“My Rabbi says it’s Hamotzi!”
“Well, mine says you can make a Mezonos!”
“What are you guys talking about?? It’s mefurash a YouTube Video—where Rav Elyashiv, zt”l (1910-2012) paskened its Mezonos!”
“Oh, yeah? Well, it’s mefurash a YOUTUBE Video where Rav Dovid Feinstein, zt”l (1929-2020) paskens it’s Hamotzi!”
This column is not dealing with the recent proliferation of people adjudicating Halacha based upon YouTube videos. It rather deals with the question of the day: What bracha is to be recited on wraps—Mezonos or Hamotzi?
Wraps have, of late, become the go-to food when catering a bris milah, a Rosh Chodesh Beis Yaakov breakfast, or even a general company meeting. It is a health food aficianado’s dream meal, too.
The Three Positions
It seems that there are three very different positions on the matter.
The OU website writes that wraps are clearly Hamotzi. This is also the view of Rav Binyomin Forst Shlita, one of the foremost experts on Hilchos Brachos, head of the Halacha Hotline in the Far Rockaway/Five Towns community, and author of the Artscroll Hilchos Brachos sefer.
Rav Shmuel Fuerst Shlita, from Chicago and a leading posaik in the United States, has ruled that the orange colored ones do not have the appearance of bread and would, therefore, be considered a Mezonos. The other ones, however, would be Hamotzi.
And one of the leading poskim in Eretz Yisroel—Rav Yitzchok Rubin Shlita, author of the four volume “Otzros Shabbos,” and Av Beis Din of Rav Nissim Karelitz’s Beis Din, has authored a remarkable analysis of the topic. Rav Rubin is also the rav of the shul in Har Nof where a deadly terror attack, r”l, occurred in 2014.
Rav Rubin believes that the bracha is clearly and unequivocally Mezonos. What follows is a synopsis of his rationale.
The Gemara in Brachos 42a writes that the blessing for something called “Pas HaBa B’Kiskin” (henceforth PHB) and something called “lachmaniyos” (not the modern term) is clearly Mezonos. However, if one establishes his meal on this item—then a Hamotzi is recited. Clearly, the parameters of this bread is that it is only eaten as a snack food.
Shockingly enough, the idea of cake is not discussed in the Gemara in terms of its blessing. Two forms of sweeteners were available at the time, date honey and bee honey. Sugar became available in Sasanian era Persia (and thus Bavel) only 100 years after the Gemorah was compiled. It is discussed perhaps in terms of Pesach—where the term “gluskah yafeh” is employed, but that refers to some form of fried delicacy according to the Rishonim.
What Exactly Is PHB?
There is a well-known, three-way halachic debate as to the actual definition of Pas HaBa B’kisnin.
Rabbeinu Chananel explains that Pas HaBa B’Kisnin is to be identified as bread made in the shape of a filled pocket. It contains some other item aside from the dough product itself—a filling that is both separate and distinct. An example would be a blueberry banana calzone. It should be noted that spices such as cinnamon and sugar that are added after the baking process do not effect any change in bracha according to all three views.
The Rambam and Rashi identify Pas HaBa B’Kisnin as a type of bread in which the dough was mixed with either spices or sweets. An example would be a cupcake. A cupcake’s dough is made with sweets such as sugar or honey added to the basic water and flour.
The Aruch citing Rav Hai Gaon is of the opinion that the term “kisnin” comes from the word “koses”—chewing. According to him, Pas HaBa B’Kisnin is a cracker-like item that breaks apart and is generally chewed upon—perhaps similar to a hard pretzel or a cracker. An example, for our purposes, would be crackers.
Rav Yoseph Karo, in his Beis Yosef commentary on the Tur, writes that since there is a debate on the matter, we apply the concept of “safek brachos lehakel—that whenever there is a question regarding blessings we are lenient.” Thus, all three types are to be considered Mezonos, unless one has established his meal on it. We would thus make a Mezonos on a blueberry banana calzone, a cupcake and crackers.
Mutually Exclusive or Mutually Agree?
But there is another question. There is a debate among the Acharonim whether the three views are mutually exclusive or whether all of the three views mutually agree with each other as to the actual halacha regarding the blessing on the two other PHB, it is just that they argue which particular type of PHB was discussed in the Talmud.
The Mutually Exclusive View
The Graz, the Dagul Mirvavah, Rabbi Akiva Eiger, and the Chayei Adam rule that the three opinions are mutually exclusive. This means that THE THREE OPINIONS DO NOT ALL AGREE WITH EACH OTHER. We will refer to this view in the future as the view of the Four Acharonim.
In other words, according to this view:
Rashi and Rambam would wash and bentch on blueberry banana calzones and crackers, but would recite a Mezonos on cupcakes.
Rabbeinu Chananel would wash and bentch on cupcakes and crackers, but would recite a Mezonos on a blueberry banana calzone.
Rav Hai Gaon would wash and bentch on cupcakes and blueberry-banana calzones but would recite a Mezonos on crackers.
The Mutually Agreed View
The view of the Maamar Mordechai is that all three views agree to each other’s opinion that only a Mezonos is made on all three types of food. [This is also the view of the Aruch HaShulchan. The Biur Halacha (168:8), however, does give some—but not complete credence to this view. He seems to give more weight to the view of the Four Acharonim.]
Rav Rubin’s View of the Maamer Mordechai
Rav Rubin cites a number of proofs to the view of the Maamar Mordechai, and uses these proofs to show that it is not the actual technical composition of the ingredients and/or texture of these bread items that make them into Mezonos (like the Four Acharonim seem to hold). Rather, according to Rav Rubin’s explanation, it is how the bread item is utilized in society—whether it is used to satiate and whether it is actually considered central to the meal.
In other words, it is not a Siba (reason) as to why they are Mezonos, but rather it is a siman (indication or sign) that they are Mezonos because that is how they are utilized in society. This is the old “cause versus effect” concept.
It should be noted that the Biur Halacha’s tepid view of the Maamar Mordechai perhaps indicates that he is not really in agreement with the view espoused by Rav Rubin that it is a Siman—an indication. The Mishna Brurah seems to be more comfortable with a Siba perspective that it is the nature of its composition.
Rav Rubin’s Proofs to the Maamar Mordechai
Rav Rubin brings six indications of the fact that the Maamar Mordechai is correct.
1. He cites the fact that the Tur (OC 168) quotes all three views and places alongside and immediately after the three views the fourth category of lachmanios. He and the Shivulei HaLeket 159 utilize lachmanios as a fourth type—indicating the “Siman” nature of the definition of Pas HaBa B’Kisnin.
2. Rav Rubin also quotes the Rashba on Brachos 41b where he intermingles the words of both Rashi and Rabbeinu Chananel as to how to define Pas HaBa B’Kisnin. This indicates that he holds that they do not argue with each other regarding the bracha on the other types.
3. Rav Rubin also cites the Derech HaChaim (Hilchos Brachos letter 3) who says that any bread item where it is not the manner to eat a shiur svi’ah – an amount of it that will satiate is not a Hamotzi.
Rav Rubin’s next three proofs are from the universal halachic customs of people.
4. When people eat all three forms of Pas HaBa B’Kisnins—they should wash beforehand because they are certainly eating a form of bread—and yet they do not do so. This indicates that the world holds the view of the Maamar Mordechai.
5. When people drink coffee with cake they recite the bracha on cake first and then coffee—in accordance with the laws of the order of brachos. (See Shulchan Aruch OC 211:3.) Yet, if cake may be bread in accordance with the mutually exclusive view of the Four Acharonim, then we should technically make the blessing on the coffee first—because the bread would cover the other items because of tafel. The fact that we don’t indicates that we are all believers in the Maamar Mordechai rather than the Four Acharonim. [Rav Rubin seems to be of the opinion here that it is the food item which causes the laws of tafel and not the bracha itself.]
6. His last proof from universal halachic custom is that Ashkenazim make a Hamotzi on matzah and not a Mezonos. Why are they not concerned for the view of Rav Hai Gaon and thus make a Mezonos? Rav Rubin concludes that it is because matzah is eaten almost universally for satiationmatsevahl’achilas sova. Thus, the working definition of Pas HaBa B’Kisnin is that it is not eaten for satiation, but for snacking.
In conversation with Rav Rubin, this author was told that he had researched the use of wraps throughout the world, and nowhere is this food item eaten by and of itself like other bread items. It is solely used to consume other foods. He concludes that it is not a bread item that people use to satiate themselves like they do with bread or other bread items. Rather, it is used to quiet down one’s hunger. He concludes that the entire nature of its consumption is of a temporary snack-like nature—achilas arai.
Aspects to Explore
It is interesting to explore whether Rav Dovid Feinstein, zt”l, cited in the very beginning of this article held that the halacha is like the Four Acharonim or like the Maamar Mordechai. It would also be interesting to find out what the rationale of Rav Elyashiv, zt”l, was to state that a wrap is Mezonos. The reason why this is interesting is that Rav Rubin, who holds of the Maamar Mordechai, holds that pizza is unequivocally Hamotzi even on one slice, whereas Rav Dovid Feinstein, zt”l, was of the opinion that one slice is a Mezonos.
So, bottom line: What should be done with the wraps? There is another fascinating debate out there as to how one conducts oneself in matters of halacha. Some families and yeshivas have accepted upon themselves the notion that the Mishna Brurah is the final rule in all matters of halacha that he addresses. Others are of the opinion that contemporary poskim can argue with the Mishna Brurah and one may follow their rulings even when it is not a pressing situation.
It seems to this author that if one accepts the view of the Mishna Brurah as the final word in halacha—then one cannot avail themselves of Rav Rubin’s ruling of Mezonos on wraps. If, however, one belongs to the other school of thought—then one could possibly avail themselves of this leniency—after consultation with one’s own rav—and that’s a wrap.
This article originally appeared in the Five Towns Jewish Times, and is reprinted with permission. The author can be reached at [email protected]