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One is forbidden to eat or drink anything without first reciting a blessing over the food.1 Furthermore, the blessing recited over a particular food also serves to “cover” all other foods that one intends to eat that would require the same blessing. There is no time limit on the validity of a blessing; one may recite a blessing on a cup of coffee in the morning and then continue to drink coffee all day long.

A blessing does become void, however, when one changes location – a concept known as “shinui makom.2 In general, it makes no difference whether one intends to eat the same food in the new location or one intends to return to the original location to continue eating. In most cases, a new blessing will be required once one leaves the original location where the blessing was recited.3

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As a general rule, the rules of shinui makom apply to foods other than bread or cake (“mezonot“) products.4 For example, if one leaves one’s location while in the middle of eating bread or cake products, one is not required to recite a new blessing upon one’s return. On the other hand, a new blessing is required when one leaves the room and then returns while in the middle of drinking a cup of coffee. Some authorities rule that if one leaves the room or building for a very brief period, then a new blessing is not required regardless of the type of food one was eating.5

There are two reasons why changing one’s location terminates the validity of one’s blessing. According to one approach, shinui makom is automatically an indication of one’s intention to conclude the current eating session.6 According to others, shinui makom is considered to be a “hesech hadaat,” an interruption in whatever one was previously involved with. A hesech hadaat of this kind terminates the validity of a blessing recited over food.7

There is an exception to these rules, however, and that is for one who is in continual transit. One who did not have a set place for eating to begin with, such as one who is truly “eating on the run,” may move about and his blessing remains valid the entire time.8 This ruling includes those who are sucking candies or chewing gum for some time. A new blessing is not required each time one changes location when eating such foods.9

One who moves to a new location in the middle of eating, but can still see the original location through a window or open door, is not required to recite a new blessing.10 Many authorities extend this ruling to include any location under the same roof where one made one’s original blessing whether it can be seen or not.11 According to this approach, a change of location in the same building, such as moving from one room to the next, does not require a new blessing.12 Other authorities do not make this distinction and require a new blessing upon any change of location. If one is eating with others and one has to leave the building momentarily, a new blessing is not required upon one’s return. This is because a blessing does not become invalid upon leaving a location when eating in company, as long as some of the other members of the group remain.13

One who intends to walk from place to place while eating or drinking should have this intention in mind when reciting the blessing over the food.14 In any event, it is best never to change locations in the middle of an eating session, regardless of all other considerations. It is also worth mentioning that our Sages strongly frown upon eating on the run and compare those who do so to dogs15 and declare such people ineligible to serve as a witness.16

As mentioned above, if one changes location in the middle of a meal that includes bread, one is not required to recite a new blessing upon one’s return. This is true even if one is eating alone.17 So too, one may continue to eat at the new location without reciting a new blessing and one may even recite the Birkat Hamazon in the new location as well.18 Nevertheless, in such a situation one must have in mind when reciting the “hamotzie” blessing at the start of the meal that one intends to also eat in another location.19 One may continue to eat any food in another location if this was one’s intention when one recited the “hamotzie” blessing.20

There is some discussion on how to recite the “Harachaman” section of the Birkat Hamazon after eating a bread meal outdoors, in a car, or on a plane. In a regular situation, one would recite “Harachaman hu yishlach lanu bracha meruba babayit hazeh – May the Merciful One send us abundant blessing in this house.” However, it makes no sense to recite this passage when eating in such places.

Some authorities suggest that one substitute the standard wording with “Harachaman hu yishlach lanu bracha meruba b’halichateinu u’beyeshivateinu ad olam – May the Merciful One send us abundant blessing in our travels and our encampments forever,” as this wording better reflects such circumstances.21 Some hold that this wording should also be used when reciting Birkat Hamazon in the home or presence of a non-Jew.22 There are also grounds to suggest that this passage should simply be omitted rather than altered.

It is interesting to note that in some communities the custom is to recite all the “Harachaman” passages as normal even when they are completely inapplicable. For example, according to this approach, one recites “Harachaman hu yevarech et avi mori ba’al habayit hazeh – May the Merciful One bless my father, the master of this house” even when eating in a friend’s home and even when one’s parents are no longer alive.23

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1. OC 210:10.
2. Pesachim 101b.
3. OC 178:1; Shulchan Aruch Harav, OC 178:1; Aruch HaShulchan, OC 178:11; Mishna Berura 178:39.
4. Rema, OC 178:2; Mishna 178:26.
5. Shulchan Aruch Harav, 178:8. See also Igrot Moshe, OC 5:16:10.
6. Rambam, Hilchot Berachot 4:3.
7. Tosafot, Pesachim 101b.
8. Magen Avraham 178:11; Kaf Hachaim, OC 178:15; Igrot Moshe, OC 2:57.
9. Igrot Moshe, OC 2:57; Rivevot Ephraim 6:87.
10. Magen Avraham 178:2; Shulchan Aruch Harav, OC 178:1. See also Mishna Berura 273:7.
11. Mishna Berura 178:12; Aruch HaShulchan, OC 178:11. See also Mishna Berura 273:8.
12. Mishna Berura 178:13, Biur Halacha 178:2.
13. OC 178:2.
14. Rivevot Ephraim 6:87.
15. Kiddushin 40b, Tosfot.
16. CM 34:18.
17. Rema, OC 178:2.
18. OC 178:4; Magen Avraham 178:6.
19. Mishna Berura 178:33; Magen Avraham 178:8; Taz, OC 178:9.
20. Rema, OC 178:1.
21. Ahalech B’amitecha 11:25.
22. Mishna Berura 193:27. See also Magen Avraham 189:1; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 44:18.
23. Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 189:1.

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Rabbi Ari Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He teaches halacha, including semicha, one-on-one to people all over the world, online. He is also the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (9 volumes), the rabbinic director of United with Israel, and a rebbe at a number of yeshivot and seminaries. Questions and feedback are welcomed: rabbiari@hotmail.com.