Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Shabbat Addition

Feasting on Shabbat is one of the primary ways in which Jews observe the commandment to remember (zachor) the Sabbath day. With a special meal on Friday night, another for Shabbat lunch and a small, third meal on Saturday afternoon, there is a great deal of eating done in honor of Shabbat. As with all formal meals in Jewish tradition, the meals include Ha’mo’tzee (the blessing over bread) and concludes with the recitation of Birkat Hamazon, the Grace After Meals.

While the basic text of Birkat Hamazon is the same as it is on weekdays, there is one paragraph that is added on Shabbat. Known as R’tzay (the first word of the addition), this passage asks God to “give us rest.” Emphasizing our desire to honor God’s holy day, this prayer requests God’s assistance to do so “that there be no distress, grief, or lament on this day of contentment.”

If one forgets to include the R’tzay addition during Birkat Hamazon, one may have to repeat the entire Grace After Meals, depending on how far into the Birkat Hamazon one had recited before realizing the error.

Along with the paragraph of R’tzay, a special line is added toward the conclusion of Birkat Hamazon, requesting that God grant us the day that will be a complete Shabbat, which is an allusion to the World to Come. Additionally, Psalm 126, Shir Hamaalot, is customarily recited before Birkat Hamazon on Shabbat and holidays.

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