SECTION 201 Who Should Lead Grace. (1–5)

רא מִי הוּא הַמְבָרֵךְ וּבוֹ ה' סְעִיפִים:

1 The scholar of most eminent wisdom among all who dined should recite Grace for everyone.1 [This applies] even if he entered at the end of the meal. If he desires to permit a lesser scholar to recite Grace, he may do so.2

If the most eminent scholar is afflicted with a catarrh, another person should recite Grace, because it is not proper that he halt many times and expectorate while the others wait for him.

א גָּדוֹלא בְּחָכְמָהב שֶׁבְּכָל הַמְסֻבִּין, הוּא יְבָרֵךְ בִּרְכַּת הַמָּזוֹן לְכֻלָּם,1 אֲפִלּוּ אִם בָּא בְּסוֹף הַסְּעוּדָה. וְאִם רוֹצֶה לִתֵּן רְשׁוּת לְקָטָן לְבָרֵךְ – הָרְשׁוּת בְּיָדוֹ.ג,2

וְאִם הַגָּדוֹל מוֹצִיא לֵחָה (שֶׁקּוֹרִין הוש"ט) – יְבָרֵךְ אַחֵר, כִּי זֶה אֵין נָכוֹן שֶׁיַּפְסִיק פְּעָמִים רַבּוֹת וְיִהְיֶה רוֹקֵק וַאֲחֵרִים יַמְתִּינוּ: ד

Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch (Sichos In English)

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2 An Israelite who is a Torah scholar receives precedence over a kohen. This applies even if the kohen is also a Torah scholar, but is not as great a scholar as [the Israelite]. Nevertheless, in such [an instance], since the kohen is also a Torah scholar, it is desirable for the Israelite scholar to waive his honor and give the kohen precedence, [enabling him] to recite Grace instead of reciting Grace in his presence.3 One who does so will live long.4

It is, however, forbidden to give precedence to an unlearned kohen in observance of the statutes and regulations of [the honor due] the priesthood, for this is disrespectful to the Torah, since it is of greater prominence than the priesthood.5 If, however, the scholar grants [the kohen] permission to recite Grace without taking into consideration the statutes and regulations of [the honor due] the priesthood,6 he may [allow him to recite Grace]. Indeed, that is permissible even if the scholar is a kohen and the unlearned person is an Israelite.

ב חָכָם יִשְׂרָאֵל קוֹדֵם לְכֹהֵן אֲפִלּוּה שֶׁאֵינוֹ חָכָם כְּמוֹתוֹ, אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהוּא גַּם כֵּן תַּלְמִיד חָכָם. וּמִכָּל מָקוֹם, טוֹב שֶׁיִּמְחֹל יִשְׂרָאֵל הֶחָכָם עַל כְּבוֹדוֹ וְיַקְדִּימוֹ הַכֹּהֵן לְבָרֵךְ, וְלֹא יְבָרֵךְ לְפָנָיו,3 כֵּיוָן שֶׁהַכֹּהֵן גַּם כֵּן תַּלְמִיד חָכָם.ו וְהָעוֹשֶׂה כֵּן מַאֲרִיךְ יָמִים.ז,4

אֲבָל לְכֹהֵן עַם הָאָרֶץ אָסוּר לְהַקְדִּיםח דֶּרֶךְ חֹק וּמִשְׁפַּט כְּהֻנָּה,ט מִשּׁוּם בִּזְיוֹן הַתּוֹרָה,י כִּי מַעֲלָתָהּ גְּדוֹלָה מִמַּעֲלַת הַכְּהֻנָּה.יא,5 אֲבָל אִם הֶחָכָם נוֹתֵן לוֹ רְשׁוּת לְבָרֵךְ כָּךְ בְּלֹא חֹק וּמִשְׁפַּט כְּהֻנָּה6 – מֻתָּר.יב וַאֲפִלּוּ אִם הֶחָכָם הוּא כֹּהֵן וְהָעַם הָאָרֶץ הוּא יִשְׂרָאֵל: יג

3 When a kohen and an Israelite are of equal stature with regard to [the Torah’s] wisdom, it is a positive commandment of Scriptural origin to award precedence to the kohen,7as it is written;8 “And you shall sanctify him.” Our Sages interpret9 [that command to mean that he should be given prominence] in every holy matter, i.e., in every matter that reflects prominence, he should be sanctified. For example, he should be given the first aliyah for the [communal] Torah reading,10 speak first in every congregation of people, and be the first to expound [Torah thoughts]; similarly, in a yeshivah, he should speak first. Also, at a meal, he should be given precedence in the recitation of the blessings HaMotzi11 and Grace. He should be given a desirable portion initially, before the others, unless an Israelite who is a scholar of greater stature is also present. In such an instance, the scholar should be given the desirable portion first.

One must be meticulous in his observance of all these matters, because they are mandated by Scriptural Law. Nevertheless, when a kohen divides the property of a partnership with a colleague who is an Israelite, it is not necessary to give the kohen a [more] desirable portion. For, [in such an instance,] it is not nobleconductfor him to take a [more] desirable portion, since anyone who focuses his attention on [receiving] a more desirous portion will never see a sign of blessing.12

In a place where there is no kohen, it is desirable to give precedence to a Levite over an Israelite in all the above matters13 if they are of equal levels of scholarship. (One who does so will live long. There is, however, no obligation to do so, because [the command], “And you shall sanctify him,” was stated only with regard to a kohen, [as indicated by the continuation of the verse:] “because he offers the food of your G‑d.”)

ג כֹּהֵן וְיִשְׂרָאֵליד שֶׁהֵם שָׁוִין בְּחָכְמָה,טו מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה מִן הַתּוֹרָהטז לְהַקְדִּים הַכֹּהֵן,7 שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר "וְקִדַּשְׁתּוֹ",יז,8 וְדָרְשׁוּ חֲכָמִים:9 לְכָל דָּבָר שֶׁבִּקְדֻשָּׁה, כְּלוֹמַר בְּכָל דָּבָר שֶׁיֵּרָאֶה גָּדוֹל הוּא מְקֻדָּשׁ,יח כְּגוֹן לִפְתֹּחַ רִאשׁוֹן בִּקְרִיאַת הַתּוֹרָה,יט,10 וְלִהְיוֹת רֹאשׁ הַמְדַבְּרִים בְּכָל קִבּוּץ עַם לְדַבֵּר וְלִדְרֹשׁ תְּחִלָּה,כ וְכֵן בַּיְּשִׁיבָה יְדַבֵּר בָּרֹאשׁ,כא וְכֵן בַּסְּעוּדָה הוּא קוֹדֵם לְבָרֵךְ "הַמּוֹצִיא"כב,11 וּבִרְכַּת הַמָּזוֹן,כג וְלִתֵּן לוֹ מָנָה יָפָה בַּתְּחִלָּהכד לְכָל הַמְסֻבִּין.כה אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן יֵשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל גָּדוֹל מִמֶּנּוּ בְּחָכְמָה, אֲזַי יִתְּנוּ לְהֶחָכָם מָנָה הַיָּפָה תְּחִלָּה. וְצָרִיךְ לִזָּהֵר בְּכָל אֵלּוּ שֶׁהֵם מִן הַתּוֹרָה.כו אֲבָל כְּשֶׁהַכֹּהֵן חוֹלֵק אֵיזֶה שֻׁתָּפוּת עִם חֲבֵרוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל – אֵין צָרִיךְ לִתֵּן לוֹ הַחֵלֶק הַיָּפֶה, שֶׁאֵין זֶה דֶּרֶךְ כָּבוֹד שֶׁיִּטֹּל חֵלֶק הַיָּפֶה,כז שֶׁכָּל הַנּוֹתֵן עֵינָיו בַּחֵלֶק הַיָּפֶה – אֵינוֹ רוֹאֶה סִימַן בְּרָכָה לְעוֹלָם.כח,12

וּבְמָקוֹם שֶׁאֵין כֹּהֵן, טוֹב לְהַקְדִּים גַּם כֵּן הַלֵּוִי לְיִשְׂרָאֵל בְּכָל אֵלּוּ13 אִם הֵם שָׁוִין בְּחָכְמָהכט (וְהָעוֹשֶׂה כֵּן מַאֲרִיךְ יָמִים.ל אֲבָל אֵין חִיּוּב בַּדָּבָר, שֶׁלֹּא נֶאֱמַרלא,8 "וְקִדַּשְׁתּוֹ" אֶלָּא בְּכֹהֵן, "כִּי אֶת לֶחֶם אֱלֹהֶיךָ הוּא מַקְרִיב וְגוֹ'"):

4 When do the above statements — that with regard to reciting Grace, a scholar receives precedence over a kohen, a kohen over a Levite, and a Levite over an Israelite — apply? When all of those dining together are members of the household and there are no guests, or they are all guests and there is no master of the house eating with them.

When, however, a guest is eating with the master of the house, even though the master of the house is a kohen and a scholar of great stature, the guest should recite Grace so that he will bless the master of the house.14 What blessing should he bestow upon him?

May it be [G‑d’s] will that the master of this house not be embarrassed or put to shame, neither in this world nor in the World to Come. May he be successful in all his commercial affairs, and may his property prosper and be close to the city. May the Satan have no dominion over his handiwork and may no sin or transgression penetrate him, now and for all time.15

Nevertheless, if the master of the house sees the guest as unsuitable, he may take [the privilege of] reciting Grace from him and give it to one of the members of his household, even if that person will not bless him, e.g., a person who boards with him for a fee, who need not bless the master of the house. Moreover, even if the guest is suitable in his eyes, but [the master of the house] is willing to waive his blessing [in order to] recite Grace himself, he has that option.

ד בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים שֶׁהֶחָכָם קוֹדֵם לְכֹהֵן וְכֹהֵן לְלֵוִי וְלֵוִי לְיִשְׂרָאֵל לְבָרֵךְ בִּרְכַּת הַמָּזוֹן? כְּשֶׁכָּל הַמְסֻבִּין הֵם בַּעֲלֵי בָּתִּים וְאֵין שָׁם אוֹרֵחַ, אוֹ שֶׁכֻּלָּם אוֹרְחִים וְאֵין שָׁם בַּעַל הַבַּיִת מֵסֵב עִמָּהֶם. אֲבָל אוֹרֵחַ וּבַעַל הַבַּיִת, אֲפִלּוּ בַּעַל הַבַּיִת הוּא כֹּהֵן וְגָדוֹל בְּחָכְמָהלב – הָאוֹרֵחַ מְבָרֵךְ, כְּדֵי שֶׁיְּבָרֵךְ לְבַעַל הַבַּיִת.לג,14 וּמַה בְּרָכָה מְבָרְכוֹלד? "יְהִי רָצוֹן שֶׁלֹּא יֵבוֹשׁ וְלֹא יִכָּלֵם בַּעַל הַבַּיִת הַזֶּה לֹא בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה וְלֹא בָּעוֹלָם הַבָּא, וְיַצְלִיחַ בְּכָל נְכָסָיו, וְיִהְיוּ נְכָסָיו מֻצְלָחִים וּקְרוֹבִים לָעִיר, וְלֹא יִשְׁלֹט שָׂטָן בְּמַעֲשֵׂי יָדָיו, וְאַל יִזְדַּקֵּר לְפָנָיו שׁוּם דְּבַר חֵטְא וְעָוֹן מֵעַתָּה וְעַד עוֹלָם".15

וּמִכָּל מָקוֹם, אִם הָאוֹרֵחַ אֵינוֹ הָגוּן בְּעֵינֵי בַּעַל הַבַּיִת – רַשַּׁאי לְהַעֲבִיר מִמֶּנּוּ הַבְּרָכָה וְלִתְּנוֹ לְאֶחָד מִבְּנֵי בֵּיתוֹ, אֲפִלּוּ לֹא יְבָרְכֶנּוּ,לה כְּגוֹן שֶׁהוּא סָמוּךְ עַל שֻׁלְחָנוֹ בְּשָׂכָר, שֶׁאֵין צָרִיךְ לְבָרֵךְ לְבַעַל הַבַּיִת.לו

וַאֲפִלּוּ הוּא הָגוּן בְּעֵינָיו וְרוֹצֶה לְוַתֵּר עַל בִּרְכָתוֹ וּלְבָרֵךְ בְּעַצְמוֹ – הָרְשׁוּת בְּיָדוֹ: לז

5 When a guest is offered the privilege of reciting Grace and he declines, he shortens his life,16 because he is refraining from blessing the master of the house who is one of the descendants of Avraham, to whom it was said:17 “I will bless those who bless you.” From this positive statement, one can infer the negative.18

Moreover, every person should endeavor to be given the cup of blessing, so that he be the one who recites Grace and leads the zimun, rather than merely responding Amen. True, “one who listens is considered as one who makes a statement”19 and “one who responds Amen is considered as one who utters a blessing.”20 Nevertheless, [G‑d] hastens [and] first gives a reward to the one who recites Grace.21

ה וְאוֹרֵחַ שֶׁנּוֹתְנִים לוֹ לְבָרֵךְלח וְאֵינוֹ מְבָרֵךְ – מְקַצֵּר יָמָיו,לט,16 מִשּׁוּם שֶׁנִּמְנַע לְבָרֵךְ אֶת בַּעַל הַבַּיִת,מ שֶׁהוּא מִזֶּרַע אַבְרָהָם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר בּוֹ:17 "וַאֲבָרְכָה מְבָרְכֶיךָ",מא וּמִכְּלַל הֵן אַתָּה שׁוֹמֵעַ לָאו.18

וְגַם כָּל אָדָם יֵשׁ לוֹ לַחֲזֹר שֶׁיִּתְּנוּ לוֹ כּוֹס שֶׁל בְּרָכָה לְבָרֵךְ בִּרְכַּת הַמָּזוֹן בְּזִמּוּן, וְלֹא לִשְׁמֹעַ וְלַעֲנוֹת "אָמֵן", שֶׁאַף שֶׁהַשּׁוֹמֵעַ כְּעוֹנֶה,מב,19 וְעוֹנֶה "אָמֵן" כְּמוֹצִיא בְּרָכָה מִפִּיו,מג,20 מִכָּל מָקוֹם, מְמַהֲרִין לִתֵּן שָׂכָר תְּחִלָּה לְהַמְבָרֵךְ: מד,21