Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 27 October 2012 / 10 Heshvan 5773

Facts and Formulae For the Forgetful

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Here we are, after the chagim (as they say in Eretz Yisrael), and an interesting issue of repetition has come up again (no pun intended). Over the course of the last Yom Tov-filled month, and right up until after Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan a simple question might elicit a very different rabbinic response. The subject? What do I do if I forgot the halachically mandated ‘Ya’aleh V’Yavo’ in Birchas HaMazon[1]? Do I need to repeat the Bentching or not? And why would I get different answers?

This quite common clique of queries is not new; it is addressed in the very first printed halachic responsum of the renowned Rabbi Akiva Eiger[2]. Someone wrote to Rav Eiger explaining that some members of his household forgot to say ‘Ya’aleh V’Yavo’ in Bentching, and his local Rabbi told them to repeat Birchas HaMazon. Yet, the author seemed to remember a different time, when faced with the same dilemma, his rabbi ruled not to repeat Bentching. So, this perplexed person, instead of requesting the halachic rationale from his LOR, decided to write to the Gadol HaDor asking for an elucidation.

Rav Eiger responded that Birchas HaMazon must be repeated when someone forgets ‘Ya’aleh V’Yavo’ on Yom Tov. However, if it was forgotten on Rosh Chodesh then one does not repeat Bentching. The distinction is fascinating! It lies in the different halachic requirements for a festive bread meal (‘Seudah’). Yom Tov (as well as Shabbos) has a requirement of ‘Seudah’. Therefore, if one does not mention the Yom Tov day in Birchas HaMazon as part of ‘Ya’aleh V’Yavo’ (or Retzei on Shabbos), he must repeat the whole Bentching[3].

Rosh Chodesh is different. Although there is a Mitzvah to have a ‘Seudah’ on it, it is not halachically required[4], and therefore Bentching is not repeated if ‘Ya’aleh V’Yavo’ was forgotten[5] [6].

Women’s Rights

Yet, Rav Akiva Eiger added a wrinkle. He states that if the letter-writer was referring to a woman forgetting ‘Ya’aleh V’Yavo’, then even on Yom Tov she should not repeat Birchas HaMazon. He explains that a woman’s requirement to have a bread ‘Seudah’ on Yom Tov is due to Mitzvah of Oneg / Simchas Yom Tov and falls under the category of a ‘Mitzvas Asei Shehazman Gerama’, a time-bound positive commandment that women are technically generally exempt from[7]. Therefore, he rules, if a woman forgot ‘Ya’aleh V’Yavo’, she should not repeat Bentching, as she was not halachically mandated to have bread at the ‘Seudah’. The sole exceptions are on Shabbos, due to the joint obligations of positive and negative commandments (Zachor V’Shamor[8]) that men and women are equally obligated in following, and on the first night of Pesach regarding eating Matzah, which likewise has a joint obligation of positive and negative commandments (not eating chometz and eating Matzah)[9].

However, opposition to Rav Akiva Eiger’s novel ruling regarding women was not long in coming, most notably by Rav Shlomo Cohen, eminent Dayan in Vilna and author of several authoritative sefarim (including the Cheshek Shlomo, and Shu”t Binyan Shlomo)[10]. These decisors noted that the Shulchan Aruch, when he codified this halacha, did not seem to make any distinction between which Yom Tov it was, nor between men’s and women’s obligations, when he ruled that one must repeat Bentching if ‘Ya’aleh V’Yavo’ was mistakenly forgotten. Additionally, according to the understanding of many great authorities, including the Pri Megadim, Sha’agas Aryeh, Shoel’ U’Meishiv, and Shulchan Aruch HaRav, women are obligated in the same level of Mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov that men are, including the Mitzvah to have a bread ‘Seudah’[11]!

Rav Akiva Eiger defended his ruling[12], maintaining that although women obviously do have the Mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov, that is referring to wearing new clothing and celebrating Yom Tov with Bassar V’Yayin (meat and wine), but without an actual obligation to partake in a bread ‘Seudah’. A proof of this is that regarding the halacha of repeating Bentching, the Shulchan Aruch rules that Chol HaMoed has similar status to Rosh Chodesh, and one does not repeat if he forgot ‘Ya’aleh V’Yavo’. Yet, Chol HaMoed, being a part of Yom Tov, still retains the obligation for Simchas Yom Tov. Therefore, concludes Rav Eiger, it stands to reason that the Mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov does not mandate a bread ‘Seudah’.

Bottom Line

So, how do contemporary authorities rule, having to choose a path between such luminaries of generations past? While several poskim rule stringently that a woman should repeat Birchas HaMazon if she forgot ‘Ya’aleh V’Yavo’[13], and others seem undecided[14]; it seems that most contemporary authorities, including the Debreciner Rav and the Shevet HaLevi[15], rule that a woman should not repeat Bentching for forgetting ‘Ya’aleh V’Yavo’ on Yom Tov, except on the first night of Pesach. This is also the conclusion of several contemporary sefarim that deal with halachos pertaining to women, including Halichos Baysah, Koh Somar L’Bais Yaakov, and Halichos Bas Yisrael[16]. They add that this psak is surely true and repetition unnecessary if she is merely uncertain if she said ‘Ya’aleh V’Yavo’ (and even on the first night of Pesach)[17]. They assert that aside from following Rabbi Akiva Eiger’s trailblazing ruling, there is additional justification to allow leniency for women regarding repetition of Bentching due to lapse of ‘Ya’aleh V’Yavo’, based on several minority opinions[18].

In conclusion, if you just finished Bentching and realized (too late) that ‘Ya’aleh V’Yavo’ was not recited, before panicking, just remember the sine qua non: Were you truly obligated to eat the ‘Seudah’ that you just finished? If so, then your Bentching was incomplete, and needs repetition. If not, repetition is not required as you already were yotzeiV’achalta v’savata u’vayrachta[19], and are now worthy of receiving Hashem’s personal favor![20] B’tayavon!

The author wishes to thank mv”r Rav Yosef Yitzchak Lerner, as much of this article is based on his excellent comprehensive sefer Shgiyos Mi Yavin (vol. 1, Ch. 25).

[1]See Tur & Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 188, 5).

[2]Shu”t Rabbi Akiva Eiger (vol. 1, 1); also brought b’kitzur in his glosses to Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 188, 6).

[3]This entire discussion is referring to when one forgot to say ‘Ya’aleh V’Yavo’ at all during Bentching. If one remembered during the actual Birchas HaMazon, depending at which point he remembered, there is a specific bracha to say (dependant on the holiday) and he may not need to repeat his Bentching. See Shulchan Aruch and main commentaries ad loc 5 - 7.

[4]See Tur & Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 419). The Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 2) cites opinions that one must have a bread ‘Seudah’ on Rosh Chodesh as well, and concludes that a ‘Yarei Shamayim’ would make sure to wash and have a ‘Seudah’ on Rosh Chodesh in order to honor the day properly, as one who honors the Mitzvos is rewarded many times over.

[5]Gemara Brachos (49a-b), Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 188, 6 -7), Shulchan Aruch HaRav (ad loc. 10), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (44, 12 - 14), Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 188, 15), Mishna Berura (ad loc. 26; Biur Halacha s.v. l’rosh).

[6]This rule of not repeating Bentching includes Chol Hamoed as well (Shulchan Aruch ad loc.). Several poskim maintain that there is no actual obligation to eat davka bread on Rosh Hashana (and there are minority opinions that one may even fast on Rosh Hashana - See Tur / Shulchan Aruch and Mishna Berura O.C. 597, 1), and therefore rule that if one forgot ‘Ya’aleh V’Yavo’ on Rosh Hashana, Bentching is not repeated. These include the Magen Avraham (188, 7), Pri Megadim (ad loc. Eishel Avraham 7), Shulchan Aruch HaRav (O.C. 188, 10), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (44, end 14), Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 25), the Ba’er Moshe (Shu”t vol. 3, 38, 13. However he does admit that this ruling is not so clear so it is preferable to ask someone else to be motzi him m’safek), and Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Shu”t Moadim U’Zmanim vol. 1, 4 haghah & vol. 8, 1, 4; Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos vol. 2, 269). However, others, including the Elyah Rabba (188, 8), Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 21; who maintains that this the pashut pshat in the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch), Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Moadim vol. 1, Rosh Hashana Ch. 1, footnote 87) and the Shmiras Shabbos K’Hilchasa (vol. 2, Ch. 57, 7 & footnote 23) is that one must repeat Bentching. Interestingly, the Mishna Berura (ad loc. 19) brings down both sides of this machlokes but does not rule conclusively. See also Shgiyos Mi Yavin (vol. 1, Ch. 25, 21 - pg. 343).

[7]See, for example, Gemara Brachos 20b.

[8]Rav Eiger explains that making Kiddush is for ‘Zachor’, and Kiddush needs to be ‘b’makon seudah’; therefore she is required to have a bread ‘Seudah’ on Shabbos.

[9]Gemara Pesachim 43b. See Shulchan Aruch HaRav (472, 25).

[10]Shu”t Binyan Shlomo (vol. 2, O.C. 47); also cited in the Sdei Chemed (vol. 9, Asifas Dinim, Ma’areches Yom Tov, 2, 6). He proves that even according to Rav Akiva Eiger, on Shavuos (kulo lachem) women must repeat Bentching if ‘Ya’aleh V’Yavo’ wasn’t said.

[11]Pri Megadim (O.C. 328, Eishel Avraham 10, regarding women’s obligation to have a bread ‘Seudah’), Shu”t Sha’agas Aryeh (66, regarding women’s obligations for Simchas Yom Tov), Shu”t Shoel U’Meishiv (Tinyana vol. 2, 55, regarding women’s obligations for Kiddush and Seudah on YomTov), and Shulchan Aruch HaRav (271, 5, regarding women’s obligations for Kiddush on Yom Tov). The Maharsham (Shu”t vol. 3, 226) and Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu”t Igros Moshe O.C. vol. 4, 100) also wrote responsae explaining that women are obligated in Kiddush on Yom Tov as well. [However, although the Sefer HaChinuch (end Mitzva 31) rules explicitly this way relating to Women’s obligation of Kiddush on Shabbos, the Minchas Chinuch (ad loc. 18) is mesupak with this l’gabei Yom Tov, as the Sefer HaChinuch does not mention it.] The Rambam (Hilchos Avoda Zara Ch. 12, 3) also seemingly rules this way, calling Simchas Yom Tov a ‘Mitzvas Asei Shehazman Gerama’ that women are obligated in. The Beis Hillel (Y”D 273) implies this way as well, opining that women even have a chiyu v to be metaher themselves for Yom Tov as men do. The Mishna Berura (Biur Halacha 188, s.v. seudah) also cites that there is no Simchas Yom Tov without bread. See Sdei Chemed (ibid.) at length.

[12]In the hashmatos to his original teshuva.

[13]Including the Pischei Teshuva of the Mahari”a m’Vilna (O.C. 188, 6 & 529, 2), Shu”t Sheilas Shmuel (11), Orchos Chaim (188, 3 & 529, 7), Shu”t Yad Eliyahu (17, 2), Shu”t Sheilas Yaakov (97 & 125), Shu”t Mishkan Betzalel (vol. 1, 137), Shu”t Even Yaakov (30), and Shu”t Lechem She’arim (9), all cited in Shgiyos Mi Yavin (vol. 1, Ch. 25 footnote 92).

[14]Many sefarim cite both sides of the debate with no clear-cut ruling, including the Sha’arim Metzuyanim B’Halacha (44, 6), Shmiras Shabbos K’Hilchasa (vol. 2, Ch. 57, footnote 18), and Shgiyos Mi Yavin (vol. 1, Ch. 25, 34).

[15]Including the Sdei Chemed (vol. 5, Ma’areches Brachos 4, 2), Maharsham (Da’as Torah O.C. vol. 2, 188, 6), Shu”t Ba’er Moshe (vol. 3, 38, 9), Shu”t Shevet HaLevi (vol. 4, 18, 1 & vol. 6, 61), and Shu”t Zeicher Simcha (27, who maintains that since there is no clear-cut ruling, ‘shev v’al ta’aseh adif’ and she should not repeat Bentching). See also Shu”t Yabea Omer (vol. 6, O.C. 28, 4 & 5) and Shu”t Ohr L’Tzion (vol. 2, 46, 27) who rule like Rav Akiva Eiger that on Shabbos and first night of Pesach she must repeat Bentching if she forgot ‘Ya’aleh V’Yavo’, implying that on other Yomim Tovim she should not.

[16]Halichos Baysah (Ch.12, 13 & footnote 26 at length), Koh Somar L’Bais Yaakov (index at the end of the sefer), and Halichos Bas Yisrael (Ch. 3, 13 & footnote 32; Ch. 17, 14).

[17]Shu”t Ba’er Moshe (vol. 3, 38, 13 s.v. nashim), Shu”t Yigal Yaakov (O.C. 22), and Halichos Baysah (Ch. 12, 14), not like the Yad Yitzchak (vol. 2, 54) who opines that she should repeat Bentching even if she is unsure if she said ‘Ya’aleh V’Yavo’. Shgiyos Mi Yavin (vol. 1, Ch. 25 footnote 94), adds an additional compelling reason why she should not repeat Bentching. The Mishna Berura (186, 3 & Biur Halacha s.v. ella) cites a machlokes haposkim regarding a women who is mesupak if she Bentched at all, whether she needs to repeat Bentching. Therefore, it stands to reason that if she knows she Bentched and is merely unsure if she recited ‘Ya’aleh V’Yavo’ it can’t be any more obligating.

[18]Including the fact that the Gemara (Brachos 20b) does not rule if Birchas HaMazon for women is a chiyuv deoraysa or derabbanan (and this safek is codified in halacha - [Rambam (Hilchos Brachos Ch. 5, 1), Rosh (Brachos Ch. 3, 13), Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 186, 1)], that is why a women should not be motzi a man in his Bentching obligation). There are also additional minority opinions that can be metzaref as sniffim lehakel, including the opinion of the Kaf Hachaim (O.C. 188, 24) based on Tosafos’ shittah (Sukka 27b s.v. eey baui achil) that one must only have bread on the first night of Sukkos and Pesach. Therefore, posits the Kaf Hachaim, these are the only times that even a man must repeat Bentching on Yom Tov. Another sniff is the Kaf Hachaim’s next shitta, that if a man only has to repeat Bentching on these two exclusive times, then certainly, a woman, whose chiyuv to Bentch in the first place is a safek deoraysa or derabbanan should not have to repeat Bentching for missing ‘Ya’aleh V’Yavo’. Rav Ezriel Hildescheimer (Shu”t Rebbi Ezriel O.C. 185, 6) rules similarly to the Kaf Hachaim, regarding women never repeating Bentching for forgetting ‘Ya’aleh V’Yavo’. Although many dispute the Kaf Hachaim’s reasoning, and in the words of Rav Ovadia Yosef, (Shu”t Yabea Omer ibid.) “ain bsfaiko shel Rebbi Ezriel l’dchos haVaday shel HaGaon R’ Akiva Eiger” regarding Shabbos and the first night of Pesach, nevertheless, several authorities use them as a sniff lehakel for the rest of the Yomim Tovim, allowing women not to repeat Bentching for forgetting ‘Ya’aleh V’Yavo’. [See Shgiyos Mi Yavin (vol. 1, Ch. 25 footnote 91); Shmiras Shabbos K’Hilchasa (ibid.) Shu”t Ba’er Moshe (ibid.), Halichos Baysah (ibid.), and Halichos Bas Yisrael (ibid.).]

[19]Devarim Parshas Eikev (Ch. 8, verse 10).

[20]Gemara Brachos 20b, Midrash Rabbah Bamidbar (Parshas Nasso 11, 7).

Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.

L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda, and l'zchus for Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam and her children for a yeshua teikef u'miyad!

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