Mezonot Rolls

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By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Readers are no doubt familiar with the excitement and convenience of a ready-to-go “mezonot roll”. It looks like bread, tastes like bread, but is treated like a cookie. According to the principles of this ingenious invention, one is not required to perform netilat yadayim before eating mezonot rolls, nor recite the Birkat Hamazon after eating them. Just as is the case with cookies, one recites the blessing “borei minei mezonot” before eating mezonot rolls and the quick “al hamichya” blessing afterwards.

Full disclosure: This writer is of the opinion that mezonot rolls are a halachic fraud. Avoid them whenever possible! But in order to better understand this somewhat zealous opinion, some background information is in order.

The Talmud rules that the blessing to be recited before eating “pat haba b’kisnin” is borei minei mezonot.[1] It is actually unclear, however, exactly which foods qualify as pat haba b’kisnin.[2] Nevertheless, common custom is to accept as pat haba b’kisnin any foods within the bread family that are normally eaten as a snack such as cake, cookies, and pie. Indeed, all authorities agree that when eating a small amount of these items one is to recite “borei minei mezonot”.[3]

The main difference between bread dough (“hamotzi”) and cake dough (“mezonot”) is that the latter is sweeter and enjoyed far more often as a snack rather than as a meal. According to some authorities, as long as the sweetness of the dough is merely discernable it is sufficient to render the product a “mezonot” item. Other authorities, however, require that the sweet taste be the most dominant feature of the product.[4]

The taste, texture, and content of mezonot rolls place them at the center of this dispute. They look like any other type of roll and usually taste pretty much the same although they are slightly sweeter than most other breads. Nevertheless, it is far from certain that this level of sweetness changes the item from its “hamotzi” status to a “mezonot” one. Not only is the sweetness level of these rolls important, but the manner in which they are eaten is significant, as well. It is noted that one does not generally eat egg, tuna, salami or other bread-type fillings with cookies. Indeed, it is actually unappetizing to do so. It follows, therefore, that one who eats such items with a “mezonot roll” is essentially demonstrating that one considers the product to be bread!

The reverse is also true. One who makes an entire meal out of pat haba b’kisnin (or otherwise eats an especially large quantity of such items) is required to perform netilat yadayim, recite hamotzi on the food(s), and recite the Birkat Hamazon at the end of such a meal.[5] This is because eating “mezonot” foods in this manner demonstrates that they are essentially serving as one’s meal, which is a bread-like feature. In fact, one who eats even a small amount of cake or other mezonot food, but does so in combination with other meal-type foods in a quantity often consumed at a regular meal, may be required to recite hamotzi and Birkat Hamazon in such a situation, as well![6] As such, it is the conclusion of this writer that if it looks like bread, tastes like bread, and is used like bread, treat it as bread regardless of its level of sweetness. There is nothing to lose by treating mezonot rolls as regular bread, complete with netilat yadayim and Birkat Hamazon. In contrast, however, using a mezonot roll, which may not even truly qualify as a mezonot roll in the first place, in a manner in which bread is normally used may be a violation of several prohibitions, including a biblical one.

Closely related to the issue of “mezonot rolls” is that concerning which blessing should be recited before eating pizza. The widespread custom of reciting “mezonot” on a slice of pizza due to the sweetness of the dough is difficult to justify. Although some argue that pizza has the status of “pie” and qualifies as a “mezonot” item for that reason alone, the Shulchan Aruch clearly states that one must recite hamotzi on pastries filled with meat, fish, or cheese.[7] This is because pastries prepared in this manner are generally eaten as a meal and not as a snack. At the very least, those who choose to rely on the authorities who rule that pizza is a snack food and therefore qualifies as a “mezonot” item must be sure to eat less than the amount eaten at an average meal.

Postscript: Even those who follow the opinion that dough kneaded entirely with fruit juice automatically qualifies as “mezonot” should be aware that this refers only to 100% fruit juice. It does not include fruit juice from concentrate or a combination of pure fruit juice with some water added. Unfortunately, this writer has seen establishments claiming to produce such mezonot rolls and mezonot pizza dough in violation of these principles, including establishments with the most ultra-orthodox certification. Caveat Emptor.


[1] Berachot 42a.
[2] Beit Yosef, OC 168.
[3] OC 168:6.
[4] OC 168:7.
[5] Berachot 42a; OC 168:6; Mishna Berura 168:24.
[6] Mishna Berura 168:24.
[7] OC 168:17.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Torah Musings.

50 comments

  1. What is the Mekor for this last Halacha – that the juice has to be 100% pure?

  2. As I read this, my thoughts fell to the box of soft pretzels in our freezer. They also require the pizza “snack” heter, li-ch’orah :

  3. Due to technical problems, the footnotes were initially omitted. They have now been added.

  4. Chaim-

    It is the true pirush of “mei peiros”. I did see it explicitly somewhere, but cant find it now.

    Ari Enkin

  5. I have often wondered if reconstituted “mei peirot” should not be treated as “mei peirot,” if they have (roughly) the same make-up. What defines mei peirot: what now exists or its history? i have a bias towards the former.

    interstingly, the hashgakha on some airline meals has been moved to a frummer hashgakha from the OU, who now include mezonot rolls!

  6. What is the Mekor for this last Halacha – that the juice has to be 100% pure?

    It does not seem that everyone agrees to this.

    See footnote 6 in this article from the anti-mezonos roll OU

    http://www.oukosher.org/index.php/common/article/the_mezonos_roll_is_it_a_piece_of_cake_by_rabbi_yaakov_luban/#fn21173216064d19f3f719918

  7. Dr. Bill-

    Re: interstingly, the hashgakha on some airline meals has been moved to a frummer hashgakha from the OU, who now include mezonot rolls!

    YUP. Thats what I meant in the very last paragraph. You should see the mezonos-roll-festivals at the Mir Yeshiva each day, under Bedatz Eida Chareisid, of course…

    Ari Enkin

  8. If I normally eat whole wheat bread (for both taste and health reasons), and white bread is substantially sweeter than whole wheat, then would white bread be mezonos? Whenever I eat white bread- only when given no other option- I notice how much sweeter it is then whole wheat.

  9. Wow! Thanks for that, Ari!

    Ari Enkin

  10. Ariella-

    Interesting angle, but the level of sweetness in white bread is not halachically defined as sweet.

    Ari Enkin

  11. “This writer is of the opinion that mezonot rolls are a halachic fraud. Avoid them whenever possible!”

    I just treat them as ordinary bread.

  12. In which case, what is the halachically defined level of sweetness? Is it a subjective measure or a ratio? You mentioned that fruit juice causes bread to become pas po bkisnin, but why 100% fruit juice when sugar, which is far sweeter than fruit juice, would be a far more effective measure?

  13. The OU article has a typo – the Minchas Yitzchok it mentions in regards to reconstituted fruit juice is actually in volume 9:17

    For those interested in the arguments against what seems to be what the mezonos roll makers rely on – i.e. the reading of the Maharsham which would allow for mezonos rolls where the fruit juice is the majority, even if the taste is non discernible – see here,
    starting from the bottom of page 110 – (Hebrew)
    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=13538&st=&pgnum=111&hilite=

    and the second paragraph here, which details Rav Belsky’s issue with it (English)
    http://www.kof-k.org/articles/040108090442W-13%20Mezonos%20Bread.pdf.

  14. Rabbi Enkin:

    Isn’t it true that your question hinges upon the dispute between the Mechaber and Rama that you alluded to earlier – i.e. whether the taste of the additive(s) must merely be discernable in the bread (Mechaber) or whether it must change the entire character of the bread (Rama)? It seems then, that the mechaber uses objective criteria to determine the status of pat haba’a bekisnin and has a much lesser emphasis on how the bread is subjectively treated.

    A good corollary to this is the question of what beracha to make on matza throughout the rest of the year. According to Rav Ovadia Yosef and other contemporary Sephardic posekim, the bracha on matza is always mezonot since it conforms to one of the definitions of bat haba’a bekisnin viz. a cracker, regarrdless of the fact that one wishes to treat it like bread.

    The upshot to this is that, while I would agree with you regarding the pesak for Ashkenazim, there is a big caveat for those who wish to follow the mechaber.

    KT

  15. R Enkin,

    Why is juice from concentrate halachically different than regular juice?

  16. >Interesting angle, but the level of sweetness in white bread is not halachically defined as sweet.

    “Halachically defined as sweet”? Woe to the ears that hears the absurdity that there are “halachic definitions.”

  17. MiMedinat HaYam

    many points:

    generally speaking, chasidim (and chassidic hashgachot; thus your “ultra orthodox certification comment) validate mezonot bread, while yeshivish /litvish authorities rely on MB, etc that it is “invalid”.

    2. the “mei preot” not from concentrate attitude of the o-u is inconsistent. they allow, say, grape juice from concentrate to be acceptable for kiddush, yet not acceptable for “pat haba’ah bekisnin”. (though i personally oppose grape juice for kiddish, per previous discussion in hirhurim.)

    3. one of the major problems alluded to, but not mentioned, is that, historically, there was no (or little) concept of what we call a snack in halachah (or in practice). people ate formal meals, and practically nothing else. (and even those meals were pretty sparse, by today’s standards.) (since i’m learning masechet sukkah now, i refer to anything more than “maleh lugmov” eaten by yeshiva students as the standard for “achilat a’rai”, which i assume, we would call a snack.)

    4. there were always mezonot rolls served on airline meals (back in the days when there were airlines served meals.) with a disclaimer. even flughts with yekke hashgachot / destinations served / serve mezonot rolls.

    5. in the new york area, mezonot rolls can be easily identified by the “dots” on the bottom (if you see the dots, you’ll understand). except for the (round) sesame sticks and “beigeleh” which are also mezonot rolls.

    6. sweetness definition: as i mention in 3 above, chazal historically have no concept of snack, nor of “sweet”. note: till 1847, when milton hershey invented the process of separating cocoa butter from the cocoa bean, all chocolate was bitter. ditto, almost everything else. (and revolutionized pesach cooking / baking.)

    7. halacha specifically defines onion rolls as “pat habaa be kisnin” (since the roll “kosset” the onion), yet even chassidishe hashgachot define onion rolls as hamotzie. a contradiction!

    8. halachic fraud: bagels pizza etc on pesach with (disgusting potato starch; which by the way, almost always comes from germany.)

    9. speaking of pesach — sephardim / edot hamizrach make mezonot on matzot all year long (since its really a cracker, per the MB) except on pesach. without gettimng into the inconsistency there, isnt that a “pat haba’ah bekisnin even for ashkenazim?

  18. Surely the Eidah haCharedis has a reliable source to support their provision of mezonos rolls on planes? Why didn’t you find that source and explain it?

    There are already many many articles explaining that the mezonos roll is a ‘fraud’; why don’t you explain why it’s not a fraud? You usually have no problem citing obscure minority opinions, so this seems to be an ideal topic for you, and yet you rehashed the same tired arguments that are found on the websites of all the major US kashrus organizations.

  19. Rolled over –

    I thnik you’re right. Really.

    I might just write an “In Defense of Mezonos Rolls”

    Ari Enkin

  20. Charlie Hall-

    Me too. I should have been clearer and written “Avoid the yetzer hara to recite mezonos on them…treat them like bread!”

    Ari Enkin

  21. Ariella G-

    Its because what makes up the liquid component of the dough is as important (or more) than the sweetness of the dough.

    Ari Enkin

  22. I might just write an “In Defense of Mezonos Rolls”

    Please do!!

  23. Orwell-

    What are you talking about? There are tons of material matters that have halachic definitions!

    Did you know that two poles with a string on top is halachic defined as a closed domain? A halachic hour is sunrise + sunset divided by 12. Only bread is defined as a “meal” no matter how small vs. a visit to a Chinese restaurant is deifend as a snack?

    Ari Enkin

  24. MiMedinat HaYam –

    Re: #2-

    I havent seen that reconstituted grape juice machlokes in years, but if I recall correctly, it is not based on the same principles as the mezonos roll one.

    Re: #3-

    Nice sevara, but the sefarim dont cite this argument.

    Ari Enkin

  25. MiMedinat HaYam

    also — re: airline food — i once saw a short teshuva that the lousy meal you are served on a plane is not really a meal! so the mezonot roll can really be considered mezonot, meal-speaking.

    (of course, that conflicts with the concept that airline food is really great! because its the first hot meal you’ve had in ten days (or so) of travel.)

    re: ari 1:22

    what are the principles of reconstituted grape juice vs “pat haba’ah bekisnin” juice?

    you said above that you have to research (though rabbi luban’s oukosher article cited above can be a good basis for the research.)
    and they dont cit it, cause they seem to have a disconnect re: snack vs meal. (note: the chatam soder is quoted (need source) that the amount of cake one must eat to constitute a meal is such a big amount, one cannot possibly eat such an amount. the question is, was there no concept of eating so much cake at a kiddush / etc or the amount is so huge?)

  26. There is an aspect to this debate that, it seems to me, illustrates a wrong turn in halachic practice that has become increasingly glaring in recent times. While there is room for leveraging legal fictions, there comes a point when the legal device used negates the purpose of the halacha one is trying to wriggle away from.

    The classic for me is people who hold by Kitniyot and yet specifically go out to purchase kasher le’pesach (le’lo ochlai kitniyot) breakfast cereal. This is a complete negation of the purpose for the gezira on kitniyot and, therefore, halachic hypocrisy.

    Similarly, the notion of eating a “Mezonot Roll” for the convenience of not having to wash, make ha’motzei and bench in most cases also passes the line, to my mind, from leveraging a legal fiction to hypocrisy. After all — it is being done purely for personal convenience with absolutely no societal benefit.

    That said, I am sympathetic to the airplane meal problem where there is a societal benefit to avoiding having a 747 full of people on a flight to Israel get up to wash before a meal. But, there are other ways to attack this problem that are more to the point: e.g. finding a way to permit the use of the wash-up towel provided to be yotzeh on netilat yadayim at one’s seat. [And relatedly, as part of that hypothetical psak, it should also be stated this is a meal be’yachid and zimun is not appropriate].

    Cognitive food for thought.

  27. With regard to pizza dough, I think it depends whether you consider it pas gamur or pas habah bekisnin. I recall Rav Ovadiah writing about 1 versus 2 or more slices…

    [Full disclosure: I too believe that there is no such halachic thing as a mezonot roll. I also wash for even one bite of pizza. Then again, I am not afflicted by “bentch-o-phobia” in the least!]

  28. Gavi:

    IIRC Rav Ovadia holds that pizza is always hamotzi (regardless of the amt.) on the basis of the Shulchan Aruch that R. Enkin quoted at the end of siman 168 that bread filled with meal-type foods retains its status of hamotzi.

  29. MiMedinat HaYam

    gavi:

    yes, the “bencho-o-phobia” argument is valid. not only that, but why pass up on the mitzva of birkat hamazon, and the praise of hashem thereby?

    so is the expansion of RMF’s “heter” for time clocks on shabat way beyond what he obviously intended, per IH’s comment (as i mentioned on friday’s post on the kindle — why are you writing about it again? i guess it hit a nerve by some people.) though the expansion of that heter has much written (and in practice) support. but way beyond what RMF wrote. perhpas that is because of what people fear of the future of “al yetze ish mimekomo bayom hashvii”.

    last, if we have (recent) heterim, or even preferences, to daven in one’s seat on a plane, one can rely on heterim (or preferences) to eat mezonot rolls on a plane. machmirim will fast on the plane, but one does not have to do so. the machmirim will join those who wont “yetze mimkomoi bayom hashvii” (perhaps while reading VIN on the airplane.)

  30. what is the halacha if one eats pasta as a meal? should one make hamotzi?

  31. Charles B. Hall

    “disgusting potato starch”

    ” i once saw a short teshuva that the lousy meal you are served on a plane is not really a meal!”

    Do disgusting potato starch and lousy airline meals halachically qualify as food? Am I *permitted* to make a brachah on them?

    ” But, there are other ways to attack this problem ”

    A water bottle purchased in the gate area?

    “why pass up on the mitzva of birkat hamazon, and the praise of hashem thereby?”

    I was wondering about that one myself.

  32. “violation of several prohibitions, including a biblical one.”

    Are you referring to the “issur aseh” of eating without saying Birkat haMazon? Wouldn’t saying the beracha “al hamichya” fulfill the Biblical-level obligation of Birkat haMazon?

  33. if you bake a lot of breads not just with water but also using fruit juice, vegetable and fruit purees etc as the liquid, you begin to see some problems with these analyses
    First of all, there may be only a small amount of water in the recipe to dissolve the yeast, but the bulk of the liquid is not water
    Second, i can tell the difference. possibly so could you if you taste bread where the liquid is e.g. entirely pureed yams – you see and taste the difference. maybe some of it depends on levels of taste discernment, i can tell if the rolls are made with apple juice too.
    the problem is that for example, challah made with pumpkin or yam puree and eggs instead of water and eggs – ok, it looks and tastes a little different, but you do use it much as you do bread
    But for example, take a pizza dough and replace the water with pureed tomatoes and tomato juices and spices – its a totally different taste, looks different too. Now bake it as a flatbread and you can eat it with cheese, maybe some meats, but not everything, the tomato taste is strong.
    My normal rule is that if id make a sandwich with it with almost any filling id use for regular bread made mostly with water – its bread. but if the filling are limited, then its probably a snack food (unless you make a meal of it as with any other pas haba bkisnin such as crackers)
    btw the minhag haolam seems to me NOT to wash and bentch on even a lot of crackers and soup/ crackers and dip/crackers and eg tuna or salmon unless you really intend to have a meal and not a snack. a lot of times it seems circular, as “not a meal” seems to derive from “im eating crackers and dont want to wash/dont think i need to wash” but i dont see a lot of people noheg like r moshe says to

    i agree this situation may best be avoided e.g. by adding regular bread with water to the meal and eating both.

    I also suspect the minhag in some places in europe was indeed to use fruit-juiced based breads for mezonos and i wonder if in other places, they simply didnt have such breads (maybe they had less access to fruit and vegetables too). For example, a relative of mine worked in a bakery in brooklyn when he first came to the US. He said that the Satmer rebbe used to call up the bakery before the kids in his yeshiva made a siyum in order to place large orders for mezonos rolls for the bochrim to eat at the siyum w/o needing them all to wash. Stands to reason this was the minhag in his area….

  34. You never have to wash for pasta no matter how much you eat. It is only for “pas haba b’kisnin” that the question of having to wash applies. Pasta is a type of mezonos food that is NOT in the cateogry of PHB.

    Ari Enkin

  35. D.C.-

    It is a machlokes if you are yotzai birkat hamazon by saying al hamichya.

    If you were full from the meal, there are more poskim who say you would not be yotzai. The Mishan Berura says you are yotzai bdieved.

    Ari Enkin

  36. “While there is room for leveraging legal fictions, there comes a point when the legal device used negates the purpose of the halacha one is trying to wriggle away from.”

    Is there some moral obligation to make hamotzi more than a certain number of times a week? If you make a bracha, and that bracha is the one which fits Chazal’s bracha specifications for that food, what more can you ask for?

  37. I remember Rabbi Mordechai Willig using that exact term to describe mezonos rolls – a fraud.

    I don’t see mezonos sandwiches here in Israel as often as I did back in the NY/NJ frum communities. Even the pre-wrapped kosher sandwiches in the gas stations here are typically made with plain old bread.

  38. “…what more can you ask for?”

    A meaningful and rational legal system that governs our daily lives. I repeat: there comes a point when the legal device used negates the purpose of the halacha.

    A meal, or the “breaking bread” is a universally understood concept across most cultures since time immemorial. We have a set of rituals for making this holy which is of the essence: netilat yadayim, motzei, birkat ha’mazon.

  39. Adam-

    I never saw so much mezonos roll fever until I came to Israel. Back in my days in Montreal and Toronto they were all but ignored.

    I spent two weeks at the mir last month, and you have to look very hard to find an official hamotzee roll anywhere in the area.

    I was floored to see 1000’s of chareidim who stomp and bang for every other chumra eating mezonos roll meals 24/7.

    Ari Enkin

  40. Adam-RHS used the same language as R M Willig re Mezonos rolls. On my recent flights, my meals included a package of what looked and tasted like a large roll, but was proclaimed as Mezonos with Bdatz Mehadrin hashgacha. One can wash in the lavatory if one is guided by the view that it is bread without causing a ruckus. On an unrelated issue, I also wondered why so many Charedim on El Al refuse to sit next to women, especially in light of RMF’s teshuvah re the same issue on the NY subway.

  41. R’ Enkin,

    I know that mixing water is with mei peiros is a problem in other areas, i.e. hecsher tumah, chametz. Is this what you are referring to, or have you seen this discussed al asar?

  42. Steve-

    You may be shocked at this, but: RMF is not as revered by Israel Chareidim as you might think. He “is a posek for America, not here”.

    I kid you not.

    Ari Enkin

  43. Shlomo-

    I am not sure what you are saying.

    The fruit juice/mezonos roll thing is unrelated to Tuna issues.

    Ari Enkin

  44. Shlomo-

    I am not sure what you are saying.

    The fruit juice/mezonos roll thing is unrelated to Tuna issues.

    Ari Enkin

  45. MiMedinat HaYam

    RMF is not accepted in israel cause he wasn’t machmir all the time.

    (in fact, one may argue he wasnt such a charedi. would make an interesting study / article. and controversy.)

    (and another ban.)

  46. R Ari and MiMedinat HaYam-thanks for your responses. I have heard from a prominent rav who was sent with a get from RMF in a certain case to Israel for discussion in a certain Charedi Bes Din, that a distinct lack of Kavod was present for RMF’s Piskei Halacha-but i think that the Charedi world in Israel is poorer for viewing RMF as a not always Machmir Posek for America, when in fact, we know that none less than RSZA had a tremendous respect for RMF and his Piskei Halacha-even when they disagreed,

  47. IH,

    But in the broader (American) culture the connection between bread and meals is much weaker than it was, even in my youth. My Gentile coworker almost never have bread with their lunch if it isn’t a sandwich.

    R. Enkin,

    How is the opinion that al hamichya doesn’t satisfy the Biblical requirement for birkat hamazon reconciled with the gemara that explicitly states “Brikh rachaman marei d’hai pita” is yotzei brackha shniya?

  48. Mike-

    As I posted in a comment earlier, many poskim hold that you are indeed yotzai. IIRC the Mishna Berura says in such a case: safek bracha lehakel.

    Ari Enkin

  49. Bread is bread. Everyone knows what bread is.
    Everything else is mezonos. Period.
    Sorry to be so am’haratish and simple, but please do not complicate a simple distinction.
    Those poor Cohenim, why embarrass them when they need to wash for their Truma and we don’t need to wash for our Chulin? So let everyone wash hands for bread, whether Truma or Chulin.
    So who is embarrassed now?

  50. I noticed a number of people asked about the last halacha. In the RJJ Journal of spring 1990 Rabbi Binyomin Forst wrote, the problem with concentrated is that you are essentially using 20% Apple Juice concentrate and 80% water therefore the sweet taste is not recognizable, and therefore it is like normal bread.

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