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After washing one's hands before eating bread, one is not supposed to talk until he has made Hamotzi and partook of the bread.

I understand that general chatter is not allowed. But what about for something pertaining to eating the bread. For example: "Please pass the salt", or "Can you get the knife, please?"

I remember there is a Gemara in Brochos that discusses a similar case, and seems to imply that it would be okay. At the same time, I recall once hearing a shiur that there is actually a difference between my 2 modern-day examples and the Gemara's case.

In my personal experience, I have noticed that most people tend to not blatantly speak, and instead rely on various hand-motions (and/or quick one-word phrases [generally in Hebrew, although I'm not sure what that accomplishes]) to get others to attend to their needs. Which would suggest that such behavior is not permissible.

I would appreciate if someone could enlighten me...

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I'll let someone with sources answer, but I believe it to be ignorance, at least between the brachos. Perhaps between, for example, between hamotzi and eating where we keep a stricter level of hefsek there is room to differentiate. (I'll post an answer when I get sources) –  YDK Sep 8 '11 at 4:35
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My favorite is when people speak without consonants as if that didn't count as talking. –  Isaac Moses Sep 8 '11 at 9:07
    
related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/11732/759 –  Double AA Jun 8 '12 at 8:51

4 Answers 4

To build upon JXG's answer, the Halachah is clearly that you are not allowed to speak unnecessarily in between Berachoth and that for which the Berachah was recited. On the other hand, one may speak in between two separate actions that each have their Berachoth, even if one action is related to the other and speaking is to be limited.

Case #1: Like most Birchoth Mitzvah, if one needs (NEEDS) to speak for some reason in between washing one's hands and saying 'Al Netilath Yadayim (not HaMotzi; I'll get to that soon), then that is permissible. Otherwise, it is a Hefsek, and he must wash again before making the Berachah. (Also, note that I am using the word "wash" to include the entire enterprise of washing, raising one's hands and drying them, as the Berachah is recited on the entire process, not just the water being poured over the hands. If one speaks in between washing and drying, and he has not yet recited the Berachah, then he may not need to re-wash, because the Berachah may be recited on the drying; however one should still refrain from speaking once the first hand is washed.)

Case #2 (the case of the Gemara, if I'm not mistaken - if I am, someone please correct me!): If one needs (NEEDS!) to speak for some reason in between SAYING HAMOTZI AND EATING THE BREAD, normally we are trained early on when learning Berachoth that we may not speak between the Berachah and eating, but, as above in case #1, one MAY speak if it is necessary for some reason and for the purpose of the blessing/eating. Again, and this cannot be emphasized enough, it must be because of a real NEED. Otherwise it is a Hefsek and one would have to make a new Berachah (of HaMotzi - one need not wash again in most cases).

Case #3 (the case in the question, and the case with which most people are familiar at many a Shabbath/Yom Tov table, especially with little kids): In between "washing" (again, the entire process - and this time I'm also assuming the Berachah on the "washing" process was recited appropriately) and "HaMotzi" (ie., the recitation of the Berachah - I'm assuming that nobody in this case is planning on talking between the Berachah of HaMotzi and actually eating the bread), it is PREFERABLE that one limit his talking, because the washing was FOR the bread. However, the rules of Hefsek are much more relaxed in this case. The point is that one should still have in mind from the point of washing until HaMotzi that the former is for the latter. If one speaks, but it does not distract from this thought, it is entirely fine. If, however, one gesticulates and carries on an entire conversation without proper words and plays mime games (and I've actually witnessed this sort of carrying on going to extreme levels, all without a word being spoken), then one has very likely distracted oneself with his own silliness and lost track of the fact that one just washed for bread, and it would seem to me that one has crossed the line to where one ought to wash again, although I don't think one needs a new Berachah on the washing except in extreme cases.

However, in none of the above cases does it make one iota of difference whether one spoke in English, Hebrew, Yiddish, Arabic, French, Swahili, or any other language.

"See Mishna Berura 165:7 and 166:2. The Shulchan Aruch HaRav 166:1 and some other Poskim maintain that saying two or three words such as "yes please" or "Of course not" are not considered a Hefsek and are permitted." (Sources and quote drawn from here: http://halachafortoday.com/archivesnetilasyadayim.aspx)

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Perhaps gesturing rather than speaking comes from evaluating "need" -- "I need the salt, but do I need to speak in order to get it?" –  Monica Cellio Jan 20 '12 at 16:32
    
@MonicaCellio +1, though I'm not sure it accomplishes its intended goal, since, as I tried to make clear, gesturing isn't necessarily any different from speaking. A Rav of mine once said that anytime you're prohibited from answering those things you can interrupt Keriath Shema' to answer (eg., Barchu, Kedushah), like when you are in the middle of Shemoneh 'Esreh or putting on Tefillin, you also aren't allowed to gesture or even make facial expressions to convey messages. –  Seth J Jan 20 '12 at 17:04
    
I think it would follow that if you can make fully understandable gestures, you can also talk, and if you are carrying on an entire conversation with gestures only, you are, in fact, talking. –  Seth J Jan 20 '12 at 17:08
    
Seth, I agree that per your answer it doesn't accomplish anything; I'm just speculating about why people do it. People hear "don't talk" and try to find alternatives without understanding what "talk" means. –  Monica Cellio Jan 20 '12 at 18:06
    
Understood. That's how I interpreted your comment. I was just adding that I think it's a mistake. But I could be wrong about that, at least as relates to the parallel I've drawn between the different circumstances and the level of prohibition against "interruption". –  Seth J Jan 20 '12 at 18:16

Yalkut Yosef vol. 3 sim. 166 says MeIkar HaDin it is permissible to speak between Netilat Yadayim and Hamosi. Therefor it is permitted to ask for salt.

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Hazaq. Hakham 'Ovadiah's pesaq can also be found in Qitzur Shulhhan Arukh (Yalqut Yosef) Siman 166, Se'if 1 (link). –  Lee Mar 5 at 16:17

As the Baal HaTanya writes (166:1):

"But if one is sitting and not doing any action that would distract him from hamotzei, even though he is waiting for a long time, and even if he converses a little, there is no concern since the table is set in front of him and his intention is to eat; that he can converse is on the condition that he doesn't get into a heated argument which will distract him from eating; and therefore it is permissible to make kiddush or havdalah between washing and hamotzei, and the whole idea of going immediately from washing to the blessing applies only to mayim achronim and bentching."

אבל אם יושב בטל ואינו עושה בינתיים שום מעשה שיש בו היסח הדעת אף על פי ששוהה הרבהט ואפילו משיח מעט אין לחושי כיון שהשולחן לפניו ודעתו לאכוליא ובלבד שלא יפליג בדברים שלא יבא לידי היסח הדעתיב ולכן מותר לומר קידוש והבדלה בין נטילת ידים להמוציאיג ולא אמרו תיכף לנטילת ידים ברכהיד אלא במים אחרונים בלבד

The Baal HaTanya then quotes a second opinion that says it applies also to mayim rishonim, and concludes that it is "good" to be careful according to the second opinion. But clearly, according to the letter of the law, the first view is correct. And that is why he proceeds to write that speaking a few short words or answering yes or no is certainly fine in any case.

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It is definitely allowed.

The custom not to speak between washing and hamotzi is nowhere near as strict as the requirement not to speak between hamotzi and eating the bread.

The Gemara in Brachot (40a) that you remember permits you to speak between hamotzi and eating for essential purposes ("take some bread," "bring salt/seasoning," "feed the animals").

By the obvious kal vachomer, saying those things before hamotzi is permissible.

I can't speak to the shiur that you heard.

Regarding what people do, my understanding is that it's a personal or communal practice, based on not knowing this Gemara. (It's not strictly a chumra, because generally people don't realize they're being unnecessarily strict.) Speaking in Hebrew is similarly just something people do; according to the poskim the language makes no difference.

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+1. Not that I doubt that choice of language makes no difference, but if you have a citation for the "poskim" in the last sentence, it'd be appreciated. –  msh210 Sep 8 '11 at 14:36
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Even people who know the gemara still refrain from speaking, probably b/c that's what everyone else is doing. –  Ariel K Sep 8 '11 at 18:45
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Any source more recent and more specific than the Gemara would also be appreciated. –  Seth J Nov 28 '11 at 15:44

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