Halacha for Thursday 4 Cheshvan 5781 October 22 2020

“Double Bread”

In the previous Halacha, we have explained the laws of Seuda Shelishit and would also like to discuss the laws of women regarding Seuda Shelishit. However, since this issue is connected to the laws of women and “double bread” on Shabbat, let us first discuss the basic laws of “double bread” on Shabbat after which we shall return to our discussion regarding women and Seuda Shelishit.

The Gemara in Masechet Shabbat (117b) states: “Rabbi Abba said, one must break two loaves of bread on Shabbat, as the verse states (regarding the Manna which fell in the desert) ‘And they shall collect (a) double (portion) of bread.’ Rav Ashe said, I have seen Rav Kahana who would take two loaves of bread in his hands during the Hamotzi blessing, but he would only break one of them.” His reasoning was based on the verse which states that they “collected double bread,” meaning that they only held both loaves in their hands, but they would initially only break one of them.

Based on this, every Jewish individual is obligated to hold two loaves of bread at the time bread is broken during the Shabbat meals in commemoration of the miracle of the Manna which fell in the desert. (The loaves of bread must be covered on top with a cloth and there must be a table cloth under them as well.)

The Gemara exclaims that Rabbi Zera would break off a piece from the loaf which would last him the entire meal. Although one should not do so on a regular weekday, for this makes one look ravenous as he initially takes such a large piece for himself and constitutes a lack of etiquette, nevertheless, on Shabbat when this is being done to endear the Mitzvah of feasting and making Shabbat enjoyable, there is no concern that one may look like a glutton; on the contrary, it is actually a Mitzvah to do so.

While reciting the Hamotzi blessing on the bread, one should hold both loaves in one’s hands such that one is on top and one is on the bottom. When one breaks the bread, some say that it is better for one to break the bottom loaf while others say it is better to break the top loaf. Maran Ha’Bet Yosef (Chapter 274) writes in the name of the Kol Bo, “Some have the custom to break the bottom loaf and not the top one. However, our custom is to break the top one.” The Bet Yosef adds, “However, I have seen great scholars who break the bottom loaf and I have heard that this is indeed the correct way according to Kabbalah.” Maran indeed rules likewise in his Shulchan Aruch that one should break the bottom loaf.

Nevertheless, this opinion is not uncontested for Rabbeinu Ha’Ari z”l writes that one should break the top loaf, not the bottom one. The Rashba writes likewise in one of his responses that the top loaf should be broken. Thus, every individual should follow his own custom in this regard, for each custom is well-founded.

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