Parsha Encounters



Parshas Bo:

No Contest

Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein

[Don't forget to see the Halacha Encounters below!]

In this week's Parsha, the Torah tells us that one of the reasons why Hashem visited His brutal onslaught of plagues upon the Egyptians was so that we can tell our children and grandchildren, "es asher his'alalti biMitzrayim vi es ososai asher samti bam, that I 'made a joke' out of Egypt and My signs that I placed among them" [Shemos 10:2].  It seems that Hashem is saying that He wants us to tell our children two distinct lessons from the plagues - that He was "his'oleil" with the Mitzrim and that He sent His signs.  This would, at first glance, seem to be extra - wasn't it the "signs" (i.e. the Plagues) themselves with which Hashem was "his'oleil" with Egypt?

HaRav Avigdor Nebenzhal shlit"a explains that this word "hisalalti" (and its synonym, tz'chok) has two connotations in Tanach.  It can either be used as a language of a "joke," in the sense of something that is happy or joyous, or as a "joke" meaning something almost too impossible to even believe.  [He explains that these were the two meanings of the word tz'chok used both regarding Avraham and Sarah when they were told that they were to have a child.  Avraham "laughed" a laugh of joyous amazement [Bereishis 17:17] and Sarah - on her level - expressed some semblance of disbelief at the news [Bereishis 18:12].  This is why Hashem questioned Sarah's "tz'chok," but not Avraham's.]  So in this context, there are two possible ways of understanding the "alal" with which Hashem dealt with the Egyptians.  Since it is clear that Hashem does not rejoice at the destruction of His creations, even those who are evil [see Yechezkel 18:23 and Megillah 10b], the word "his'alalti" must be translated here as "I made a mockery of."

With this understanding, Rav Nebenzhal says, we can understand what the two distinct facets of this lesson are.  The idea of having made a mockery out of Egypt was not simply the devastating destruction wrought by the "signs" Hashem sent upon them.  The Makkos themselves showed how totally ludicrous was the notion for Pharaoh and the Mitzrim to even view the situation as "The Mitzrim versus Hashem."  If we were simply to impart to our children that our Great and Mighty G-d decimated the greatest superpower of those times, our children might, G-d forbid, view the situation as Pharaoh did - a contest between two powers, albeit not an even sided one.  The Torah is telling us that the entire situation was nothing more than "a joke" from the outset, a mockery of the sentiment that there are those who can even try to challenge Hashem, albeit futilely.  The entire universe and all it contains - including those who would rise up against Him - are utterly under Hashem's absolute, infinite control.

This is a lesson for us to keep in mind in these troubled times.  When we read in the papers or hear on the news of events around the world that seem to be directed at attacking Klal Yisroel, we must not fall into the trap of the Mitzrim.  We are commanded to fulfill the mitzvah min haTorah every day and night of remembering that Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim.  This commandment serves to be a constant reminder to us that, whatever the struggle we find ourselves in, it is not "them" versus the Ribono Shel Olam and His people.  There is no such thing.  The media constantly assails us with reasons and explanations for the fighting; all sorts of opinions and solutions on how to end the "conflict."  There is no conflict.  There are no two sides.  There is one Creator, Master and Controller of the Universe running the entire show.  We daven, learn and strive to do His Will as we wait for the time that He will once again show Himself for us, as he did for our Forefathers in Egypt.

Rabbi Rosenstein is a full-time member of the Kollel and is a frequent contributor to Halacha Encounters

Halacha Encounters

The Brocha of HaTov V'HaMaitiv

Rabbi Yisroel Langer

Q: When is the brocha of "HaTov V'HaMaitiv" recited on wine?

A: The Gemorah in Berachos (59b) says that if one is drinking wine at the table and he is presented with another kind of wine, he is to recite the brocha of "HaTov V'HaMaitiv." This brocha is made to thank Hashem Yisborach for the abundance of wine that He gave to us.  Many conditions have to be met for the reciting of this brocha to be warranted.  For this reason, recital of this brocha is somewhat uncommon.  In the following paragraphs we will try to clarify the rules and determine under what circumstances it should be said.

The Rishonim1 say that this brocha is only said on wine, since wine has the unique ability to satiate and gladden a person.  Therefore, if one is drinking wine and another wine is brought to the table, a "HaTov V'HaMaitiv" is recited on the second wine.  The Shulchan Aruch2 follows the ruling of Rashi3 and the Rashbam4 that the brocha is only recited if the second wine is superior5 in quality to the first one, or at least not inferior in quality to the first one.  Even if one is unsure if the second wine is superior to the first, the brocha is recited.6

The brocha of "HaTov V'HaMaitiv" implies that Hashem is "tov" - good to me, and "haMaitiv" - good to others.  Therefore the brocha is only recited if the wines are to be drunk freely by others at the table.  If there is nobody else at the table partaking of both wines, no brocha is recited.

So far we have mentioned two conditions. 1) The second wine cannot be of inferior quality to the first wine. 2) Both bottles of wine are being shared with another person.  According to the Magen Avraham, there is a third condition to be met as well.  He says that when the second bottle is brought to the table there has to be wine left in the first bottle.  Only when there are multiple wines at the table at once is that a sign of an abundance of wine.  The Mishna Berurah7 quotes this as halacha.

The Rishonim argue as to what to do if one has two bottles of wine at the table. Rabbeinu Manoach8 holds that one should make his brocha of Borei Pri HaGofen on the inferior wine, thereby enabling himself to make a HaTov V'HaMaitiv on the superior wine.  Other Rishonim hold that the brocha of Borei Pri HaGofen must always be said on the most superior wine available. This is the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch.9  The Mishna Berurah10 says that even if the superior wine is not on the table, if you know that you will be drinking from it during the meal, one should bring it to the table immediately and make the Borei Pri HaGofen on it.11 However, if one accidentally made the Borei Pri HaGofen on the inferior wine, he should then make a HaTov V'HaMaitiv on the superior wine.12

There is a dispute amongst the Poskim about how much wine one has to drink to require the brocha of HaTov V'HaMaitiv. Some13 say that a reviis (at least 3.3 fluid oz.) of wine has to be drunk of both wines (by both people). Others do not hold of this requirement, as we do not find it mentioned by the Mishna Berurah or other Acharonim.14

The Poskim also argue whether grape juice can be classified as a wine regarding the brocha of HaTov V'HaMaitiv. Do we say that since it has no alcohol content and does not bring a person to happiness no brocha is recited?15 Or perhaps just as grape juice is considered as wine in other areas of halacha, here too it is to be treated as wine.16

Some17 say that all these halachos only apply to someone who is a connoisseur, or one who appreciates the different tastes of wine. However, someone who does not have an appreciation for all the different types of wine never recites the brocha of HaTov V'HaMaitiv.

In summary, the following conditions must be met to require the brocha of HaTov V'HaMaitiv:

1.      The second wine cannot be inferior in quality to the first wine.

2.      Both wines must be drunk by at least one other person.

3.      While the second bottle of wine is drunk, there is still wine remaining in the first bottle.

4.      According to some Poskim, both people must drink a reviis of each wine.

5.      According to some Poskim, only a wine connoisseur makes this brocha.18


1 Tosfos and Rosh, Berachos 59b

2 175:2

3 Berachos 59b

4 Pesachim 101

5 Some say that the condition of being superior is dependent upon the individual drinking it. Whichever wine the individual appreciates more is considered superior (Talmidei HaGaon Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l in his name). The Avnei Yashphe (Volume I, 36) argues and holds that "superiority" is not dependent on the individual taste but rather whichever wine is considered by the world to be of greater quality.  See also Shulchan Aruch 175:2, that if one drinks white wine that is slightly inferior to the red wine, the brocha is recited.  The reason cited is that white wine is considered healthier than red wine.

6 M.B. 175:14, the M.B. adds that in this situation it is better if the second wine is not on the table when the Borei Pri HaGofen is being recited on the first wine.

7 175:3

8 Quoted by Beis Yosef 175

9 175:3

10 Citing the Lechem Chamudos - as explained by Harav Chaim Kanievsky in Shoneh Halachos see footnote 18.

11 Unless one has a special reason for saving the superior wine for later (i.e. he wants to have the dry wine with his meat, not for Kiddush).

12 Mishna Berurah 175:5

13 MaHarsham in the name of Da'as Kedoshim, Eshel Avraham [Mebutchatch] and others

14 Avnei Yashphe Volume I 38, see V'Zos Habrocha p. 171

15 Avnei Yashphe quoting HaGaon R' Elyashiv, Minchas Yitzchok

16 Avnei Yashphe I 36-38, Beis Yehuda, Daas Yorah 175, HaGaon Rav Chaim Scheinberg, HaGaon Rav Y.Y. Fisher, see V'Zos Habrocha p. 172

17 Talmidim of HaGaon Rav Moshe Feinstein ZT"L in his name

18 According to the Levush quoted by the Mishna Berurah (175:4) [as explained by HaRav Yitzchok Rubin in Sefer Mizmor L'Soda p. 71-76 and quoted in Sefer V'Zos Habracha p. 302] if one has two wines of equal quality, and they are both at the table at the time when the Borei Pri Hagofen is recited, a HaTov V' Hameitiv is not recited on the second wine. According to the Lechem Chamudos, even if the second bottle (of equal quality) is not at the table, but it's in the house and you know that it will be brought to the table no HaTov V'HaMaitiv is recited. But if the second bottle is of greater quality then a HaTov V'HaMaitiv is recited.

Rabbi Langer learns full time in the Kollel and is a frequent contributor to Halacha Encounters.

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