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Weekly Shabbos Halacha Series
Halachos Series on Hilchos Shabbos

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Published by
Pirchei Shoshanim

A Project of
The Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Written by

Rabbi Dovid
Ostroff, shlita


These Halachos were shown by Rabbi Ostroff to
HaGaon HaRav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita



Questions for the Week of Parshas Bechukosai


Hilchos Berachos

Various laws pertaining to Hamotzi on bread

Why Hamotzi and not Ha'adamah?

Initially, bread should be ha'adamah, because wheat grows in the ground, and indeed when eating roasted wheat one recites ha'adamah, but because bread is central in one's diet, as it says ולחם לבב אנוש יסעד, [1] Chazal elevated its b'racha and formulated the b'racha - hamotzi lechem min ha'aretz.

Is there a minimum one must eat to recite hamotzi?

There is no minimum and one recites hamotzi even on a bread crumb.

Is there a minimum for netilas yadayim?

It is crucial to know that although one should wash Netilas Yadayim for a crumb of bread, [2] the b'racha "al netilas yadayim" is not recited when eating less than a k'zayis of bread. When eating a k'zayis of bread, the Vilna Ga’on and Rav Moshe Feinstein rule that one recites a b'racha while the Mishna Berura [3] rules that one should refrain from reciting a b'racha unless one eats a k'beitza.

The Shulchan Aruch HaRav [4] also rules that one washes for any amount but only recites a b'racha "al netilas yadayim" when eating a k'beitza.

Which breads require hamotzi?

One only recites hamotzi on bread containing one of the five grains, but rice or corn bread is not hamotzi. One does not wash for rice or corn bread.

The b'racha for rice bread is mezonos, and even if one eats a large amount it remains mezonos. The b'racha for corn bread is shehakol, regardless of the amount eaten.

May I talk between washing hands and "al netilas yadayim"?

One must not talk between washing and the b'racha, because the b'racha pertains to the mitzvah of washing and talking constitutes an interruption – a hefsek.

The Shulchan Aruch HaRav writes [5] that many people refrain from talking after washing before the hamotzi but talk between washing and birkas "al netilas yadayim", and they are mistaken. We see that one may not talk between washing and "al netilas yadayim".

What about talking after washing one hand?

One should l'chatchila not speak after washing one hand because it is a mitzvah to wash both hands and the b'racha recited after washing pertains to each hand. Talking constitutes a hefsek between the mitzvah and the b'racha. [6]

If I spoke after al netilas yadayim and drying before hamotzi, do I need to wash again?

The gemora says – תיכף לנטילה ברכה, which means that as soon as one has washed one must recite the b'racha. Some Rishonim learn that the gemora is referring to מים אחרונים and one must bentch right after מים אחרונים, while other Rishonim learn that it refers to hamotzi after washing, i.e. there must be no interruption after washing for bread.

What constitutes a hefsek:-

~ waiting the time it takes to walk 22 amos. [7] Even sitting in one's place doing nothing is in incorrect when able to recite the hamotzi and for no apparent reason one stalls. Waiting for household members and guests to be seated does not constitute a hefsek because it is necessary for the meal.

~ talking, even divrei Torah. The Shulchan Aruch HaRav says that saying two, three words is not a hefsek and one may reply yes or no to a question. One may definitely not engage in any talking.

~ doing something, engaging in activity.

Nevertheless, even if one caused an interruption, as long as one knew that one is about to make hamotzi and eat, one need not wash again. It is commonly believed that if one spoke even a single word one must wash again and this, as explained, is wrong.

May I ask to bring the salt or the knife?

Anything spoken for sake of the bread is not a hefsek and one l'chatchila may say what is necessary. Consequently, one may say please bring the salt or knife; please feed the animals, because halachically one is obligated to feed one's animals before oneself. It is totally unnecessary to use sign language or hints and grunts as one may speak directly that which is necessary for hamotzi.

[1] Shulchan Aruch HaRav 167:1.

[2] Although major poskim rule that for less than a k'zayis one need not wash – Oruch HaShulchan 158:3 and  Chasam Sofer 127, the M"B 158:10 rules that l'chatchila one should be stringent and wash. The Birkei Yosef 158:4 and the Beis Me'ir say that one need not wash for less than a k'zayis but the Kaf HaChaim 158: 10 says that since the Elya Rabah, Ma'amar Mordechai, N'har Shalom and Derech HaChaim say to wash without a b'racha, one should avoid machlokes and wash even for the less than a k'zayis but without a b'racha.

[3] Siman 158:9.

[4] Siman 158:2.

[5] Siman 165:1.

[6] Ohr Le'tzion vol. II 11:3, T'shuvos V'hanhagos vol. II 115.

[7] Learned from walking in the Beis Hamikdash. The poskim explain that they would walk toe to heel and that is how this time span is calculated.


Vort on the Z'man

A mikveh cannot purify someone with a chatzitza – it prevents the water from reaching the entire body. If you want tahara, you must remove chatzitza. So too, if you want Hashem to metaher, you must remove the chatzitza, which are bad middos, especially ga'avah. Ga'avah prevents Hashem from getting close. Nesivos Shalom.


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Note:  The purpose of this series is intended solely for the clarification of the topics discussed and not to render halachic decisions. It is intended to heighten everyone's awareness of important practical questions which do arise on this topic.  One must consult with a proper halachic authority in order to receive p'sak.