Why "את אבי מורי בעל הבית הזה" when inapplicable?
Toward the end of ברכת המזון (the prayer after a bread meal), we include a litany of short prayers that start "הרחמן" ("May the merciful one do such-and-such"). In the Ashkenazic version, one of them goes something like this:
הרחמן הוא יברך את אבי מורי בעל הבית הזה ואת אמי מורתי בעלת הבית הזה אותם ואת ביתם ואת זרעם ואת כל אשר להם אותנו ואת כל אשר לנו…
May the merciful one bless my guide, my father, the master of this home, and my guide, my mother, the mistress of this home — them, their home, their offspring, and all that is theirs — us and all that is ours…
I grew up with an oral tradition that we change the wording of this to match the circumstances: someone whose father is alive says "my guide, my father"; a man's guest says "the master of this home"; a married man says "my wife"; and so on. Others may have different traditions, and indeed there are now numerous variations of this in print (though that's a relatively recent innovation, I think).
However, the Chabad-Lubavitch custom is to recite the above-quoted text, verbatim, no matter what. Someone's father has passed away? He still says "my father". Someone is not in his father's home? He still says "my father, the master of this home". You're a convert who legally has no father? Doesn't matter. Everyone says the text above.
Why? I'm not saying they should tailor the text to the individual circumstances by adding things like "my wife" or "the master of this home" (when it's not one's father). But I'd think that they should avoid lying! Pleading for a blessing for "my father, the master of this home" seems like a prayer in vain, which is generally frowned upon, not to mention a lie. Why do they say it?
Citation needed. But it's at best a waste of breath. ↩︎