הראי"ה זצ"ל
הראי"ה זצ"לצילום: ארכיון בית הרב קוק

HaMotzi — the Blessing for Bread

As a rule, most of the blessings recited over food speak of God as the Creator. For example, we say: בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָעֵץ (“Creator of fruits of the tree”), בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה (“Creator of fruits of the ground”), בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן (“Creator of fruits of the vine”).

But the blessing for bread does not fit this pattern. Before eating bread, we say HaMotzi — הַמּוֹצִיא לֶחֶם מִן הָאָרֶץ — “Who brings forth bread from the earth.” Why don’t we acknowledge God as “the Creator of bread,” following the formulation of other blessings?

It is highly significant that the wording of the blessing of HaMotzi mirrors the language used by God in His announcement to Moses:

“You will know that I am the Eternal your God, Who brings you forth (HaMotzi) from under the subjugation of the Egyptians.” (Exod. 6:7)

Is there some connection between bread and the Exodus from Egypt?

The Special Role of Bread

The Earth contains an abundance of nutrients and elements, and through various processes, both natural and man-made, these elements are transformed into sustenance suitable for human consumption.

However, when it comes to foods that are not essential to human life, it is difficult to know whether the nutrients and elements have attained their ultimate purpose upon becoming food. In fact, their utility began while they were still in the ground, and we cannot confidently state that they are now, in the form of a fruit or vegetable, more vital to the world’s functioning.

Bread, on the other hand, is the staff of life. Bread is necessary for our physical and mental development. As the Talmud states, “A child does not know how to call ‘Father’ and ‘Mother’ until he tastes grain” (Berachot 40b). This emphasizes the importance of bread in sustaining life, setting it apart from other foods.

The elements used to make bread have attained a significant role that they lacked when they were still buried inside the earth.

The words of HaMotzi blessing — “Who brings forth bread from the earth” — reflect this aspect of bread. The act of “bringing out” draws our attention to two stages: the elements’ preliminary state in the ground, and their final state as bread, suitable for sustaining humanity. Other blessings focus on the original creation of fruits and vegetables. HaMotzi, on the other hand, stresses the value these elements have acquired by leaving the earth and becoming life-sustaining bread.

What does this have to do with the Exodus from Egypt?

The elements that are used to make bread started as part of the overall environment — the Earth — and were then separated for their special function. So, too, the Jewish people started out as part of humanity. Their unique character and holiness were revealed when God took them out of Egypt. “I am the Eternal your God, Who brings you forth from under the subjugation of the Egyptians.”

Like the blessing over bread, God’s declaration highlights two contrasting qualities: the interconnectedness of the Jewish people to the rest of the world; and their separation from it, for the sake of their unique mission.

(Adapted from Olat Re’iyah vol. II, p. 286, sent to Arutz Sheva by Rabbi Chanan Morrison)