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Thought for the Day: Al Ha'Nisim in Bentching Motzei Shabbos

I heard a great statistic this morning: if you add up the predicted highs for today, tomorrow, and the next day, you will get a number whose value is less than the average high for any of those days.  That's why I grabbed my opportunity yesterday (when temperatures soared into the high teens) to bike to work.  I enjoy commuting to work by bicycle.  It's not a pleasure ride, but it's very satisfying and it's important for both my present financial situation and my long term health; in short, it's an obligation, but an obligation that I accept with enthusiasm.  That being said; yesterday was very cold, especially on the way home with wind chill.  Also the road conditions were not great.  While there is some ice, the big problem is the potholes; cavernous potholes that could easily damage a wheel and send the rider (moi, in this case) flying off the bike.

That's a small taste of what it's like learning Mishna Brura.  Very enjoyable, but not a pleasure ride of optional information; it's commuting -- gathering essential information for daily living.  You also have to pay attention to everything around you.  For example, this year Purim is on Sunday, so we will go into the m'gila reading well fed.  Many people, especially those poor unfortunates who do not daven k'vasin on Shabbos, will end up with the shalosh s'udos meal extending past sundown.  That means that the bentching for shalos s'udos (which is a Shabbos meal) will take place on Purim.  The general rule is that the bentching insertions go according to the beginning of the meal (hence the addition of r'tzei).  We also know, however, that when one finishes the meal on a holiday, the insertion for said holiday is usually added (hence the addition of r'tzei even for early summer Shabbos).  In this case, though, the insertion for the beginning of the meal (still Shabbos, so not Purim), contradicts the end of the meal (Purim, so Shabbos is over).  What to do and where to find that information?

On the one hand, the addition of "al ha'nisim" seems like it ought to be similar to "ya'aleh b'yavo" of Rosh Chodesh; in both cases you don't repeat bentching if one forgets to make that insertion.  On the other hand, Rosh Chodesh feels like it should have more stringencies because it is, after all, d'oraisa (while Purim is m'divrei sofrim, a drop higher than d'rabanan).  On the other hand, in hilchos Purim, the Mishna Brura brings an opinion that one should repeat bentching if "al ha'nisim" was omitted!  We don't pasken like that shita, but it is indication that "al ha'nisim" in bentching is pretty darn important.  Also, one certainly does add "al ha'nisim" into t'fila at ma'ariv before leining the m'gila.

At the end of the day, in hilchos Rosh Chodesh, the Mishna Brura paskens that one does not say "al ha'nisim" in the bentching for shalosh s'udos when Purim is on Sunday.  The machlokes about repeating bentching on Purim is specifically and only regarding the ikar Purim s'uda, which is the day meal.  While one does not repeat bentching on Rosh Chodesh for omitting "ya'aleh v'yavo", there is a bracha (with Sheim and Malkus) for making it up if one remembers before starting the fourth bracha.

The pieces that go into that final decision are scattered all over Mishna Brura; volume II (hilchos bentching), volume IV (hilchos Rosh Chodesh -- see?  it's not only hilchos eiruvim), and volume VI (hilchos Purim).  That's a lot to keep in mind as you're commuting through halacha... makes the bike ride through the ice and potholes seem like a walk in the park.

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