Birkat HaMazon and Hallel

Question

Birkat HaMazon has full and short versions similar to Hallel and Half Hallel.

For Half Hallel, entire verses 115:1-11 and 116:1-11 are eliminated.
However, for Birkat HaMazon short version, parts of verses are eliminated, not entire verses.

Why did they eliminate partial verses (i.e., words within verses) rather than entire verses?
How did they decide what to eliminate in Birkat HaMazon?
It makes it very difficult to compare the full vs the short versions.

, , 2 years

Answers

  1. Birkat Hamazon and Hallel are not really comparable. The Talmud teaches that “half” Hallel that is recited on festive days when the Mussaf Offering in the Temple was not different from the Mussaf Offering that was offered up the day before. In all other cases the whole Hallel is recited. For example, throughout Pesach the Mussaf Offering was identical therefore “half” Hallel is recited from the second day of Pesach onward including the last days of Yom Tov. On Sukkot the the Mussaf Offerings were different every day in the Temple which is why the whole Hallel is recited every single day.

    Birkat Hamazon, on the other hand, should be recited in its entirety every single time a person eats bread. The shortened version of Birkat Hamazon should only ever be recited when it is impossible for the person to recite the complete version. For example, if there is absolutely no time to say it all.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team

  2. Interesting information about Hallel.

    However, my real question was about the full vs short versions of Birkat HaMazon.

    Why did they eliminate partial verses (i.e., words within verses) for Birkat HaMazon short version
    rather than eliminate entire verses?
    How did they decide what to eliminate in Birkat HaMazon to create the short version?

  3. I do not know who authored the original version of the abridged version of Birkat Hamazon and I do not know why it looks the way that it does. And to make it more complicated is the fact that there have been several different versions that have been composed over the generations. The classic Halachic works all give specific requirements for the minimum that must be included, see Tur, Beit Yosef and Shulhan Aruch. The Magen Avraham actually quotes an abbreviated text for Birkat Hamazon for urgent cases that satisfies all these requirements.
    More than that, several Halachic authorities rule that the abridged version should not be used by adults – it is only for children. The Chatam Sofer has a shortened version that is printed in his Siddur which is based on the version that is found in the Magen Avraham, but the Chatam Sofer rules that it can only be used when there is no other alternative and it should not be used on a regular basis.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team