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Chapter 41: 1-3
The Laws of Hamotzi

1. The blessing hamotzi is recited before partaking of bread made from any of the five types of grain [wheat, barley, rye oats, and spelt]. After eating, the grace after meals is recited. (The laws governing pas habo'oh b'kisnin - [a category including cakes, pies, and "mezonos bread"] - are explained in Chapter 48).

2. Care should be taken not to make any interruptions between washing one's hands and reciting the blessing hamotzi. However, one may respond "Amen" to any blessing one hears.

Waiting longer than it takes to walk 22 cubits, going from one house to another* even if it is only a short distance, or speaking about matters that are not concerned with the meal are considered to be interruptions. After the fact, an interruption is of no consequence as long as one did not perform any activity** or engage in prolonged conversation. In the latter instances, one is considered to have diverted one's attention from one's hands, and must wash them again. (See also Chapter 42, Law 22.)

* {The word bayis also has the connotation of "room" in halachic literature. Therefore, if possible, one should wash in the same room as one eats.}

** {An activity necessary for the meal is not considered an interruption.}

3. As a symbol of deference to the blessing, one should cut the bread at its most choice place. This is the hardest place, where the bread is baked thoroughly - i.e., the place opposite the point where the top of the bread splits open. At the place where the bread begins to bake, pressure is generated against the dough until the opposite side splits open. However, an elderly person who has difficulty eating hard bread should cut the bread at a soft point.

It is desirable to recite a blessing while the loaf is still whole. Nevertheless, it is also improper to interrupt between reciting the blessing hamotzi and eating, by cutting the bread. Thus, before reciting the blessing, one should cut a ring around the entire loaf in a manner which, should one lift up the cut piece, the entire bread will be lifted up with it. In this way, the bread is still considered whole.

One should recite the blessing hamotzi while the cut piece is still attached to the entire loaf. After completing the blessing, one should separate the piece [and eat it without making any interruptions whatsoever].

Even when reciting hamotzi over a loaf which is not whole, one should not cut a piece of bread off before reciting the blessing. Thus, when the blessing is recited, the bread will be its largest.

On the Sabbath, one should not cut the bread at all until after reciting the blessing. So that the blessing will be recited on an entirely whole loaf. (See Chapter 77, Law 17.*) Even during the week, if one is eating a soft loaf which is broken open, one may recite the blessing before opening it, for breaking does not take significant time.

* {Nevertheless, is customary to pass the knife over the bread to leave a mark before reciting the blessing.}

   The Laws of Hamotzi
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