Siman 168:6-9 Which Bread to Say the Blessing On

  • Rav Asher Meir
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mishna Berura
Yeshivat Har Etzion

SHIUR #103: Siman 168:6-9


By Rabbi Asher Meir







The definition of bread is critical in various areas of halakha:


1. Challah is taken when we come to eat from the BREAD of the land (Bamidbar 15:19). (The mitzvah of challah is to separate a portion of dough and give it to the cohen.)

2. Matza is called the BREAD of affliction. (Devarim 16:3).

3. According to the Sages (Berakhot 44a), birkhat ha-mazon (henceforth BHM) is said only on bread, since God promises that in the Land of Israel we will not eat the BREAD in misery, but rather eat and be satisfied and bless Him - that is, say BHM.


The definition of bread for the purposes of challah is described in detail in the first chapter of mishna Challah. The definition of bread for the purposes of matza seems to be the same, both from the mishna there as well as from the comparison found in Menachot 70b. We will now discuss the definition of bread for the purposes of BHM.




One of the most important practical subjects regarding blessing on bread is the status of "pat ha-ba'ah be-kisanin," henceforth PHB. We will presently discuss the definition of PHB, but it corresponds fairly closely to what we call "pastry."


The main passage dealing with the special status of PHB is on Berakhot 42a:


Rav Huna ate thirteen breads of three to a kav, and did not bless. Rav Nachman says, these are [eaten to satisfy hunger]! Rather, a quantity that others are accustomed to make into a fixed meal requires a berakha.


Rav Yehuda was making a wedding for his son to the house [daughter] of Rav Yehuda bar Chaviva. PHB was brought before them. When he came, he heard them saying "ha-motzi." He said to them, what is this twittering sound I hear - could it be that you are saying "ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz"?!  They replied, yes, as it is taught in a beraita, Rebbe Muna said in the name of Rebbe Yehuda that on PHB we say "ha-motzi," and Shmuel said that halakha is according to Rebbe Muna. He said to them, halakha is NOT according to Rebbe Muna.


It is said that they replied to him, you yourself said in the name of Shmuel that rolls [lachmaniot] can be used for an eiruv and their blessing is "ha-motzi." That is only for a fixed meal, but without a fixed meal no.




Rashi mentions that Bahag and some other Rishonim understand that Rav Huna ate ordinary bread, and even so he thought no berakha was required since he wasn't full. But Rashi and most other Rishonim concur with Rav Hai Gaon who explains that Rav Huna ate PHB.


Some Rishonim explain that Rav Huna didn't bless any final blessing at all, or that he said only "borei nefashot." Most Rishonim explain, however, that Rav Huna didn't bless BHM, but he did bless "me'ein shalosh," that is "al ha-michiya."




Various explanations exist for the term "pat ha-ba'ah be-kisanin." Here are a few:


1. Rabbeinu Chananel bases the word "kisanin" on the word "kis" meaning pocket. PHB refers to bread that is used to enclose a filling.


2. Rav Hai explains that PHB are ka'khim, which is the former modern Hebrew word for pretzels, which seem to closely approximate what Rav Hai is describing. In this case the source is "kosess," meaning to nibble. PHB is bread that is nibbled as a snack, not used as the basis for a meal.


3. The Meiri also explains that "kisanin" means something nibbled, but he translates PHB as bread that comes WITH kisanin, not AS kisanin. PHB is sweet bread or cake eaten at the end of the meal, when it is also customary to eat roasted grains etc. (Compare the expression "from soup to nuts.")


The SA (se'if 7) says that halakha is according to all opinions. From the BH there, we see that some Acharonim understand that this is only due to doubt. Really only one of these categories is PHB, and the rest are truly bread. But it is forbidden to make a doubtful "ha-motzi" and BHM, so we play it safe and say "mezonot" and "al ha-michiya," which exempt bread as well.


Other Acharonim understand that each explanation of the term PHB is not exclusive, and the SA means just what he says - that all of these types of pastries etc. are considered PHB. Even though the meaning of the term PHB may not apply to other kinds of breads, PHB is itself only an example of a kind of bread which is not usually eaten for satiation. (BH d.h. vehalakha.) We will see next week that the first approach raises certain problems that do not face the second.




Rav Nachman explains that eating an amount that is NORMALLY sufficient for a meal requires BHM, even if that particular person is not satiated, as in the gemara's example of Rav Huna's meal. What about the opposite situation - when the person eating is satiated by a small amount of mezonot (food that normally requires berakhot of "borei minei mezonot" and "al ha-michiya"), when this amount would not normally suffice for a fixed meal?


The BH (d.h. af al pi) mentions a dispute of the Rishonim. The Raavad (cited in the Rosh) rules that in such a case BHM is mandatory. But the Rosh rules that in such a case his personal standard can not override the accepted definition of a meal, and this is not considered a "fixed meal," so no BHM is required. This is the ruling of the SA in s.k. 6.


Note that the BH suggests an important limitation to this ruling.




The Torah commands us "eat and be satisfied and bless the Lord your God" (Devarim 8:10). From this we learn that the Torah obligation to make BHM is only when a person is satiated. (So it seems from Berakhot 20b; see MB 184:15.)


In addition, we rule like the Sages in the mishna in Berakhot 44a who rule that BHM from the Torah is only on bread, since the previous verse describes the Land of Israel as a land "in which you will not eat bread in misery."


And there is a rabbinical (de-rabanan) obligation to say BHM whenever a ke-zayit (an olive-sized portion) of bread is eaten. (As we see in se'if 9, also based on Berakhot 20b.)


On this basis, we can understand the obligation to say BHM on a large quantity of mezonot food in one of several ways:


1. PHB is not bread at all. Although according to the Torah (de-oraita), the requirement is to bless only on true bread, the rabbinical requirement is broader. The Torah obligates us to say BHM if we have BOTH bread ("not eat bread in misery") and ALSO satiation ("eat and be satisfied"). But de-rabanan it is enough to have ONE of these conditions: bread (as long as there is at least a ke-zayit, because less than this is not "eating") OR ELSE satiation (as long as the food at least resembles bread.)


While this solution is elegant, it runs into the problem that PHB does seem to fall into the Torah category of "bread." A brief look at the laws of challah in the mishna or SA (YD 329, parallel in OC 462:5) shows that some baked goods which are certainly PHB are obligated in challah. (We will discuss the relationship between challah and PHB more when we get to se'if 13.)  The BY implies that PHB is indeed a kind of bread, and this is also mentioned in the MB (end of s.k. 23).


2. PHB has the full status of bread from the Torah. If a person is satiated from eating it, he has fulfilled both the requirement for "lechem" (bread) and also the requirement for "savata" ("you shall be satisfied"). The requirement for BHM after PHB is de-oraita.


This approach is problematic according to the Rosh. As we pointed out, the Rosh rules that if a person is satisfied from PHB he still doesn't say BHM if he has eaten only a small quantity. And this is also the ruling of the SA. Yet such a person should be obligated in BHM on a Torah level! It seems strange that a person should be obligated in BHM from the Torah yet not de-rabanan! (Strange, but not impossible. Many authorities rule that the Torah obligation for BHM doesn't require three full blessings but rather is fulfilled by "al ha-michiya" which is a condensation of the full BHM.)


3. The word "ve-savata" ("and you shall be satisfied") teaches TWO things: quantity and quality. The AMOUNT of bread eaten has to satiate, and the bread must also be the KIND generally eaten to satiation. A mere ke-zayit of regular bread, or even a large quantity of PHB, is exempt. However, de-rabanan it is enough to have EITHER quality or quantity. Either way, the Torah requirement for bread is never compromised.


The Arukh Ha-shulchan raises this question and basically suggests answers 2 and 3.