When you make Hamotzi on Shabbos you use the top Challah. However, on Friday night you use the bottom. Therefore, so as not to pass over the Mitzvah you hold the bottom one closer.

My question is why on Friday night do we use the bottom and not the top like the rest of Shabbos?


7 Answers 7


Curiouser wanted the Kabbalistic reason, so

R' Shneur Zalman of Liadi brings two reasons:

  1. In Torah Or, he explains that according to Nigla, one should place the breads one on top of the other, since the source of nigla is Hishtalshelus (the G-dly revelation within the worlds coming down in an orderly and progressive manner [Or Yashar]), and placing the bread one on top of the other symbolizes this Hishtalshelus.

    However, according to Kabbalah (whose source is from Or Chozer [the reflecting light]) the source of Shabbos is from a higher level (the level of Makkif [also known as "Soveiv kol almin"]) so one should place the two loaves side by side as that shows on their unity (He further explains that the sefirah of Malchus receives from the six emotional sefiros, which is represented by the two commands regarding Shabbos - Shamor and Zachor and the two Challas. Normally, the six emotional attributes are higher than Malchus. However, with regards to Hashems essence the two commands of "Shamor" and "Zachor" were given together as they are both equal [the high and the low are equal with regards to Hashem's essence]. As they are both equal, according to Kabbalah they should both be placed on equal footing.)

  2. In Likkutei Torah, he explains that on Shabbos, the achorayim, the "back sides" of the world get elevated to be the level of the Pnimius ("the inner") of the worlds. Therefore, by putting the two breads together, we show that there are no "backs" to this bread (like the lechem Hapanim).

And as he finished off both explanations: וד"ל - ודי למשכיל - It's enough for the knowledgeable.

  • @curiouser- helpful? Commented May 2, 2012 at 21:28
  • @ Shmuel Brin Yes, this is great; but I'm confused, since the answer given in Torah Or seems to indicate that taking the bottom loaf is actually not according to kabbalah, rather kabbalah would dictate side by side loaves. But the Ramo on Shulchan Aruch says the bottom loaf part is kabbalistic. So I guess I am still searching for a reason for taking the bottom loaf, al pi kabbalah.
    – Curiouser
    Commented May 3, 2012 at 19:02

It seems there are actually different customs. As for the reason, it seems to be Kaballah (per Rama and Taz there (O.C. 274:1)

  • The Levush gives a more detailed description of the reason, al pi kabbalah.
    – LazerA
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 4:40

My recollection is that this is done to emphasize that Kavod HaYom (honoring Shabbos at the day meal) takes precedence over Kavod HaLaylah (honoring Shabbos at the night meal), as specified in O.C. 271:3. I don't remember who (if anyone) said this.

  • 1
    If you could get a source It would be Highly appreciated. Commented Sep 1, 2010 at 12:16
  • I couldn't find it anywhere. But I did find an interesting sefer on Otzar Hachochma called מנהגי בציעת לחם משנה, which can be seen here: otzar.org/wotzar/Book.asp?62991&BOOKS The sefer has an entire chapter on the topic of switching the challos Friday night (p. 120). Unfortunately I do not currently have access to the full version of OH, so I haven't seen what he says.
    – Dave
    Commented Sep 3, 2010 at 4:15

Right. Unless you do some maneuvering, the top challah would be the closest, and mitzvas are first-come-first-serve, so all times other than Friday night, you make the bracha on the top one.

As for Friday night: we focus on Shabbos vis-a-vis the creation of the world. Then the world was there; but it's passive, serving as a basis for history. Hence, bottom challah.

Shabbos day we focus on Shabbos vis-a-vis the Exodus, and generally G-d's involvement in the world, that's active (riding on top of nature, so to speak). Top challah.

(From what I've heard, they correspond to the kabbalistic notions of Atika Kadisha and Chakal Tapuchin Kadishin, respectively, as referenced in their Askinu Seudasa songs.)

  • is the first part of your statement an explanation to the bottom Kabbalistic terms? Commented Sep 1, 2010 at 22:20
  • From what I've heard, yes. Atika Kadisha is a role more passive in human history; Chakal Tapuchin more active. Or something like that, if I'm getting it right.
    – Shalom
    Commented Sep 2, 2010 at 0:36
  • 1
    @SimchasTorah @Shalom - just came across a Teshuvos Radbaz (hebrewbooks.org/…) which mentions this (end of teshuva 1010).
    – Dave
    Commented May 20, 2011 at 4:55


The Challah we cut from represents the position of the Jewish people (who are eating the challah). At night, we are below because HaShem Who created the world is the active presence, (as emphasized in the evening davening) while in the day, when we emphasize the receiving of the Torah, the Jews are actively present, hence “on top”.

  • What's the source for this?
    – Yehoshua
    Commented Apr 18, 2013 at 11:37

I once heard the following explanation, although I don't remember where.

We have two loaves of Challah on Shabbos to commemorate the double portion of Manna that came down for Shabbos - each morning a portion came for that day's Manna, and on Friday, double fell.

So, the Manna for Friday fell, followed by the Manna for Shabbos. Thus, the Manna on the bottom was Friday's Manna, and the Manna on top was that of Shabbos.

Friday night, we want to take the loaf of bread that corresponds to that day's Manna, which was the Friday Manna, which was on the bottom. Shabbos day, the loaf of bread that corresponds to that day's Manna was the top. So Shabbos day, lunch and third meal, we use the top, whereas Friday night we use the bottom.

  • Did they actually eat the bottom layer first back then?
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 27, 2014 at 4:20
  • @DoubleAA I don't know. I actually assume (without this explanation) that they did, as I recall seeing somewhere in the hachana sugya at the beginning of Beitza that the Manna was unique to each day. Commented Nov 27, 2014 at 4:25
  • But wouldn't they have already eaten Friday's manna by the time of the Shabbat evening meal? Still, a nice interpretation. Commented Nov 27, 2014 at 4:59
  • 1
    @MonicaCellio No - the Manna went by solar day. Manna fell each morning and did not fall again until the next morning. So Friday night's Manna fell Friday morning. Commented Nov 27, 2014 at 5:00
  • Oh, right -- the text does say they gathered it in the morning. Commented Nov 27, 2014 at 5:04

I believe the top-bottom rule contrasting Friday night from Shabbat day (as well as all meals on chagim) is related to the change in tefilla of בה and בו. Friday night is more female and Shabbat day is more male. (I have no idea what this means.) I will leave how that relates to hamotzi to your imagination.(Kabbalists were not prudes.)

I'm quite sure I once saw this and am not making it up. But I haven't found any source for this.

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