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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia


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Preparation of Bread.

Bread was the principal article of food among the Hebrews, while meat, vegetables, or liquids served only to supplement the meal (Genesis 25:34, 27:17; Ruth 2:14; 1 Samuel 28:24; Genesis 18:7). Originally the ears of barley or wheat were simply roasted, and this primitive custom of using "ḳali" (parched corn, Ruth 2:14; 1 Samuel 17:17) was retained for the offering of the firstlings (Leviticus 2:14, 23:14; Joshua 5:11). The primitive bread of the Hebrew, as with all Bedouins, was unleavened and was called "maẓẓot." (unleavened cakes, Judges 6:29; Genesis 19:3); hence it was retained for the ancient Passover ritual as "the bread of affliction" (Deuteronomy 16:3). The ordinary bread consisted of dough ("baẓeḳ.") mixed with fermented dough ("se'or"), which raised the mass into "ḥameẓ." (soured bread), while in the "misheret" (kneading trough, Exodus 12:34,39). The shape of the bread was round-therefore "kikkar leḥem," a circular loaf of bread (Exodus 29:23; Judges 8:5),also "'uggah" (cake, Genesis 18:6; 1 Kings 19:6); while "ḥallah" (Leviticus 8:26; Numbers 15:20) is probably a perforated or punctured cake, and "lebibah" (2 Samuel 13:6) a folded or rolled cake. The bread was baked by women. It could be taken as food on a journey (Genesis 21:14; 1 Samuel 9:7); when kept too long it became dry and moldy (Joshua 9:5). The see SHOWBREAD was kept for a whole week and then eaten by the priests, while the fresh bread was offered anew every Sabbath (Leviticus 24:8,9; 1 Samuel 21:7).

In the time of Herod, bakers furnished the people with bread (Josephus, "Ant." 15:9, § 2), if such did not already exist in the time of Jeremiah and Nehemiah (Jeremiah 37:21; Nehemiah 3:19, 12:38). The priests of Bet Garmo possessed special skill in baking the showbread, but were blamed for keeping their secret to themselves (Yoma 3:11). In Talmudical times the housewife baked the bread for the week every Friday (Ta'an. 24b, last line; BAKING).

Figurative Use of "Bread."

"Bread" is often used in the Bible for food in general, as in Genesis 3:19: "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread" (compare Genesis 39:6, 47:12; Exodus 23:25; Leviticus 21:8; Numbers 19:9; Job 24:5; Psalms 147:9 [A. V. "food"]; 1 Samuel 20:24 et seq.; Proverbs 6:8; Isa. Ixv. 25 [A. V. "meat"]); but as a rule "leḥem." denotes bread, while in the Arabic it signifies meat. In Exodus 16:8 and 1 Kings 17:6 it is contrasted with "basar" = flesh. It is the "food" which comes forth from the earth (Psalms 104:14; Job 28:5; Isaiah 30:23, 55:10), and, being solid, sustains (A. V. "strengtheneth") man's heart (Psalms 104:15; Judges 19:5 [A. V. "comfort"]), thus becoming a "staff of bread" (Leviticus 26:26; Ezekiel 4:16) or "stay of bread" (Isaiah 3:1), the "breaking" of which means famine. On the other hand, "fulness of bread" (Ezekiel 16:49), or "fatness of bread" (Genesis 49:20) is plenty. Giving or breaking bread to the hungry (Isaiah 58:7; Ezekiel 18:7; Proverbs 22:9) is charity; to withhold it from the hungry (Job 22:8) is inhuman. To invite the stranger to eat bread and to prepare it for him quickly is hospitality (Exodus 2:20; Genesis 18:5), the lack of which meets with due punishment (Deuteronomy 23:4; Judges 8:15). The seed of the righteous shall not "beg bread" nor "be in want of bread" (Psalms 37:25, 132:15; Isaiah 51:14), whereas the children of the wicked "shall not be satisfied with bread" (Job 27:14; compare 1 Samuel 2:36; 2 Samuel 3:29), Abstinence from "bread" signifies fasting (2 Samuel 3:35).

Blessing of the Daily Bread.

A special benediction was instituted for bread: Blessed be He who bringeth forth food out of the earth," after Psalms 14:14 (Ber. 6:1). The one who presided at the table broke the bread and said the blessing (Ber. 46a; Matthew 14:19, 15:36, 26:26 et seq.; Acts 27:35); and where three ate together, grace was also said in common (Ber. 50a). Divine blessing rested on the bread which Sarah baked, for she was careful to guard the dough against Levitical impurity (Gen. R. ). There is, however, a mark of divine favor in every piece, for when Adam heard the words: "Thou shalt eat the herbs of the field" (Genesis 3:18), he shed tears and said: "O Lord of the Universe, must I and my ass eat out of the same manger?"; but when God said: "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread" (Genesis 3:19), he felt relieved (Pes. 118a). The manna, or "the bread from heaven," was typical of the daily bread received by man from the hand of God; even the sweat of labor was not wanting in the former (Mek., Beshallaḥ, Wayassa', 2 and 3). "He who, having bread in his basket, still says, 'What shall we eat to-morrow?' is one of those of little faith," says R. Eliezer of the first century (Soṭah 48b), a saying corresponding with that of Jesus: "Take no thought for your life what ye shall eat" (Matthew 6:25-30), and the prayer: "Give us this day our daily bread" (6:11; compare Ber. 29b).

Treatment of Bread.

Simeon ben Yoḥai said: "A loaf of bread and a rod were handed down from heaven tied together as if to say: If ye observe the Law, there will be the loaf of bread for you to eat; if not, there will be the rod for you to be punished with" (Ber. 29b). Bread with salt, the poor man's food (Ber. 2b), should be sufficient for the student of the Law (Abot 6:4); of him it is said, "The Lord will bless thy bread" (Exodus 23:25; B. Ḳ. 92b). He should be satisfied even with barley-bread (Shab. 140b). However, bran-bread is not so nourishing as fine wheat-bread (Pes. 42a), which feeds the intellect. "The tree of knowledge Adam ate of was wheat," says R. Judah (Sanh. 70b). It is best eaten with some other kind of food. "The Babylonians who eat bread together with pastry are fools" (Beẓah 16a). "Herbs together with bread promote the appetite" ('Er. 140b). Bread should be treated with special regard. Raw meat should not be placed upon it, nor an overflowing wine-cup be allowed to spoil it; it should not be thrown across the table nor used to hold up any other thing (Ber. 50b; Mas. Derek Ereẓ. ). There is an evil spirit of poverty by the name of Nibbul ( "bread-spoiler"), who has power over him who spoils bread; and there is a good spirit by the name of Naḳid ("cleanliness"), who blesses him with plenty who lets not crums of bread lie on the ground (Pes. 111b; Ḥul. 105b).

It was considered improper to hang up bread in a basket. "He who hangs his bread-basket hangs his support," was the common saying (Pes. 111b); however, to have bread in his bread-basket lessened one's hunger (Yoma 74b). "Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye" (Proverbs 23:6).

Whenever Rab Huna broke (or folded) bread for the meal, he first opened his door and said, "Let every one in need come and eat" (Ta'an. 20b). The virtuous woman of the Bible does not eat "the bread of idleness" (Proverbs 31:27), and in Talmudical times she broke her bread to the poor (Ta'an. 23b). Micah, the idolater (Judges 17), provided the poor on the road with bread, and was therefore not counted among those who have no share in the world to come (Sanh. 103b). The men of Sodom passed a law not to give bread to the needy, and when one maiden, moved to compassion, handed some in a jar to the poor, her countrymen on discovering it besmeared her body with honey, andplaced her thus upon the roof, where bees came and stung her to death, and her cry "made the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah very grievous before the Lord" (Sanh. 109b, after Genesis 18:20). "He who does not leave some crums of bread for the poor deprives himself of God's blessing; but he must not leave them to a 'guardian spirit.' after the fashion of the heathen" (Sanh. 92a). During the Middle Ages the Jew took an oath by "the bread from God" (Tendlau, "Sprichwörter und Redensarten Deutsch-Jüdischer Vorzeit," p. 105).

"Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days" (Ecclesiastes 11:1), is illustrated in Ab. R. N. , ed. Schechter, p. 17, and in Eccl. R., by the story of a man who suffered shipwreck and was saved by a spirit appearing to him personifying his charities; other similar stories are given in Eccl. R. A more drastic illustration is given by a story reproduced by Dukes' "Rabbinische Blumenlese," 1844, p. 73, from Diez, "Denkwürdigkeiten von Asien," 1:106, quoting Cabus. A man, in order to test the truth of this verse, cast each day into the water several hundred loaves with his name printed thereon. They reached the son of Calif Mutawakkil of Bagdad, who, while bathing, had become imprisoned beneath a rock and remained there for seven days, feeding on these loaves, no one knowing where he was until he was discovered by a diver. Of course, the man who had thus saved the prince from starvation was richly rewarded.

E. G. H.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Bread'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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