In this shiur I would like to discuss a halachic issue that comes up on this Shabbat during the Birkat HaMazon at Seuda Shelishit.
We are all familiar with the Halacha that requires us to note various days during Birkat Ha’mazon. On Shabbat we add retzei and on Rosh Chodesh, and Chol Ha’moed we insert ya’aleh ve’yavo and on Chanukah and Purim we add Al Hanissim. The idea behind these various additions is that Birkat HaMazon is to reflect our everyday experiences. It is not merely a blessing over food but rather an all encompassing statement about all aspects of our existence. This explains why we seem to forget about food after the first Bracha in Birkat HaMazon and begin talking about a huge range of issues. We discuss Brit Milah, Eretz Yisrael, the Exodus, the building of Yerushalayim and the Mikdash and even the dead who were buried in Beitar. This eclectic list is strange if we are simply discussing food. As we can see our focus during Birkat Hamazon is much broader, which is why each particular day requires it’s own flavor and mention of the special elements contained within it.
As far as the specific topic of our shiur today, we are, as well, familiar with the idea that even though at the time of Birkat Ha’mazon the actual day may have already passed we still mention the occasions, if our meal actually took place during that day. The most common example of this happens every seudah shlishit, where most people begin the meal while it is still Shabbat, and finish the meal after Shabbat has already gone out. In this case we still say retzei. The logic being that since the meal was eaten on Shabbat it should be mentioned in the Birkat Ha’mazon.
On this coming Shabbat, we are presented with a challenging halachic situation; Rosh Chodesh falls out on Sunday, (Saturday night) creating the following problem: Are we to mention Shabbat in the Birkat Ha’mazon of seuda shlishit that has extended into Rosh Chodesh or rather should we note Rosh Chodesh which is the actual occasion at the time of Birkat Ha’mazon?
In this seemingly simple problem we would have expected one of two possible answers either Shabbat or Rosh Chodesh. Instead we are provided with a three-way debate on this matter, we will try to explain each of the opinions. The Bach is of the opinion that only Shabbat should be mentioned, following the logic of the gemara that the critical moment for determining the proper text for Birkat Ha’mazon is the onset of the meal; as we mentioned above this is the exact logic that on any seuda shlishit we say retzei despite that on the clock it is no longer Shabbat. The Taz provides a compromise position and suggests that both retzei and ya’aleh ve’yavo should be added, as this meal took place both on Shabbat and on Rosh Chodesh. According to the Taz the Halacha that we are interested in the onset of the meal should really be stated that we are ALSO interested in the onset of the meal, but not to exclusion of the actual time of Birkat HaMazon.
The objection that many have raised against this line of thought is that the reciting of both is actually contradictory; how can we at the same moment say “et yom hashabbat hazeh” and “yom Rosh hachodesh hazeh” when in fact they are on different days.
The Taz claims that this is not peculiar as we have precedent on the occasions of Yom tov falling out on a Saturday night, as will happen this Pesach, when we recite both kiddush and havdallah. This is possible because the order is first Shabbat and then Rosh Chodesh which exactly patterns itself after the chronological events. This particular point of the Taz is a bit strange as the parallel between the two cases is a bit weak , but I any event his claim is that as long as the retzei precedes the Yaaleh Veyavo a contradiction is not a problem.
The Magen Avraham believes that in principle both should be said yet refuses to accept the Taz’s solution to the contradiction problem. His solution is to say only one and he recommends ya’aleh ve’yavo instead of retzei. His logic is, that as far as Rosh Chodesh is concerned there is a clear obligation to mention it in Birkat Ha’mazon where as concerning Shabbat it is not as clear cut as there are opinions that do not require us to say retzei at seudah shlishit. The reason has to do with the debate concerning what must be eaten for seudah shlishit. If I assume that one must have bread then Birkat HaMazon is required and by definition Retzei is required, however many poskim allow a more informal menu for seudah shlishit and do not require Birkat Hamazon. (This point will come up in a fairly rare case in three weeks from now when erev pesach is on Shabbat and one cannot eat neither bread nor Matzah and we suffice with other foodstuffs for seudah shlishit). Despite that the accepted opinion is to recite rezei at every other seudah shlishit, when push comes to shove and one of the additions must be omitted it is best to omit the rezei. Of course for those of you wanting to avoid this whole issue simply see to it that your seudah shlishit finishes before sunset (by saying Birkat Ha’mazon or at least not eating bread after sunset even if Birkat Ha’mazon takes place later) in which case only rezei is added.