Thursday, February 26, 2009

Blessing The Bread

Two complete loaves of bread, called challah, are used for Ha’motzee, the blessing over the bread. The challah should be covered from before Kiddush until everyone is ready for the blessing over the challah after the ritual hand washing. One reason that the challah is covered is because one would normally recite the blessing over bread before any other blessing, but on Shabbat, the blessing on wine is recited first. The bread is covered so that it should not “feel shamed” at having lost its natural place of honor. The purpose, of course, is not to protect the “feelings” of an inanimate object--since it would not have feelings--but to teach us a lesson about respecting our fellow human beings and going out of our way not to shame them.

The person making the blessing over the challah gently marks the challah to be cut with a knife and then raises the challahs and recites the blessing.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.


Ba’ruch Ah’tah Ah’doh’nai Eh’lo’hay’nu Melech ha’o’lam ha’mo’tzee lechem min ha’aretz.

The challah is then cut and each piece is dipped in salt (just a pinch). The person who made the blessing should take a piece, eat and then distribute the cut challah out to everyone at the table.


Twebrew School: Shabbat is brought to you on behalf of Shabbat Across America and Shabbat Across Canada, the only cross-continental celebration of Shabbat. The fourteenth annual SAA/C will take place on March 5, 2010. To learn more, click here.

Copyright © 2010 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Bread of the Sabbath

Challah, known to some as "Jewish bread," is one of the essential elements of the Shabbat table. Each of the three Shabbat meals begins with the blessing over two loaves of Challah, which are then cut and shared with all present.

Bread has special significance in Judaism. It represents the great potential that God put in the world. Bread begins as a seed, grows into wheat (which is still inedible), is winnowed and ground before it is transformed into flour and dough, which is then baked into bread. All this from a small kernel of wheat! Because of its stature as the “staple” food, the blessing over bread is recited at the beginning of the meal and "covers" all further foods eaten during the meal*.

There is, however, special significance to the blessing of ha’mo’tzee (the bread blessing) when recited over two loaves at the Shabbat table. The two loaves serve as a reminder that in the wilderness God provided manna (the heavenly bread) every day except on Shabbat. Throughout the week, the Israelites collected only enough manna for a single day, but on Fridays they collected a double portion to last through Shabbat. The complete loaves of the Shabbat table are known as lechem mishneh (double bread).

While the word challah brings to mind distinctive braided loaves, the shape is not a requirement. As long as the two loaves of bread are whole (they could even be two uncut rolls or two pieces of matzah), then the mitzvah of lechem mishneh is fulfilled. The braiding of the challah, however, has taken on symbolic significance. For instance, making the ha’mo’tzee blessing on two loaves of six-strand challah is a beautiful symbol of the unity of the Jewish people. Each challah strand is representative of one of the tribes of Israel. When the two loaves are held together, all twelve tribes are represented at the Shabbat table.

*At a meal without Kiddush at which one has eaten bread, a separate blessing is made on wine consumed during the meal. If one does not eat bread, separate blessings are recited on each of the items eaten, such as fruit, vegetables, grains etc.


Twebrew School: Shabbat is brought to you on behalf of Shabbat Across America and Shabbat Across Canada, the only cross-continental celebration of Shabbat. The fourteenth annual SAA/C will take place on March 5, 2010. To learn more, click here.

Copyright © 2010 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.