Formal Grace (of Three or More)
1. If three male persons have eaten together, they have to unite in saying Grace after meals, and they must recite it over a cup of wine, if possible. If it is impossible to obtain wine, then beer, mead or brandy may be used, when such liquid is the common beverage of the locality; that is, where vine culture does not obtain and one must walk all day to obtain it, as a result of which wine is expensive and these beverages are substituted for wine. Some authorities hold that even a lone person is required to recite Grace over a cup. When reciting Grace alone, meticulous people do not hold the cup in their hands, but place it on the table in front of them.
2. The cup is filled first and thereafter the hands are washed.
3. If we drink some of the wine out of a vessel, whatever remains in it becomes unfit for use at the Grace, unless we add a little water or wine, that has not been disqualified. Since the cup must be filled for the express purpose of using it for the benediction, therefore, if the contents of the cup is unfit, we must first pour it into a vessel and from there into the cup for the special purpose mentioned.
4. The cup use for Grace must be whole, and even if only its base is broken it is unfit. Even the least defect in the rum of the cup, or a crack, renders it unfit. The cup must be rinsed inside and washed outside, or it may be wiped well so that it is clean. The liquid should be poured from the vessel into the cup for the purpose of reciting the Grace, and the cup must be full. The person who is to lead in saying the Grace, should take the cup with both hands (to indicate his affection for the cup, in that he longs to accept it with all his might) and as it is written (Psalms 134:2): “Lift up your hands towards the sanctuary, and bless the L-rd.” Afterward he removes his left hand and holds it only with his right, without any help of the left (so that it should not appear as being burdensome to him). He should look at the cup in order not to divert his attention from it: and he should hold it one hand-breadth (four inches) above the table, as it is written (Psalms 116:13): “I will lift the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the L-rd.” a left-handed person should keep it in the left hand, which is like everybody’s right. It is proper to remove the empty dishes from the table before reciting Grace.
5. If all those who sit at the table are of equal rank, and there is a Kohen among them, it is a religious duty to honor him with leading in saying Grace, as it is written (Leviticus 21:8): “Thou shalt sanctify him.” However, if there is a worthy and eminent man among them, he should lead in saying Grace. It is customary to let a mourner lead in saying Grace, but only when all are of equal rank. It is proper to confer the honor of leading in saying Grace upon one who is kind and hates ill-gotten profit, and dispenses charity of his own money, for it is written (Proverbs 22:9): “A man of benevolent eye will indeed be blessed.” Do not read Yevorah (shall be blessed), but Yevareh (shall bless).
6. The person who leads in saying Grace, begins by saying: Hav lan unevareh (let us say Grace), for every sacred function requires attention. Or he may say, as is the prevailing custom, in the Yiddish language: Rabbotai, mir villen bentshen (gentlemen, let us say Grace), and the rest of the company respond: “Blessed be the name of the L-rd henceforth and forever.” Then the leader continues: “with the sanction of these honored guests, we will bless Him, of whose bounty we have eaten.” Those present reply: “Blessed be He of whose bounty we have eaten, and through whose goodness we live.” The leader repeats the last sentence. In some communities it is the custom that those present respond Amen after the leader says: “And through whose goodness we live;” while in other communities no such custom prevails. There are also various customs with regards to saying, Baruh hu ubaruh shemo (blessed be He and blessed be His name). In some communities, the one who leads in saying Grace, says it even when there are only three persons, while in others, he says it only when there are ten who say the Grace, because the Divine Name is then mentioned; and it is proper to follow the latter custom. Those present, however, should not say it in any event, and needless to say that the one saying the Grace privately should not say it.
7. The leader then recites the Grace aloud, while those present, quietly repeat every word with him and they hasten to finish the benediction before he does, so that they may respond Amen.
8. Upon concluding Grace, the leader pronounces the benediction on the cup over which he has said the Grace, and drinks of it a quantity equal to the capacity of one and half eggshells, so that he may pronounce the concluding benediction said after drinking wine. If the contents of the cups of those seated at the table has become defective. The one who led in saying Grace should, after pronouncing the benediction, “Who hath created the fruit of the vine,” and before drinking or it, pour a little of his wine unto their cups, so that they, too, may pronounce the benediction. If their cups are empty, he should likewise pour in them a little of his wine, and they should not taste of it before the leader has tasted his. But if each of them has a cup which is not unfit, the leader need not give them any of his wine, and they may taste of theirs before he tastes of his. And this is the proper way. It is best that each guest should have a full cup, if possible.
9. Some authorities hold that if the person who is leading in saying Grace, does not wish to drink of his cup, he may let one of those present say the benediction, “Who created the fruit of the vine,” and this one should drink a quarter of a lug (one and a half eggshells) and say the concluding benediction. Other authorities hold that this is an improper practice, and that only the leader may say the benediction over the cup of wine. The latter view prevails.
10. If two persons have eaten together, they should invite a third one to join them in saying Grace. Even if that third person comes after the two have already finished their meal, yet, if some food were brought to them as a dessert, that they would eat of, it is proper to invite the third person to join them in saying Grace. They should give him bread, no less than the size of an olive, so that he should be required to recite Grace. Some authorities hold that he must be given bread; some hold that any kind of grain suffices; others hold that even fruit or vegetables are sufficient; while others still are of the opinion that even if he eats nothing at all, but he drinks any kind of beverage except water, a quantity equal to the capacity of an egg and a half, he may join them in saying the formal Grace. And this is the accepted view. He may in such a case say: “Blessed be He of whose bounty we have eaten,” even though he has not eaten any food but drunk liquids, because drinking is included in the term “eating.” After they have said: Hazzan et hakkol (who giveth food unto all), the third person should say the concluding benediction over whatever he has eaten or drunk. However, if the third person has arrived after the other two washed their hands, he may no longer join them in saying Grace.
11. If three people eat together, inasmuch as they are obliged to join in saying the formal Grace, they are not allowed to separate. And so if four or five persons eat together, not one of them is allowed to recite the Grace privately, for all of them must unite in saying Grace. If the company consists of six or more persons, but less than ten, they may separate in such a manner that the requisite number of three for reciting the formal Grace remains in each group.
12. If ten males have eaten together, they must add in the Grace the Divine Name; that is, the person who leads in saying Grace says: “We will bless our G-d, He of whose bounty we have eaten,” etc. Those present respond: “Blessed be our G-d, He of whose bounty,” etc. Since the ten must mention the Divine Name, they must not separate into smaller groups unless there are twenty or more, when they may divide into two groups (of ten each), and then each group can unite in reciting the Grace, mentioning the Divine Name.
13. If ten males united in saying Grace and they neglect to mention the Divine Name, they may not repeat it in order to mention the Divine Name, for their duty of uniting in saying the Grace has already been fulfilled, and their neglect to mention the Divine Name is an error which cannot be rectified. But if the rest of the company have not responded to the leader’s invitation to say Grace, the leader must repeat the invitation and include the Divine Name.
14. If seven of the company have eaten bread, and three of them have eaten fruit or have drunk sufficient liquor so as to be required to say the concluding benediction thereafter, they may unite in saying Grace and mention the divine Name. (In this case all authorities agree that the eating of fruit or the drinking of liquor is sufficient). It is meritorious to seek after ten males to unite in saying the Grace so that the Divine Name may be mentioned. But if only six of the ten have eaten bread, they cannot unite with four who have eaten only fruit or have drunk liquor, because a substantial majority is required.
15. All who have eaten together, whether three or ten, even though they have not eaten the entire meal together, but have sat down to eat and have said the benediction Hamotzi, and each one has subsequently eaten from his own lunch, they must say Grace together, inasmuch as they have united as one body; they are not allowed to separate. Even if one of them wishes to finish his meal before the others, they still are not allowed to separate. But if they have not started together at the beginning of the meal, but after two persons have eaten already, were it even no more than the size of an olive, and a third person came along and joined them, then if he has finished his meal with them, they are obliged to unite in saying Grace; but if he wishes to finish his meal before them, he is allowed to separate and recite the Grace privately. Nevertheless, it is proper for the third person to wait and unite in saying the Grace. If one of them is forced by circumstances, or if he fears the possibility of suffering a loss, even if he has joined them at the beginning, he is allowed to finish his meal before the others and to recite the Grace privately. However, if the case is not urgent, it is proper for him to wait.
16. If three males eat in company an done of them forgets and recites the Grace privately, the rest may yet unite with him, even after he had concluded the Grace, and he may also respond: “We will bless Him of whose bounty we have eaten,” etc. However, if he has united with two others in saying the Grace, he can no longer be counted with the former two. If two of the three have said the Grace, even privately, they can no longer unite in saying Grace formally.
17. If three males eat in company and two finished their meal and wish to say Grace, while the third one has not yet finished his meal, he must interrupt his meal, so that they may say formal Grace. He must respond with them, and thus he discharges his duty of saying formal Grace. Then he waits until the person who leads in saying Grace concludes Hazzan et hakkol (who giveth food unto all), and resume his meal without saying the benediction Hamotzi, since it has been his intention to eat some more. After finishing his meal, he should recite the Grace privately. But two persons need not interrupt their meal for the sake of one, unless they wish to honor him more than is actually demanded by law. If ten persons eat together, four are obliged to interrupt their meal for the sake of six, and they need only wait until the leader has said: Baruh elohenu (blessed be our G-d) before resuming their meal. After their meal, they should unite in saying Grace together, without mentioning the Divine Name in the introduction.
18. At large banquets where many guests are present, it is proper to choose someone to lead in saying Grace in a powerful voice, so that all present can hear him, at least up to Hazzan et hakkol (who giveth food to all). If this is impossible, they should form groups of ten each to say Grace.
19. If two separate groups eat in one house, or if they eat in two separate houses but some of them can see one another, they are considered as one company and may combine in saying Grace. However, if they cannot see one another, each group must unite separately. Nevertheless, if one person waits upon both groups, he is the means of combining them, provided they have originally entered with the intention of being considered as one company. In whatever manner they unite, it is essential that they all hear the person leading in saying the Grace, at least up to Hazzan et hakkol.
20. If we hear others saying Grace who have united for this purpose, but we have neither eaten not drunk with them, we should respond: “Blessed be He and blessed be His name continuously and forever,” when we hear the leader say: “We will bless Him.” If a party of ten have united in saying Grace, and we hear the leader say: “We will bless our G-d,” we should then respond: “Blessed be our G-d and blessed be His name continuously forever.” But if we arrive after the leader had already said: “We will bless,” etc., and we hear the rest of the company respond: “We will bless,” etc., we should only say Amen at the conclusion of their response.
21. When three persons eat together, each one having his own loaf, and one of them has bread baked by a non-Jew, whereas the other two avoid eating such bread, they may, nevertheless, unite in saying Grace, and the one who has eaten the non-Jewish bread should lead in saying Grace, because he could eat the bread of the other two, while the other two could not eat his. Likewise, if one has eaten dairy foods, and the other two have eaten meat, they may united in saying Grace, and the former should be the leader, because he may eat of the food of the other two. If such a person drinks no wine, or if only “new” beer is available, and he avoids drinking “new” beer, then it is better that one of the two who have eaten meat, should lead in saying Grace over a cup of beverage. If one has eaten hard cheese, and two have eaten meat, some authorities hold that these cannot unite in saying Grace, while others hold that they may unite, because they could all eat of the same loaf of bread. And it is well to accept the more lenient opinion.
22. If women eat together with men who are obliged to unite in saying Grace, they must listen to its recital. It is the custom not to include a minor in the quorum for reciting the formal Grace, unless he is thirteen years and one day old, even though it has not been ascertained whether or not he brought forth at least two hairs indicating puberty.
23. A person who does not read the Shema morning and evening, or the one who publicly violates the Divine Commands should not be counted in with those who unite in saying Grace. A true proselyte may join others to recite Grace, and he may also recite the verse: “Who has caused our fathers to inherit,” for it is written concerning Abraham (Genesis 17:5): “For a father of many nations have I made thee,” and this verse is interpreted to mean: In the past he had been the father of Assyria only, but thenceforth the father of all nations.