We have already mentioned that one must insert “Retzeh Ve’Hachalitzenu” into Birkat Hamazon following all Shabbat meals. Similarly, “Al Ha’Nissim” is added into Birkat Hamazon for meals held on Chanukah and Purim and “Ya’aleh Ve’Yavo” is added into Birkat Hamazon for meals held on Rosh Chodesh and holidays.
An Extending Meal
We must now discuss the law regarding a situation where one began eating a meal on Shabbat afternoon and continued eating until Shabbat has concluded which is common in many households and synagogues where the third Shabbat meal is continued until Shabbat has concluded and then, Birkat Hamazon is recited followed by Arvit prayers. Should one recite “Retzeh Ve’Hachalitzenu” in Birkat Hamazon or perhaps one should not since Shabbat has already ended?
The same question would apply to Birkat Hamazon being held at the conclusion of Rosh Chodesh, holidays, Chanukah, and Purim as well. Should one add “Ya’aleh Ve’Yavo” or “Al Ha’Nissim” into Birkat Hamazon or not? This is especially prevalent on Purim when many times, the festive Purim feast continues several hours into the night, long after Purim has concluded.
The Opinion of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch
Indeed, this issue is subject to a disagreement among the Rishonim. Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 188, Section 10) rules as follows: “If one was in the middle of eating and Shabbat has concluded, one should mention ‘Retzeh Ve’Hachalitzenu’ in Birkat Hamazon, for the determining factor is when the meal began. The same applies to Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah, and Purim.”
We see that Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch rules that the determining factor is the beginning of the meal and since the meal has begun on Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, the holiday, Chanukah, or Purim, the appropriate text for the specific day must be inserted even after this day has concluded.
The Opinion of the Ben Ish Hai
On the other hand, although Rabbeinu Yosef Haim zt”l rules in accordance with Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch in his Ben Ish Hai (Parashat Chukat), he nevertheless limits this ruling to Shabbat and holidays. Regarding Rosh Chodesh and Chanukah, however, the Ben Ish Hai rules that the appropriate texts should not be inserted.
Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l discusses this ruling of Rabbeinu Yosef Haim (in his Halichot Olam, Volume 2, page 83), for the Ben Ish Hai does not explain what difference exists between Shabbat and Yom Tov versus Rosh Chodesh and Chanukah. Maran zt”l writes that it appears that the Ben Ish Hai followed the opinion of the Shelah (quoted by the Sefer Yosef Ometz-Yuzpa, Chapter 679) that only on Shabbat and holidays when there is a special obligation to add some time from the weekday onto the Shabbat or holiday (meaning that if one ends Shabbat or Yom Tov late, the sanctity of the day will remain until one performs Havdala as opposed to regular weekdays where one cannot extend the day based on one’s actions), one will certainly recite “Retzeh Ve’Hachalitzenu” since the sanctity of Shabbat continues. The same applies to Yom Tov. Regarding Rosh Chodesh and Chanukah, however, which do not retain this special law of adding from the weekday onto the sanctity of the day, mentioning “Ya’aleh Ve’Yavo” or “Al Ha’Nissim” is irrelevant since the day has passed and the night has begun.
Maran zt”l’s Rebuttal
Nevertheless, Maran zt”l disagrees with the opinion of the Ben Ish Hai and provides proofs against him. He concludes that we must follow the ruling of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch who writes explicitly that there is no distinction between the various days. Thus, with regards to either Shabbat, Yom Tov, Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah, or Purim, one must recite the appropriate addition for that specific day in Birkat Hamazon even if that day has concluded as long as the meal has begun during that day.
(Additionally, the actual source for the Ben Ish Hai’s ruling is unclear, for the Shelah himself in Sha’ar Ha’Otiyot, Ot Kof, explicitly quotes the opinion of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch as Halacha.)
Summary: As long as one’s meal has begun during the day, even if it extends into the night, the additional text appropriate to the day when the meal began should be inserted into Birkat Hamazon. There is no distinction regarding this law between “Retzeh Ve’Hachalitzenu” on Shabbat, “Ya’aleh Ve’Yavo” on holidays and Rosh Chodesh, or “Al Ha’Nissim” on Chanukah or Purim.