by R. Daniel Mann
Question: Unfortunately, I did not look at a siddur last night when reciting Al Hamichya. I made a couple mistakes along the way, and I remember specifically leaving out the words “al ha’aretz” in the chatimah (end part). Was I yotzeh?
Answer: Indeed, it is important to either know Al Hamichya very well or have access to its text in writing. But everyone makes mistakes sometimes, so let us see whether leaving out the words “al ha’aretz” (the Land) invalidates the beracha.
Al Hamichya’s generic term is Me’ein Shalosh, which also covers the beracha acharona on prominent fruits of Eretz Yisrael and wine. The term means “similar to the three,” i.e., the three (main) berachot of Birkat Hamazon. A baraita (Berachot 48b) derives from the pasuk about Birkat Hamazon that the three berachot need to cover three elements: the food Hashem gives us; the Land He has given us; Jerusalem, for whose rebuilding we pray. Me’ein Shalosh, the abridged Birkat Hamazon, also includes these elements, with overlapping language. In Birkat Hamazon, if one missed an entire beracha or even a crucial element of one, he needs to repeat Birkat Hamazon (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 188:3-4; see Mishna Berura 188:8). Does the same apply to your omission of Eretz Yisrael in Me’ein Shalosh?
The first thing to note is that it is likely that you referred to Eretz Yisrael earlier in the beracha (eretz chemdah tova u’rechava sheratzita …). Me’ein Shalosh is one of the berachot that ends with a short beracha that encapsules the whole beracha (see Berachot 11a). Since the Land is a focal point of the pasuk, of Birkat Hamazon, and of Me’ein Shalosh, it makes sense that if it is missing, the beracha is invalid. In general, the end of the beracha is critical, and very possibly more so than the rest of the beracha (the matter is complex – see Berachot 12a; Shulchan Aruch, OC 59:2 and Bi’ur Halacha ad loc.). In this case, it may also help that right before the end of the beracha we say “nevarechecha aleha …,” blessing over the Land. Realize also that while there is a beracha dedicated to Yerushalayim, it is not found at the end. In fact, it is problematic to end off a beracha on more than one theme. The gemara (Berachot 49a) therefore connects the Land and the food by saying that the land produces the food. Therefore, it should not be surprising if b’di’eved, leaving out “al ha’aretz” would not invalidate the beracha.
Indeed, the Magen Avraham says (208:17; the Mishna Berura 208:55 and others agree) that if one does not mention the Land at the end, he is yotzei. His proof is from Tosafot (Berachot 44a), who deals with two versions of the ending of Me’ein Shalosh for wine: some mention “gefen” and “pri hagefen” and others mention “ha’aretz” and “pri hagefen.” The Magen Avraham infers that the question is which is better, but that the first version would certainly be valid b’di’eved. It is possible to claim that he only refers to Me’ein Shalosh on wine, but most understand him to be talking generally (see V’ten Beracha 20:(56)).
It is likely that these lenient opinions are based on the fact that the Land was already mentioned. However, one can argue that, b’di’eved, Eretz Yisrael can be left out totally. The Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 17) says that if one recited the first beracha of Birkat Hamazon instead of Me’ein Shalosh for wine or dates (which are filling), he fulfilled his obligation. Since that beracha makes no mention of the Land whatsoever, we seem to see that it is not that critical to the beracha acharona. The Bi’ur Halacha (ad loc.) says that this is more understandable if Me’ein Shalosh is only a Rabbinically mandated beracha. On the other hand, the Chazon Ish (OC 34:4) says that what would work for a proper first beracha of Birkat Hamazon would not work for an improperly recited Me’ein Shalosh that omitted the Land or Yerushalayim (presumably he would agree with the Magen Avraham as presented above).
For one reason or another, if the only serious mistake you made in Al Hamichya is what you mentioned, it was valid b’di’eved.