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Thursday
Aug222019

Mezuman on a microphone?

A collection of relevant halachos regarding the Mitzvah of Birchas Hamazon mentioned in Parshas Eikev from AskTheRav.com & Halacha2Go.com.

By Horav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, Mara D’asra and member of the Crown Heights Beis Din

Preparing the Table for Bentching

The table should be cleared before bentching of all dirty dishes, used cutlery, and empty bottles in order to show proper respect for bentching.

However, the tablecloth should remain, as well as some remaining bread. The remaining bread on the table allows for the brachah of Hashem to rest on the individual. Another reason for leaving the tablecloth and some bread on the table is to indicate that we are thanking Hashem during bentching for the food that we just ate. If there is no left over bread, sizeable crumbs are sufficient. If there was a complete loaf on the table, it is best not to remove it until after bentching, but bringing a full loaf of bread to the table specifically for bentching is actually asur, forbidden, according to the Shulchan Aruch.

There is a custom to remove or cover all knives on the table before bentching on weekdays. (Some poskim hold that this does not apply to plastic knives.) However, on Shabbos and Yom Tov we do not have to remove or cover the knives, nor should we do so. (Halacha2go.com #175)

Not Interrupting between Mayim Acharonim and Bentching

We should recite Birchas Hamazon (Grace after Meals) immediately after washing mayim acharonim. The principle of teikef lenetilah brachah (not making a hefsek), applies to mayim acharonim as it does to mayim rishonim—when we may not make a hefsek between washing our hands and saying the brachah of Hamotzie. According to some opinions, we should limit the time-lapse between washing mayim acharonim and reciting Birchas Hamazon to the amount of time it takes to walk twenty-two amos; some have calculated this to be about twelve seconds. Alternatively, the time-lapse should be limited to the amount of time it takes four people to wash mayim acharonim. In large groups, it is advisable to arrange separate washing cups for mayim acharonim for every four people. Not making a hefsek also includes refraining from speaking, and some poskim indicate that lechatchilah we should not be mafsik, even if we intend to wash again; in case we did speak, we should wash mayim acharonim a second time.  (Halacha2go.com #285*)

Bentching where you ate

In a meal of bread, one must bentch in the place of the meal, in the same place where they ate. If the person leaves the place where they ate, and it is before the Shiur called Shiur Ikkul, the time it takes for food to be digested, they may – and must – still bentch. One is required to go back to the place where they ate and bentch over there. According to some opinions, if one left the original Mokom Seuda deliberately and does not go back, they may not have fulfilled their Chiyuv of bentching if they bentch in the second place. However, according to Halacha, Sofeik Brochos LeHokel, and if they bentched in the second place, it is acceptable. Another solution would be to eat a tiny bit of bread in the second place and then one could bentch over there, although lechatchila, one is not supposed to leave the place where they ate before bentching. (Halacha2go.com #16)

Mezuman on a Microphone?

Poskim write that someone with a very loud voice should be appointed to lead Birchas Hamazon, as it is important for participants to hear the voice of the leader so he may be motzi them in reciting the brachos. Yet today, it is quite common for a microphone to be used at large gatherings, particularly at weddings and Sheva Brachos meals. “Rabbosei mir vellen benchen …” the voice of the leader of the zimmun can be heard over the mike. But can those hearing the zimmun via the microphone count as participants?

(See Halachah #642 for the issues of being motzi another via a microphone or loudspeaker.)

One halachic approach to justify this practice is that answering the zimmun itself does not necessarily require an actual “real-time” voice; it is only an invitation, not a brachah. But what about the recitation of Birchas Hamazon, and—in the case of weddings and Sheva Brachos meals—the sheva brachos as well? Don’t those require at least a minyan to hear a “real,” unadulterated voice?

Today, in contrast to many years ago, the need to hear Birchas Hamazon is not as pressing, since the majority of the participants are literate and do not depend on the leader to be motzi them with the brachos. In addition, it can be assumed that a significant number of participants can hear the actual voice of the leader even absent the mike. The common custom to use a mike for the recitation of sheva brachos at the end of Birchas Hamazon (as well as under the Chuppah) takes into account the proximity or the acute hearing of at least ten participants. (Halacha2go.com #651*)

Bentching When You Can’t Hear Yourself Speak

There is a halachic requirement l’hashmiah l’aznav (to hear yourself speak) while performing certain mitzvos, such as davening or bentching. This means actually saying each word audibly. This practice can be difficult under very noisy circumstances—such as attempting to recite birchas hamazon at a wedding while music is blasting so loudly that it’s impossible to hear your friend even if he’s shouting!

(Whether the extreme volume of the music at weddings is halachically acceptable is another discussion, since many scientific studies warn of the danger posed by repeated exposure to such high-decibel sound.)

An eitzah (suggestion), if you are in such a situation, is to close one ear and perhaps raise your voice higher than normally required, so as to hear the words of your own bentching. (Halacha2go.com #587)

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