(c) 2000 Dr Hendel; 1st appeared in Torah Forum (c) Project Genesis

Date: Sun, 13 Jun 1999 21:10:17 -0400 (EDT)
From: Russell Hendel <  rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu>
Subject: Re: Cutting challahs on Shabbos

MtnGirl613@aol.com and FridRd@internet-zahav.net discuss the contrast that
on the one hand we need to make a Motzih on Shabbath on a whole CHALAH
while nevertheless it is the custom to slightly nitch it before the actual
blessing (The question focuses on the fact that the nitch mars the
wholeness of the chalah). Several sources have already been brought down
and it has been pointed out that you don't actually slice it but just
lightly scrape it.

I just wanted to add a reason to the law: It is generally accepted in
Halachah that certain minimal measurements like 1/60 are considered null
(under appropriate circumstances). It would appear to me that this
minimality condition is used to justify our practice of lightly etching the

I say this because some people use Matzah and sometimes "little pieces" of
matzoh are broken off. It would appear to me that as long as the amount
broken off is less than 1/60 the Matzah is considered whole. I have not
heard anything on this and am curious if anyone agrees or disagrees.

I would further argue that especially in Europe under conditions of poverty
the bread may not have been soft. A person making the Bracha would then
attempt to cut it and might have difficulty thus leading to an interruption
between the blessing, cutting and eating (Blessings in vein according to
some authorities are Biblical transgressions). Thus finding a place to cut
that is not too hard is advisable to avoid Biblical transgressions (This
however would not apply today).

Finally I point out if one sliced thru the challah so that picking up one
side and holding it would result in the challah splittling in half then you
no longer have a whole challah.

I would be curious if anyone has heard anything about the conjectures I
made above (e.g. Can you make a Motzih over chipped matzah?; how old is
this minhag?...is it possible it dates back to the middle ages and was done
to avoid having to spend time to find a soft place to cut?)

Russell Hendel; Phd ASA RHendel @ mcs drexel edu