Halachot of Berachot
Questions and Answers
Halachot of Pat (Pas)
What constitutes Bread?
- In order for it to be halachikly considered “bread,” it must come from the 5 special grains (wheat, barley, spelt, rye and oats). It then has to be ground into flour, mixed with water into a thick dough and baked.
- People generally use it as the mainstay of their meal.
- It has a normal bread-like appearance.
- Chazal gave bread its very own beracha, Hamotzei, since it is a unique food in the sense that it satiates and is used as the mainstay of any meal.
- Before one eats bread, he must wash his hands and recite the beracha of Al Nitilat Yadiim. Ideally, one should only say this beracha when he is eating 1 KaBeitzah of bread. However, even if he eats half this amount, 1 KaZayit of bread, than many poskim rule to also say the beracha. Lastly, when one eats less than a KaZayit of bread, he doesn’t even have to wash his hands and certainly shouldn’t make the beracha. Yet, many advise that he should wash just without the beracha.
- It is preferable to say the beracha of Hamotzei on a complete and full piece of bread. Therefore, if one is planning on eating a roll or something complete, then he should first make the beracha and then only after cut the item. On the other hand, it is also preferable to reduce the time interval between the beracha and the eating and therefore, a compromise is made by which we make a small slit in the bread with our knives. As long when one picks up one side of the item and the other side is elevated along with it – it is considered complete.
- On Shabbat and Yom Tov there is a need to be even more careful when cutting our bread in advance, since on Shabbat on Yom Tov we desire to have 2 complete pieces of bread. The Rema advises not to cut at all, but if one wants then perhaps only a tiny mark to show where he will continue to cut after the beracha
- One should place salt upon the table before making the beracha, since our table represents the mizbe’ach and our food the korban. The Shulchan Aruch writes that this practice will protect one from troubles and according to Kabbalah one should dip the bread into the salt 3 times.
Making the Beracha
- There is no minimum amount; rather one makes the opening beracha of hamotzei for any size piece of bread. However, the closing beracha of Birkat HaMazon is said only when one consumes
- For Ashkenazim - When making the Beracha one should grasp the bread with all ten of his fingers and raise the bread as he says “Hashem”
- For Sephardim – He should raise the bread upon saying “HaMotzei”
- It is important to clearly enunciate the beracha and to pause between the words “Lechem” and “Min” so as not to combine the two into one word.
- Ideally, one should try to eat a full KaZayit right after the beracha. (Mishna Berura 167: 15)
- Judaism mandates a certain respectable etiquette in general and during meals specifically.
- One should not hold with his hands a piece of bread larger then a KaBeitzah, however nowadays if it is acceptable for that specific item then it would be permitted. For example, a falafel pita or a slice of pizza would be permitted.
- One should not throw bread, and even if one has a minhag to do so he should stop the minhag. Alternatively, he should not hand it directly either, since this is the way of mourners. Rather he should distribute the bread through a plate or place the bread on the table before the other guy.
- One should make a special effort to speak words of Torah at every meal. Nevertheless, one can satisfy this requirement thought ze’mirot and pizmonim. If one is in an absolute rush he said say, “Mayim Acharonim Chova” before washing Mayim Acharonim.
- During the actual eating session of the meal one shouldn’t speak at all, including words of Torah.
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