Lechem Mishneh

  • Rav Doniel Schreiber



By Rav Doniel Schreiber




YHE Shabbat is dedicated in loving memory of
Aaron Moshe ben Yosef Zev Schreiber z"l, by members of the family


In memory of our grandparents, whose yahrzeits fall this week:

Shmuel Nachamu ben Shlomo Moshe HaKohen Fredman (10 Tevet)

Chaya bat Yitzchak David Fredman (15 Tevet)

Shimon ben Moshe Rosenthal (16 Tevet)

By their grandchildren and great-grandchildren,

Aaron and Tzipora Ross and family



Shiur #11: Lechem Mishneh



1. Source


            Each of the three Shabbat meals are required to commence with lechem mishneh, two loaves of bread (OC 274:1 and Rema OC 291:4).  Rema OC 291:4 leaves some room to be lenient as to the necessity of lechem mishneh at the third Shabbat meal (se'uda shlishit).  The laws of se'uda shlishit will be discussed in the next shiur.


             The function of the mitzva of lechem mishneh is to commemorate the double portion of manna which descended on Friday morning when the Jews were in the desert (see Shemot 16:11-27, Shabbat 117b, and MB 274:1).  Poskim dispute whether the practice of lechem mishneh is a Torah obligation (Taz OC 678:2, Chatam Sofer OC no. 46, and Arukh Ha-shulchan 274:1) or a rabbinic obligation (Magen Avraham OC 254:23).  Women are also obligated in this mitzva (Arukh Ha-shulchan 274:4, MB 274:1, and Bi'ur Halakha 291, s.v. Nashim).  For further research regarding women's obligation in lechem mishneh see Ran Kiddushin, 44a in the pages of the Rif s.v Ve-katav, Rabbeinu Tam Sefer Ha-yashar responsum 70 par. 4, Avudraham cited in Peri Megadim in Mishbetzot Zahav in OC 274:1, Maharam Mi-rotenberg Mossad Ha-rav Kook responsa 255, R. Shlomo Kluger in Responsa Ha-elef lekha Shlomo OC no. 114, R. Ovadia Yosef in Yabia Omer vol. 6, OC no. 28, par. 4.


2. What kind of loaves must one use to fulfill lechem mishneh?


A. Pat Yisrael


            Ideally, one should use pat yisrael (bread which a Jew helped bake) for lechem mishneh (MB 242:6).  When this cannot be done one may use any kosher bread for this mitzva (MB ibid.).


B. Whole Challot


            The two loaves of bread or challa should be complete and whole (OC 274:1).  However, even if there is a deep cut or fissure in the challa, it is considered whole on the condition that when one raises the loaf from its weaker end the loaf does not break into two (Magen Avraham OC 167:5).  The challa is considered whole even if part of the challa is burnt (MB 274:2).  If a small part of the loaf, up to less than 1/48 of the entire challa, broke off according to some poskim it may still be considered "whole."  Others strongly assert that even such minimal damage removes its status of being "whole" as they are no longer derekh kavod, "honorable" (Arukh Ha-shulchan 274:5)


            In the event that the loaves are broken in two, one should join them together so they appear as a whole loaf while reciting the blessing.  One should attach them, for example, by means of a toothpick which will hold the two halves together (OC 168:2; see also Arukh Ha-shulchan 274:5 and MB 168:6,8 and 9).  If one does not have two whole challot then one may fulfill the mitzva with one whole challa and a broken one.  If there is no whole loaf available then one may fulfill the mitzva with even two broken pieces of challa (Arukh Ha-shulchan 274:5).  In the event one does not have any bread one may use two whole portions of pat ha-ba be-kisnin (mezonot-like bread from the five species of grain - wheat, barley, oats, spelt, or rye), such as cake, cookies, danishes, or pretzels (SSK vo. 55:16, and R. Moshe Feinstein zt"l, cited in The Radiance of Shabbat p. 78 note 13; see also OC 168:7 and MB and Bi'ur Halakha ibid.).


C. Size of the Lechem Mishneh


            One should not use a challa smaller than a kezayit (an olive) for this mitzva unless there is no other alternative (SSK vol. 2, 55:5, and R. Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg shlita, cited in The Radiance of Shabbat, p. 79, note 15).


D. Frozen Challa


            One may use frozen baked challa for the mitzva of lechem mishneh (SSK vol. 2, 55:12 and R. Moshe Feinstein zt"l, cited ibid. note 16).  However, R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt"l (SSK ibid. note 39) was unsure if frozen challa, hardened to the point that people would not eat it, was fit for lechem mishneh.


E. Bagged Challa


            One should be able to hold the challot directly when one recites the berakha.  Therefore, one ought not wear gloves during the birkat ha-motzi.  Additionally, it is proper to recite the birkat ha-motzi on challot which are not wrapped up or inserted in bags (MB 167:23, SSK vol. 2 55:11 note 38, and R. Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg shlita, cited in The Radiance of Shabbat p. 79, note 18).  See also paragraph 3 B below.


3. The Procedure


A. Small Incision in Challa


            Prior to reciting the blessing, many poskim write that it is best to make a small incision in the challa that will be cut (Magen Avraham 274:1, MB 274:5, and Arukh Ha-shulchan 274:6).  This is based upon the Maharshal (Bach OC 167, s.v. Ve-katav ha-Rosh) who argues that this will minimize the hefsek (interruption) between the blessing and cutting the challa.  Other poskim assert that this practice should be avoided as it may lead to an even greater hefsek (R. Yechezkel Landau z"tl, in his work the Tzlach, Berakhot 39b).


            It should be noted that all agree that the practice of making an incision is not me'akev (does not invalidate the berakha or mitzva) (Bach and MB, ibid.).  Moreover, this practice is not mentioned in the Shulchan Arukh or the Rema, and in fact seems to be discouraged by the Rema (167:1).  Some have the custom to merely run a knife over the challa as if to demonstrate that there is no interruption between the blessing and the cutting.  However, some poskim question this custom as it appears superfluous because it does not create an incision in the challa.  See also SSK vol. 2, 55:18, end of note 60.


B. Procedure While Reciting the Blessing


            The one who recites the blessing should grasp both challot in his hands, recite the birkat ha-motzi, and then cut the appropriate challa (OC 167:4).  The Rema(167:14), Arukh Ha-shulchan (OC 167:29) and Mishna Berura (MB 274:2) rule that the mevarekh (the person reciting the blessing) should first say "bi-reshut" (with your permission) prior to reciting the birkat ha-motzi, while the Vilna Gaon reportedly (Ma'aseh Rav no. 78) considered this insertion a hefsek (an interruption).


C. The Role of Salt


            If one's challot are tasteless and bland one must add salt prior to eating from them in order not to denigrate the bread.  Today this may be unnecessary since our challot have had salt added to them already (OC 167:5 and MB ibid.).  Yet, the Rema (OC 167:5) writes that one should have salt on the table at the time of birkat ha-motzi in consonance with the salt that had to accompany each sacrifice (korban).  Since our dining tables are compared to the altar, and our eating is identified with the actual bringing of the sacrifices, one must place salt on the table, i.e., the altar, to accompany the sacrifice (see MB ibid.).  Nonetheless, many have the custom to salt the challa either to add more taste or to have the salt more closely identified with the "sacrifice," i.e., the challa.  Kabbalists have the custom to dip the challa into the salt.  See Arukh Ha-shulchan OC 167:10-12).


D. Which of the two challot does one cut?


            The Rema (OC 174:1) writes that, based on Kabbala, one ought cut the bottom challa Friday night, whereas on Shabbat day one should cut the top challa.  On Yom Tov, one always cuts the top challa.  The Taz suggests that on Friday night one should hold the bottom challa closer to oneself than the top challa.  This is in order to avoid violating the prohibition of "ein ma'avirin al ha-mitzvot," circumventing an item which may be used for a mitzva in favor of another item.  If one cuts the bottom challa which is closer, one does not appear to skirt the top challa (MB 274:5 and Arukh Ha-shulchan 274:6).  Some poskim rule that this practice is unnecessary because "ein ma'avirin al ha-mitzvot" only presents a problem when one intends to use both items for the performance of a mitzva, not when one desires to use only one of them (Arukh Ha-shulchan ibid.).


E. Cutting More Challa


            Some poskim rule that one should cut one challa Friday night and two challot for the Shabbat day meals; while others rule that one should cut both challot at each meal.  The latter view, based on the Vilna Gaon, was the custom in some towns in Europe.  Nonetheless, most have the custom to cut only one challa (see Arukh Ha-shulchan OC 274:2,3 and MB 274:4).  R. Hershel Schachter shlita (Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University) once commented that cutting two challot at each of the three meals, yielding twelve "loaves," fulfills the kabbalistic view that one should have twelve challot on Shabbat similar to the lechem ha-panim which had twelve challot.  Some have the custom to merely graze the knife over the challa at the time of the berakha.  Perhaps this is in order to fulfill, or at least simulate, the kabbalistic view.  See, however, SSK vol. 2, 55:18, note 60, who questions the value of merely running a knife over the challa.


F. How do those who listen to the birkat ha-motzi fulfill their obligation in lechem mishneh?


            They fulfill their obligation in lechem mishneh as long as the mevarekh intended to motzi them and they intended to be yotzei with his berakha (Rema OC 167:2).  In addition, they must also eat from the lechem mishneh (MB 167:83; compare with MB 167:35).  However, courtesy requires that they should not eat it until the one who has recited the berakha has partaken of the lechem mishneh first (OC 167:15, and MB 167:76).


G. How much must one eat to fulfill "lechem mishneh?"


            One does not have to eat a kezayit of lechem mishneh to fulfill the mitzva; merely a taste suffices.  This means that one must SWALLOW some challa before one may begin to talk (MB 167:35).  Nonetheless, one should preferably (lekhatchila) eat a kezayit of the bread within kedei akhilat pras (within 2 - 9 minutes) without any interruptions of talking in the middle.  This is because it may be that ha-motzi obligates one to eat a kezayit of bread.  (See Magen Avraham, OC 167:7, Dagul Merevava ibid., MB 167:15 and 35, Sha'ar Ha-tziyun note 14, and SSK vol. 2, 55:5, 19, and 24).


H. One Birkat Ha-motzi


            One who hears birkat ha-motzi should not recite another birkat ha-motzi on the individual piece of challa one receives.  If one does recite another berakha, the obligation has, nonetheless, been fulfilled (Eshel Avraham 274 and SSK vol. 2, 55:20).


J. One who has not yet "washed hands"


            One who has not yet washed one's hands may still respond "amen" to the birkat ha-motzi, then wash, recite birkat al netilat yadayim, and then partake of the lechem mishneh (OC 167:7; see SSK vol. 2, 55:19).


K. Covering the Challa


            See shiur #7 "Kiddush: part I" paragraph 5 where we discussed the details of this law.