Falling Asleep Over a Rambam?

Ask the Rov: I often fall asleep while learning Rambam at night. Must I say birchas haTorah when I wake up?

By Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin – Rov of Anash in Petach Tikvah

Prior to verbalizing — but not just thinking — words of Torah, one is obligated to recite a bracha over Torah study. Poskim note the importance of being scrupulous regarding this bracha, which expresses how we value and cherish Hashem’s Torah, in which Hashem takes delight every day, over all pleasures in the world, and that we are studying Torah for its own sake.1

The Agur (15th-century Italian rishon) held that birchas haTorah is a daily bracha just like the birchos hashachar which are recited once a day to cover the entire day and the following night until going to bed.2 The Rosh, however, held that it is comparable to a bracha over the mitzva of learning Torah, and it must be repeated after a bona fide interruption in which one diverts his attention from studying afterward.3

Still, even according to the Rosh, pausing to attend to personal matters or parnasa isn’t considered an interruption since a person’s mind is always on Torah, and he looks forward to going back to learning upon completing his activities. The same is true for using the restroom or taking a cat nap (laying his head on his arms) since he hasn’t removed his mind from studying afterward. Sleeping in bed is considered a bona fide interruption and would require a new bracha according to the Rosh.4

If one remained awake all night and would like to study Torah, he would likewise be getting into the machlokes between the Rosh and the Agur. According to the Rosh, he does not need a new bracha in the morning since he did not make an interruption, whereas according to the Agur, he must repeat the bracha at daybreak, like all other birchos hashachar. If he stayed up all night but had previously taken a substantial nap by day, everyone would require a new bracha afterward since it is both a new day and after an interruption.5

The Alter Rebbe writes that the accepted custom follows the Agur not to recite a new bracha in the middle of the day, even after a full interruption.6 For one who is up all night, in his Shulchan Aruch, the Alter Rebbe recommends hearing the bracha from someone who slept (out of concern for the Rosh’s view), yet in his Siddur, he rules that the bracha can be said and does not mention this preference.7

For one who retired for the night and wakes up before dawn — but after chatzos — it is considered a new day for most birchos hashachar and birchas haTorah.8 However, if one falls asleep out of bed with a Rambam in his hands and plans on going to sleep properly afterward, this is not considered the end of his day, and he does not need to recite birchas haTorah when continuing to learn before dawn.9

See Sources (open PDF)

From The Weekly Farbrengen by Merkaz Anash

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