Shenatan Mechachmato Lebasar V'dam - HaRav Hutner
Guest Blogger -
Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen
The concern as to whether this Beracha should be recited to a Jewish scientist or scholar in secular subjects was many years ago the subject of a Ma'amar by HaGoan HaRav Yitzchok Hutner (ZL) the Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshivat Rabbainu Chaim Berlin. He suggested that a careful reading of the terminology of the Shulchan Aruch indicates that it is not proper to recite this Beracha over a Jew. The Shuchan Aruch (SA) states,""Should one see wise Gentiles who are scholars in secular knowledge, one says, blessed be He… who has given from His wisdom to human beings.(SA, Orech Chayyim (OC) 224:7) Note the specific terminology of the SA. It specifically limits this beracha to Gentiles who are knowledgeable in secular wisdom. Apparently , Jews who are masters of secular wisdom are not to receive this beracha. Also, Gentiles who excel in Torah studies also would not be granted a beracha. Why?
In dealing with Berachot (blessings) there is a guiding principle of primary and secondary purpose. (Ikar V'tafel). For example, a blessing for spice is only recited when the spice was originally solely set up for the purpose of providing fragrance. Should the spice , however, have other purposes, then even if it provides a pleasant fragrance, one does not recite a beracha upon enjoying its fragrance. The fragrance that commands a beracha must emanate from its essential purpose. (See SA , OC 217:2) So too contends HaGoan HaRav Hutner this principle relates to blessings over people. The prime purpose of the Jew is to learn Torah. This is the goal of his existence. Everything else, including secular scholarship or scientific knowledge is of a secondary value to the Jewish soul. It may be important. It may even be vital to life, but it is still secondary to Torah. As such, a Jew is not granted a beracha unless he excels in his primary role, Torah. So too with the Gentile. A beracha is not operational should the Gentile excel in Torah for that is not his primary role in life.(See Pachad Yitzchok-V'Zot Chanukah, Ma'amar 9:2 and 9:6)