Q. I have heard that some have the minhag (custom) not to eat the end slices of a loaf of bread. What is the reason for this?
A. Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky, zt”l said that he did not know of any source for this minhag, and presumably he was not concerned about this. This was also reportedly the response of Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlit”a. However, the Minchas Yitzchak (9:8) writes that he personally was careful not to eat the ends of a loaf of bread, because people say that it causes one to forget their Torah learning. Although he writes that he too does not know of any source for this minhag, he advises that the minhag be continued. He quotes a Yerushalmi (Terumos 8:3) which says that when it comes to matters of sakana (danger), one must be concerned for what people say, even if it appears to be without merit. He suggests that forgetting Torah knowledge might be comparable to a sakana.
Some have suggested that the source for this minhag is the Gemara in Horiyos (13b). The Gemara lists 10 things that can cause one to forget their learning. One of them is if one eats from a loaf of bread that is not fully baked. It could be that in some communities the loaves were crammed into an oven and this led to the ends not baking fully. However, today the ends of the challah are often the crustiest part of the bread, and therefore this concern no longer applies.
This column comes from OU Kosher’s Halacha Yomis dedicated in memory of Rav Chaim Yisroel ben Reb Dov HaLevy Belsky, zt’l, Senior OU Kosher Halachic Consultant (1987-2016). Subscribers can also ask their own questions on Kashrus issues and send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. These questions and their answers may be selected to become one of the Q and A’s on OU Kosher Halacha Yomis.