A discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the
week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.
SELECTED HALACHOS RELATING TO PARSHAS MISHPATIM
PROBLEMATIC SITUATIONS OF ZIMUN
QUESTION: In order for the obligation of zimun to be in force, how many
people have to be eating?
DISCUSSION: Three men who ate a meal together are Rabbinically(1) required
to recite Birkas ha-Mazon together(2). One of them recites the zimun and the
first blessing of Birkas ha-Mazon aloud, so that the others can hear him
clearly. For this reason, when there is a big crowd, a man with a powerful
voice should be chosen for the honor(3).
If two people sit down to a meal which includes bread, and a third person
wants to join them, they should ask him to eat bread along with them so that
they can recite zimun. If he refuses to eat bread, then even if he eats a
k'zayis' worth of any food (approx. 1 fl. oz.), zimun is recited(4).
If the third person drank wine or any natural fruit juice, zimun may
definitely be said(5). Many poskim rule that coffee or tea is also
sufficient to require zimun(6). Some poskim allow even soda or lemonade(7),
while others do not(8). If the third person drank water only, no zimun is
A minimum of seven people can get together for a meal including bread, and
join with three other men who did not eat bread in order to recite the name
of Hashem [Elokeinu] when reciting zimun, provided that the three men ate or
drank something, as stated above(10).
QUESTION: What are the rules of zimun when five men eat together?
DISCUSSION: Five men who eat together must recite Birkas ha-Mazon together.
They may not separate before the zimun is recited(11).
If one or two need to leave early, they should ask the other three to join
them in the zimun. If only one of the other three joins them, the remaining
two may not join with the one who joined previously, even if they all eat
again together(12). If, however, there were six(13) or more men eating
together and two of them finished early, the one who joins them for zimun
may join the next two when they are finished(14).
QUESTION: May two groups of five people, sitting in a yeshiva dining room at
two separate tables, join together for a zimun of ten and recite Elokeinu?
DISCUSSION: Zimun can only be said in one of the following two cases(15): a)
by those who sat together at one table, even though each is eating his own
meal; b) by members of one household, even though they are seated at
separate tables. Therefore:
If the two groups consider themselves as members of one household ??in
other words, they would have liked to sit together but could not do so
because there was no room for all of them at one table ??then they may join
together for a zimun of ten(16). The tables should be in close proximity to
If, however [as is frequently the case], the groups are split according to
classes or cliques, and each group wants to sit separately, then they may
not join together for a zimun of ten, unless the two groups had the specific
intention at the start of the meal to join together(18).
1 Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 197:16; 199:19, according to most Rishonim. See, however,
Chazon Ish O.C. 31:1, who maintains that zimun is min ha-Torah.
2 O.C. 192:1.
3 Mishnah Berurah 193:17. A microphone should not be used.
4 O.C. 197:3 and Mishnah Berurah 22.
5 O.C. 197:2 and Mishnah Berurah 20. L'chatchilah, a revi'is (3.3 fl. oz.)
should be drunk. B'dieved 1.7 fl. oz. is sufficient; Beiur Halachah, ibid.
8 Harav Y.Y. Fisher (quoted in Vezos ha-Berachah, ibid.).
9 Ruling of the Mishnah Berurah 197:12. Shulchan Aruch Harav and Chayei Adam
rule that zimun may be said over water.
10 O.C. 197:2.
11 O.C. 193:1.
12 Mishnah Berurah 200:9. Aruch ha-Shulchan 200:5 and Chazon Ish 31:5,
however, hold that if they eat together again they can recite zimun.
13 Mishnah Berurah, quoting the Magen Avraham, says: seven or eight men, but
Levushei Serad and Shoneh Halachos say six or more.
14 Mishnah Berurah 200:9.
15 Mishnah Berurah 193:18.
16 Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (quoted in Vezos ha-Berachah pg. 133). This is the
reason why guests at a wedding may join together for a zimun even when there
are not ten people at their table. See also Sova Semachos, pg. 111.
17 Beiur Halachah 167:11.
18 Harav S.Z. Auerbach and Harav C.P. Scheinberg (Vezos ha-Berachah, ibid.).
There are other poskim who hold that yeshiva students can join together at
any time, see Minchas Yitzchak 8:8 and Beis Baruch 48:24. Harav Elyashiv
recommends that to avoid any questions and doubts, it is best that the
groups clearly intend not to join together, as the Igros Moshe O.C. 1:56
suggests to a guest who cannot stay late at a wedding.