Hamotzi and Birkat Hamazon on Mezonot Foods

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by R. Daniel Mann

Question: I understand that if one eats a sufficient amount of food whose beracha is Mezonot (=mezonot), he recites Hamotzi and Birkat Hamazon (=BHM) on it. Do bread and mezonot combine to comprise the required amount when each separately lacks a shiur? How about different types of mezonot, e.g., cake and oatmeal?

Answer: The gemara (Berachot 42a) says that for pat haba’ah b’kisnin (=phbbk), food that shares qualities with bread but is not normal bread, whether one recites Hamotzi or Mezonot on it depends on whether one is koveia seuda (sets a meal) on it. When phbbk gets Hamotzi, one also recites BHM on it (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 168:6) and washes on it (ibid. 158:1).

To be a candidate for bread status, food must be made from “the five grains” and be baked or look like bread. (Spaghetti is not phbbk or treated like bread no matter how much of it one eats – see ibid. 168:10). Various characteristics determine whether foods that pass these tests are bread or phbbk (ibid. 7).

A k’zayit of bread suffices to require BHM, (ibid. 9), but if one eats less, phbbk cannot take it over that threshold, because objects with different shiurim do not join together to reach the shiur (see Shabbat 76a). However, if one was slightly short of the shiur needed for phbbk, the bread, with its smaller shiur, can complete the bigger shiur needed for phbbk (ibid.). Different types of bread combine for a k’zayit and types of phbbk combine for kevi’at seuda. (Arguably, elevating phbbk to bread status must focus on one food, but I have not found sufficient basis for this in the sources.)

The Magen Avraham (=MA) went much further in combining things, claiming that it is enough that the meal with phbbk is a real meal. He writes: “If he set his meal on [phbbk], even though he ate with it meat and other things and if he had eaten [that amount he had of] it by itself he would not have been satiated from it, he still recites Hamotzi and BHM.” His approach emanates from the gemara (ibid.) and Rishonim who describe eating of these semi-breads as that which is done at a normal meal. After all, a normal meal includes foods other than bread. So while no amount of cooked or fried grain-based food could get Hamotzi, oatmeal that you mentioned and many other things one has as part of a meal with, say, a boreka, can, according to the MA, change the boreka’s beracha to Hamotzi.

I must warn you, though, that it is very difficult to apply the matter of being koveia seuda on phbbk. First, there is a machloket whether the amount of kevi’at seuda to eat depends on the individual’s satiation or how much most people eat (see opinions in Rosh, Berachot 6:30). Another regarded approach sets the amount at the size (weight/volume?) of three or four eggs. This is a cutoff point regarding certain halachot of serious eating, even though it does not satiate most people (see Mishna Berura 168:24).

There is also a machloket whether we accept the MA to include other foods eaten at the meal to reach kevi’at seuda – the Mishna Berura (ibid.) accepts him; the Birkei Yosef (OC 168:6) and Aruch Hashulchan (OC 168:17) disagree. There are also several permutations and opinions about how broadly to apply the MA. Is it only for foods that are eaten with the mezonot, e.g., crackers and cheese, a sandwich on a “mezonot roll” (see discussions in V’zot Haberacha 4:3; Netivot Haberacha 57)? Is it only when the mezonot and other foods are eaten at the same time (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 54:(132) in the name of Rav Auerbach)? Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe, OC II, 32) has an expansive approach. While the MA assumes the phbbk must play a major part of the meal, Rav Moshe reasons that today’s trend to eat less bread at meals than was once standard lowers the amount of phbbk needed as well.

Many poskim assume there is a difference between l’chatchila and b’di’eved, i.e., avoid meals with significant phbbk and no bread due to the huge gray area. Nevertheless, common practice is to eat non-bread meals without Hamotzi/BHM (see Avnei Yashfeh II, OC 20; Teshuvot V’hanhagot I:182).

לעילוי נשמת יואל אפרים בן אברהם עוזיאל זלצמן ז”ל

About Daniel Mann

This column is produced on behalf of Eretz Hemdah by Rabbi Daniel Mann. Rabbi Mann is a Dayan for Eretz Hemdah and a staff member of Yeshiva University's Gruss Kollel in Israel. He is a senior member of the Eretz Hemdah responder staff, editor of Hemdat Yamim and the author of Living the Halachic Process, volumes 1 and 2 and A Glimpse of Greatness.

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