Shiur #25: Birkat Ha-Motzi When Bread Loses its Status as Bread

  • Rav David Brofsky

 

Introduction

 

We dedicated the last two shiurim to discussing foods other than pat ha-ba’ah be-kisanin over which one recites the blessing of Borei Minei Mezonot. In some cases, one recites this blessing regardless of whether one eats these foods as the basis of a meal (kevi’at se’uda). We studied the difference between a teroknin and a tarita and questioned when the process and the appearance of bread (tzurat ha-pat) affect the blessing. We also discussed dough that is boiled or deep fried (very relevant this time of year!), and we noted that the Shulchan Arukh (168:13) cites a debate regarding whether one should say the blessing of Ha-Motzi or Borei Minei Mezonot in such cases. Although the Shulchan Arukh concludes that “a God-fearing [person] should only eat [dough that has been boiled] after first reciting the blessing [of Ha-Motzi] over bread,” the Rema records that it is customary to say the Mezonot blessing. He adds that one also says the blessing Borei Minei Mezonot before eating pasta, as it does not have “an appearance of bread” (to’ar lechem).

 

Finally, we cited a debate among the Acharonim regarding whether, according to the lenient opinion, one who eats boiled dough as the basis of his meal (kevi’at se’uda) must wash, say Ha-Motzi, and then Birkat Ha-Mazon after eating, just like one who is kove’a se’uda on pat ha-ba’ah be-kisanin. It is customary to follow the view of those Acharonim (Magen Avraham 168:38; Mishna Berura 168:57) who insist that one always says Borei Minei Mezonot over boiled or deep-fried dough.

 

            Incidentally, doughnuts and sufganiyot are made with other ingredients, and the oil significantly contributes to their taste. Some authorities therefore suggest that even Rabbeinu Tam would agree that the proper blessing is Borei Minei Mezonot.

 

            We also discussed dough that is boiled and then baked, like American bagels (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagel). The Shulchan Arukh (168:14) rules: “Dough that is boiled in water and afterwards baked in an oven is considered to be bread and one say upon [eating it] Ha-Motzi.” Accordingly, one says Ha-Motzi before eating boiled or fried dough that is then baked. One should therefore say Ha-Motzi before and Birkat Ha-Mazon after eating American bagels.

 

            This week, we will discuss whether bread can lose its status as bread, and we will relate to the proper blessings for breadcrumbs, matza brei, French toast, and kneidlach.

 

Chavitza andBoiled Bread

 

There are two passages in the Talmud that imply that bread can lose its status as bread, at which point before eating one says Borei Minei Mezonot. On the one hand, the gemara (Berakhot 37a) teaches:

 

If he grinds [wheat] and bakes it and then cooks it [in liquid], as long as the pieces are still whole, he says before [partaking], “Ha-Motzi Lechem Min Ha-Aretz,” and after, Birkat Ha-Mazon. If the pieces are no longer whole, he says before partaking, “Borei Minei Mezonot,” and after, Al Ha-Michya.

 

According to this passage, cooking bread, in water, changes its status. One therefore recites Borei Minei Mezonot before eating if the “pieces are no longer whole.”

 

Another somewhat more cryptic passage (Berakhot 37b) relates:

 

R. Yosef said: On a chavitza, which has pieces of bread as big as an olive, the blessing said before it is Ha-Motzi Lechem Min Ha-Aretz, and after it Birkat Ha-Mazon is said. If there are no pieces as big as an olive in it, the blessing said before it is Borei Minei Mezonot, and after it, Al Ha-Michya

R. Sheshet said: Even if the crumbs of bread in a chavitza are less than an olive, the benediction Ha-Motzi Lechem Min Ha-Aretz is said over it. Rava added: This is only if they still have the appearance of bread (torita de-nehama).

 

According to this passage, R. Yosef and R. Sheshet disagree as to whether one should recite Ha-Motzi on a chavitza made from a pieces of bread which are smaller than a kezayit.

 

            The Rishonim debate whether there is a relationship between these two passages. Rashi (s.v. chavitza; see Tosafot, s.v. chavitza) explains that the second passage also refers to cooked bread, and R. Yosef and R. Sheshet are explaining the first passage, which refers to the pieces being “whole”. R. Yosef defines “whole” as meaning that a kezayit of bread is intact, while R. Sheshet maintains that “whole” refers only to the “appearance of bread” (torita de-nehama), even if it is smaller than a kezayit.

 

            Other Rishonim, including the Rosh (Berakhot 5:10) and Talmidei Rabbenu Yona (26b, s.v. hai) disagree. They understand that the two passages refer to two separate cases. If the bread is cooked in water, then the only factor that determines whether one recites Ha-Motzi or Borei Minei Mezonot is whether the piece is “whole”. In addition, they accept the assertion of the Yerushalmi (Berakhot 6:1) that whether or not the pieces of bread are whole depends on if the piece is the size of a kezayit or not. Therefore, before eating pieces of cooked bread under the size of a kezayit, all agree that one says Borei Minei Mezonot. In addition, the second passage discusses a chavitza, which refers to bread crumbs held together by soup, milk or honey, without being cooked. In this case, R. Yosef maintains that the blessing depends on the size of the pieces of bread, while R. Sheshet believes it depends upon whether it retains the “appearance of bread”. In addition, these Rishonim maintain that one says the blessing of Ha-Motzi before eating bread crumbs that were not cooked and are not held together by another substance. Incidentally, Rabbeinu Chananel disagrees and claims that whenever there is no appearance of bread, one says Borei Minei Mezonot.

 

The Shulkhan Arukh (168:10) rules in accordance with the second view and cites all three scenarios:

 

A chavitza, i.e. bread crumbs that are held together by a broth, which are cooked – if they are the size of a kezayit, even if they do not have the appearance of bread, one recites Ha-Motzi and Birkat Ha-Mazon; if there is not a kezayit, even if it has the appearance of bread, one only says Borei Minei Mezonot and Al Ha-Michya.

If it is not cooked, but rather held together by honey or broth – if the pieces are larger than a kezayit, one says Ha-Motzi, even if they do not have the appearance of bread. And if they are not a kezayit – if they have the appearance of bread, which means that it is clear and apparent that it is bread, then one says Ha-Motzi and Birkat Ha-Mazon. [But] if they do not have the appearance of bread, one says Borei Minei Mezonot and Al Ha-Michya.

If [the pieces] are not cooked or held together, but rather finely ground, even though they are smaller than a kezayit and they do not have the appearance of bread, one says Ha-Motzi and Birkat Ha-Mazon.

 

Again, the Shulchan Arukh relates to a case in which the bread was cooked, and in which the bread was not cooked. If pieces are cooked, then the berakha is dependent upon whether or not the pieces are the size of a kezayit. If they are not cooked, but kneaded together, then one recite Ha-Motzi before eating pieces larger than a kezayit, or pieces smaller than a kezayit which have the appearance of bread. If they do not have the appearance of bread, then one recites Borei Minei Mezonot. When bread is ground into bread crumbs, one still says the blessing of Ha-Motzi before eating them, unless they are cooked are kneaded together with other ingredients, as discussed above.  

 

Practical Ramifications

 

Although deep-frying is viewed as similar to cooking, the Poskim disagree as to whether frying in a frying pan with oil should be considered an act of cooking or baking. This debate does not affect FrenchToast, pieces of bread soaked in egg, milk, and oil, and then fried. Since these pieces are larger than a kezayit and they retain the appearance of bread, the blessing remains Ha-Motzi. However, contemporary Poskim do discuss the proper blessing to say before eating “matza brei”.

 

Matza brei is made by crushing matza into small pieces, mixing it with oil, milk, eggs, etc., and then frying the mixture into flat patties. Matza brei is made from somewhat large and distinctive pieces of matza, which are generally smaller than a kezayit. The Arukh Ha-Shulkhan (168:37) assumes that the proper blessing is certainly Borei Minei Mezonot. However, many Acharonim question whether frying the mixture in a frying pan with a bit of butter or oil should be considered to be a form of “baking,” in which case the blessing would remain Ha-Motzi. Therefore, some (see Mishna Berura 168:56) recommend saying Ha-Motzi over a piece of bread or matza before eating matza brei. If one uses very little oil or butter, then the proper blessing is most likely Ha-Motzi.

 

We saw above that one recites the blessing of Ha-Motzi over breadcrumbs or matza meal that was not cooked. What about bread or matza that has been ground into flour (bread crumbs or matza meal), kneaded together into pieces larger than a kezayit, and then re-baked or fried in oil? The Magen Avraham (168:28) rules that in this case, one must say the blessing of Ha-Motzi. According to the Magen Avraham, one must say the blessing of Ha-Motzi before eating kneidlach! Other Acharonim disagree and maintain that if one kneads together matza meal with oil, juice, and/or eggs, even if it is later boiled or fried, one recites Borei Minei Mezonot if the food does not have the appearance of bread, even if each piece is larger than a kezayit. Therefore, before kneidelach and matza balls, which are made by mixing matza meal with eggs, water, and oil, one says the blessing of Borei Minei Mezonot (Mishna Berura 168:59), even if they are eaten as the basis of one’s meal (ibid. 56).

 

Although the custom is clearly to rely upon the Mishna Berura, R. Mayer Lichtenstein records that his father, R. Aharon Lichtenstein, is careful to eat Pesach foods made from matza meal and held together, such as kneidlach and similar foods, in the context of a meal, in deference to the view of the Magen Avraham.

 

What if matza meal is used for baking? The Mishna Berura (168:59) rules that they if one kneads with water alone and then bakes the mixture, the proper blessing will be Ha-Motzi. However, if one uses a majority of oil or honey, then one says Borei Minei Mezonot, like any pat ha-ba’ah be-kisanin. Therefore, if one kneads matza meal together with eggs, oil, and juice and then bakes a “Pesach cake”, one says Borei Minei Mezonot.

 

The proper blessing recited over croutons would depend on how the croutons are made. If the croutons are deep-fried in oil, then they are considered to have been cooked. If they are smaller than the size of an olive, as in most cases, the proper blessing is Borei Minei Mezonot. (Most commercially sold croutons are deep fried, and therefore not only is the proper blessing Borei Minei Mezonot, but one can also put them into a hot soup on Shabbat, in accordance with the principle ein bishul achar bishul.) At times, croutons are made from old bread, which is then baked a second time. In this case, the proper blessing is Ha-Motzi. If the dough is intentionally baked until crispy in order to produce croutons, the proper blessing is also Borei Minei Mezonot, as they are considered to be pat ha-ba’ah be-kisanin.

 

 

Next week, we will conclude our study of the definition of bread. We will summarize what we have learned and apply the principles to commonly eaten foods.