Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried
Chapter 41 Laws Pertaining to the Breaking of Bread and the Berachah of Hamotzi
Before eating real bread, such as that made from the five grains [wheat, barley, oats, rye, spelt] you must recite the berachah Hamotzi and after [eating, recite] Birkas hamazon.
Be careful not to interrupt [by talking] between reciting Al Netilas Yadayim, and Hamotzi. But it is permissible to answer Amein to any berachah that you hear. A pause lasting as long as it takes to walk twenty-two amos [11.88 seconds], or from one house to another even if it is a short distance, or talking about something not related to the meal, is considered an interruption. However, if you did interrupt [in such a fashion], it does not matter, provided you did not perform some task in between; and did not engage in lengthy discussion, for if you did any of the above, it would be considered a distraction and you have to wash your hands again.
You should break off the bread at the choicest part of the loaf in honor of the berachah. The choicest part is the crust or hard part, for there the bread is baked best, and it is the part opposite the place where the bread splits open. This occurs because at the place where it starts to bake, the pressure on the dough builds until the opposite side splits. However, an old person who finds it difficult to eat hard bread should cut the bread at the soft part. In any event, cutting the bread should not cause excessive delay between the berachah Hamotzi and eating the bread. Therefore [before saying the berachah], make a small, circular incision around the loaf, in a way that by holding the piece [to be cut], the entire loaf will be lifted along with it, for otherwise it is considered cut off, and we require that the berachah Hamotzi be said while the loaf is whole. [Therefore] leave the piece to be cut joined to the rest of the loaf and say the berachah Hamotzi, and after completing the berachah, you may separate them. In this manner the berachah is concluded while the loaf is still whole. Similarly, when breaking off a piece from a loaf which is not whole, do not cut the slice off completely before saying Hamotzi, so that the loaf should be as large as possible at the time of the berachah. On Shabbos, however, do not cut into the bread at all until after reciting the berachah, so that the loaves should be completely whole. Also on a weekday, if you eat a thin type of bread, [such as matzah], recite the berachah before breaking it, since there is no delay in breaking the bread.
Do not cut off a small piece because you will appear miserly, on the other hand do not cut a piece larger than the size of an egg because you will appear gluttonous. This applies only if you are eating alone, but if you are eating with a group of people, and you must give from the piece you cut a kazayis to each of them, you may cut off as much as you need. On Shabbos, even if you eat alone, you may cut off as much as you need for the entire meal, in honor of the Shabbos. You indicate your fondness for the Shabbos meal, by your desire to eat generously of the food. You should eat the piece that you cut off before eating any other bread, to show your fondness for this mitzvah, since you recited the berachah over this piece. It is also preferable not to give from this piece to a non-Jew or an animal or fowl.
Before reciting the berachah, place both hands on the bread because the ten fingers are symbolic of the ten mitzvos involved in making bread. [The ten are]
- It is forbidden to plow with a team comprised of an ox and a donkey.
- It is forbidden to plant diverse species together.
- The stalks that fall during harvesting must be left for the poor.
- A sheaf forgotten in the field must be left for the poor.
- A corner of the field must be left unharvested for the poor.
- It is forbidden to muzzle a working animal.
- A portion of grain must be separated and given to the kohein (priestly family).
- A tenth of the remaining harvest must be given to the Levite.
- A tenth of the remaining harvest is then separated to be taken up to Jerusalem and eaten by the owner.
- A piece of the dough is separated and given to the kohein.
For this same reason there are ten words in the berachah of Hamotzi, and ten words in the verse (Psalms 145:15): "The eyes of all look expectantly to You" etc., and ten words in the verse (Deuteronomy 8:8): "A land of wheat and barley" etc., and ten words in the verse (Genesis 27:28): "And may Hashem give you" etc. When you pronounce the Name of Hashem, lift up the bread. On Shabbos lift up both loaves, and recite the berachah with concentration, making sure to enunciate clearly the letter hei in the word Hamotzi. Also allow a short pause between saying the word lechem and the word min, so as not to slur over the letter mem. After reciting the berachah, you must immediately eat the bread, because it is forbidden to interrupt between saying the berachah and eating [the bread], even to answer Amein. You should try to eat a kazayis of bread without interruption.
It is a mitzvah to have salt on the table before breaking the bread and to dip the piece of bread over which Hamotzi was said, into the salt. The reason for this is that the table is compared to the Altar [in the Holy Temple] and the food symbolizes the offering, and it is said (Leviticus 2:13): "On all your offerings you shall offer salt." And because the table is compared to the Altar, it is best to take care not to kill any vermin [or other insects] on it.
When you distribute portions of bread to others at the table, do not throw them, for it is forbidden to throw bread. And also do not hand it directly into the other person's hand, but, rather, place it in front of him.
It is best to say Hamotzi on the choicest bread possible. Therefore, if you have before you a piece of bread and a whole loaf, and you plan on eating from both of them during the meal, and both are from the same grain, even if the whole loaf is smaller than the piece of bread, and not as pure as the piece of bread, nevertheless, юsay the berachah] and break the whole one, because it is the choicest. But if they are not from the same grain, and the whole one is of inferior quality, for example, if the whole loaf is made from spelt, and the cut piece is made from wheat, even if the piece is smaller than the loaf, you should say the berachah on the piece made from wheat. If, however, the whole loaf is made from barley, even though it is inferior to wheat, nevertheless, since barley is also clearly mentioned in the Torah, and since the loaf is a whole one, a God-fearing person should show respect also to the whole barley loaf. How can you accomplish this? Place the cut piece underneath the whole loaf [and say the berachah] and break off from both at the same time. If both of them are whole or both are already sliced and both are made from the same grain, say the berachah on the purest of the two. If both are equally pure, say the berachah on the larger of the two pieces.
If you have before you bread made by a Jew and bread made by a non-Jew, and you are not stringent about eating bread from a non-Jew — if both of them are whole loaves, or both of them are pieces of equal size, and they are made from the same grain, you should recite the berachah over the bread made by the Jew. But if the bread made by the Jew is not as pure as the one made by the non-Jew then recite the berachah on whichever one you wish. If the host is stringent not to eat bread made by a non-Jew but it was brought to the table for the sake of a guest, it should be removed from the table until after the berachah of Hamotzi is said.
All the above laws concerning the order of preference apply only if your intention is to eat from both of them during the meal. But if you intend to eat from only one of the breads during the meal, cut from the one you wish to eat, and you need not be concerned about which is the choicest.