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Rav Aryeh Finkel
December 23, 2021
Q When attending a simcha, I usually eat bread. If I’m short on time, must I wait for the zimun?
A Chazal instituted birkas hazimun, and one who eats a meal together with two or more people is obligated to participate. He may not bentch privately and miss the birkas hazimun (Shulchan Aruch O.C 193:1).
The Bach (O.C. 200:2), against virtually all other poskim, maintains that the zimun obligation is incurred only when the group meal ends, so one may recite birkas hamazon privately so long as the others’ meal is still in session. The Mishnah Brurah (ibid. 5) writes that one may not rely on this lenient ruling except in circumstances like a great financial loss, not just for convenience.
The Mishnah Brurah (193:19) also says that one who arrived late and did not begin the meal with the others may rely on the Bach, but he notes in Sha’ar Hatziyun (ibid. 17) that lechat’chilah he should wait for the zimun.
Igros Moshe (O.C. 1:56) infers from a ruling of the Rama that if one stipulates before a meal that he does not intend to join with the other participants, he may bentch early, even if he is fully engaged with the others during the meal. But R’ Moshe says that this device should only be employed in case of need.