Hamotzi Prayer

Hamotzi: The Deeper Significance of the Blessing over Bread

You’ve probably heard the blessing of hamotzi recited at your Shabbat dinner table, but do you know what it means? It is the blessing over bread, and it means who brings forth bread from the earth (you can read the full text of the blessing below). But what does this mean in Hebrew? Let’s start with an explanation of some key terms in Hebrew, since those will come up in the hamotzi blessing itself.

What does hamotzi mean?

In Jewish tradition, hamotzi is recited over challah bread before each Shabbat meal. The word hamotzi literally means who brings forth and refers to God, who brings forth and sustains all living things — including dough. This blessing therefore acknowledges that God created bread, which in turn serves as a reminder to us that He has blessed us with food to sustain us during our time on earth.

Why do we make three separate blessings on a loaf of Challah?

The first blessing is made over a cup of wine, and it thanks God for bringing forth bread from the earth. The second blessing is dedicated to Shabbat (it’s on a special cup), and it thanks God for sanctifying us by resting on Shabbat. The third blessing is essentially an expanded version of Thanking God for Creating Bread (the first half); it also asks that we be blessed with good things in life.

What is an Aitz Haim (Hebrew איצחום) that we refer to during this blessing?

The Hebrew word Aitz Haim is an acronym for Hekdesh Lechatchila Mitzva, which means for bread to be eaten on Sabbath. Challah is eaten during Shabbat and holidays because it was traditionally forbidden to work on those days and baking bread for consumption was considered laborious.

When do we recite this prayer – before or after eating?

It is recited right before eating (although some people do recite it after eating, which would be more in line with Christian liturgy). At a Sabbath meal, it’s also recited at each separate meal for Ashkenazi Jews.

Why do some people cover their heads while praying this prayer?

According to Jewish tradition, you are supposed to cover your head while praying. But why? It’s because we believe that God is always listening, so we can pray more openly without fear of being overheard when our heads are covered. The second reason behind covering your head has to do with respect for God. We feel closest to God during prayer and when we honor a higher power by covering our heads, it makes us feel more reverential.

Full Text of Hamotzi

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה׳ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם הַמּוֹצִיא לֶחֶם מִן הָאָרֶץ

Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu melech ha’olam hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz.

Blessed are you, Lord our God, ruler of the universe who brings forth bread from the earth.

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