Friday, June 29, 2007

Washing of the Hands and Breaking Bread

Traditionally, a ritual washing of the hands precedes the blessing of the bread. This washing is not for hygiene (which should be done first) but rather to help elevate ourselves spiritually through ritual purity and to help transform the Shabbat meal into a holy event. Using a special two-handled cup, water is poured over each hand three times, and the hands are raised up while the blessing is recited.

After reciting the blessing, it is customary to remain silent until the words of the Motzi - the blessing over the bread - are spoken. Our silence links these two devotional acts and helps invoke the presence of the Divine at our meal.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְווֹתָיו וְצִוָנוּ עַל נְטִילַת יָדַיִים:
Baruch ata Adonai eloheinu melech ha’olam asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al n’tilat yada’yim.
Blessed are You, our Eternal God, Ruler of the universe, Who sanctifies us with the mitzvot, and commands us to elevate our hands.

Just prior to the blessing, the cover is removed from the two loaves of challah, the special golden Shabbat bread, which is usually braided. The two whole loaves are placed on the Shabbat table to remind us of the double portion of manna that God provided every Friday while the Israelites wandered in the desert, in preparation for the day of rest, when no manna appeared (Exodus 16:22). Also, in the days of the Temple, the sacrificial ritual included two meal offerings on Shabbat, along with salt. In remembrance of that Temple ritual, some sprinkle salt on the challah prior to eating it. The loaves are lifted (in some homes everyone reaches to touch the bread) while reciting the blessing. The challah is then ripped into pieces or sliced and passed around the table, so that each person may have a piece.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, הַמּוֹצִיא לֶחֶם מִן הָאָרֶץ:
Baruch ata Adonai eloheinu melech ha’olam hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz.
Blessed are You, our Eternal God, Ruler of the universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth.
The bread is shared and the Shabbat meal is served.

From Avi Biran, this natlah made of sterling silver and semi precious stones. I love that Avi uses so much humor is in his work which remains halachically correct!

No comments: