Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: The Halachically Fertile Moment Between End of Eating and Beginning of Bentching

Siman 271, Hilchos Kiddush on Wine (erev Shabbos) is a really cool siman to learn.  First, it's certainly relevant; we all make kiddush and Friday is sure to occur.  Second, it discusses all sorts of cases that leave most of us asking, "Why would anyone get himself into that situation?!"  The benefit of going through all those cases is a beautiful clarification of all the different issues that are being seamlessly handled by our usual Friday evening ceremony.  As you delve into each question, you all gain an appreciation of how precise and robust our halachic process is -- you have to push really hard to find machlokes.

Let's get started; Syef 4: Yehuda and his guests were eating a nice meal on Friday afternoon (hey... you're not supposed to be doing that...) and are now finished eating.  They are about to bentch and they notice... whoops!  It's really dark out there... yikes!  It's Shabbos!!  To understand the "yikes", you need to know that they already washed mayim acharonim and that the Shulchan Aruch requires bentching always be done over a cup of wine.  So what's the yikes?  First, one is not allowed to eat (nor drink) before kiddush; no way, no how.  On the other hand, having already washed mayim acharonim is tantamount to having begun to bentch and one is not allowed to interrupt -- even with kiddush; no way, no how.

The M'chaber has two solutions.  His first and preferred solution is to "bite the bullet" and bentch (mentioning Shabbos; ie, including "r'tzei") over one cup of wine, make a borei pri ha'gafen, drink (I know it's before kiddush, we'll get to that), then pick up a second cup of wine, make kiddush (without borei pri hagefen, since you just said it), and drink from the second cup.  His second and less preferred option is to cover the bread, make kiddush (with or without the borei pri hagafen, depending on whether you were drinking during the meal or not), make motzi, eat a small amount of bread, and bentch.

The Rema interjects after the first solution with a remark that we Ashkanaszim would not add "r'tzei", because we go according to the beginning of the meal and it wasn't Shabbos then.  Then the Rema says that approach has other problems anyway.  First, "kiddush b'makom s'uda" usually means that the s'uda has to come before kiddush, not afterward.  Second, drinking that wine after bentching and before kiddush is really problematic.  The Rema, quite uncharacteristically, does not offer a solution, but just says notes the halachic hornet's nest into which the m'chaber's first approach throws you.  After the second solution (the M'chaber's "yeish omrim"/others say, which is a key that it is not preferred), the Rema says, "See!  This solution avoids all the issues mentioned above, so this is what we do."

At this point, you may be wondering why the M'chaber prefers the first solution.  Simple: to the M'chaber, washing mayim acharonim is the beginning of bentching; ie, it is past the point of no return.  The particularly cool thing to me about this whole discussion was how hard it was to create a disagreement.  If Yehuda had started saying "Baruch Atah HaShem...", even the Rema would agree with the first solution.  If Yehuda had only said, "Gentlefolk, let us say grace" ("rabosai mir villen bentchin" if that makes you feel more religious), then even the M'chaber would have preferred the second course of action.

By they way... there was no suggestion not to bentch with a cup of wine, which also would have gotten us out of this pickle.  Yet we all know that they generally accepted halacha is not to bentch with a cup except in more formal meals and with 10 or more.  Hmm...


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Sometimes a Food Loses Its Identity When It Loses Its Bracha; Sometimes It Doesn't

Let's start with a question: Why are We Allowed to Drink Coffee and Whiskey Made by Non-Jews?  Before you ask,"Why would I think that I shouldn't be able to drink whiskey and coffee made by non-Jews?", I'll tell you. Simple, we all know that Chazal made a decree -- known as בישול עכו''ם/bishul akim -- that particular foods cooked by non-Jews are forbidden.  There are basically two criteria that determines if a dish falls into this category:
Is not consumed raw.Fit for a royal banquet. Cooked carrots, therefore, are not a problem since they can be eaten raw (I actually prefer them that way).  Baked beans are find because the are not prestigious enough.  (For great synopsis of the laws, see the article on the Star-K site, FOOD FIT FOR A KING, by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita.)  There are lots of cool questions and details (baked potatoes are prestigious, does that make even potato chips and issue?) which are for another time.  Clearly, though, both coffee an…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…