כ״ב באלול ה׳תשע״ב (September 9, 2012)

Berakhot 39a-b: A whole loaf or a slice of bread?

Does it make a difference whether a blessing is recited over a whole loaf of bread or over a piece of bread? This question is discussed on today’s daf.

It was stated that there was an amoraic dispute with regard to whether to recite the blessing over a whole loaf of bread or to recite it over a piece of bread: If they brought pieces and whole loaves of bread before those partaking of a meal, Rav Huna said: One may recite the blessing over the pieces and with that blessing exempt the whole loaves as well. Rabbi Yoḥanan said: The optimal manner in which to fulfill the mitzva is to recite the blessing over the whole loaf. However, if the piece was of wheat bread and the whole loaf was of barley bread, everyone agrees that one recites a blessing over the piece of wheat bread. Although it is a piece of bread, it is nevertheless of superior quality, and in so doing one exempts the whole loaf of barley bread.

Rabbi Yoḥanan’s opinion that one recites a blessing over whole loaves because they are more esthetic is understandable. However, Rav Huna’s opinion must be explained, as well. Rashi, as well as other commentaries, assert that Rav Huna did not give preference to the pieces; he simply equated them to the whole loaves. He said that they only take precedence if they are larger. Rav Hai Ga’on and the Rashba disagree, explaining that since the pieces are already sliced, they can be eaten immediately, and pleasure from them is instantaneous. For this reason it is preferable to recite a blessing over them, rather than the whole loaves, which one must slice before enjoying them.

In a case where there was a wheat slice and a barley loaf, the Rambam (Sefer Ahava, Hilkhot Berakhot 7:4) recommends placing the slice beneath the loaf and breaking from both at once.

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