Bensching in the Dark on Rosh Chodesh

In honor of Rosh Chodesh later this week, and Purim in two more weeks, I present:

Bensching in the Dark on Rosh Chodesh

sunsetQuestion #1: Rosh Chodesh arrival

“I began eating dinner before Rosh Chodesh, but when I finished, it was dark. Do I recite Yaaleh Veyavo?”

Question #2: Rosh Chodesh departure

“I began eating dinner on Rosh Chodesh, but when I finished, it was dark. Do I recite Yaaleh Veyavo?”

Introduction

When we recite birchas hamazon on Shabbos, Yom Tov, Chol Hamoed, Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah and Purim, we include special prayers to commemorate the holiday: On Shabbos, a passage beginning with the word Retzei; on Yom Tov, Chol Hamoed, and Rosh Chodesh, the prayer Yaaleh Veyavo; and on Chanukah and Purim, Al Hanissim. However, it is inappropriate to recite these prayers on an ordinary weekday. What does one do when the date changes between the beginning of the eating of the meal and the bensching? Do we recite the bensching appropriate to the day on which the meal began or appropriate to when the meal ended?

Weekly seudah shelishis

Let us start this discussion with a very common application. Many people eat the last meal of Shabbos, colloquially but not accurately called shalosh seudos, late in the afternoon, finish after dark, and then recite Retzei in bensching. (The correct way to refer to this meal is seudah shelishis or seudah shelishit.) Most of us are unaware that this practice is disputed by early authorities. The Rosh (Shu’t HaRosh 22:6; Pesachim 10:7) asserts that once Shabbos is over, one cannot say Retzei. He compares this to davening a Shabbos prayer after the conclusion of Shabbos, which is certainly inappropriate. Just as the fitting prayer is determined by when one is praying, so, too, the correct text of bensching is determined by when one is reciting it. Similarly, in the Rosh’s opinion, a meal begun on Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah or Purim that continues into the night following the holiday should not include mention of the special day on which the meal began. This position is followed by the Rosh’s son in the Tur (Orach Chayim 695). According to this approach, the common practice of completing the Purim seudah after the day is over and including Al Hanissim in the bensching is incorrect.

A disputing opinion is quoted in the name of the Maharam (see Hagahos Maimaniyos, Megillah 2:14:1), which states that a meal begun on a holiday maintains its special mention, even when one bensches after the day is over. Thus, when one bensches on seudah shelishis after it is dark, one still recites Retzei. Similarly, if one’s Purim seudah extends into the night, one still recites Al Hanissim in the bensching. These laws apply, as well, on Yom Tov, Rosh Chodesh and Chanukah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 188:10). The practice, already cited in earlier authorities, of completing the Purim seudah after the day is over and then reciting Al Hanissim is based on this position of the Maharam (Rema, Orach Chayim 695:3).

What is the Maharam’s rationale? According to one approach, his position is based on the concept that one can extend the sanctity of Shabbos, even after the day is technically over (Dagul Mei’revavah, end of Orach Chayim 188).

Of course, the question is how this affects Purim. The Maharam is quoted as ruling that one who began his meal on Purim, and completed it after the holiday is over, should still recite Al Hanissim in bensching. However, there is no Talmudic source to say that Purim has a concept of tosefes kedusha. According to the Dagul Mei’revavah’s approach to understanding the Maharam, one must assume that there is tosefes kedusha on Purim, Chanukah and Rosh Chodesh to the extent that one then recites the appropriate addition to the bensching.

Ending Shabbos before bensching

As we just explained, the Maharam rules that one recites Retzei on motza’ei Shabbos for a meal that began on Shabbos. However, if someone recited havdalah and has not yet bensched for seudah shelishis, he must omit Retzei, since recital of havdalah ends Shabbos. The same is true not only regarding havdalah, which clearly ends Shabbos, but even when one does anything implying that Shabbos is over – such as davening maariv or even simply answering Borchu, since these activities occur only after the conclusion of Shabbos (Shu’t Maharil #56). The Magen Avraham (188:17) notes that someone who davened maariv before Shabbos is over (which is halachically permitted under extenuating circumstances) does not say Retzei when he subsequently bensches, even though he is still required to observe Shabbos (since it is before nightfall). This ruling is followed by the Mishnah Berurah (188:32) and other authorities. The Magen Avraham (263:33) and other authorities are uncertain whether one who said hamavdil bein kodesh lechol after Shabbos is over, but has as yet not bensched after seudah shelishis, may still say retzei.

Halachic deciders

How do the halachic authorities decide regarding the dispute between the Maharam and the Rosh?

The Rema consistently follows the position of the Maharam (Orach Chayim 271:6; 695:3). However, it is a bit unclear how the Shulchan Aruch rules. He discusses these laws in three different places in Orach Chayim. In the laws of bensching (188:10), he concludes according to the Maharam that the structure of the bensching follows the beginning of the meal, whether it is Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, Purim or Chanukah. When discussing a Purim seudah that continues into the night, the Shulchan Aruch (695:3) cites as the main opinion the position of the Maharam that one recites Al Hanissim in bensching, yet he quotes the Rosh as an alternative opinion that one omits Al Hanissim once Purim is over. However, regarding someone who concludes a meal on Friday afternoon immediately before Shabbos and who will be bensching on Shabbos, the Shulchan Aruch requires the person to include Retzei (271:6), even if he did not eat anything on Shabbos.

The Bach (188 and 695) views the Shulchan Aruch as being inconsistent, arguing that this last decision contradicts the position of the Maharam, which the Shulchan Aruch himself follows in 188 and 695. The Bach understands, as do other authorities (e.g., the Aruch Hashulchan 188:23), that, according, to the Maharam, the essential factor is when the meal began, whereas, according to the Rosh, the determining factor is what day it is at the moment of bensching. According to the Bach’s understanding of the Maharam, someone who began a meal before Shabbos and continued it into Shabbos should omit Retzei, which contradicts the conclusion of the Shulchan Aruch. The Bach’s approach is consistent with the ruling of the Rema.

There are other approaches how to resolve the conflicting rulings of the Shulchan Aruch. The Magen Avraham (271:14) explains that when a ruling is contingent on the dispute between the Maharam and the Rosh, one should say Retzei. That is, someone who eats Friday afternoon and is bensching on Shabbos should say Retzei, following the approach of the Rosh, whereas someone who eats on Shabbos and is bensching after Shabbos should recite Retzei, in accordance with the opinion of the Maharam.

However, other authorities contend that the Shulchan Aruch is following the Maharam consistently, but they understand the Maharam’s position differently from the way the Bach did. Whereas the Bach understood the Maharam to be saying that the sole determinant is when the meal began, they understand that either the beginning of the meal or the time of bensching determines whether we recite the special holiday prayer. In their opinion, if one began a meal on a holiday but bensched only after the holiday was over, one recites the appropriate holiday passage (Taz 188:7; Elyah Rabbah 188:20).

Tosefta

A compromise position

Until now, we have cited two early authorities, the Rosh and the Maharam, as the basic positions on this topic. There are later authorities who present a middle ground that clearly disagrees with both the Maharam and the Rosh (Magen Avraham 188:18, quoting Maharash, quoted by the Shelah and the Eimek Beracha; see also Shu’t Rema 132:5). This approach draws a distinction between a Shabbos meal extending after Shabbos and those of Rosh Chodesh and Chanukah extending after the respective holiday. Since there is a concept of tosefes Shabbos, i.e., the mitzvah to extend the day of Shabbos, the extension of the day retains sanctity, and therefore the meal is still considered a Shabbos meal warranting the recital of Retzei. However, since neither Rosh Chodesh nor Chanukah have a concept of tosefes kedusha, and, in addition, they have no requirement to eat special meals, the special prayer associated with them should not be recited once the day has passed.

Rosh Chodesh arrival

At this point, we can discuss our opening question:

“I began eating dinner before Rosh Chodesh, but when I finished, it was dark. Do I recite Yaaleh Veyavo?”

We need to ask a few questions: Did he eat on Rosh Chodesh? If he did, then according to Magen Avraham, Taz, Elyah Rabbah and Mishnah Berurah he should recite Yaaleh Veyavo, whereas according to the Aruch Hashulchan, and probably several other authorities, he should not. I would personally rule that he should follow the majority opinion and recite Yaaleh Veyavo in this situation.

If he did not eat on Rosh Chodesh, according to the Rosh and Magen Avraham, he should recite Yaaleh Veyavo. I refer our reader to his own posek for an answer what to do under these circumstances.

Rosh Chodesh departure

As far as our second question is concerned: “I began eating dinner on Rosh Chodesh, but when I finished, it was dark. Do I recite Yaaleh Veyavo?”

Assuming that he did not yet daven maariv, according to the Magen Avraham, Taz, Elyah Rabbah, Aruch Hashulchan and Mishnah Berurah, he should say Yaaleh Veyavo, whereas according to the Rosh, Tur, Maharash and Shelah he does not. It would seem to me that, in this instance, the halachah should not be affected by whether he ate after it became dark.

Conclusion

When we show how careful we are to honor Hashem with the appropriate wording of our bensching, we demonstrate our concern and our priorities. Whatever conclusion we reach regarding whether we recite these special inserts, we should certainly pay careful attention to the meaning of the words of one’s bensching at all times.