BREAD (Heb. לֶחֶם, leḥem), a baked commodity from a cereal flour. The primary sense of leḥem is "food" in general (Gen. 37:25; Num. 28:2; I Kings 5:2; etc.). The Ugaritic lḥm has the same general sense and the same particular sense, while the Arabic laḥum has only the specialized sense of "meat" (see relevant lexicons). In biblical times bread was prepared from wheat or barley, but most of the verses mentioning bread do not indicate the exact species used. Bread of solet (semolina, the hard particles in the interior of the wheat grain) is mentioned explicitly with reference to sacrifices (Ex. 29:2), and no doubt both the flour and the semolina (solet) that were baked in Solomon's ovens were from wheat (I Kings 5:2–3). The well-known fact that barley ripens earlier than wheat explains why "bread of first fruits" was baked from it (II Kings 4:42), and for the same reason barley bread was eaten mainly in the early summer. It is possible that bread was also made from spelt, as was customary in the ancient Orient and as evidenced by, among other things, the remnants of such bread found in Egyptian tombs. The symbolic bread of Ezekiel – a suggestion of the bread of siege (4:9) – prepared from a mixture of different kinds of crops such as wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and emmer was no doubt never resorted to except in the extreme conditions of a siege. Bread was made of flour or semolina which was a more desirable choice than ordinary flour (Ex. 29:2; Num. 5:15; I Kings 5:2; II Kings 7:1, 16–18). The flour was made into dough that was baked on coals, like "a cake baked on the hot stones" (I Kings 19:6; Isa. 44:19), or on special devices akin to various types of ovens. Dough to which leaven was added was called ḥameẓ (leavened) to differentiate it from maẓẓah (unleavened). The baked bread had several names according to its shape and possibly even according to its weight. Kikkar (Ex. 29:23) was the round flat loaf of the Arab peasant (fatteh). Ḥallah (II Sam. 6:19) was probably more like the European loaf and is the term commonly used in scripture. ʿUgah (or maʿog) seems to have been baked directly on   the fire or on a heated stone but covered with ashes. This explains Ezekiel's squeamishness about the nature of the fuel with which his ʿugah was baked (Ezek. 4:12–15). As far as can be determined, the ʿugah was not used in ritual ceremonies (e.g., Gen. 18:6; 19:3, etc.). It is possible that rakik ("wafer") was similar to the ʿugah but thinner (Lev. 8:26; I Chron. 23:29). The word pat meant a piece of bread at first (Lev. 2:6; I Kings 17:11), but was sometimes used simply to refer to bread in general (Gen. 18:5; I Sam. 2:36; 28:22). Apparently, the levivah was also made simply from flour and prepared in a special shape (II Sam. 13:6). Some ate the kernels of fresh corn (called karmel) or roasted corn called kali. Apart from the word "bread," the combination "bread and water" was used to indicate food or was descriptive of man's minimal nutritional needs (e.g., Gen. 21:14; and in a different form in I Kings 19:6). The symbol of poverty is referred to in the Bible as eating "scant bread and scant water" (I Kings 22:27; II Chron. 18:26), or "sparing bread and scant water" (Isa. 30:20). The phrase "bread and wine " means "food and drink" but implies that at least the drink was not limited to water (Gen. 14:18). Bread is regarded as the mainstay of man's nourishment, as implied by the expression "every stay of bread and every stay of water" (Isa. 3:1) or "the staff of bread" (Ezek. 4:16; etc.; cf. Prov. 30:8, "my allotted bread"). (On the part played by bread in various forms in the meal offerings of the cult, see cult and also cooking and baking .) Bread is also used as a metaphor in the Bible, e.g., the ungodly are said to "eat the bread of wickedness" (Prov. 4:17), while the good wife (eʾshet ḥayil) "does not eat the bread of idleness" (Prov. 31:27). (Samuel Abramsky) -In Rabbinic Literature The rabbis regarded bread as the staple of any diet and no meal was considered complete without it. They instituted a special benediction to be recited before eating bread made from one of the five species of cereals grown in Ereẓ Israel. This blessing (popularly called Ha-Moẓi) is: "Blessed art Thou, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who bringeth forth (ha-moẓi) bread out of the earth" (Ber. 6:1; cf. Ps. 104:14). The benediction is pronounced by the person who presides at the table (Ber. 46a; see also Matt. 14:19, 15:36, 26:26; Acts 27:35). A person who eats alone is also required to say the benediction. After pronouncing this blessing, other food or beverages may be eaten without saying another blessing except for wine and fruits, whose particular blessings must be recited in all cases (see Sh. Ar., OḤ 167). Before the benediction over bread is said, one is obliged to wash his or her hands by pouring a quarter "log" (approximately 0.137 lit.) of clean water over them, and drying them properly (OḤ 158–64; see ablution ). After eating a portion of bread at least the size of an olive, the full grace after meals has to be said. A religious duty of Jewish women baking bread is to separate a small portion of the dough, about the size of an olive, as ḥallah (Shab. 2:6) and to burn it (O Ḥ 457). From talmudic times, it was the special duty of the housewife to bake the bread for the Sabbath (Ta'an. 24b–25a). This bread, usually prepared from white flour, is called "ḥallah" (Heb. for "loaf," or because ḥallah was taken from its dough). Two such loaves are placed on the festive Sabbath table as a symbol for the double portion of manna , which the Israelites in the wilderness received every Friday (Ex. 16:5), or because of the Show-bread (see temple ) in the Temple, which was displayed each Sabbath (Lev. 24:8–9; I Sam. 21:7). The bread for the Sabbath is usually of an oblong shape, but for Rosh Ha-Shanah it is round. Where wine is lacking, the evening Kiddush (but not the morning Kiddush or Havdalah) may be made over bread. As a protective measure against assimilation which might lead to intermarriage, the rabbis prohibited Jews from eating food cooked by a gentile, or bread baked by a non-Jew (pat akkum). However, this interdiction does not apply to bread sold by a professional non-Jewish baker (pat palter), if the ingredients are not otherwise forbidden by the dietary laws (Sh. Ar., YD 112). Bread must be treated with special regard. Raw meat should not be placed on it nor spilled wine be allowed to spoil it; it should not be thrown across the table nor used to support another object (Ber. 50b; DER 9). Providing bread to the poor was regarded as a great religious duty (Isa. 58:7; Prov. 22:9); the withholding of it from the hungry, a sin (Job 22:7). Even Micah, the idolater (Judg. 17), was not deprived of his share in the world to come, because he provided bread for the poor (Sanh. 103b). Whenever R. Huna broke bread for a meal, he first opened his door and said, "Let everyone in need come and eat" (Ta'an. 20b), as is done at the beginning of the Passover seder. Bread with salt was regarded in midrashic literature as the poor man's food (Ber. 2b) but sufficient for the humble student of the Torah (Avot 6:4), and it has remained a custom to sprinkle a little salt on bread to be eaten at the beginning of meals. A folk belief ascribed protective power to bread and salt and they were frequently given to newly married couples. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: H. Kees, Aegypten (1933), 18–70; K. Hintze, Geographie und Geschichte der Ernaehrung (1934); Dalman, Arbeit, 3 (1934), passim; F. Blome, Die Opfermaterie in Babylonien und Israel, 1 (1934), 248ff.; H.A. Jacob, Toledot ha-Leḥem (1950); C. Singer et al. (eds.), History of Technology, 1 (1954), 273, 362–70; T.J. Horder et al., Bread… (1954); A. Malamat, in: BIES, 19 (1956), 175; M. Noth, Die Welt des Alten Testaments (1957), 125–7; G.R. Driver, in: VT Supplement, 4 (1957), 4; M. Haran, in: Scripta Hierosolymitana, 8 (1961), 278–9; EM, 4 (1962), 487–95 (incl. bibl.); S. Paul, in: VT, 18 (1968), 114–20; Eisenstein, Yisrael, 6 (1911), 31f.; M.D. Gross, Oẓar ha-Aggadah, 2 (1961), 592ff.; Guedemann, Gesch Erz, 1 (1880), 204 n.4; J. Trachtenberg, Jewish Magic and Superstition (1939), 160–6.

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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