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Something To Pick At

By Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow

In a neighborhood where there is no communal eiruv, an eiruv chatzeiros is required to carry on Shabbos from one’s home into a common area. In the Lower East Side there is no eiruv that permits carrying in the streets. Still, residents are allowed to carry from their co-ops to their hallways or to other apartments by means of an eiruv chatzeiros. Typically, one resident of the building designates a box of matzos to serve as the eiruv. However, another way of making the eiruv is asking residents to each contribute a certain amount of bread.

Rebbe Yehoshua is of the opinion that every resident must contribute a full loaf or roll of bread. It would generate animosity if some neighbors contributed full loaves towards the eiruv only to discover that another resident gave mere pieces. For the sake of shalom and uniformity, Rebbe Yehoshua said that every resident should contribute a complete loaf or roll of bread. It is true that neighbors can still complain that they gave a full 2-pound rye bread whereas the other resident gave a challah roll. However, it would be a stretch for Chazal to dictate exactly how much bread every resident should contribute.

Further, there really is no limit to what neighbors can complain about. They can still complain about the quality of the flour, yeast, or eggs. Chazal drew the line by only requiring that everyone contribute a whole loaf. This halachah is codified in Shulchan Aruch. If one contributed only a partial loaf towards the eiruv, it may be invalid even post facto.

What happens if someone designated a loaf for the eiruv but before they were able to deliver it, their 3-year-old son tore it in half? Rav Chisda offered a novel solution. Use toothpicks to attach the two pieces! As long as it looks like one loaf to the casual observer, it’s fine. The Mishnah Berurah notes that upon close inspection anyone could usually tell that it is in fact two pieces. Perforce, the Gemara means that if the toothpick attachment will fool the casual observer, it is halachically considered one loaf.

The Rokeach observes that this trick should work in other areas of halachah as well. There is a mitzvah that when one recites the berachah of ha’motzi even during the week, he should recite it over a whole loaf. If the option is available, one should only slice his bread or roll after he recited ha’motzi. If one has sliced bread available, there is no obligation to start a new loaf. However, if given the choice between a whole roll and a sliced roll, one should preferably opt for the whole roll. The Shulchan Aruch therefore rules that if one has a roll that was sliced in two, he should take the time to insert a toothpick to make it appear whole before he recites ha’motzi. Since he has the option of making the loaf appear whole, he should do so as an honor for the berachah.

The Magen Avraham questions whether one really has to spend the time on an ordinary day making the loaf appear whole. However, there is another scenario where this subterfuge may come in handy. On Shabbos there is a mitzvah of lechem mishneh, to recite ha’motzi over two whole loaves. If someone has a roll that was sliced in two, may he stick toothpicks in to have it appear whole? Would that satisfy the requirement of lechem mishneh? The Shulchan Aruch rules that it does, and further states there is no prohibition on constructing this loaf even on Shabbos itself.

However, there are those that question the application of the Rokeach. Rav Chisda was concerned that there would be strife if some people contributed a whole loaf of bread towards the eiruv and some people only contributed a partial loaf. For the sake of peace, the rabbis instituted that everyone should give a whole loaf. The idea behind the toothpicks is just to fool the neighbors into thinking that you gave a whole uncut loaf. (He actually did give a whole loaf, just it was already sliced.) However, of course the loaf was actually sliced. Certainly, Hashem knows that the loaf was sliced. When you use a sliced loaf for lechem mishneh, Hashem will not be fooled by the toothpicks. There is a requirement that whole loaves be used for lechem mishneh; toothpicks do not actually make the loaf whole to fulfill this mitzvah.

The Chelkas Yaakov defends the Rokeach by questioning why there is a mitzvah to use a whole loaf for lechem mishneh. Is there something magical about a whole loaf? The reason that a whole loaf is used for lechem mishneh is that it is more respectable to start the meal with a whole loaf rather than partially eaten bread. The mitzvah of the whole loaf is solely for appearances. If the toothpick gives the appearance of a whole loaf, then it certainly fulfills the requirement of lechem mishneh.

The Elyah Rabba, though, is not convinced. He therefore concludes that certainly if one has a bona fide whole loaf for lechem mishneh he should use it. If not, he may combine two halves of a loaf with toothpicks. This is especially true since if one didn’t have lechem mishneh he is certainly allowed to have his Shabbos meal without it. A person shouldn’t fast simply because he doesn’t have lechem mishneh.

At least with the “toothpick loaf” he will fulfill lechem mishneh according to some opinions. The other opinions would say that two halves really don’t make a whole. v

Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow leads a daf yomi chaburah at Eitz Chayim of Dogwood Park in West Hempstead. He can be contacted at

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Posted by on May 30, 2013. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.