11 May BARUCH HU UBARUCH SHEMO – “BLESS HIM AND BLESS HIS NAME”
To Say or Not to Say?
For generations, the Jewish people have been accustomed to answer “Barukh Hu uBarukh Shemo (BHU”Sh)” upon hearing the holy name of Hashem. The sefer Dibré Shalom VeEmet  brings down the Moroccan minhag (custom) to answer BHU”Sh to all berakhot (blessings), even those with which we are yosé (taken out of our obligation). Ribi Ya’akov Ba’al HaTurim (Tur) zs“l  writes that he heard his father, Rabenu Asher (Rosh) zs“l, say BHU”Sh on every single berakha . However, there is much halakhic controversy amongst the hakhamim (sages) regarding this practice, and be’ezrat Hashem (G-d willing) we can come to some understanding of the issues at hand.
Origins of Reciting Barukh Hu uBarukh Shemo
The origins of reciting BHU”Sh come from that which Moshé Rabenu a”h said (Debarim 32:3),
“Ki shem Ado-nai ekra; habu godel lEloh-enu” – “For I will call out the name of Hashem; ascribe greatness to our G-d.”
Meaning: those listening to the name of Hashem being called out are obligated to ascribe greatness to His name. From here it was instituted to recite BHU”Sh  following the mention of G-d’s name. This line of reasoning also led to the custom of silently reciting the “Yishtabah Veyitpa-ar…” prayer while hazanim (cantors) lengthen the recitation of “Barekhu et Ado-nai haMeborakh” on Friday nights . Also, since even the names of sadikim need to be blessed, as it is written (Mishlé 10:7), “Zekher sadik librakha” (i.e. zs”l) – “the remembrance of a righteous one brings blessing” , all the more so we should bless the name of Hashem when it is mentioned.
The gemara (Yoma, 77a) explains that on Yom Kipur, when the Kohen Gadol would utter the name of Hashem, the entire nation would answer “Barukh shem kebod malkhuto le’olam va-ed” – “Blessed is the name of the glory of His kingdom forever and ever”. Maran in the Shulhan Arukh  writes that one must recite BHU”Sh on each and every berakha that one hears in any situation. Nonetheless, there are those who hold that the answering of BHU”Sh does not apply to all instances, as will be explained.
Din Shome-a’ Ke’oné and Hefsek
There are certain instances, such as, shofar, hallel, kidush, Megila, where one is able to listen to someone else make a berakha and be exempted from his own obligation to recite that blessing (yosé). This stems from the concept in halakha called din shome-a’ ke’oné – the listener has the same status as the one who recites [the berakha]. That is why by kidush, for example, if the listener merely has in mind to be yosé (exempted from) the berakha over the wine, he/she is then able to taste the wine without reciting the berakha themselves. Keep in mind that this concept does not apply to all blessings.
There is another concept in halakha called hefsek (interruption), where one making a berakhashould not have any interruptions from when they begin a berakha until the completion of the related misva/action. For example, once someone starts reciting a berakha on food one cannot talk until they have swallowed a piece of that food . These concepts in halakha serve as the main base for those who oppose the recitation of BHU”Sh on specific blessings that one wants to be yosé from someone else.
Applying These Issues to the Moroccan Minhag
The sefer Dibré Shalom VeEmet  brings the opinion of Ribi Shemuel bar Abraham Abuhab zs”l  who holds that one needs to answer BHU”Sh only on berakhot that one is not fulfilling their obligation with. However, if one has the intent to be yosé with a particular berakha, then he may not answer BHU”Sh because of the law of shome-a’ ke’oné. Since the one hearing is like the one reciting the berakha, answering BHU”Sh would constitute a hefsek (an interruption) in the berakha for the listener.
Ribi David Pardo zs”l  adds that when one answers BHU”Sh, the person blessing may continue on with the berakha and this is highly problematic because how can one be yoséthe berakha if they did not hear all of the words? Ribi Yehuda Ayash zs”l  also agrees. Ribi Ovadia Yosef zs”l  discusses this in great length and also holds the opinion that BHU”Shshould not be recited when one is fulfilling his own obligation via this berakha. He brings down the Magen Abraham  who is also of the opinion that one should not answer BHU”Sh in a situation where any form of talking would generally constitute a hefsek. Our brothers, the Ashkenazim, are even stricter in this matter and not only do they not answer BHU”Sh on blessings that render them yosé, but are of the opinion that even bedi’avad (after the fact that one has already said BHU”Sh) that berakha would not make them yosé .
Nonetheless, we have the minhag to recite BHU”Sh without it being considered a hefsek(interruption). The Ben Ish Hai zs”l  writes that this minhag is found in a Midrash and in the kavanot (intentions) of the Arizal in his work Peri Es Haim. Therefore, there is no hefsek(interruption) as BHU”Sh is decreed by the hakhamim as part of the berakha. Also, our hazanimincorporate into their singing a break to allow for the congregation/listeners to answer BHU”Shand this way no one will miss out on any words of the berakha . However, Ribi Ovadia Yosef worries that this break might be a possible hefsek on its own  and also brings down Maran HaHida zs”l  who notes that it is proper to be careful about answering BHU”Sh . However, Maran HaHida  also writes that one should not rebuke one who does answer BHU”Sh. Furthermore, in his later work  he writes that he actually never found any logic to prohibit saying BHU”Sh and that it is everyone’s minhag to answer BHU”Sh on any type of berakha. Ribi Refael Barukh Toledano zs”l  also writes that in all of Morocco they had the minhag to answer BHU”Sh to all berakhot. Ribi Haim Palagi  writes that it was the minhag in the city of Izmir, Turkey and in all other areas dispersed with Jews to answer BHU”Sh during kidush on Shabat. Ribi Mesod Hai Rokakh zs”l  writes that this was the minhag of all Yisrael. Ribi Mokhlouf Abira zs”l  writes that the minhag of the people and all of their ancestors in Tafilalet, Morocco was to answer BHU”Sh on every berakha. Ribi Yishaq Hazan zs”l  writes that this was indeed the minhag in all Morocco, as well as in Djerba, Tunisia. Ribi Shalom Messas zs”l  writes that not only is it a minhag to answer BHU”Sh, but it is an obligation. He explains that the law of shome-a’ ke’oné is not that the listener is exactly like the one blessing because if this were the case, then the listener should not be allowed to answer Amen either, since it is known that it is considered degrading when one answers Amen after his own berakha ?! Yet we see that the listener does not answer Amen, when really he should not, according to this!? Hence, the law of shome-a’ ke’oné extends only enough to take the listener out of his obligation of that berakha (i.e. render him yosé) and not to constitute a hefsek at all.
This story is told by e”H Ribi Mordechai Eliyahu s”t :
“I was to perform the hupa ceremony for the Baba Sali’s daughter and his then future son-in-law Ribi Yehuda Yudayof zs”l . I instructed the hatan and kala (bride and groom) to answer Amen to the berakha without answering BHU”Sh. Baba Sali zs”l tapped his cane on the ground and threatened to leave the wedding if BHU”Sh was not recited because it was the minhag to recite it even for berakhot that one is obligated in, such as kidush. Therefore, out of honor to Baba Sali I told the hatan to answer BHU”Sh . When I asked Baba Sali from where he heard this pesak (ruling), he answered, from Sidna Ribi Ya’akob zs”l who is buried in Egypt [a.k.a the Abir Ya’akob]. I looked in all of Ribi Ya’akob’s books and did not find anything on this topic.
One day during the Aseret Yemé Teshuba (between Rosh Hodesh Tishré and Yom Kipur) I was reading a teshuba (responsum) written by Ribi Ya’akob zs”l on the topic of repentance. He wrote that one has to repent even on the things that he/she is unaware of, for example, sometimes a person does not say BHU”Sh on berakhot for misvot that he is obligated in and thus has to repent for this. I showed this to Baba Sali who told me ‘barukh hamahzir abeda leba’aleha!’ – ‘Blessed is the one who returns a lost item to its owner!’”
1) It is our minhag and obligation to answer BHU”Sh to all berakhot that we hear without worrying about it being a hefsek or about losing out on some of the words of the berakha. With this, it is a concept in halakha not to deviate from one’s minhag nor the minhagim of one’s forefathers; this concept will be expanded on in an upcoming special edition, be’ezrat Hashem.
2) Ribi Ovadia Yosef zs”l brings down many sources to support that answering BHU”Sh is only applicable to berakhot that one does not have an obligation in. However, one should not answer BHU”Sh for berakhot he is obligated in as it constitutes a hefsek. If one did answer, he is still yosé bedi’abad.
3) Rav Mosh Feinstein zs”l, the leading posek for our brothers the Ashkenazim, holds that one may not answer BHU”Sh on a berakha that one is obligated in. If one answered BHU”Sh then it is a hefsek and even bedi’abad one is not yosé with this berakha.
- Ribi Shelomo Toledano s”t, Dibré Shalom VeEmet heleq 1 (pp. 152, Barukh Hu uBarukh Shemo)
- Tur, Orah Haim (O”H) (Siman 124)
- See Shu”t haRosh (Klal 4, Siman 19)
- Shemesh uMagen helek 2 (O”H Siman 34). The exact parameters of this obligation are still to be discussed.
- e”H Ribi Shelomo Toledano s”t, Dibré Shalom VeEmet heleq 1 (pp. 153, Barukh Hu uBarukh Shemo); e”H Ribi Eliyahou Bitton s”t in his sefer Netibot haMa’arav brings down that this is also based on kabala (sod) [pp. 25; Sefer haKavanot pp. 51]
- Tur, O”H (siman 124); Bereshit Raba (Parasha 49, siman 1) also states that whomever does not praise a sadik/sadeket when his/her name is mentioned transgresses a misvat ‘asé (positive commandment).
- O”H (siman 124:5)
- S”A, O”H (siman 167:6); see Mishna Berura (siman 167:6 (34), (35))
- e”H Ribi Shelomo Toledano s”t, Dibré Shalom VeEmet heleq 1 (pp. 152, Barukh Hu uBarukh Shemo)
- Shu”t Debar Shemuel (siman 295). Italy, 5370-5454 [1609-1693 C.E.]
- Soshanim leDavid (Berakhot 8:8,) [Italy, 1718-1780 C.E.]
- Maté Yehuda (124, sq 2)
- Yabia’ Omer heleq 8 O”H (siman 22, ); Yehavé Da’at heleq 4 (siman 9)
- Rav Avraham Abele Hombiner zs”l [c.1633-c.1683 C.E.; Poland] (siman 124, sq 9)
- Rav Moshé Feinstein zs”l [1895-1986 C.E.; Lithuania/America] in his Shu”t Igrot Moshé (heleq 2, O, siman 98). Tosafot Ma’asé Rav (SA siman 213:3, ) writes in the name of the Gaon Mivilna (Gr”a) that the Amen recited at the end covers the entire berakha and thus one who recites the (unnecessary) BHU”Sh is making a hefsek.
- Ribi Yosef Haim zs”l (the Ben Ish Hai) [1832 1909 C.E.; Baghdad, Iraq] in his Shu”t Rav Pealim (heleq 2, O, 37)
- e”H Ribi Shelomo Toledano s”t, Dibré Shalom VeEmet heleq 1 (pp. 155, Barukh Hu uBarukh Shemo)
- Yabia’ Omer heleq 8 O (siman 22, )
- Birké Yosef (O”H siman 213, 3)
- haidas sefer, Yosef Ome (pp. 92a, siman 3; on O”H siman 124:5)
- QSA haShalem (siman 101:5)
- Haim Lerosh; see Hazon Ovadia heleq 2 pp. 128
- His hidushim on the Rambam: Ma’asé Roke-akh (Venezia, year 5502)
- In his sefer Yafé Sha’a (O”H 19)
- Yehavé Da’at (heleq 1, 13)
- Shemesh uMagen (heleq 2, O”H, siman 34); Or Torah (Kislev 5757, siman 21); Or Hama’arab (Tevet-Shevat 5751, pp. 24-8); Also see Shu”t Ateret Shelomo by e”H Ribi Shelomo Dayan s”t (Siman 6)
- S”A, O”H (siman 215:1); See Arukh haShulhan: siman 215:4 who explains that we answer Amen to a berakha to proclaim so it shall be! However, it is degrading for one to proclaim this to his own berakha for it is like he is [haughty in] attributing his blessing to his own actions/merits.
- In the weekly bulletin published by e”H Ribi Mordechai Eliyahu s”t, Shiur Kol ofayich (Parashat Kedoshim, 5763). It can also be found in his sefer Torat Imecha. This story is slightly abbreviated due to space constraints