- Rabbi Josh Flug
Pat Haba'ah B'Kisnin: The Beracha on Baked Snack Items
The previous issue discussed the halachic definition of bread and its halachic ramifications. The article addressed a concept known as pat haba'ah b'kisnin (loosely translated as bread that is eaten as a snack) which has the halachic status of bread and yet, one is not required to recite HaMotzi or Birkat HaMazon on such an item but rather Mezonot and Al HaMichya (unless a meal is established on this food item). This article will address what food items constitute pat haba'ah b'kisnin.
The Definitions of the Rishonim
Beit Yosef, Orach Chaim 168, cites three definitions of pat haba'ah b'kisnin as presented by the Rishonim. Rashba, Berachot 41a, s.v. Nimtza, states that one example of pat haba'ah b'kisnin is a "pocket" filled with honey, nuts or spices. A modern-day equivalent example would be fruit pie. Rambam, Hilchot Berachot 3:9, defines pat haba'ah b'kisnin as an item that was made with dough that was kneaded with honey, oil, or milk. Cakes and cookies would fit this definition. Aruch, Erech Kesen, quotes Rav Hai Gaon who states that pat haba'ah b'kisnin is dry thin bread. The modern day equivalent would be crackers.
Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 168:7, quotes all three opinions and rules that if the food item meets the definition of any of the three opinions, the food item is treated as pat haba'ah b'kisnin. There are two ways to understand the ruling of Shulchan Aruch. First, Shulchan Aruch's ruling is based on the principle of safek berachot l'hakel, the lenient position is taken on matters of doubt regarding berachot. Since there is a dispute as to what is the definition of pat haba'ah b'kisnin, if the food item meets any of the criteria presented by the Rishonim, one may employ safek berachot l'hakel to rely on that opinion and recite Mezonot on the food item. This approach to understand the ruling of Shulchan Aruch is supported by R. Yosef Karo's own Beit Yosef, Orach Chaim 168, where he states explicitly that one may treat the food item as pat haba'ah b'kisnin if it meets the criteria of any of the opinions because one may be lenient on doubts of rabbinic nature.
Second, one could understand that in fact, there is no dispute regarding the definition of pat haba'ah b'kisnin. The true definition of pat haba'ah b'kisnin is bread that is eaten as a snack. All of the definitions mentioned by the Rishonim are not rigorous definitions of what constitutes pat haba'ah b'kisnin. Rather, they are all examples of types of bread that are eaten as a snack. The reason why one may treat a food item as pat haba'ah b'kisnin if it meets any of the criteria presented by the Rishonim is because if a food item does meet any of the criteria, it will generally be eaten as a snack. If it lacks all of the criteria, it will generally be eaten as part of a meal. Mishna Berurah, Biur Halacha 168:7, s.v. V'Halacha, notes that these two approaches to understanding the opinion of Shulchan Aruch are a matter of dispute between R. Akiva Eger, Glosses on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 168:8, who assumes the first approach, and R. Mordechai Carmi, Ma'amar Mordechai 168:14, who sides with the second approach.
Pat Haba'ah B'kisnin Served as Dessert
The Gemara, Berachot 41b, states that one must recite a beracha rishona on food items that are served during a bread meal but are not an integral part of the meal. Shibolei HaLeket no. 159, rules that pat haba'ah b'kisnin is not an exception to this rule and if pat haba'ah b'kisnin is served a dessert, one would recite a Mezonot on the pat haba'ah b'kisnin. This ruling is codified by Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 168:8.
R. Akiva Eger, op. cit., questions the ruling of Shulchan Aruch. While it is true that in principle one should recite a beracha on pat haba'ah b'kisnin that is eaten as dessert, Shulchan Aruch omitted an important practical detail: Since there is a dispute as to what the criteria of pat haba'ah b'kisnin are, one should not recite a beracha on pat haba'ah b'kisnin in the middle of a bread meal unless it satisfies all three criteria. If one of the criteria is absent, the beracha on that food item might in fact be HaMotzi in which case no beracha is warranted. R. Eger therefore concludes that unless the pat haba'ah b'kisnin item does in fact meet the criteria of all three opinions presented above, one should not recite a beracha on such an item in the middle of a bread meal. Mishna Berurah, Biur Halacha 168:8, s.v. Te'unim, responds that R. Eger is following his own opinion that there is in fact a dispute among the Rishonim as to what constitutes pat haba'ah b'kisnin. However, according to Ma'amar Mordechai that there is no dispute, the beracha on any item that is a snack item is undoubtedly Mezonot and one would recite a Mezonot on a pat haba'ah b'kisnin dessert.
The Proper Beracha on Matzah
One of the practical differences between the two approaches is the proper beracha on matzah. Matzah meets Rav Hai Gaon's criteria for pat haba'ah b'kisnin as it is dry and thin. However, matzah is generally not eaten as a snack but rather as part of a meal. According to the first approach, since matzah meets the criteria of pat haba'ah b'kisnin according to one of the aforementioned opinions, its beracha should be Mezonot. R. Ovadia Yosef, Yechaveh Da'at 3:12, follows the first approach and therefore concludes that Sefardic Jews should recite a Mezonot on matzah. He adds that on Pesach, one would recite HaMotzi because the Torah establishes it as bread for the duration of Pesach. According to the second approach, one would recite HaMotzi on matzah because it is generally eaten as part of a meal. [This idea is mentioned by R. Eliezer Waldenberg, Tzitz Eliezer 11:19, and R. Tzvi P. Frank, Har Tzvi 1:91, as the possible basis for common Ashkenazic practice to recite HaMotzi on matzah throughout the year. R Frank adds that according to this approach there is a difference between matzah, which is eaten as part of a meal, and matzah crackers which are eaten as a snack.]
The Proper Beracha on Pizza
R. Mordechai Willig, Am Mordechai, Berachot 24:1, sides with the second approach that the criteria to determine whether a baked item is considered pat haba'ah b'kisnin is whether it is eaten as an integral part of a meal or as a snack. He notes that accordingly, the proper beracha on pizza is HaMotzi as pizza is generally eaten as an integral part of a meal. One can add that pizza may not be subject to the debate between R. Eger and R. Carmi. The argument that pizza is considered pat haba'ah b'kisnin is based on the assumption that pizza is kneaded with fruit juices and is therefore pat haba'ah b'kisnin according to Rambam's definition. However, Rama, Orach Chaim 168:7, rules that Rambam's criteria is not met unless the amount of juice (or other non-water ingredients) is so significant that it is considered a primary ingredient. The fact that there is minimal amount of juice, oil, or egg in an item will not render it pat haba'ah b'kisnin. In order for a pizza to be considered pat haba'ah b'kisnin according to Rama (if one follows R. Eger's approach), it would have to be kneaded with a significant amount of non-water ingredients. [Although one might argue that pizza is a "pocket filled" item as it is "filled" with cheese and tomato sauce, Shulchan Aruch 168:14, rules explicitly that one recites HaMotzi on an item filled with meat, cheese or fish.]
There are certain breads that are advertised as "Mezonot bread." These breads are kneaded with juice instead of water. According to R. Eger, since these breads are not kneaded with water, it is proper to recite Mezonot on these breads. However, according to Ma'amar Mordechai and those who follow his approach, since these breads are meant to be eaten as part of a meal, one would recite HaMotzi on these breads. Furthermore, according to R. Eger, in order to recite Mezonot on these breads, two conditions must be met. First, the bread would have to be totally (or mostly) kneaded with juice. Second, one can only recite Mezonot on these breads if one is only eating a small amount of food. If one is establishing a meal using these breads, one would be required to recite HaMotzi, even if they are considered pat haba'ah b'kisnin.
There is a solution for those who find themselves in situations where netilat yadayim or Birkat HaMazon is not feasible. One can simply use "bread" that is not made from one of the five grains. If, for example, one eats a sandwich made of rice bread or corn bread, there is not requirement for netilat yadayim. [It is important to note that many rice breads or corn breads are really wheat flour based. This solution is only applicable to rice and corn breads that do not contain wheat flour.]