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

Lighting Chanukah Candles on Motza’ei Shabbat and Electric Chanukah Candles

On Motza’ei Shabbat Chanukah, in the synagogue, Chanukah candles are lit first and only following this is Havdala recited in order to delay the departure of Shabbat as much as possible. Although the one lighting the Chanukah candles removes the sanctity of Shabbat from himself, nevertheless, t......

Read Halacha

The Proper Time to Light Chanukah Candles

One should preferably light Chanukah candles immediately when the stars appear in the sky, which is approximately fifteen minutes after sunset during this time of year. Some Ashkenazim, however, customarily light at sunset. The Earliest Possible Time to Light Chanukah Candles Chanukah candles sh......

Read Halacha

The Order for Lighting Shabbat and Chanukah Candles

There is a disagreement among the Rishonim as to the order of lighting Shabbat and Chanukah candles on Erev Shabbat Chanukah. The Ba’al Halachot Gedolot (commonly referred to as “Behag”) is of the opinion that Chanukah candles must be lit before Shabbat candles because women cu......

Read Halacha

The Proper Time for Lighting Chanukah Candles On Erev Shabbat

Praying Mincha Before Lighting Candles On the Friday afternoon of Chanukah, it is preferable to pray Mincha before lighting the Chanukah candles. The reason for this is because the Mincha prayer was established in the place of the daily “Tamid” sacrifice that was brought in the Bet Hami......

Read Halacha


The Obligation of Women Regarding Chanukah Candles

Although women are generally exempt from all positive, time-bound Mitzvot, such as the Mitzvah of Shofar on Rosh Hashanah and Sukkah and Lulav on Sukkot, they are nevertheless obligated to light Chanukah candles, for they were also included in the miraculous salvation of the Jewish nation on the hol......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Women and Zimun

We have explained the primary laws of Zimun that if three men eat a bread meal together, they must perform a Zimun before reciting Birkat Hamazon. This is done by the leader proclaiming, “Nevarech She’Achalnu Mishelo” and the others replying, “Baruch She’Achalnu Mishelo......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Zimun

The Mishnah in Masechet Berachot (45a) states that three who have eaten a bread meal together must perform a “Zimun” before reciting Birkat Hamazon. “Zimun” is performed by one of the three reciting, “Nevarech She’Achalnu Mishelo” at which point the others a......

Read Halacha

Embarking on a Sea Voyage on a Jewish Vessel on Shabbat

Question: May one board an Israeli ship whose captain and crew are mostly Jewish if one knows that the voyage will continue on Shabbat as well? Answer: Boarding a Ship Traveling on Shabbat The law of boarding a ship when one knows that the ship will be in the middle of the sea on Shabbat is ......

Read Halacha