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115b-116a: What is "Lechem Oni"?

Rav Ezra Bick
Text file

We are at the bottom of 115b, four lines from the end ("Amar Shmuel…")


The webpage is at


It includes, besides a webscan of the original daf, a text version of the gemara with a translation.


As usual, you should pause to answer the questions in the text before continuing past the dotted lines.




Amar Shmuel

Shmuel said: "Lechem oni" (literally, "bread of affliction") - bread over which many things are recited ("onim").

It is likewise found in a beraita: "Lechem oni" - bread over which many things are recited.

Another version: "lechem oni" - it is written "ani" ("oni" is written in Hebrew "ayin-nun-yud," without a "vav" after the "ayin." Hence, without the vowel tradition, it could be read as "ani," which means "poor."). Just as a poor man's custom is (to eat) a broken piece, so too here a broken piece.

Another version: Just as the way of a poor man is that he fires up (the oven) and his wife bakes, so too here he fires up and his wife bakes:


            The gemara here addresses the meaning of the term "lechem oni," found in the Torah to describe matza. Shmuel first suggests that "oni" refers to a word from the root meaning "to recite." He explains that matza is "bread over which many things are recited." This would appear to be a reference to the law which we mentioned last week, when addressing the need to have matza and maror individually placed before each participant in the seder (according to the Rashbam). The words of the seder (the haggada) are recited "over" matza and maror; i.e., with matza and maror present on the table.


            The gemara brings a proof-text to this explanation of Shmuel. However, this is followed by an alternative explanation.


            The next sections of the beraita associate the word "oni" with the word "ani," which means a pauper, a poor person. Matza is defined as "the poor man's bread." The question now is, what are the specific characteristics of "poor man's bread"?


            The first suggestion in the beraita, and the one with the greatest halakhic ramifications, as we shall see, is that a poor man eats a broken loaf. Therefore, the matza of Pesach should be a broken loaf.


The problem that immediately was addressed by the commentators is based on their assumption that on Yomtov one must use two whole loaves, just as is done on Shabbat. How can one then use a broken loaf?


            Rashi answers:


Af kan be-perusa

So too here a broken piece - for the purpose of the blessing "al achilat matza." He brings two whole ones for the blessing of "hamotzi," for it is not less than other holidays where one has to break over two whole loaves, and he breaks one of the whole ones.


            Rashi answers that one has to have THREE loaves of the bread on the seder plate, two whole and one broken. The blessing on the mitzva of matza ("al achilat matza") is recited over the broken one (since matza for Pesach is defined as "poor man's bread"), while the blessing over bread should be made over the two whole ones. Rashi adds that he subsequently eats from one of the whole ones. The latter point makes sense, since he must eat from the bread over which he recited "hamotzi."


            What does seem a bit strange here is that according to Rashi, it appears that one does not eat from the matza over which one made the "al achilat matza." (Read Rashi again and ascertain that you see why I deduce that this is Rashi's opinion). Apparently, it is clear to Rashi that you will eat only from one matza, and the necessity of eating from a whole one is paramount. The question is, what is the connection between the blessing "al achilat matza," which is directed to the broken piece, and the actual eating of a whole one in order to fulfill the mitzva of matza? In order to answer this question, I suggest you read Rashi again and consider whether I have correctly summarized his opinion in the previous paragraph.




            On second reading, I think that I have not presented Rashi's opinion correctly. Rashi wrote that one needs a broken matza "for the purpose of the blessing "al achilat matza." He did not say that the blessing relates exclusively to the broken piece. I now think that when I wrote that the "al achilat matza" was "over the broken one," this was mistaken. The "al achilat matza" relates to whatever matza he will subsequently eat. It is necessary that there be a broken matza before him, as this adds meaning to the blessing, since matza for Pesach is "poor man's bread." Rashi believes that the broken matza, by being present when the blessing is recited, provides the context of "oni-ani" which is an integral part of the meaning of the mitzva of matza. Once that context is provided and institutionalized in the blessing, the mitzva is fulfilled by eating any matza. Since the breaking of bread on a festival needs to be with whole unbroken loaves, the hamotzi and subsequent breaking (and eating) is done with the whole ones.


            This ambiguity, how to simultaneously relate to the Pesach requirement of a broken matza and the festival requirement of whole ones, is apparently what led Tosafot to slightly modify Rashi's position.


            (Aside from the scan of the printed daf, the text of the Tosafot, in Hebrew and English, is posted at: . I shall be breaking up the reading of the Tosafot into three parts, which is indicated on the text on the website).


Tosafot s.v. "ma"

It appears that hamotzi also must be recited over the broken piece, and this is implied in chapter "Keitzad Mevorchim" (Berachot 39b), where it is written, "All agree that on Pesach one places the broken piece within the whole ones and breaks (bread)." Explanation - even according to the opinion that one blesses on the whole and this exempts the broken pieces, he agrees that on Pesach one should not bless over the whole ones but over the broken, because of  "just as a poor man's custom is (to eat) a broken piece, etc.". And he places it within the whole one so that it appear that he is breaking over the whole one. And it appears that it is speaking (in Berachot) of the "hamotzi."


            We will shortly continue reading the Tosafot. First, let us understand what we have read so far.


            Tosafot first states that the hamotzi is recited over the broken piece ("al achilat matza" is surely recited over the broken piece; Tosafot adds that "hamotzi ALSO" is recited over the broken piece). He derives this from a passage in Berachot, where the gemara says that the broken piece should be placed together with the whole one when breaking bread. The context of the gemara is over which piece should a blessing be recited (in general, and not only on Pesach). Hence, Tosafot interprets the gemara in Berachot to be speaking about hamotzi, and he sees it as requiring that the broken piece be included directly in hamotzi, even though during the rest of the year the blessing would have been recited over the whole one only, with the broken piece being exempted indirectly. The placing of the broken piece "within" the whole one is so that the blessing be simultaneously related to a whole one, for the purpose of the festival requirement, and to the broken one, for the specific Pesach requirement.


            It is clear, I think, that according to Tosafot, one would, after the blessings, eat from the broken one (as opposed to Rashi). This follows both from the logic of his position, and from the language of the statement in Berachot. Tosafot explicitly states that the gemara is talking about "hamotzi," where the expression in the gemara was "botzei'a" (breaks bread). This should not be taken to eliminate the original meaning of the expression, which means to break bread and eat it.


            Accordingly, Tosafot has an opposite approach to the blessings from Rashi. The "hamotzi" must directly relate to the piece that he will eat, but it should give the appearance of relating to the whole one as well, in order to provide a framework of "double bread" on Shabbat and festivals.


            The language of the gemara in Berachot seems to apply that there is one broken piece and ONE whole loaf. Rashi, as you will recall, required one broken piece and TWO whole loaves. Tosafot relates to this point immediately.


And after wards it says, "R. Chiya bar Abba said: On Shabbat one must break bread over two loaves, as is written, 'collect double bread.' Now the proper place of the statement of R. Chiya bar Abba is in the chapter "Kol Kitvei" (Shabbat 117a), but it is cited there (in Berachot) after Pesach in order to tell us that one must have a third matza in order to have the double bread, and one must break bread over double bread both on Shabbat and Yomtov; for otherwise, why is the statement of R. Chiya bar Abba cited there?

This is the ruling of the Rif, that one needs to have two loaves on Yomtov. The reason is that double bread would descend on the eves of festivals (the manna would be a double portion on the day before a festival, just as it was on the Fridays before Shabbat).

But this is difficult, as we pray in "Ata kidashta" (the Friday night shemona esrei), "You blessed it over all days and sanctified it over all times," and it is written (Mechilta Beshalach), "it was blessed with manna and sanctified with manna," which implies that the manna would descend on festivals.


            The logic of the "double loaf" on Shabbat is that the manna did not fall on Shabbat, but a double portion fell on Friday. The question is, what happened in the desert on festivals. The answer is not explicit in the Torah, nor is it clear from the Talmud. Tosafot is claiming that the gemara in Berachot, by quoting the rule of double loaves on Shabbat, is telling us that on Pesach as well one must have a double loaf (whole loaves), and therefore it is necessary to have a total of three matzot, as Rashi had already stated.


            The statement in the Shabbat prayers, as interpreted by the Mechilta, seems to deny this position, and Tosafot offers no answer to this question, though he does not change his mind either.


            Finally Tosafot summarizes the halakha, and suggests another possibility.


This was the practice of R. Menachem of Joigny and R. Yom Tov, who would make all the blessings over the broken piece.

But the Ri (R. Yitzchak the elder) would recite hamotzi over the whole one and then "al achilat matza" over the broken one, and then break them both together (and eat), and this is the common custom. Therefore the third is used for "korech," so that there should a mitzva with all three.


            The Ri returns to Rashi's position of reciting hamotzi over the whole one and "al achilat matza" over the broken one. He then solves the problem of eating a matza over which hamotzi was not recited by eating both together. Tosafot states that this is the common custom, which is true until this day as well.


            To summarize. We have seen three opinions, Rashi, and two in Tosafot. Summarize the three for yourselves.




            There are also Rishonim who disagree with the middle section of Tosafot and do not require a "double loaf" on Yomtov. Following the simple reading of the gemara in Berachot, they require one broken and one whole loaf. The question, though, is, why is ONE whole loaf required?


            You should finish the gemara up to the next mishna. It is rather straightforward. The Artscroll translation is found on the website at:


            We have finished all the gemara to one mishna (the third mishna of the tenth chapter). This is an accomplishment, but halakhic custom does not yet call for a celebration. But I think it is appropriate, so I invite you all to take a (small) shot of shnapps and a piece of herring. Since this is not actually a customary celebration, you may update the menu to something more modern, if you like. I believe, though I have no proof, that Talmud can be learned without herring.


            Next week, we shall begin, without further ado, the next mishna.




Parts of the VBM shiur to this sugya by Rav Kahn follow:

Af Kan Biperusa

            Based upon this sugya, matza is identified as "poor man's bread."  This comparison is not limited to the unleavened state of matza, but signifies incompleteness, similar to the bread of an impoverished beggar who would normally eat leftover scraps.  It is for this reason that we divide the matza into two sections, thereby enabling the mitzva to be performed with a perusa - a broken piece of matza.

            According to the Rambam, the matza is broken after reciting the hagadda, prior to the blessings which precede the mitzva of eating the matza (Hilkhot Chametz U-matza 8:6).  However, our custom is to break the matza before reciting the hagadda.  This custom extends the law of perusa beyond the mitzva of eating, to include the reciting of the hagadda - "lechem she-onim alav devarim harbeh" (bread over which are recited many things).  In other words, the two derashot of the word "oni" are complementary; hence, "lechem oni" (meaning perusa) is used for the purpose of "onim alav devarim harbeh."  Perhaps, the Rambam rejected this custom because he thought that the two derashot were mutually exclusive.  Since he ruled in accordance with the derasha of perusa, he ignored the requirement of reciting the hagadda over matza.  (See Si'ach HaGrid pg. 26.)

Rashi s.v. Af

            According to Rashi and the Rashbam, three matzot are needed on the seder night.  Two full matzot are required for the general din of "lechem mishneh," (   the need to have two loaves on Shabbat and festivals) and an additional broken one is necessary for the unique halakha of "lechem oni."  Therefore, they claim that the blessing of "ha-motzi," typical of a normal festival, should be recited on the two whole matzot, while the blessing specific to the mitzva of matza, "al akhilat matza" should relate to the perusa.  Although Tosafot (s.v. Ma) agree, they add that the birkat "ha-motzi" should include the perusa as well as the lechem mishneh. 

            This position however, is not universally accepted.  In fact, the simple reading of the gemara in Berakhot (39b) seems to indicate that only one whole and one broken matza are needed.  The Rambam (Hilkhot Chametz U-matza 8:6) for instance, required only two matzot, one whole and one broken, although he agreed that Yomtov normally demands two whole loaves for lechem mishneh.  Nevertheless, he claimed that the seder night is exceptional because of the categorization of matza as lechem oni.

            The Rosh argued, against the Rambam, that the halakha of lechem oni should effect only the mitzva of EATING matza.  Why, he asked, is the requirement for lechem mishneh negatively effected by this din?  Apparently, the Rosh agreed with Rashi's position that the halakha of lechem oni is limited to the mitzva of matza.  The Rambam apparently maintains that lechem oni defines the nature of the Yom Tov meal, and not just the mitzva of eating matza; hence it is not sufficient to merely add a perusa for the ha-motzi (as suggested by Tosafot).  Instead, one must detract from the lechem mishneh in order to emphasize the lechem oni requirement.  By so doing, one initiates the se'udat Yom Tov with lechem oni.

            Tosafot quote an opinion that rejected the requirement for three matzot for another reason.  This dissenting view challenged the assumption that lechem mishneh is required on Yom Tov.  The gemara in Shabbat (117b) bases the halakha of lechem mishneh on the double portion of manna that the children of Israel received on Friday, so that they would not have to collect manna from the fields on Shabbat.  According to Tosafot and the Rif, the same occurred on erev Yom Tov.  However, the dissenting opinion apparently maintained that only one portion was received on erev Yom Tov.

            This argument depends on whether collecting manna from the fields, although prohibited on Shabbat, is permitted on Yom Tov.  In other words, whether or not it is included in those melakhot categorized as "okhel nefesh" - the final stages of food preparation, which are permissible on Yom Tov.  Clearly, if collecting manna is allowed on Yom Tov, there is no reason to assume that a double portion descended miraculously on erev Yom Tov.  Hence, we can infer that those who demand lechem mishneh on Yom Tov, do not catalogue collecting manna from the fields as okhel nefesh.

            The Rambam accepted the opinion that lechem mishneh is normally required on Yom Tov.  However, he does not appear to connect this with the issue of okhel nefesh.  He formulates the halakha of lechem mishneh within the context of oneg shabbat (the pleasures of shabbat - Hilkhot Shabbat 30:9).  He then applies all the laws of oneg Shabbat to Yom Tov (Hilkhot Yom Tov 6:16).  Hence, lechem mishneh is required on Yom Tov as well.

            According to the opinion quoted (and rejected) by Tosafot, that there is no halakha of lechem mishneh on Yom Tov, we are left to ponder why two matzot are required.  Why not recite both the ha-motzi and al akhilat matza on the perusa?  Tosafot in Berakhot (39b s.v. ha-kol) resolve this question based on the prohibition against coupling mitzvot - ein osin mitzvot chavilot (see last summer's shiur #5).  Accordingly, one should not use one piece of matza both for the purpose of ha-motzi and for the mitzva of eating matza.

            Tosafot rejected this application of "chavilot chavilot" since in reality only one mitzva is being performed.  The birkat ha-nehenin (in our case, birkat hamotzi) functions merely to enable this performance.  Perhaps, we can explain this position if we define the act of eating, which immediately follows the birkat ha-nehenin, as the mitzva performance.  There are a number of indications to support this theory; however, these will take us way beyond the scope of this shiur.

Tosafot s.v. Tagrei

            Tosafot rule in favor of the opinion of R. Eliezer be-R. Tzadok, based on the beraita which supports the position that charoset is a mitzva.  This is also the ruling of the Rambam in his code (Hilkhot Chametz U-matza 7:11).  However, in his commentary on the mishna, he ruled that charoset is not a mitzva, against R. Eliezer be-R. Tzadok.

            There is an additional discrepancy between the Rambam's mishna commentary and his code.  In explaining the mishna, the Rambam claims that R. Eliezer be-R. Tzadok, who maintains that charoset is a mitzva, requires an independent blessing - "al akhilat charoset."  This implies that the mitzva of charoset would be viewed as a mitzvat akhila (fulfilled through eating the charoset).  However, in his code, although ruling in accordance with R. Eliezer be-R. Tzadok, the Rambam makes no mention of a blessing requirement.  Evidently, the Rambam retracted his original understanding of R. Eliezer be-R. Tzadok.  (The Rambam compiled his halakhic code many years after his mishna commentary.) Instead of defining charoset as a mitzva which can be fulfilled only by EATING, the term mitzva refers to the symbolic quality of charoset.  Accordingly, charoset functions as one of the objects, along with matza and maror, through which the story of the enslavement and redemption is related.  However, as opposed to matza and maror, there is no independent mitzva to eat charoset.


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