The Prohibition against Reckless Driving

The Laws of BrachaAchrona – Does one recite a bracha when drinking with a straw, drinking coffee,or eating cheese or ice cream * In continuation of the previous column:Following the horrific accident, it is appropriate to engage in tefilatha’derech, but of course not in place of the strengthening of cautious driving* A person who speeds, or is distracted while driving, violates a prohibitionregardless of whether he caused an accident * A person who does not observe therules of driving, even if he does not harm anyone, is partner in creating adangerous negative norm on the roads * It is desirable for every driver to praythat his driving be relaxed, and that he takes into consideration others

The Measurement Requiring a Bracha Achrona

From the Torah, only one who eats a meal and is satiated must recite Birkat Hamazon, and our Sages determined the reciting of a bracha achrona (a final blessing) on a small measurement, provided one’s eating or drinking will leave some sense of satisfaction. And what is the minimum measurement for this? In regards to food – a k’zayit (olive), which the poskim determined to be half the size of an egg.

This, on the condition that he ate it, at most, in the time of achilat pras, that is, the time when people were accustomed to eating the bread of one meal. On average, it is about six minutes. This is the halakha concerning food.

As for drinking, our Sages determined that the measurement for a bracha achrona is a revi’it – 75 ml (the volume of half an egg, a bit less than half a regular cup). According to the majority of poskim, just as in eating, the duration of time is achilat pras – which is about six minutes, so should the halakha be for drinking, i.e., if one drank the measurement in less than six minutes, he recites a blessing (Ravad, many poskim in the opinion of Rambam).On the other hand, there are those who say that the measurement for drinking is different, and one blesses only if one consumes the drink in a period of time that people are used to drinking a revi’it moderately. In other words, as the slowest drinkers, who even when they drink a revi’it – 75 ml – stop several times.

Because of the safek (doubt) – the halakha is that only if one drinks the revi’it during a period of moderate drinking of a revi’it, is a blessing recited. It is still not clear enough what moderate drinking is, but I was happy to see the words of Rabbi Yosef Kapach ztz”l, which he defined in his commentary to Rambam as forty seconds: “If I may estimate, as we have seen the dignitaries of Yemen … forty seconds”.

Bracha Achrona for Drinking with a Straw

Q: Does someone who drinks hot coffee, or a drinks with a straw, recite borei nefashot after drinking?

A: A person who drinks hot coffee that cannot be drunk with large sips, does not bless. And someone who drinks a lukewarm or cold drink with a straw in the measurement of a revi’it, 75 ml, blesses, on condition that he drank continuously. Even if one stops to take short breaks for breathing, it is considered continuous drinking, because as we have learned, drinking a revi’it does not take more than 40 seconds.

And one should not take into consideration more stringent opinions, since the fact that one does not recite a bracha achrona over hot drinks, which takes longer, takes into account the opinion of the minority of poskim, even though the concern of not blessing is only due to safek safek safaka, and beyond this one should not be concerned.

Bracha Achrona for Someone who Eats Cheese or Ice Cream

Q: I heard that some people think that someone who eats cheese, as well as someone who eats ice cream or an ice cream bar, does not recite a bracha achrona. The reason is that they come from liquids, and therefore their halakha is like that of liquids, where only if they drink them for a period of time it takes to drink a revi’it, a bracha achrona is recited, and since eating them takes longer, one does not bless.

A: All foods are judged according to their condition in front of us, and therefore the law of cheese, leben, ice cream, and anything that is eaten or chewed such as porridge – are judged as food, and not as a drink. Therefore, one who has eaten the volume of half the size of an egg (olive), in less than six minutes (the measurement of achilat pras), recites a bracha achrona. Only what is drunk swallowing without the tongue has the halakha of a liquid, that is a bracha achrona is recited only when one drinks a revi’it during a period of moderate drinking – about forty seconds.

Comments on the Title of the Previous Column

The article last week, which dealt with tefillat ha’derech, was dedicated to the memory of the Atar family who were killed in the horrific road accident. The title given by the editor to the article was: “The Answer to the Horrific Accident – Saying Tefillat Ha’Derech with Utmost Intention.” I received many comments on the title, some of which I will quote.

“I always read Revivim, and the spirit I have received from reading over the years, is that when there is a problem it must be dealt with itself, and not run to external and super natural solutions. If there is a problem with shalom bayit (peace in the home), it must be worked on – on love and appreciation, trust and inclusion, and not to look for the chapter of Tehillim that is attributed to remedy it. The title of the last column was: “The Answer to the Horrific Accident – Saying Tefillat Ha’Derech with Utmost Intention”.  Is tefillat ha’derech going to prevent road accidents? Haven’t many righteous people died in accidents who recited the blessing? From what we learned from the rabbi, I assumed that a call would be issued for the strict observance of all the traffic laws, and to act with caution and responsibility. I would be very happy to know what the most important correction is in your opinion.”

An additional letter: “Is the answer to accidents really tefillat ha’derech? I was sorry that you did not take the opportunity following the shocking accident that broke every heart to pronounce a clear and unequivocal halakhic statement: It is forbidden to look at one’s cell phone while driving. It is forbidden for the driver to deal with anything that is not directly connected to holding the steering wheel and looking at the road. This is the statement that the public must hear from you: True, “Unless Hashem watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain”, but a watchman is also needed. I hope that you will find the opportunity to pronounce a sweeping halakhic statement: Anyone who plays around with his cell phone while driving – whether it be reading messages, or writing, or any other thing – transgresses a Torah prohibition! This has to be said over and over until it is internalized – just as we would not think of sneaking a tiny piece of treif meat into our mouths. The same goes for a quick look at one’s cell phone while driving!”

Answer

Readers should know that the general rule in all newspapers is that the title is given by the editor, and his purpose is to arouse interest in the article. Usually the subheadings are also given by the editor, but in my articles I write the subheadings. Although the article was connected to the accident, as I wrote at the end of the first paragraph: “Out of this terrible shock, we will deal with the laws of the tefilat ha’derech and arouse ourselves to say it with kavanah.” But in no way should it have been understood that this is “the” answer to the accident.

I did not write in the wake of the accident about the duty of caution on the roads, since this might have hurt the memory of the Atar family car driver, who was apparently careful with all the safety rules, and the other driver hit him. Indeed, it is possible that a person can strictly observe all the traffic laws, and by the negligence of another driver, be killed in an accident. Therefore there is room to deal with tefillat ha’derech in the wake of such terrible news, but in no way can the prayer replace caution on the road. On the contrary, one who says tefillat ha’derech but disregards the traffic laws, his prayer is not a prayer, but rather a blasphemy, just as a person who recites a blessing over stolen food, his bracha  is not a blessing, but rather a blasphemy (according to Sanhedrin 6b).

A Reckless Driver Transgresses a Torah Prohibition

In practice, a person who drives at a high speed that is considered dangerous and punishable by law, or who does not comply with other safety laws, such as talking on his cell phone illegally, violates a Torah prohibition. This is because the Torah commanded us to guard our lives to the highest degree, and the intention is not only not to commit suicide, but rather the meaning is to distance oneself from danger and to be careful. And of course, traffic laws were not determined arbitrarily in order to annoy the drivers, but were determined by experts who examined and investigated the matter and concluded that at such a speed, or passing in a certain area, etc., is dangerous, and therefore a person who violates these laws transgresses a Torah prohibition. This is what I heard from Rabbi Avraham Shapira ztz”l.

The general commandment to guard from dangers we learned from the obligation to install a railing on a roof that people use, lest a person fall from there (Deuteronomy 22: 8). And just as a person who did not install a railing – even though no one has fallen from his roof – has transgressed the Torah prohibition, so too, one who has transgressed the rules of caution and is not careful – even though no one is injured – has transgressed a Torah prohibition.

In addition, it is appropriate for anyone who drives recklessly to know that even if he personally did not commit an accident, he is indirectly responsible for the existence of road accidents. This is because his speeding or his careless cell phone use helps create a negative norm, from which people will surely be hurt.

Prayer before Driving

This is an appropriate opportunity to mention a prayer written by my friend Rabbi David Mishlov, inspired by the commentary of Rabbi Kook for tefillat ha’derech, and fortunate are the drivers who recite this prayer before each trip, and it is good to say it at least one time when reading this article: “May it be your will, Hashem, my God and the God of my father’s, that I realize the greatness of the responsibility placed upon me: To guard my own life, and the lives of those travelling with me, and the lives of everyone on the road. Please help me not to lose my concentration from driving, even for a second. Let me always drive according to the law, out of regard for others, patiently, with self-rule, and not out of a rush to arrive at my destination. Please guard me, and everyone travelling on this road, among all those of Israel travelling on the roads – amen.”

Questions about Tefillat Ha’Derech

Q: A person who has forgotten to tefillat ha’derech at the beginning of his trip, if he still has a parsah (approximately four kilometers) to go, can still recite the blessing. Does this law apply even if he has already entered the city, and until he reaches his destination, still has a parsah to go?

A: Since I wrote that it is good for someone travelling in a city to say tefillat ha’derech without mentioning shem Hashem (God’s name) at the end of the prayer, even in such a situation it is good to say tefillat ha’derech without mentioning shem Hashem.

Q: Does someone who commutes on the train from Netanya to Tel Aviv on a daily basis also have to say tefillat ha’derech?

A: Yes, since it entails a journey of about four kilometers outside of urban areas.

Q: We have learned that one says tefillat ha’derech once a day for all the trips planned for that day – what is included in a day? And what is the halakha if I suddenly decided to make another trip?

A: A day is considered from getting up in the morning until going to sleep at night. If an additional unexpected trip is added, tefillat ha’derech is said once again. 

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.

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