Why, on Sukkos, 12-4 = 27 and not 8.


By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com

It seems to be a simple enough halachic question.

But is it so innocuous? Or is there something more to it that is involved?  Does the question touch upon the deepest and most fundamental aspects of who we are as a nation?  Have we hit upon one of our greatest contemporary or not-so-contemporary challenges of our existence?

Let’s get to the question and answer first.


A yeshiva student, has just finished davening and a rigorous learning session.  The young man is singularly devoted to his studies.  After the learning session he enters the Sukkah with some mezonos in hand.  He recites the Mezonos.  He then recites the laishev baSukkah.  But of the 12 words in that latter blessing – he leaves out 4 of them.  He leaves out, “asher kid’shanu b’Mitzvosav v’Tzivanu – Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us..”

He recognized his error almost instantly after he has taken his first bite.  The question is now what?  Has he, post facto, fulfilled his Mitzvah of reciting the proper blessing on the Mitzvah of eating in the Sukkah?  Must he repeat that blessing?  Must he repeat that first blessing also – the Mezonos?


  • We know the statement of Rabi Yochanan in the Gemorah in Brachos (40b) where states that any bracha that does not contain shaim uMalchus – Hashem’s Name and Kingship is not a bracha. It must also contain the shape and form of a bracha – such as starting with the word “Boruch.”
  • We also know that the Mishna Brurah writes (214:3) that if one leaves out the word “attah” [word number 2 in the bracha], the bracha is still valid post facto. The same is true if one leaves out one of Hashem’s Names – Either Hashem or Elokainu – the bracha is valid post facto.
  • We also know that if we leave out the word, “HaOlam” after the word, “Melech” – that there is a debate between the first Lubavitcher Rebbe (based on Prisha 167:4’s citation of Tosfos) and the Erech haShulchan as to whether that is a fitting description of Hashem’s Kingship, leaving out “of the world” or “universe.”  Chabad Chassidim and many others hold that the blessing must be repeated because just plain Melech is not apt enough of a description.  Others are more lenient and hold that it is.
  • We also know that there is a concept of sharing some of the elements of the bracha too. If a bracha is next to another one, it can share the first three elements – but this is not true of short brachos, only of long brachos. Long brachos are found in bentching and in Shmoneh Esreh. Only long brachos can share the first three elements.

Shockingly enough, the issue is only first addressed in the Shalmei Todah written by Rabbi Shalom Ben Tzion Fulman zt”l of Bnei Brak, a Dayan in Rav Nissim Karelitz’s Beis Din.


Rav Felman zt”l cites a ruling of Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman zt”l that a person who leaves out these four words has, in fact, not fulfilled the requirement of the blessing because he has left out the ikkar mashmaos habracha – the essential meaning of the blessing.  Rav Shteinman ruled that it is a non-bracha.

That being the case, the remaining eight words constitute a hefsek and a new mezonos must also be recited.  Before that, however, the young Yeshiva student must say the words, “Boruch Shaim Kvod Malchus l’olam vo’ed.”  This six word formula can repair the bracha levatala that was recited.

Thus we have the strange mathematical formulation of:

12-4= 27

Explained more fully:  If one leaves out the 4 words of Asher kidshanu B’Mitzvosav v’tzivanu, one must:

  • say boruch shaim kvos malchus l’olam vo’ed – 6 words
  • re-recite the Mezonos – 9 words
  • re-recite the laishev baSukkah – 12 words.

All now totaling 27 words.


In our case, the Yeshiva bochur was unsure of what to do.  He reasoned that since whenever there is a doubt as to whether to recite a blessing – one should be lenient – that he should eat the mezonos and not recite a boruch shaim kvod malchuso l’olam va’ed. Although, ultimately, he should have recited the boruch shaim – he did follow the correct halachic protocol of what to do when one does not know what to do.


But let us get to the deeper and more fundamental aspects of the question.  Why are we here?  What is our overall role in the universe?  What did the Holy sages of Israel known as the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah mean to do when they made these two types of formulations of blessings – the blessings on foods – generally 9 or 10 words, and the formulation on Mitzvos – generally 12 words?

The Jewish nation has been uniquely set aside for higher purposes than the mundane.  We are here to live a life of sanctity, of holiness.  We are here to fulfill a special covenant that G-d Almighty – the Creator of it all has made with our forebears -with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

We are not here to acquire stuff.  We are not here to wallow in consumerism and consumption.  We are not here to shop till we drop, so to speak. That is not the goal.

As we were prepared to receive the Torah, Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu (Shmos 19:6), “And you shall be a kingdom of priests, a holy nation dedicated unto Me..”

Kedusha is the influence made upon our neshamos when we reach for Dveikus – for allowing Hashem into our lives and for cleaving to Him; It is also the means that Hashem chose for allowing all of mankind, ultimately, to achieve holiness and kedushah. Hashem is the Ultimate Giver and wants to give to everyone.  But giving without earning is meaningless.  We earn our schar by helping bring sanctity and kedusha into the world – by making Kiddush Hashem and not chillul Hashem.

All this is why 12-4=27 and not 8.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

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