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Shiur #18: Betzi'at Ha-Pat (3)

  • Rav David Brofsky



Shiur #18: Betzi’at Ha-Pat (3)


Lechem Mishneh (1)


Rav David Brofsky



Last week, we concluded our discussion of betzi’at ha-pat. In previous shiurim, we discussed the type of bread upon which one should preferably recite the blessing of ha-motzi, the manner in which the blessing is recited, and the way in which the bread is cut and distributed. We also analyzed the practice of dipping one’s bread into salt after reciting the blessing and whether it is necessary to do so nowadays.


This week, we will discuss betzi’at ha-pat as it is performed on Shabbat. The Talmud instructs us to eat three Shabbat meals and to “break bread” (li-vtzo’a) on lechem mishneh. In this context, we will discuss only those issues pertinent to betzi’at ha-pat; we will not elaborate upon the various details of lechem mishneh.


The Source of Lechem Mishneh and Whether Women are Obligated


The Talmud (Shabbat 117b) teaches that one must eat three Shabbat meals (shalosh se’udot):


Our Rabbis taught: How many meals must one eat on the Sabbath? Three… R. Yochanan observed: “And Moshe said, ‘Eat that today; for today is a Sabbath unto the Lord; today you shall not find it in the field’” (Shemot 16: 25)… The Rabbis … include [that of] the evening.


The Sefer Ha-Yere’im (92) rules that the obligation of shalosh se’udot is mi-deoraita. The Arukh Ha-Shulchan (291:1) cites the Levush who concurs, and adds that it must at least be an enactment of Moshe Rabbeinu. Most Acharonim, however, understand that although the gemara derives this obligation from Biblical verses, the mitzva is actually only mi-derabanan.


The Rambam (Hilkhot Shabbat 29:9), and Shulchan Arukh (291:2) assign specific times to each of these meals – night, morning and afternoon. The Acharonim discuss this significant point, as at times – such as on an Erev Pesach that falls out on Shabbat – one may wish to eat all three meals before midday.


The Talmud (ibid., see also see also Berakhot 39b) also teaches that “on the Shabbat, one must break bread over two loaves, it is written, ‘twice as much bread’”. The verse (Shemot 16:22) refers to the double portion of “man” collected on Friday, as “man” did not fall on Shabbat.


As in the case of the obligation to eat three meals, most Acharonim maintain that the obligation of lechem mishneh is most likely only mi-derabanan. For example, the Peri Megadim (MZ 291) and Magen Avraham (618:10) insist that the obligation is only mi-derababan; elsewhere, the Magen Avraham (254:23) even refers to having lechem mishneh at a meal as “not such an obligation” (“eina chova kol kakh”). 


However, numerous Acharonim insist that the obligation of lechem mishneh is mi-de’oraita. The Taz (678:2), for example, assumes that the obligation of lechem mishneh must certainly be mi-deoraita, and he therefore insists that purchasing bread for lechem mishneh is more important than preparing other dishes for the meal. The Arukh Ha-Shulchan (274:1) also argues that lechem mishneh is a biblical requirement.


            This discussion may be related to a different question: Are women obligated in lechem mishneh? On the one hand, lechem mishneh is seemingly a standard mitzvat asei she-hazeman gerama, from which women are exempt. However, the Rishonim offer compelling reasons for obligating women as well.


Rabbeinu Tam (Sefer Ha-Yashar, chelek Ha-Teshuvot 70; see Ran, Shabbat 44a and Maharam Mi-Rutenburg, Responsa 473 [Prague]) suggests that women may be obligated in lechem mishneh due to the principle of “af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes,” “they too were included in this miracle.” The Talmud employs this principle to obligate women in neirot Chanuka (Shabbat 23a), keri’at ha-Megilla (Megilla 4a) and arba kosot (Pesachim 108b). The Rishonim debate whether the Talmud intends that women also benefited from the miracle or that they caused the miracle (see Tosafot, Megilla 4a, s.v. she-af; Tosafot, Pesachim 108b, s.v. hayu). Assuming that the principle means that women were also miraculously saved, Rabbeinu Tam suggests that since lechem mishneh is intended to serve as a reminder of the miracle of the double portion of mann that fell on Friday, women are equally obligated in this obligation. The Ran adds another reason for obligating women – men and women share all the obligations of Shabbat equally.


This debate sheds light on the nature and scope of the principle of af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes as well as the source of the obligation of lechem mishneh. Some Rishonim (see, for example, the comments of Tosafot cited above) conclude that the principle of af hen only applies to mitzvot of rabbinic origin. Therefore, they explain, the Talmud did not apply af hen to the mitzvoth of sukka, matza, and other Biblical mitzvot associated with miraculous events. These Rishonim assume, however, that theoretically, af hen could apply whenever a mitzva is associated with and serves as a reminder of a miraculous event.


R. Moshe Soloveitchik (1879–1941) offered a different perspective. He suggested that af hen only applies to mitzvot whose essence is rooted in pirsumei nissa, the obligation to publicize the miracle. While the purpose of neirot Chanuka, keri’at ha-Megilla, and arba kosot is to publicize miraculous events, one cannot assign this purpose to sukka, tefillin, or even lechem mishneh. Theoretically, he concludes, af hen could apply to Biblical mitzvot, but the mitzvot of pisumei nissa all happen to be Rabbinic in origin.


Accordingly, it seems that those who suggest that women are obligated in lechem mishneh due to the principle of af hen must maintain that lechem mishneh is only mi-derabbanan. Af hen, according to these Rishonim, cannot apply to a Biblical mitzva. However, those who maintain that women are exempt or that they are obligated due to the principle obligating men and women equally in the mitzvot of Shabbat may maintain that lechem mishneh is a Biblical obligation, as we saw above.


The Shulchan Arukh (291:6) rules that women are obligated in all three Shabbat meals. The Mishna Berura (274:1; see also Bi’ur Halakha 291:6) rules that women are also obligated in lechem mishneh.  In his Ha-Elef Lekha Shelomo (114), R. Shlomo Kluger (1783–1869) supports the widespread practice in his time of women not observing the obligation of lechem mishneh, insisting that women are exempt.


Although we summarized the debate regarding the halakhic origin and status of lechem mishneh, it remains difficult to understand how some can understand the obligation of lechem mishneh to be of Biblical origin, especially if the obligation to eat three meals may only be mi-derabanan! In order to understand this position, we must first understand the nature of the obligation of lechem mishneh.


Next week, we will discuss the manner in which lechem mishneh is fulfilled and address the nature of the mitzva and its relationship to the more universal laws of betzi’at ha-pat.