February 24, 2017
Beis Moshiach in #1058, Halacha 2 Go

Selected Halachos from the “One Minute Halacha” project

By HaRav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, Shlita,
Mara D’asra and member of the Badatz of Crown Heights


Shinui hashem (changing a person’s [Jewish] name) is not done lightly. A person’s name is a tzinor hachayim (channel of life) for the individual. The pasuk (verse) in B’Reishis states, “nefesh chaya hu shemo” (a living creature, this is his name); this is interpreted to mean that the life-giving nefesh (also called neshama) is bound with the individual’s name. It is further taught in the name of the Arizal (16th century kabbalist) that the name the parents give their son at his bris is chosen b’ruach ha’kodesh (Divine inspiration).

There is a tradition that shinui hashem can remove a gzar din (negative Heavenly decree) from a person. There are two explanations for how a name change can affect this. The Midrash says that the shinui hashem of Avram to Avraham was associated with the mazal (destiny) of the different names: Avram was childless, but Avraham—with the letter hei added to his name—was able to father children. In this manner, the original name had been an impediment to blessing. Alternately, a name change can indicate a type of rebirth like the process of t’shuva (repentance), and the needed blessing can then be channeled to this “new” individual. The most common situation which calls for a name-change is for a choleh (sick person) in the case of critical illness, lo aleinu. (If the choleh does not recover, chas v’shalom, halacha dictates that the new name is no longer relevant, and should not be used. But if the choleh recovers, the added name remains part of their name, even if they pass away at a later time.)

There are times when people may otherwise wish to change their name. When it comes to shidduchim, for example, shinui hashem may be warranted, since many are careful that a prospective in-law not share a name with the bride or groom (see Halacha # 370). In these cases, it is the accepted practice to consult with a chacham (an especially learned person) who will weigh the current circumstances and may offer suggestions for appropriate names. We are cautious not to make these decisions except under guidance, since “messing” with our spiritual makeup in this way may be potentially damaging.

Shinui hashem (under the proper halachic guidelines) usually occurs before the Torah, when a specific mi sh’Beirach (prayer for an individual at the end of a Torah reading portion) is recited in front of a minyan (prayer quorum [of ten men]). (The subject of the name change—man or woman—need not be present.) The custom is not to drop the old name; the new name is added to the existing one, and becomes the first of the given names. The new name should be used for at least thirty days so it becomes a name that is muchzak (halachically established); we should be sure to call the individual with their new name (in addition to the original one) so that it does not become nishtaka (obsolete).


During certain parts of davening, and between making a bracha on a mitzvah and performing it, we may not divert our attention from the task at hand by making a hefsek b’dibbur (a verbal interruption).

What constitutes dibbur? It is common to hear a person attempting to avoid a hefsek b’dibbur by saying, “Sha!” or “Nu…” But these expressions are as problematic as other phrases; any verbal communication, in any language—Lashon ha’kodesh (the Holy Tongue), common jargon and even ad-hoc lingo that is audible and comprehensible are all considered a hefsek b’dibbur.

Is a niggun (tune) considered dibbur? Most poskim agree that a niggun, which is often used as a vehicle for uplifting our davening, is permitted during the t’fillos (prayers) that are said in unison—as long as it is wordless, relevant and not overly lengthy.

What if I need the bread knife? Making a hefsek between washing for bread and reciting HaMotzi is not as strict as other circumstances requiring our undivided attention, and it is less problematic to speak during this time. In addition, it is always okay to indicate if anything is required that is related to performing the mitzvah at hand. So if salt or other item is needed to make the bracha of HaMotzi, it is halachically permissible to denote, “Nu!” for the occasion.


While there is much brouhaha surrounding the purported health advantages of the popular “Ezekiel Bread,” there is also much discussion in the halachic realm as to the bracha we make on a grain product that is not prepared in the conventional manner of most breads.

(As an aside, the bread for which this product is named is rooted in a passage in Yechezkel, but the circumstances of the original baking of this bread is not of a positive nature. These associations seem lost on many marketers and consumers of the prophet Ezekiel’s Bread).*

Ezekiel bread contains sprouted grain. There’s a discussion in halacha whether we recite the bracha of HaMotzi on a baked product made of a flourless grain.

In the case of Ezekiel Bread, this discussion is actually not relevant. The optimal preparation of sprouted grain products is when the kernel is still partially intact, so the bread contains a small percentage of crushed wheat kernel as well, and the bracha is unquestionably HaMotzi. According to this criteria as bona fide bread, we must ascertain that it is baked to the highest required standards of pas Yisroel (bread [baked with the participation] of a Jew, see Halacha #694 for some of these parameters).

However, the bracha acharona (the after-bracha) is less simply calculated. The ratio of grains—those from the chameishas minei dagan (five species of [noteworthy] grains—wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt) versus other types would determine the volume of Ezekiel bread that would need to be consumed to qualify for Birchas HaMazon (the Grace after Meals).

*The halachic implication of the source for this bread is found in the Gemara regarding using such bread for eiruv chatzeros ([creating] a mixed, i.e. common property). The prophet Yechezkel’s bread was considered unfit for normal human consumption, to be eaten only during times of hunger; according to Rashi, it can’t be classified as lechem anashim (bread for people). The Gemara discusses which aspect of the “recipe” deems it unfit —the ingredients used in preparation or the particular method of roasting which Yechezkel was instructed to use (the details are found in Yechezkel 4:9). While the Gemara is inconclusive on this matter, many poskim rule that Ezekiel Bread, or bread made with similar ingredients, may not be used for an eiruv chatzeros.

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