A Pointed Question
Binyomin S Altman wrote:
There is a custom to remove a knife from the table before Birkat Hamazon (Blessing after Meals). Does this include plastic knives?
There are two main reasons for removing the knife prior to Birkat Hamazon. One is based on the following incident: A person was once reciting Birkat Hamazon when he came to the third blessing, the blessing in which we ask Hashem to rebuild Jerusalem and the Holy Temple. He became so distraught at the thought of the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile, he picked up the knife and stabbed himself.
The custom to remove the knife was patterned after this incident. Since it occurred during the week, the custom applies only during the week, but not on Shabbat. In the same vein (no pun intended), the custom wouldn't apply to plastic knives, since the incident didn't involve a plastic knife, and since plastic knives aren't 'lethal' in the classic sense.
Another reason for removing the knife: A table is compared to the Altar in the Holy Temple. Just as it is forbidden to use any iron utensil when hewing the stones for the Altar, so too, we remove any metal knives prior to Birkat Hamazon.
I asked Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch, shlita, who concurred that you need not remove plastic knives before Birkat Hamazon.
- Shulchan Aruch 180:5
- Aruch Hashulchan 180:5
- Rokeach 332