07 February 2006

"The Host Breaks [Bread]..."

This past shabbas, I was at someone's apartment (I would post her name here, but I don't know how she feels about being mentioned.) where there were three guys and five gals: the kiddush cup was given to one of the guys, with the bread being pushed to another guy, leaving me to lead the זימון (zimmun; preparatory blessing call for the Grace After Meals). As to me leading the זימון, I was totally fine, due to the statement of Rabbi Yohanan's, which he says in the name of Rabbi Shim'on, son of Yohanan that, "The host breaks [the bread] and the guest blesses [the Grace After Meals]. The host breaks so that he can give out a lot (lit., with a pretty eye), and the guest blesses, so that he can bless the host" (bBerakhot 46a) (for more on this guest blessing, see the recent posting on the Bentsching blog). While the kiddush issue received much discussion on an earlier posting back in the fall, the issue of breaking bread concerned me.
As Lab Rab had commented there,
since the owner of the home traditionally makes Hamotzi (as recorded in the Talmud (Brachot 46a), בעל הבית בוצע ואורח מברך), when a woman is hosting she should make Hamotzi.
I find myself agreeing with him. The only exception to this of which I can think might be when the person who brought the חלה (hallah) is given it to make "haMozi" rather than the host/hostess, as they brought the bread, themselves.
So I asked one of my fellow diners, Margueya Novick (you made it onto my blog (and I spelled your
name correctly, too)!) as to why the young ladies at this meal, perhaps in general, even, were taking no interest in making these blessings and giving them over to guys. She responded that at one time she actually used to be at all girl meals and she, or other girls, used to make blessings, but feel kind of on-the-spot. However, once she started attending meals with guys, it made it easier for her that guys would be taking care of that. (Margueya, I hope I got that right. :))
I'm not quite sure I understand that line of thinking, but I guess it is what it is and people do that. While I very much like the statement in the Talmud mentioned above (and for which I try to be מקפיד (careful)), I would suppose that in cases where the person doling out the bread at the meal is doing it as a שליח (proxy) of the host or hostess, they will hopefully give it out with good quantity to their fellow diners.
***As with all of my posts, this is not a פסק הלכה (judgement of Jewish law), as I am only in rabbinic
school, and not yet an ordained rabbi.***


ZK said...


One Shabbos at Mincha a few months ago, a guy approached and asked me if I would set him up with a particular girl. He came over to me after Maariv and told me to forget about it because he had gone to her apartment for Seuda Shlishit and she had made Hamotzi herself and he wasn't into the whole "feminist thing." So I know you see things sort of black and white, but other people might view this issue as a feminist thing and don't want to be branded as that (obviously totally removed from whether in reality it in away has any connection to feminism or even if it halachically appropriate.) Lots of times people do things based on how they look or what is considered normative rather than if it is actually correct. Thought you would have figured that one out already. :)

Drew_Kaplan said...

ZK (Good to see you back on my blog (assuming it's who I think it is).),
I think I mentioned in a comment in an earlier posting that I'm trying to work with the tension that exists between me seeing halakhah on paper in halakhic works in a "two-dimensional" fashion and that of the "three-dimensional" world of Jewish people, that it's no so simple as simply halakhah. As someone who spends most of their time in a beis midrash, I often see halakhah in such "two-dimensional" terms, without seeing how things are practiced so much. I imagine that once I get out there as a rabbi, I will not be in the "two-dimensional" realm of thinking as much as expanding my understanding to one which understands beyond just the written halakhah.

Anonymous said...

Drew!!! Thanks for the shout out, but I had been facetious- I was just kidding around that I started having co-ed meals so as to rid me of the 'motzi pressure'- I couldn't care less what people do, but I personally feel uncomfortable with certain tasks that have simply been cast as roles that men play- if I had a burning desire to do it, that would be one thing, but it really doesn't bother me at all- do men feel uncomfortable lighting shabbos candles? I've been told by many that they do. There are just certain distributed tasks we've taken for granted.

Drew_Kaplan said...

There's a certain amount of truth to the feeling of gendered roles in society, that for guys it may feel weird to light shabbas or yuntif candles because they see it as something that women do and not us. Etc.