Rabbi Jachter's Halacha Files
(and other Halachic compositions)

A Student Publication of the Isaac and Mara Benmergui Torah Academy of Bergen County

Parshat Mishpatim         27 Shevat 5762           February 9, 2002          Vol.11 No.18


Lechem Mishneh
by Rabbi Howard Jachter

The Torah (Shemot 16:22) records that in the Midbar two portions of Mann fell on Fridays (see Rashi). The Gemara (Shabbat 117b) writes that based on the Pasuk we are obligated to take Lechem Mishneh on Shabbat. In this essay, we will discuss the parameters of this obligation. We will discus the nature of the obligation, whether it applies to Seudah Shelishit, whether it applies to women, and whether it applies on Yom Tov. We will conclude with a discussion of which of the two breads we cut. We base our discussion on an essay written by Rav Binyamin Tabory, a Rebbe at Yeshivat Har Etzion (Daf Kesher 6:128-130).

The Nature of the Obligation - Rashi vs. Rashba
The Gemara (Shabbat 117b) states that one must Botzeiah on two breads on Shabbat because of the aforementioned Pasuk that mentions that Lechem Mishneh fell on Fridays. Acharonim debate whether this is a biblical or rabbinical obligation. The Magen Avraham (618:10) indicates that it is only a rabbinic obligation, whereas the Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 274:1) states that it is a Torah obligation.

Rashi and the Rashba argue about the meaning of the word Botzeiah. Rashi (s.v. Livtzoa) explains it in this context as "recite a Beracha". Rashi implies (as noted by Rav Chaim Soloveitchik, see Mesorah 4:16) that one recites the Beracha on both breads but eats only one of them. The Rashba (commentary to Shabbat 117b s.v. Rabbi Zeira and Teshuvot) explains Botzeiah in this context to mean, "cut." According to the Rashba, one must cut both Challot.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 274:1) rules in accordance with Rashi and the Vilna Gaon (Biur Hagra ad. loc. s.v. Al Shtei) rules in accordance with the Rashba. The Mishna Berura (274:4) notes that common practice follows the Shulchan Aruch and the Aruch Hashulchan (O.C.274:3) records that many Jews in Lithuania follow the opinion of the Vilna Gaon. One should follow his family custom in this regard. If one is unaware of his family custom, he probably should follow the prevalent practice to follow the Shulchan Aruch's ruling. Interestingly, the Baer Heitav (O.C. 274:2) cites the practice of the Ari z"l to place twelve Challot on the Shabbat table at each meal. The twelve Challot correspond to the twelve Challot of the Lechem Hapanim (Vayikra 24:5-9) that the Kohanim would eat in the Bait Hamikdash on Shabbat. Rav Efraim Greenblatt (Teshuvot Efraim 1:201) rules that according to the prevalent Minhag to eat only from one of the two Challot, we are not, strictly speaking, required to remove the unused Challah from its plastic bag. However, he believes that it is preferable to remove the second Challah from its plastic bag when reciting the Beracha on the two Challot.

One may analyze the Rashi-Rashba dispute as follows. Rashi believes that the Lechem Mishneh obligation requires us to recreate the experience of our ancestors eating Mann on Shabbat. The Daat Zekeinim to Shemot 16:22 explains that every day two loaves of Mann fell, one for the morning meal and one for the evening meal. On Friday four loaves of bread fell. One is for the Friday morning meal, leaving three loaves left. On Friday night, they would eat one loaf, leaving two left. On Shabbat morning, they would eat one loaf, leaving one to eat during the third meal, which is eaten Shabbat afternoon. According to Rashi, we follow this schedule and eat only one of the loaves at each Shabbat meal.

This scheme does not fit the opinion of the Rashba. He does not believe that the Lechem Mishneh obligation is to recreate the eating experience of the Mann on Shabbat. Rather, he believes that the Gemara obligates us to eat two breads instead of the usual one bread. The idea of Lechem Mishneh, according to the Rashba, is that on Shabbat we double what we usually have. The Rashba in the Teshuva notes that this is consistent with other aspects of Shabbat where we double many things. Every day we offer one lamb for the Korban Tamid. On Shabbat, we offer two lambs for Korban Mussaf (Bemidbar 28:1-10). Every day we recite one Psalm of the day and on Shabbat evening and Shabbat morning we recite two Psalms of the day (Mizmor Shir Leyom Hashabbat and Hashem Malach Geioot Laveish). The Torah presents two aspects of Shabbat - Shamor and Zachor. Based on this, writes the Rashba, our practice is to light two candles.

Ramifications of the Rashi-Rashba Dispute - Seudah Shelishit, Women, and Yom Tov
There are at least three ramifications of this dispute between Rashi and the Rashba. One is the dispute whether we require Lechem Mishneh for Seudah Shelishit. The Rama (O.C. 291:4) notes the common Ashkenazic custom to bless on only one Challah during Seudah Shelishit. The aforementioned Daat Zekeinim notes that the Ashkenazic practice corresponds to the practice of the Jews in the Midbar. Just as they had only one bread for Seudah Shelishit (that is what was left), so too we only have one bread for Seudah Shelishit. The Rama, however, concludes that it is best to have Lechem Mishneh at Seudah Shelishit as well.

On the other hand, the Rambam (Hilchot Shabbat 30:9) and the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 291:4) state that we should have Lechem Mishneh for Seuda Shelishit as well. Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yalkut Yosef 4:1:406) notes that the practice of Sephardic Jews is to have Lechem Mishneh even by Seudah Shelishit. This approach seems to fit better with the Rashba's approach to Lechem Mishneh. According to the Rashba, this Halacha does not demand us to reenact the procedure of eating the meals on Shabbat in the Midbar. According to the Rashba, the fact that our ancestors did not have Lechem Mishneh for Seudah Shelishit is irrelevant for our observance of Lechem Mishneh. The idea of doubling the everyday norm applies to Seudah Shelishit as well.

Women and Lechem Mishneh
The Ran (44a in the pages of the Rif, s.v. Vekatav Rabbeinu Tam) presents two explanations why women are obligated in Lechem Mishneh. Rabbeinu Tam (Rashi's grandson) says despite the fact that it is a time bound positive Mitzva, women are obligated to observe Lechem Mishneh because they too were involved with the miracle of the double portion of Mann falling on Fridays. The Ran (a disciple of a disciple of the Rashba) believes that the Gemara (Berachot 20b) that teaches that women are obligated to recite Kiddush implies that women are obligated in all matters relating to Shabbat. The Ran understands the Gemara to teach that men and women's obligations are the same as far as every aspect of Shabbat.

The two answers offered might hinge upon the Rashi-Rashba dispute. Rabbeinu Tam's approach that the women were also involved in the miracle of the double portion of the Mann fits well with Rashi's approach that the Lechem Mishneh obligation is to recreate the Mann experience of Shabbat. On the other hand, the Ran, who approvingly cites the Rashba's understanding of Lechem Mishneh (43b in the pages of the Rif s.v. Amar Rava), is dissatisfied with Rabbeinu Tam's approach. The fact that women participated in the miracle of the double portion of the Mann is irrelevant for the Rashba and Ran who do not view Lechem Mishneh as a recreation of the Midbar experience. Hence, the Ran must offer a different reason for why women are obligated in Lechem Mishneh.

Whatever the explanation, Poskim rule that woman are obligated in Lechem Mishneh (Mishna Berura 274:1, Aruch Hashulchan O.C. 274:4, and Rav Ovadia Yosef (Teshuvot Yechaveh Daat 4:25). The opinion of Rav Shlomo Kluger (Teshuvot Haelef Lecha Shlomo 114) that women are excused from the obligation of Lechem Mishneh is rejected by almost all Halachic authorities.

Yom Tov
The Rambam (Hilchot Chametz Umatza 8:6) and Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 629:1) state that the Lechem Mishneh obligation applies on Yom Tov as well as Shabbat. The Mishna Berura (629:10) and Aruch Hashulchan O.C. 274:5) explain that this ruling is in accordance with the Midrashim that believe that the Mann did not fall on Yom Tov. Thus, the miracle of the double portion occurred on Erev Yom Tov as well as Erev Shabbat (see Tosafot Beitzah 2b s.v. Vehaya who note the conflicting Midrashim whether Mann fell on Yom Tov). This approach fits with Rashi's approach that Lechem Mishna reenacts the Mann episode in the desert. However, either the Rashba disagrees and believes that the rule of Lechem Mishneh does not apply on Yom Tov (there is no evidence that the Rashba rules this way) or he has a different explanation for why we must have Lechem Mishneh on Yom Tov. An explanation might be that the rules pertaining to the positive Mitzvot of Shabbat and Yom Tov are very similar (see Rambam Hilchot Yom Tov 6:16).

Which Challah do we cut?
The Bait Yosef (O.C.274 s.v. Katav Hakolbo) cites differing practices whether the top Challah should be cut or the bottom Challah should be cut. This discussion, of course, is relevant only according to those who follow Rashi's opinion that only one of the Challot are cut.

A reason for cutting the top Challah is the Talmudic rule of "Ein Ma'avirim Al Hamitzva," one should not pass an opportunity to perform a Mitzvah that is before him and instead perform a different Mitzvah (Yoma 33a and Megila 6b). The top Challah is closer and arguably should not be passed over to cut the lower Challah (Magen Avraham 274:1). The Bait Yosef writes that those who advocate cutting the lower Challah do so for Kabbalistic reasons.

The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 274:1) rules that we should cut the bottom Challah. The Rama (ibid) notes the Ashkenazic custom (based on Kabbala) to cut the bottom Challah at night and the top Challah on Shabbat morning. The Rama writes that on Yom Tov, Ashkenazim cut the top Challah for both evening and morning meals. The Taz (O.C. 274:1) presents a method for cutting the bottom Challah and avoiding violation of the Ein Maavirim Al Hamitzvot rule. He writes that one should position the bottom Challah closer to himself, thereby making cutting the bottom Challah, the Mitzvah that presents itself more immediately. The Mishna Berura (274:5) cites the Taz as an option to solve this problem. Another option, writes the Mishna Berura, is to recite the Beracha on the top Challah and subsequently place that Challah on the bottom and cut it. Ashkenazim should follow either their family Minhag or the prevalent community Minhag.

There is some debate about the correct practice for Sephardic Jews. The Kaf Hachaim (274:2) rules in accordance with the Ari z"l that one who has only two Challot should cut the top Challah. Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yalkut Yosef 4:1:305) writes that Sephardim should follow the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch to cut the bottom Challah. He recognizes, though, that many Sephardim follow the Ari z"l to always cut the top Challah based on Kabbalistic reasons.

Although many of these debates appear minor in the broader scheme of things, nevertheless one should properly adhere to the Lechem Mishneh obligation, a hallmark of the Shabbat table. I hope this essay will inspire study of all of the relevant Halachot pertaining to cutting of the Challah and conduct during the Shabbat meals.

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