Halacha for Sunday 1 Kislev 5778 November 19 2017

If a Woman is Unsure Whether or not She Recited Birkat Hamazon

In previous Halachot we have discussed the general rule of “When in doubt regarding a blessing, do not bless.” This means that whenever one is uncertain whether or not one has recited a blessing on what one is eating, one should not recite the blessing again, for we have a great rule that “When in doubt regarding a rabbinic law, we rule leniently”; since the obligation to recite blessings is only rabbinic in nature, one should not recite the blessing again in a case of uncertainty. One may not act stringently and recite the blessing over again since doing so would cause one to enter the realm of possibly reciting an unnecessary blessing, which is a severe prohibition as it entails mentioning Hashem’s name in vain.

We have also explained that all this applies only to blessings which one is obligated to recite as a result of a rabbinic enactment; however, regarding Birkat Hamazon which is a Torah obligation, if one is uncertain whether or not one has recited it, one must recite Birkat Hamazon over again as we have discussed. We have also discussed several details of this law.

The Discussion Regarding Women and Their Obligation to Recite Birkat Hamazon
Let us now discuss a situation where a woman eats bread and is satisfied as a result of what she has eaten and is now unsure whether or not she has recited Birkat Hamazon. Must she recite Birkat Hamazon again, similar to the law regarding a man or does she not repeat Birkat Hamazon? This matter is contingent upon the extent of a woman’s obligation to recite Birkat Hamazon. If we say that a woman’s obligation to recite Birkat Hamazon is based on a Torah law, she would then certainly be obligated to recite Birkat Hamazon over again. However, if a woman is not obligated to recite Birkat Hamazon by Torah law, rather, only as a result of a rabbinic enactment, Birkat Hamazon for her will be equal in its law to all other blessings and she will not recite it over again.

The Reason to Claim that Women Are Not Obligated to Recite Birkat Hamazon on a Torah Level
The Mishnah in Masechet Berachot (20b) states that women are obligated to recite Birkat Hamazon. The Gemara is uncertain as to whether this obligation is a Torah obligation or is only of rabbinic origin. The root of this doubt is based on the verse, “And you shall eat and you shall be satisfied and you shall bless Hashem, your G-d, for the good land ‘which He has given you.’” Based on this, there is room to say that women are not obligated to recite Birkat Hamazon on a Torah level since the Land of Israel was not given to women by Hashem at the time it was being divided. At that time, women did not get their own portion of land, for the division of the land was based on the order of the Tribes of Israel. If so, women should seemingly be exempt from reciting Birkat Hamazon on a Torah level.

We must point out, however, that the daughters of Tzelofchad did indeed receive a portion in Eretz Yisrael; if so, it would seem that women are indeed a part of the division of the Land of Israel. Nevertheless, this is not accurate, as the portion of land that the daughters of Tzelofchad received in the Land of Israel was under their father’s name who was one of those who left Egypt; however, they themselves would not have received any portion in Israel, for the division of the land was based specifically on the order of the Tribes which was determined by one’s father. Thus, there is still room to maintain that women are exempt from reciting Birkat Hamazon on a Torah level. (Rashi)

The Rishonim disagree regarding the explanation of this discourse in the Gemara whether the bottom line is that women are obligated to recite Birkat Hamazon or does the matter remain unresolved whether women are obligated to recite Birkat Hamazon by Torah law or only by means of a rabbinic enactment. Halachically speaking, Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 186) rules that the issue of whether or not women are obligated to recite Birkat Hamazon by Torah law remains unresolved as a result of doubt.

Thus, halachically speaking, due to concerns of blessings in vain, Maran zt”l has written an astounding response about this matter in his Responsa Yechave Da’at, Volume 6, and concludes that since it is still doubtful whether or not women are obligated to recite Birkat Hamazon on a Torah level, thus, if a woman is unsure whether or not she has recited Birkat Hamazon, she should not recite it over again. Nevertheless, since this matter is subject to doubt, it is preferable that, if at all possible, she should listen to Birkat Hamazon being recited by a man or another woman who (have eaten bread and) have not yet recited it while having in mind to fulfill her own obligation. The other person should likewise have in mind to exempt the woman listening through his/her recitation. In this way, she will have avoided all doubt and she shall surely be blessed from above.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Pausing Silently in the Middle of the Amida Prayer

The Amida prayer must be recited with continuity. One may not interrupt one’s Amida prayer for any reason. In the previous Halacha, we have written that if one begins reciting the Amida prayer and senses a foul odor emanating from a baby and the like, one must stop praying immediately, for......

Read Halacha

Question: What should one do if one senses a foul odor, such as from a baby and the like, while one is standing and reciting the Amida prayer?

Answer: The Torah states, “And your camp shall be holy.” We derive from this verse that one may not pray, recite a blessing, or any other words of holiness when there is something repulsive, such as excrement or a foul odor in the area. Thus, one may not pray when a child is running a......

Read Halacha

Cooking by Non-Jews in Restaurants or Hotels

Question: We have written in the past regarding a restaurant where a Jew ignites the flame in the morning that although a non-Jewish cook places the foods on the fire, it is nevertheless permissible to eat in such restaurants and this does not constitute a prohibition of foods cooked by a non-Jew. R......

Read Halacha

Prayer Texts

The various texts of the prayer found among the various communities of the Jewish nation all have strong and holy roots. Therefore, one should not deviate from the prayer text that one’s forefathers were accustomed to. Hence, a Sephardic individual should not adopt the prayer text of Ashkenazi......

Read Halacha


If One Must Rise Before a Rabbi Every Time He Enters the Room

Question: The custom in our community is to rise every time the rabbi of the synagogue enters the sanctuary. Even if the rabbi enters the synagogue several times, we rise for him every time. Recently though, one of the members of the synagogue raised issue with this and said that the more observant ......

Read Halacha

The Obligation to Stand While Kaddish and Barechu are Recited

Question: When the Chazzan or an individual receiving an Aliya to the Torah recites “Barechu Et Hashem Ha’Mevorach” and the congregation replies “Baruch Hashem Ha’Mevorach Le’Olam Va’ed,” must the congregation rise completely or partially or is there n......

Read Halacha

Praying in Pajamas

Question: Can one pray while wearing pajamas? Answer: In the previous Halacha we have established that before praying, one must prepare a fitting place, proper attire, and cleanse one’s body and thoughts, as the verse in the book of Amos states, “Prepare yourself before your G-d, Isra......

Read Halacha

Praying Barefoot

Question: May one pray while wearing sandals or while one is barefoot? Answer: When one prays, one must prepare one’s environment, clothing, body, and thoughts accordingly, for one will be standing before the King of all kings. Respectable Garments While Praying The Gemara (Shabbat 9b)......

Read Halacha