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What's the exact procedure for holding the challos in lechem mishneh. I'm not asking about the number of challos used or which one to cut (top / bottom) but how do we hold them :

  • do we hold them with the mat or do we take it off before the beracha ?
  • do we hold the challos bottom on bottom or bottom on top ?
  • how exactly must we hold them to have the bottom one nearer on friday night ? by leaning them ?
  • does both hands must touch both challos or the right hand grab one and the left the other ?
  • after the beracha do we move apart on the table the one we don't cut and only grasp the one we're cutting ?

Thanks for your help

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

We can condense this into three questions:

  1. When do we take the cover off of the challos?

    There are 3 reasons for covering the challos. The first is to teach us sensitivity (interpretation of the Yerushalmi, alt. the cover makes the challah as if it isn't there). Per the pasuk on which our sages based the order of saying brachos, bread should have precedence over wine. Although we may not eat the bread until after kiddush, we practice sensitivity and cover the bread so that the bread, so to speak, won't experience the moment. Accordingly, after the bracha of hagafen, the cover can be removed. (Magen Avraham 271:20)

    The second reason is to recall the manna (which fell double on erev shabbos- hence the 2 loaves) which was covered above and below with a protective dew. Accordingly, the cover above and below should be kept until after hamotzi. Although the Mishna Berurah 271:41 says that the Pri Megadim implies that even according to reason 2 you can take the cover off after kiddush, with the Chayei Adam preferring it remain covered.

    A third reason applies even if you are in the middle of a seudah where the bread is covered during kiddush and then removed to show that the seudah moving forward is to honor shabbos. Here also you can take it off after kiddush. (Magen Avraham 271:20)

  2. The Shulchan Aruch says to cut the bottom Challah on Friday night. How do we pass up the mitzvah of cutting the top challah?

    As you alluded to in your question there are a number of options if you choose to "pass up the mitzva" of the Shulchan Aruch and go for another option which includes cutting the bottom and not passing over the mitzva. One option is to switch the challos after Vayechulu of kiddush (top to bottom). Another is to cut both challos. Another is to hold the bottom one closer. The third is what I have seen the most. There doesn't seem to be a specific rule for how to hold it. All of these options are just seeking practical solutions to being caught between halachik preferences (See the language of the nos'ei keilim O.C. 275). The same goes for moving the 2nd challah away if you are not cutting it like option 2- whatever works for you practically.

  3. As for holding the challos- both challos are included in the bracha. So, you should hold both with your 10 fingers on both and customarily raise both at Hashem's name. (M.B 167:23)

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