The Importance of Birkat HaOre’ah

The Gemara (Berachot 46a) discusses the importance of a guest reciting Birkat HaOre’ah, a special prayer in Birkat Hamazon for one’s host when eating at the latter’s home, and this is codified in the Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 201:1). The Shulhan Aruch goes on to state that this prayer is so important that the guest should be the one to recite Birkat Hamazon on everyone’s behalf so that he or she may recite the Birkat HaOre’ah. In previous generations, one person would recite it on behalf of the participants of the meal, and they would fulfill their obligation by listening. Nevertheless, even nowadays when Birkat Hamazon is recited individually by participants of a meal, the Mishna Berura (O.H. 201:4) it is preferable for the guest to lead the Zimun.

Rabbi Ben Zion Abba Shaul (Or LeZion, vol. II, ch.46, § 33) writes that Yeshiva students should recite Birkat HaOre’ah during Birkat Hamazon and have in mind those people who donated money towards the meals. One can also apply this opinion to congregants who eat Seuda Shelishit or breakfast, etc. at synagogue, and have in mind the sponsors of the meal. Furthermore, if one does not understand or has a hard time reading Birkat HaOre’ah, one is permitted to recite it in one’s own language. Birkat HaOre’ah is merely an appended prayer and is not a formal part of the actual Birkat Hamazon, and as such, although reciting it in the language of our Sages is ideal, one is certainly allowed to recite in one’s own language.

It should be noted that the wording of Birkat HaOre’ah found in authentic Moroccan books is slightly different from that found in the Gemara, but for all intents and purposes, the overarching theme is identical.

Summary:   There is special importance to reciting Birkat HaOre’ah.