By Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow
The Shulchan Aruch writes that if one passes a place where a miracle occurred to him, he recites the blessing of “she’asah li neis ba’makom ha’zeh.” It is clear from the Mishnah Berurah that the miracle in question has to be one that saved him from a potentially fatal situation. According to the Shulchan Aruch, not only does he recite the blessing when he chances on the place of the miracle, but all of the individual’s descendants recite this berachah as well when they pass that very place.
However, the Mishnah Berurah differs somewhat on this ruling. The Mishnah Berurah agrees that all of the individual’s children and grandchildren recite the blessing. However, all other future descendants only recite the berachah if they are alive due to the miracle. For example, if the individual to whom the miracle occurred only had children after the miracle, then all his descendants would recite the blessing. They have gratitude to Hashem for saving their ancestor, for a miracle that enabled them to be alive. Since they derived personal benefit from the miracle, they recite a blessing. However, if the miracle happened after all his children were already born, then only the children and grandchildren recite the blessing. The other descendants are too far removed from the person to whom the miracle occurred. Since they did not derive personal benefit from the miracle, they do not recite the berachah.
What is the earliest historical record of the recitation of this special berachah? The Midrash says that when Yosef HaTzaddik was on his way back from burying his father in Eretz Yisrael he chanced upon the pit into which he was thrown. The pit contained poisonous scorpions and snakes, yet Yosef remained unharmed. This was a bona fide miracle, so Yosef recited the berachah of “she’asah li neis ba’makom ha’zeh.” Yosef’s brothers witnessed the recital and became frightened. They said, “Yosef hasn’t forgotten what we did to him.” Afraid of revenge, they told Yosef that their father said before he departed, “Please forgive the spiteful deed of your brothers.” The Gemara in Yevamos 65a says that this was a fabrication. Yaakov never suspected that Yosef would harm his brothers and would never have issued such a plea.
My rosh yeshiva asked: What alarmed the brothers to the extent that they needed to concoct a message from their father? Did they really believe that Yosef had forgotten the whole incident? Surely they knew that he remembered all the significant details, such as being thrown into a pit by one’s own brothers. All Yosef did was recite the berachah that would later be codified as the standard formula to be recited by all who experience miracles. What in particular gave the brothers a newfound cause for concern?
My rosh yeshiva explained: It must be that the brothers witnessed Yosef HaTzaddik recite the blessing over the miracle of surviving the pit with such intense joy and feeling. They reasoned that the only way that Yosef HaTzaddik could recite the berachah with such emotion was if he was reliving the events in his mind. If that was the case, they deemed it nigh impossible that he had forgiven them. How could Yosef HaTzaddik have forgiven them if the painful memories of their cruel behavior were so fresh in his mind? Alarmed by the realization that Yosef still bore a grudge against them, they concocted a directive from their father ordering Yosef to forgive them.
The question remains, why did Yosef recite the blessing within earshot of the Shevatim? Didn’t he realize that his utterance of the blessing would cause extreme anxiety on the part of his brothers? We must conclude that Yosef had completely forgiven his brothers. He only had feelings of fondness and love for them. Although still fresh in his mind, the sale was ancient history. He couldn’t fathom that his brothers would possibly misinterpret his actions as a display of malice or resentment. His feelings were so distantly removed from what the brothers suspected. Therefore, Yosef HaTzaddik could not properly appreciate what the brothers felt.
All too often quarrels and disputes arise because parties misjudge each other. We see from Yosef and the Shevatim that this can occur even with well-meaning tzaddikim. It can certainly occur with us. Armed with this realization, we can strive to overcome these tendencies and increase shalom in the world. We will then be zocheh to the ultimate miracle.
Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow leads a daf yomi chaburah at Eitz Chayim of Dogwood Park in West Hempstead. He can be contacted at ASebrow@gmail.com.