Parashat Beshallah: Halakhah

Halakhah הֲלָכָה

In the desert, Benei Yisrael got to eat מָן (mann, miraculous food from heaven). The Torah tells us that no mann fell on Shabbat. Instead, the people would gather לֶחֶם מִשְׁנֶה (lehem mishneh, a double portion) on the day before Shabbat (Shemot 16:22).
This detail from our parashah is the source for an important Shabbat meal practice:
אָמַר רַבִּי אַבָּא: וּבְשַׁבָּת חַיָּיב אָדָם לִבְצוֹעַ עַל שְׁתֵּי כִכָּרוֹת. מַאי טַעְמָא? — ״לֶחֶם מִשְׁנֶה״ כְּתִיב.
R. Abba said: On Shabbat, a person must have two loaves of bread. Why? Because the Torah says Benei Yisrael would collect “lehem mishneh” before Shabbat.
Rambam (Laws of Shabbat 30:9) says that all three meals we eat on Shabbat (one in the evening, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon) should have two loaves of bread. Rema (Orah Hayyim 291:4) says that even if you eat four or five meals on Shabbat, you should have two loaves of bread at every one!
What’s whole?
Both loaves should be complete and unbroken. If you have two loaves of bread that grew together in the oven, you can separate them gently and still consider them whole (Hazon Ovadyah Shabbat v.2, 176). Bagels also count as whole loaves, as long as they’re unsliced! The hole in the middle isn’t a “break” in the bread (Shu”t Rivevot Efrayim 1:204:2).
If you don’t have two full loaves of bread you should still use two incomplete pieces or slices (Arukh Hashulhan 274:5).
At Seudah Shelishit
This can be a lot of bread! Based on the Rema’s position, there is some more flexibility around bread at סְעוּדָה שְׁלִישִׁית (seudah shelishit, the third meal of Shabbat). Here are options.
  • Have at least one whole loaf of bread. The mann on Friday was meant to cover the two main meals you would have eaten on Friday and the two main meals you would have eaten on Saturday. So, you would be down to your last portion by Shabbat afternoon and one loaf is enough! (Mishnah Berurah 291:19)
  • Just have something made of grain, like a cracker, or some pasta, or at least a piece of meat or fish, since these are filling like bread.
  • Eat really anything, even a piece of fruit! (See Shulhan Arukh Orah Hayyim 291:5 for these last views.)
Enjoy your Shabbat meals!