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When bentching (saying the prayer after meals), one is to insert a blessing for one's host. I have four scenarios, in which I wonder about whether it is appropriate to say the blessing for the host or for oneself.

  1. I go to a restaurant. Do I say baal habayis, indicating the owner of the restaurant, or myself, the one who paid for the food?
  2. Someone else takes me to a restaurant. Now there are three potential blessing recipients involved (me, the person paying, and the owner of the restaurant). If someone thinks it makes no difference between the latter two with regard to the actual wording, let's make the person who took me to the restaurant my parent (for whom one would say "avi mori/imi morasi baal/baalas habayis...").
  3. In a similar vein, what if my parent (or a friend) makes me a sandwich and I eat in a public park?
  4. What about in an office building?

I guess a fundamental question here would involve whether the insertion hinges on the one providing the food or the space.

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2 Answers 2

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I'm sure someone discusses it some halacha book someplace, but my gut feeling is that it's a matter of sense and protocol; some of that protocol is ours today, some of it may be based on Talmudic norms.

I have heard that children who are financially dependent on parents always say "may God bless my parents, the owners of this house", no matter where they are. I believe this is Chabad-Lubavitch's practice (I think even after financial independence? Can someone verify that?).

My gut feeling in 1 and 2 is to bless the host, who is the restaurateur, as long as the meal was okay. S/he could probably use all the blessings s/he can get. If you know the number and gender of the restaurateurs, I'd change the Hebrew wording accordingly -- "baal habayit", "baalat habayit", "baalei habayit", husband-and-wife team, etc. You could then add a reference to your parents/friends.

The park is a good question. Again, if financially dependent on your parents, include them. Otherwise, I think just "all those sitting here" (kol hamesubin kan). The fact that it was assumed people ate at SOMEONE's house says something about Talmudic norms (very different from our food culture!).

Office -- good question. If your office (company?) is owned/managed by a particular person, sure, why not bless him/her as your host. If's it's a faceless corporation, beats me; either plural "baalei habayit" (all the hosts), or just do "all those sitting here" and leave it at that.

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In my elementary school, when we bentched out loud together, we always included the "my parents" clause. I don't recall for sure whether we referred to them as "owners of this house," but I think we did. FWIW, my school was not Chabad; it sought Halachic guidance from the local [Litvish] Roshei Yeshiva. –  Isaac Moses Apr 9 '10 at 14:48
1  
In your paragraph 2, yes, the Baal Hatanya's nusach (which of course Chabad follows) always has the mention of one's parents; R' Y.Y. Schneersohn (the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe) clarifies in a letter of his that this applies even after they are deceased. He further explains that the entire series of "Harachamans" in bentching actually refer to the ten Sefiros, and so "my father... and my mother..." have to be included, as Kabbalistically they represent Chochmah and Binah (loosely, "wisdom" and "understanding"). –  Alex Apr 9 '10 at 16:57
    
You do realize you can just not say it to in those situations. –  SimchasTorah Apr 9 '10 at 17:23
    
YS, I realize that this is not a major issue, but I would always like to know the best thing to do. –  Tzvi Apr 9 '10 at 17:31
    
So the answer is don't say it –  SimchasTorah Apr 9 '10 at 22:05

I use the Sepharadi nusach, in which there is a paragraph added by which a guest blesses his host. (Unlike the Ashkenazi nusach, we don't have alternatives to switch between.) The text of this paragraph is:

הָרַֽחֲמָן הוּא יְבָרֵךְ אֶת־הַשֻּׁלְחָן הַזֶּה שֶֽׁאָכַֽלְנוּ עָלָיו וִֽיסַדֵּר בּוֹ כָּל-מַֽעֲדַנֵּי עוֹלָם וְיִֽהְיֶה כְשֻׁלְחָנוֹ שֶׁל אַבְרָהָם אָבִֽינוּ עָלָיו הַשָּׁלוֹם כָּל-רָעֵב מִמֶּֽנּוּ יֹאכַל וְכָל-צָמֵא מִמֶּֽנּוּ יִשְׁתֶּה וְאַל-יֶחְסַר מִמֶּֽנּוּ כָּל-טוֹב לָעַד וּלְעֽוֹלְמֵי עֽוֹלָמִים אָמֵן׃ הָרַֽחֲמָן הוּא יְבָרֵךְ אֶת־בַּֽעַל הַבַּֽיִת הַזֶּה וּבַֽעַל הַסְּעֻדָּה הַזֹּאת הוּא וּבָנָיו וְאִשְׁתּוֹ וְכָל-אֲשֶׁר-לוֹ בְּבָנִים שֶׁיִּֽחְיוּ וּבִנְכָסִים שֶׁיִּרְבּוּ בָּרֵךְ יְהֹוָה חֵילוֹ וּפֹֽעַל יָדָיו תִּרְצֶה וְיִֽהְיוּ נְכָסָיו וּנְכָסֵֽינוּ מֻצְלָחִים וּקְרוֹבִים לָעִיר וְאַל-יִזְדַּקֵּק לְפָנָיו וְלֹא לְפָנֵינוּ שׁוּם דְּבַר חֵטְא וְהִרְהוּר עָוֹן שָׂשׂ וְשָׂמֵֽחַ כָּל-הַיָּמִים בְּעֹֽשֶׁר וְכָבוֹד מֵֽעַתָּה וְעַד עוֹלָם לֹא יֵבוֹשׁ בָּֽעוֹלָם הַזֶּה וְלֹא יִכָּלֵם לָֽעוֹלָם הַבָּא אָמֵן כֵּן יְהִי רָצוֹן׃

My guideline is:

  • when the meal is at somebody else's house, I say the paragraph as-is, with possible adjustments for gender or marital status (which I rarely have to make in practice).
  • When someone sponsors a special meal at shul (not a normal kiddush), a wedding or sheva berachot in a special venue, or the like, I say the paragraph but omit the phrase בעל הבית הזה.
  • For a normal sit-down kiddush (even if sponsored), or a meal where I had to pay (e.g. a restaurant, or a special shabbaton at shul), or any situation where I brought my own food, I omit this paragraph completely.

I haven't asked a rav about this.

I'm not sure how these guidelines would map to the Ashkenazi nusach (where there are several alternatives), but maybe it gives you some ideas.

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