"Shoot!" (Q & A)

The Ascent Question & Answer Forum

conducted by Yrachmiel Tilles, Editor of the Ascent Quarterly


"Why do we use two loaves for the blessing over bread on Shabbat?"


It started shortly after we left Egypt. The matzah that we took with us on 15 Nisan 2448 lasted a month, our records show. The very next day, Sunday, 15 Iyar, the manna, the "bread from heaven," first became available.

Food from heaven-what a miracle! Furthermore, it tasted like your favorite dish, and no matter how much you gathered, you ended up with precisely the same amount per member of your household as everyone else.

The next day, it happened again-the same miracles!

On the third day, it was also wonderful...but not quite so amazing. By the fifth day, everyone had already come to expect it. Then, on the sixth day, Friday, everyone who went out to gather came back with double the usual amount. Amazement again...and consternation. They ran to Moshe to find out what was going on and he explained to them about Shabbat: prepare double on Friday; no need, no pressure to work on Saturday. That day, was 20 Iyar, three full weeks before the Ten Commandments.

Today, more than 3300 years later, we still recite the blessing over two loaves, to commemorate the miracle and the blessing of the manna in relation to Shabbat.

The Talmud (Shabbat 33b) relates that when the two great scholars and mystics, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his son, Rabbi Eliezer, emerged from the cave where they had been hiding for thirteen years, they saw a Jewish farmer running home on Friday afternoon. He was carrying two bunches of fragrant myrtles. When they asked why, he said "In honor of Shabbat." When they asked "Why two?" he explained: one for "Remember" [Ex. 20:8] and one for "Guard" [Deut. 5:12].

We understand the distinction between them to be that "Remember Shabbat, that it be holy" refers to the active mitzvot of Shabbat, such as kiddush, increased prayer, etc., as well as the special meals and all the other aspects of pleasure on Shabbat. "Guard Shabbat, that it be holy" means to avoid violating the day's holiness by refraining from the activities forbidden on Shabbat. We set out two loaves to represent this double aspect of Shabbat and acknowlege their equal importance).

Yrachmiel Tilles

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