BET MIDRASH VIRTUALI
of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel



HALAKHAH STUDY GROUP




Bet Midrash Virtuali

SHULĤAN ARUKH, ORAĤ ĤAYYIM: The Rules of Shabbat
182:1

Some authorities hold that birkhat ha-mazon [grace after meals] requires a cup [of wine, and that this applies to] even one person alone, and [if one doesn't have a cup] that one must search for one, and that one should not eat if one does not have a cup over which to recite grace if one thinks that there is a chance that one will become available - even this means missing one mealtime. According to this [view] when two people eat together each one [separately] must have a cup for birkhat ha-mazon. There are [other] authorities that hold that it only requires a cup when three have eaten together. And there are [yet more] authorities that hold that it doesn't require a cup at all, even when three [or more have eaten together]. Note: Nevertheless, the best way to perform the mitzvah is over a cup [of wine].



EXPLANATIONS:

1:
It is well-known that most halakhic authorities throughout the ages have held that it is the sages - and not God in the Torah - who require us to recite a berakhah before enjoying any of the good things that our planet supplies. (That is why if we are not sure whether something requires a berakhah or not we do not recite one.) However there is one exception: the Torah itself requires us to recite grace after eating bread:

You shall eat, be satisfied, and bless your God for the goodly land which He has given you [Deuteronomy 8:10].

For this reason if for no other even those Jews who are lax about reciting benedictions over the food that they eat casually should recite birkhat ha-mazon after having eaten a meal that was preceded by ha-motzi. And this applies with all the more force after the three celebratory meals that we eat during Shabbat.

2:
Before we consider the details of the ceremony of birkhat ha-mazon we must concern ourselves with the prior issue that is the subject of paragraph 1 of Section 182: does birkhat ha-mazon need to be recited over a goblet of wine? We know that the sages required many important blessings to be recited over a goblet of wine in order to enhance their importance in our perception. We immediately think of kiddush and havdalah. A little more thought will prompt us to think of the seven marriage blessings - and there are several other blessings which are recited over a goblet of wine. So the question at issue is whether or not birkhat ha-mazon is one of them.

3:
The first paragraph of Section 182 elaborates on this issue. Three views are presented, each one deriving from very respected halakhic authorities. In the Talmud [Pesaĥim 105b] the Tosafists hold that not only must birkhat ha-mazon be recited over a goblet of wine, but that the extra stringencies mentioned as part of the first view in paragraph 1 of Section 182 apply de rigeur. This view is codified by Rabbi Ya'akov ben-Asher in his compedium, the Tur. As we shall see, when three or more people dine together they can constitute themselves as one company, so in their case one goblet of wine, held by the one who leads them in grace, will suffice. But when only two people dine together they remain two individuals from the halakhic point of view. Therefore, according to this first view, each one must have his own goblet of wine over which he recites birkhat ha-mazon.

4:
A second view also is presented according to which a goblet of wine is required only when three or more people have dined together. This view originates in kabbalistic circles in the middle ages and does not seem to be endorsed by any prominent poskim [halakhic authorities] before of after.

5:
The third view presented is that of Rabbi Yitzĥak Alfassi [Rif] and Rabbi Moshe ben-Maimon [Rambam]. According to this view birkhat ha-mazon does not require a goblet of wine at all.

6:
In paragraph 1 of Section 182 Rabbi Karo is careful not to decide between these three views - presumably because the thinks that they are all three equally valid. However, modern custom seems to have decided in favour of the third option: even when the most observant of Jews eat bread at a meal on an ordinary weekday they do not do so over a cup of wine (though they may well do so at a Torah celebration such as a circumcision). I hope I will not be considered cynical if I venture the opinion that our adoption of the third view derives not so much from a greater admiration for Rif and Rambam compared with the Tosafists and the Tur, but from a convenience associated with the fact that it is no longer customary to drink wine at all our meals.

7:
However, Rabbi Moshe Isserles does add a note. If we read his note carefully we will note that he tacitly adopts the third view; but he adds that nevertheless it is a most worthy act to recite birkhat ha-mazon over a goblet of wine if one can do so. It seems to me that as far as our repasts on Shabbat are concerned (and this is our general topic) it is most appropriate to recite birkhat ha-mazon over a goblet of wine if grace is lead by one member of the company our loud.

8:
The rest of Section 182 is concerned with the physical requirements of the goblet to be used. We have already discussed this in detail when we were dealing with kiddush [Shabbat 029].

DISCUSSION:

The two previous shiurim, Shabbat 050 and 051, were concerned with zemirot, Shabbat table songs. Yehuda Wiesen writes:

Do you know of audio recordings of the zemirot you mention? (The CM's one tape seems very camp oriented. Some recordings I've found are performances, not folksy tunes.) This is not an idle request. I've looked for such recordings on and off for several years with limited success.

I respond: I must admit that I have not had the time to make a thorough search of the web, but I did come across two sites that offer something approaching what Yehuda seems to be looking for. One site offers "Kiddush , Aishet Hayil and Zemirot sung by Cantor Rabinovitz". The renditions are not 'tuneful' to my ears and I do not recognize all of the melodies. Another 'minus' as far as I am concerned is the fact that the old Ashkenazic pronunciation is used. But, failing anything better, this site might offer what Yehuda is seeking.

Another site that I found, SiddurAudio.com, certainly seems to belong to Conservative Judaism. I did not find the rendition of the tunes "camp orientated", so you may well find here what you are looking for.

If anyone can suggest more sites that fit the parameters set by Yehuda please let me know.