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Shabbat Parashat Masei | 5768

How Much Does One Need to Eat From the Lechem Mishneh?

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Question: Does one have to eat a k’zayit (size of an olive; assumed to be 1 fl. oz.) from the lechem mishneh (two loaves of bread for Shabbat)? What happens if the lechem mishneh is too small for everyone to get a sizable piece or if someone prefers another challa?
Answer: The Rama (Orach Chayim 167:1), in describing how much of a loaf one should properly cut off after reciting Hamotzi,says: “That which one should not pull off more than a k’beitza (the size of an egg) is only during the week when one is eating by himself. However, on Shabbat or when one is eating with many people and needs to give from the removed piece a k’zayit to everyone, one can pull off as much as he wants.” Ostensibly then we assume that everyone should receive a k’zayit of the main bread upon which the beracha was made. However, let us put the matter in perspective based on the sources and issues.
The poskim (see Beit Yosef, OC 167) say that one should not normally cut off a large piece of bread from his loaf because it looks gluttonous (see Berachot 39b). However, the gemara (ibid.) says that if one does so specifically on Shabbat, it is fine, as he is seen as one who approaches the mitzva to eat on Shabbat enthusiastically. The Rambam (Berachot 7:3) also says that one should not cut off too small a piece because that looks stingy. The Beit Yosef corroborates with a gemara that shows the importance of a host giving nice sized pieces to his guests. Thus, one can easily understand the Rama as just dealing with matters of manners with no implication about whether the guests are halachic supposed to eat a k’zayit from the main loaf (see Mishna Berura 167:15).
The Magen Avraham (167:7; cited ibid.), though, understands that there may be a beracha-related reason to have a k’zayit. He points out that the minhag is not to be careful on the matter but says it is preferable to have a k’zayit (see also Dagul Me’revava, ad loc.). That being said, these sources do not say that even preferably the whole k’zayit must come from the loaf upon which the beracha was made. In fact, if the guests have bread in front of them, they can use the host’s beracha and immediately eat from their own bread (Shulchan Aruch ibid.:15).
The question is on Shabbat, when everyone must be connected to the lechem mishneh and wait to receive a piece (ibid.). We find that on Shabbat it is best to initially cut off a big enough piece to suffice for the whole meal (ibid. 274:2). However, there does not seem to be a requirement for individuals to eat specifically a k’zayit from the lechem mishneh. (A person should eat a k’zayit of bread for it to be a meal and recite Birkat Hamazon and a k’beitza to justify the beracha on netilat yadayim.) However, being connected to the lechem mishneh and the beracha made on it can be accomplished with eating any quantity (Igrot Moshe, OC V, 16; Teshuvot V’hanhagot II, 171).
Nevertheless, some sources indicate that a piece less than a half of a k’zayit is not significant (see Eliya Rabba 174:2) and that one should show respect to the mitzva-related bread (see Levush, OC 174:14). Therefore, people would do well to eat a half of a k’zayit (without exaggerating the size of k’zayit as many of us do on Pesach) from the lechem mishneh. However, one who dislikes the challa the host used for lechem mishneh or has health concerns with it can follow the basic halacha that he can go on to other bread after a small taste from the lechem mishneh. Similarly, hosts who make Hamotzi on a loafthat may not provide a k’zayit or even a half for all (e.g., with large groups or for those who use rolls or matza for lechem mishneh at seuda shlishit) need not feel guilty. One who is careful to provide a k’zayit to each guest from the lechem mishneh is praiseworthy (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 55:24 and footnote 15).
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