Reciting A Blessing Upon Seeing A Torah Scholar
(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)
1. The Gemara (Brachos 58) says that upon seeing a Torah scholar one recites the blessing “Shecholak Mechochmaso Lireav” (Blessed are You…who apportioned of His wisdom to those who fear Him). This teaching was also codified by the Shulchan Aruch (224:6).
2. None of the commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch indicate that this blessing is no longer relevant and therefore, it would seem that this blessing should be recited today (see Az Nidberu 11:4).
3. The Chayei Adam (63:5) also rules that the blessing is recited, even today. He proves this from a ruling of the Tur. The Tur cites the Gemara that there is a different blessing to be recited upon an exceedingly great Torah Scholar, the blessing of “Chacham Harazim.” The Tur writes that this blessing is not said anymore since there is no longer a scholar of such caliber to warrant such a blessing. Since the Tur only made such a statement regarding the blessing of “Chacham Harazim” and not regarding the blessing of “Shecholok”, one can deduce that the blessing of “Shecholok” is in fact said today. A similar line of reasoning was advanced by Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yechava Daas 4:16).
4. The Sefer Yosef Ometz (450), however, writes the following, “I have omitted the laws of reciting a blessing upon seeing a Torah scholar since there are very scarce Torah scholars today (that would warrant such a blessing). If one wishes to recite the blessing without reciting the name of Hashem one may do so.” (see also Chesed Lalafim Orach Chaim 224:12)
5. The Aruch Hashulchan (224:6) says that it is unclear as to what level of a Torah scholar one must be to warrant this blessing and therefore many do not recite this blessing anymore. The Ben Ish Chai (Ekev 13) also rules that one should only recite the blessing without the use of Hashem’s name. This was also the view of Harav Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg zt”l (Tzitz Eliezer 14:36:3).
6. It should be noted that Rabbi Yitzchak Eisik Yehuda Yechiel Safrin zt”l of Komarno, known as the Komarno Rebbe, writes that the scholar must also be proficient in Kabbalah to warrant such a blessing (Shulchan Hatahor 224:3).
7. The poskim offer some examples of different Gedolim upon whom the blessings were recited:
The author was present when a prominent New York Sefardic Rav recited the blessing upon seeing Harav Yitzchak Yosef shlit”a.
Harav Ephraim Greenblatt zt”l (Rivevos Ephraim 8:128) writes that one should recite the blessing upon seeing Harav Elazar Menachem Mann Shach zt”l, Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l, and (ybc”l) Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a.
Harav Shmuel Wosner shlit”a (Shevet Halevi 10:13) writes that he recalls that when the Rogachover Gaon zt”l visited Vienna many recited the blessing upon seeing him.
The Minchas Elazar of Munkatch (5:7) also writes that he remembers the blessing being recited upon seeing Torah scholars (though he does not mention which Rabbis specifically).
It is also reported that the Chazon Ish was in favor of others reciting the blessing upon seeing the Steipler Gaon zt”l (Orchos Rabbeinu 1:109).
The Steipler Gaon zt”l told the author of the Sefer Orchos Rabbeinu (ibid, 110) that he recited this blessing upon seeing the Chofetz Chaim zt”l and Harav Meir Simcha zt”l of Dvinsk.
Harav Yisroel Taplin shlit”a (Orach Yosrael page 255) writes that he heard from Harav Yaakov Kamanetzky zt”l that Harav Baruch Ber Lebowitz zt”l recited the blessing upon meeting Harav Dovid Karliner zt”l and that Harav Dovid responded “Amen” to the blessing. Harav Yaakov zt”l also ruled that one should say this blessing upon seeing Harav Ahron Kotler zt”l.
Harav Taplin adds that he heard in the name of Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l that today if one sees a Torah scholar who is proficient in all of Shas one may recite upon this scholar the blessing of “Shecholok.”
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