but the beracha, as you did it, was valid b’di’eved.


About Daniel Mann

This column is produced on behalf of Eretz Hemdah by Rabbi Daniel Mann. Rabbi Mann is a Dayan for Eretz Hemdah and a staff member of Yeshiva University's Gruss Kollel in Israel. He is a senior member of the Eretz Hemdah responder staff, editor of Hemdat Yamim and the author of Living the Halachic Process, volumes 1 and 2 and A Glimpse of Greatness.

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