(1) THE GEMARA(a) Berachos is by far the longest Maseches in Shas. Although Bava Basra is many Dafim longer, that is mostly because of the length of the commentaries printed on the side of the Daf. In a manuscript edition without commentaries, Berachos is %11 longer (40 pages as compared to 36).(2) RASHI AND TOSFOS - Rashi's style in Berachos is similar to his style throughout the rest of Shas. Tosfos on Berachos has been attributed to Talmidei Rabeinu Peretz, he often quotes the opinion of Rebbi Yehudah he'Chasid (which is cited more at length in Tosfos Rabeinu Yehudah he'Chasid, see below II:5:a).
(b) More than other Masechtos, Berachos often seems to jump from subject to subject without clear connections between the first discussion and the subsequent one. Most of the time, a close look at the author of the statements in question reveals the connection; the Gemara is listing numerous statements made by the same person or group of people. (Almost always, there is at least a tenuous thematic relationship between the statements as well.) Sometimes, Rashi explains the connection. Other times the connections remain elusive and further analysis is needed. Sometimes the answer can be found in the Acharonim, sometimes not. In our Background to the Daf, we have attempted to explain whenever necessary the connections between the Gemara's statements.
(c) It is evident at times that the Girsa in our Gemaras is in need of correction, either due to a censor's alteration or some other reason. In those instances, the true Girsa may often be revealed by an analysis of manuscript Gemaras Berachos, or the Girsa in the Ein Yakov. We have access mainly to two full manuscript Gemaras Berachos: (1) the Dikdukei Sofrim (or Munich) manuscript, which dates to 1343 and was printed and annotated by Rav Rafael Nasan Neta Rabinowitz in 1867, (2) the Beis Nasan (or Jerusalem) manuscript, printed and annotated by Rav Nachman Nasan Koronel (1854). The former includes notes which compare the text of the our Gemaras to that of many other printed and manuscript editions of the Shas, as well as to the Girsaos of the Rishonim.
(1) EARLY COMMENTARIES(a) RABBEINU NISIM GA'ON - Lived in the 1000's (d. 1050) in Kirouan, North Africa. (Although referred to as "Gaon," he was actually post-Geonic). His commentary, printed in the margins of the Vilna Shas, provides background information when the Gemara refers to a concept dealt with elsewhere in Shas. Also authored the Sefer ha'Mafte'ach (Megilas Setarim) which was recently reprinted with footnotes by Rav David Metzger (1990, Jerusalem; Wagschal).
(b) RABBEINU CHANANEL - Rabbeinu Chananel ben Chushiel, lived in the 11th century. His father Rabbeinu Chushiel, was one of the famous "four captives" (a group of Roshei Yeshiva who were captured by pirates and redeemed separately by communities along the Mediterranean coast) lived in Kirouan, N. Africa after being redeemed from bondage, and it was there that he fathered Rabbeinu Chananel. The commentary of Rabbeinu Chananel on Berachos was recently printed and annotated by Rav David Metzger (1990, Jerusalem; Wagschal), and appears in the margins of the Wagschal edition of Berachos as well.
(c) RABBEINU TAM - Rabbeinu Yakov ben Meir, known as Rabbeinu Tam (from the verse "v'Yakov Ish Tam"), wrote Chidushim on Berachos which appear in the Chidushim section of his Sefer ha'Yashar. Rabbeinu Tam was the son of Rashi's daughter. Along with his two brothers, Rashbam (= Rabbeinu Shmuel ben Meir, the oldest of the three) and Rivam (= Rabbeinu Yitzchak ben Meir), he was from the first generation of Ba'alei ha'Tosfos. He died in 1171. Sefer ha'Yashar was reprinted based on two original manuscripts, with footnotes, by Rav Shimon Schlesinger (second edition, 1980, Jerusalem).
(2) SPAIN (ARAGON)(a) RAMBAN - Rabbeinu Moshe ben Nachman lived in the 1200's (d. 1270) and was a student of the RAMAH (Rabbeinu Meir ha'Levi Abulefia). He authored Chidushim on Berachos as well as the Milchamos Hashem on the Rif.
(b) TALMIDEI RABBEINU YONAH - The students of Rabbeinu Yonah he'Chasid (ben Avraham) of Gerondi, France (d. 1264) compiled a commentary on Berachos based on their Rebbi's teachings. Rabbeinu Yonah's mother and the Ramban's mother were sisters. He was a student of Rav Shlomo ben Avraham Min ha'Har (= from Montspleir).
(c) RASHBA - Rabbeinu Shlomo (ben Avraham) Ben Aderes, d. 1310. The Rashba's primary mentor was Rabbeinu Yonah, but he also learned under the Ramban. The Rashba's commentary on Berachos was first printed in its entirety in the year 5698 (1938). It was recently printed again from manuscript, along with corrections and clarifications, by Mosad ha'Rav Kook. Aside from the normal Chidushei ha'Rashba, the Rashba wrote a separate volume of Chidushei Agados which include explanations for many of the Agados of Berachos. The Oraisa edition of the Rashba on Berachos includes the Chidushei Agados, as well as a collection of the Teshuvos ha'Rashba that are connected to Maseches Berachos.
(d) RE'AH - Rabbeinu Aharon (ben Yosef) ha'Levi lived at the turn of the thirteenth century and was also a student of the Ramban. He wrote a commentary on the Rif on Berachos and a number of other Masechtos. The Re'ah authored the Sefer ha'Chinuch. (There are those who cast doubt over his authorship of the Chinuch -- see the introduction to the new Mechon Yerushalayim edition of the Chinuch. However, it is evident from his Chidushim on Berachos 33b that he is indeed the author, for the Re'ah writes there that he intends to compose a work lising the reasons behind the Mitzvos, and he gives a few examples, all of which appear in the Chinuch -M. Kornfeld.)
(e) RITVA - Rabbeinu Yom Tov ben Avraham Al'ashvili lived in the 1300's and was the a close disciple of the Re'ah and, later, the Rashba. He wrote both Chidushim on Berachos, and a list of "Hilchos Berachos." A somewhat abridged version of his Chidushim were originally published as the "Shitah Mekubetzes" on Berachos, and until today is sold with the set of Shitah Mekubetzes and bears that name on its cover. His Hilchos Berachos were originally published as "Hilchos Berachos of Rav Al'ashvili, father of the Ritva," but it was recently proven by Rav Mordechai Leib Katzenelenbogen that the Ritva, and not his father, was the author of Hilchos Berachos. Both were reprinted in the Mosad ha'Rav Kook edition, with annotations by Rav Moshe Herschler.
(3) PROVENCE & NARVONA(a) RABBEINU YEHONASAN M'LUNIL - Lived in the early 1200's and learned under the Ra'avad. He wrote a commentary on the Rif for most of Shas, including Berachos.
(b) SEFER HA'HASHLAMAH - Rabbeinu Meshulam ben Moshe wrote Sefer ha'Hashlamah on the Rif in order to complement the Rif by adding to it the Halachos that were not discussed in his commentary). He died in 1238. Included in Rav Moshe Herschler's Ginzei Rishonim (Mechon ha'Talmud ha'Yisraeli, 1967).
(c) SEFER HA'ME'OROS - Rabbeinu Meir ben Shimon wrote "Sefer ha'Me'oros" on the Rif. He died in 1264.
(d) SEFER HA'MICHTAM - Rabbeinu David ben Levi lived at the turn of the fourteenth century and learned under his father, Rabbeinu Levi ben Benveneshti. Included in Rav Moshe Herschler's Ginzei Rishonim (Mechon ha'Talmud ha'Yisraeli, 1967).
(e) RIVEVAN - (or Shitas Rivav) by Rabbeinu Yehudah ben Binyamin ha'Rofei (d. 1280), who studied in Germany under Rabbeinu Avigdor Kohen Tzedek and became one of the leading sages of Italy, wrote a commentary to the Rif for many Masechtos, including Berachos. He often uses (without quoting by name) the words of Rashi, making his work an excellent source for verifying the proper Girsa in Rashi. A more complete print of this commentary is included in Rav Moshe Herschler's Ginzei Rishonim (Mechon ha'Talmud ha'Yisraeli, 1967).
(f) ME'IRI - Rabbeinu Menachem ben Shlomo (d. 1315) wrote his comprehensive Halachic work, "Beis ha'Bechirah," on 37 Masechtos of Shas. For some Masechtos he composed a running commentary to the words of the Gemara (Chidushei ha'Meiri) as well as a Beis ha'Bechirah (Berachos is not one of them). He was a student of the Rashba, and sometimes even cites from commentaries as late as those of the Ritva. Almost never mentioning another Rishon by name, the Meiri created "nicknames" for the commentators from whom he often cites, such as "Gedolei ha'Rabbanim" for Rashi, etc. A convenient list of these, along with their true identities, can be found at the beginning of the Beis ha'Bechirah on Beitzah.
(4) GERMANY & FRANCE(a) RA'AVAN - by Rabbeinu Eliezer ben Nasan (d. 1170), perhaps the earliest of the Ba'alei ha'Tosfos.
(b) RA'AVYAH - Rabbeinu Eliezer ben Yoel ha'Levi (d. 1225), one of the Ba'alei ha'Tosfos, authored "Avi ha'Ezri," more commonly known simply as "Sefer ha'Ra'avyah."
(c) OHR ZARUA - Rabbeinu Yitzchak ben Moshe (d. 1260) authored the Ohr Zarua. He studied under many of the great sages of his times, including Rabbeinu Yehudah he'Chasid, the Ra'avyah, the Sar mi'Kutzi, and the Ba'al ha'Roke'ach. His son, Rav Chaim Ohr Zarua, wrote a collection of Teshuvos. Rabbeinu Yitzchak named his work "Ohr Zarua" out of his excitement when he noted that the end letters of the verse "Ohr Zarua la'Tzadik..." spell out "R' Akivah."
(d) TOSFOS RID - Rabbeinu Yeshaya (ben Mali, or ha'Rishon) d'Trani was one of the leading sages of Italy/Germany during the early 1200's. His commentary on most of the Masechtos of Shas is known as "Tosfos Rid." (Not to be confused with his grandson, Rabbeinu Yeshaya *Acharon* Z'l, or Ri'az, author of the Piskei Rid.)
(5) BA'ALEI TOSFOS(a) TOSFOS RABBEINU YEHUDAH SIRLEON - One of the Ba'alei ha'Tosfos, Rabbeinu Yehudah lived during the time of the Ra'avyah and died in 1224. He was a close disciple of Rabbeinu Yitzchak ha'Zaken, the "Ba'al ha'Tosfos." His commentary to Berachos was printed under the name Rabbeinu Yehudah he'Chasid, along with two other commentaries, in "Berachah Meshuleshes." Also printed separately with comments by Rav Mordechai Yehudah Leib Zachs, of Jerusalem. The Rosh, whose commentary is often based on the words of Tosfos, based his Tosfos and Pesakim and Tosfos for Berachos on the words of this commentary and not on the words of the Tosfos printed in our Gemaras. He is often cited by the Tosfos that is printed in our Gemara Berachos as well (cf. Tosfos 22b DH Ela, etc.).
(b) TOSFOS RABBEINU PERETZ - One of the Ba'alei ha'Tosfos, his commentary was compiled and published by his students. Among his students was the Mordechai. His Tosfos on Berachos are nearly identical to the version of Tosfos printed in our Gemaras.
(c) TOSFOS HA'ROSH - Rabbeinu Asher ben Yechiel (d. 1328), originally from Spain, fled to Germany after his mentor, Rav Meir of Rotenberg, was taken captive by the authorities and passed away in jail. One of the great sages of Germany, he wrote commentaries and rulings on most of Shas which had a profound influence on the Code of Jewish Law.
(5) OTHER RISHONIM(a) SHITAH MEKUBETZES - Although Rav Betzalel Ashkenazi, the teacher of the Beis Yosef, compiled the set of Shita Mekubetzes on Shas, the Shitah Mekubetzes on Maseches Berachos is no more than a slightly abridged version of the commentary of the Ritva (as noted above).
(b) SEFER HA'NER - one of the early commentaries on Maseches Berachos, written in 1190, based on the explanations of the Ge'onim and the Rishonim. Published from manuscript with footnotes by Rav Meir David Ben-Shem (1958, Jerusalem).
(1) ACHARONIM ON BERACHOS1) PENEI YEHOSHUA - by Rav Yehoshua Yusha Falk of Krakow
2) TZELACH (an acronym for TZIYUN L'NEFESH CHAYAH) - by Rav Yechezkel Landau of Prague. (He named his work on Shas after his mother, Chayah, and his responsa, Noda b'Yehduah after his father.)
3) REBBI AKIVA EIGER - collected from all of his writings and published in Zichron Yakov 5743
4) NACHALAS DAVID - by Rav David Tevil of Minsk, student of ha'Ga'on Rav Chayim mi'Volozhin
5) CHIDUSHEI REBBI YEHONASAN (EIBESHITZ) - based upon the manuscripts of his students, with a list of references to other places in his writings in which he refers to Berachos (Machon Yerushalayim 5746)
6) SEFAS EMES - short and beautiful insights by the second Gerer Rebbe, grandson of the Chidushei ha'Rim, the first Gerer Rebbe
7) VILNA GA'ON (or GRA) - "IMREI NO'AM" on Berachos, combined with additions from other places in the writings of the Vilna Gaon in "CHIDUSHEI HA'GRA L'MASECHES BERACHOS" by Rav Avraham Droshkovitz. A third volume of the Gaon's on Berachos is Bi'urei Agados, which contains explanations (often Kabbalistic in nature) for most of the Agados in Maseches Berachos.
8) ATERES ROSH and ATERES TIF'ERES - lived at the same time and in the same city as the Vilna Gaon (Ateres Rosh on chapters 1-5; Ateres Tif'eres on chapters 6-8)
9) MINCHAS SHMUEL - by Rav Shmuel of Dolhinov, a student of Rav Chayim of Volozhin who moved to Eretz Yisrael
10) MENACHEM MESHIV - short comments pertaining to the literal meaning of the Gemara, meant for those learning the Maseches quickly -- on Berachos and Seder Mo'ed
11) SEMICHAS CHACHAMIM - a Peshat-based commentary on the Agados of Maseches Berachos, by the author of Megaleh Amukos.
12) TZIDKAS HA'TZADIK - by Rav Tzadok ha'Kohen of Lublin, basically a Daf by Daf discussion of Agados in Maseches Berachos.
(2) ANTHOLOGIES ON BERACHOS1) GILYONEI HA'SHAS - by Rav Yosef Engel, author of "Asvan d'Oraisa"; (mainly references to, and quotes from, the writings of the Rishonim in their responsa and other early works, with additional insights by the author)
2) ASIFAS ZEKENIM HE'CHADASH (2 vols.) - rare works on the Maseches (Ateres Rosh and similar works)
3) BEIS YOSEF (2 vols.) - a truly excellent anthology of Peshat and Derash on the Maseches by Rav Aharon Dirnfeld of Pupa (1938), dealing with many of the problems that bother the average student studying the Maseches.
4) SHITAH MEKUBETZES HE'CHADASH I - a Daf by Daf anthology of Acharonim on the Maseches by Rav Nasan Tzvi Hirsch Pesses (1910)
5) SHITAH MAKUBETZES HE'CHADASH II - a Daf by Daf anthology of Acharonim on the Maseches by the Beis Midrash of Rav Yonasan Shteif (1966)
6) SIFSEI CHACHAMIM - an excellent volume on Berachos, Rosh Hashanah and Megilah, by Rav Avraham Aba Hertzel of Presburg (1898), based primarily on the works of the earlier Acharonim, offering Peshat-based explanations of the Gemara, arranged page by page first on the Gemara and then on Rashi and then on Tosfos. Includes full citations of all sources quoted by the Gemara, Rashi or Tosfos
7) MESILOS HA'BARZEL - by Rav Nisan Shabsai Hailper, listing sources in the Rishonim and Achronim that deal with the various Sugyos in the Gemara.
(3) HALACHIC DISCUSSIONS, BERACHOS1) ROSH YOSEF - by Rav Yosef Tumim, author of the "Pri Megadim"
2) CHEFETZ HASHEM - by Rav Chayim Ibn Atar, the Or ha'Chayim ha'Kadosh
3) EINAYIM L'MISHPAT - by Rav Yitzchak Arieli, an outstanding work citing all the Halachic sources pertinent to any given Sugya, and offering an organized, analytical summary of the opinions of the Rishonim and Poskim on each and every Sugya in Berachos.
4) CHADASHIM GAM YESHANIM - by Rav Yonasan Shteif, the Satmar Dayan.
(4) AGADAH - ON *ALL OF SHAS*1) EIN YAKOV - includes IYUN YAKOV, CHIDUSHEI HA'GA'ONIM, RIF (not the one in back of the Gemara, but an Acharon on Agadah), HAKOSEV, and many other useful commentaries
2) CHIDUSHEI AGADOS - by the Maharal, Rav Yehudah Loewy of Prague.
3) PESACH EINAYIM - by the "Chida," Harav Chaim Yosef David Azulai
4) SEFER BENAYAHU & BEN YEHOYADA - a wonderful set of volumes on Agadot ha'Shas by the Ben Ish Chai. (He named each of his works after another word in the verse "u'Benayahu ben Yehoyada, ben Ish Chai...", II Shmuel 23:20, cited in Berachos, bottom of 18a)